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Cheap Geek: When it comes to technology, don't get locked into a contract
Cheap Geek

I was surprised to learn that in 2018 some homeowner associations are still denying their residents from choosing their own internet service provider or cable TV option.

Upon reading my Cheap Geek column on “cutting the cord” in which I suggested people should seek a strong internet connection to view television content, a Bryan County resident told me she had no choice in the matter. Her neighborhood offers only one option: a fairly obscure, small but local ISP that is both overpriced and underpowered in terms of available bandwidth.

Apparently that company struck a deal with the developer or homeowners association years ago to be the exclusive provider. Maybe it was a good deal for the residents at the time.

While listening last week to a national call-in talk show on tech, someone reported that his homeowners association was also considering an exclusive partnership for home internet. Amazingly, the caller said the association, despite getting negative feedback from more than 50 percent of its residents, was going ahead to sign a 10-year…yes 10-year agreement with that ISP.

In 2003, when I moved into a new housing development, we too had limitations when it came to internet, phone and cable TV providers, but it wasn’t the fault of the developer or homeowners association. Instead, like many areas (especially rural), we had one provider because they were the only one to lay down wires/cables. As a result, we went about five years with only that one option. Later, however, other companies came in and were allowed to dig, and today we have many choices.

That’s reasonable. What isn’t is signing multi-year contracts that promise exclusivity and restrict competition.

I hate contracts. Period. I mentioned in another column that I thank my cell phone provider T-Mobile for shaking up the industry a couple of years ago by getting rid of the standard two-year phone contract. Other companies grudgingly followed.

There are still some television providers that lock you into a two-year contract. To me it doesn’t matter whether, if you do the math, you come out ahead in cost those first two years. Nothing good ever comes from a contract like this, and the main reason has to do with the emerging technology and how that cost constantly changes.

Those poor souls referenced above that are getting ready to be obligated for 10 years with one company cannot predict what available service for that industry will look like two, four, or even six years from now. Have we not seen with our eyes how quickly technology changes?

What may sound like a good deal today, in 2018 technology and prices, won’t look so hot later. It’s kind of like contracts awarded to professional athletes. Your star player is a free agent and your team shells out $200 million to lock him into an 8 to 10 year deal. His productivity and body starts to break down in year four and you’re stuck with him for several more years.

If you are in a neighborhood where companies come in and promise you the world for that exclusivity, make your voice heard. Once that contract is signed, your bargaining power is over and you must accept the service and pricing they offer.

OK. A quick note about something else…

In my Cheap Geek introductory column, I mentioned that I didn’t want this format to be a one-way conversation. I’m local. You’re local. I want to hear from you and incorporate your thoughts.

About two months into this, I’m still waiting to hear from you.

To me, a column that best serves all of us, and isn’t just like any syndicated column you could Google, involves that two-way conversation. Whether you have questions seeking clarification on something I wrote about, or take issue with my point of view, please tell me.

I also want to hear what type of cool things you might be doing to enjoy technology at a reasonable cost. Please email me at to tell me your stories.

 If you missed my earlier columns, they can all be found below.





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