Valencia Lakes showers firm with complaints about rained-out TV service 


Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Ben Wolford

Published June 28, 2012


Wind and rain are knocking out televisions across Valencia Lakes, a community west of Boynton Beach, just in time for hurricane season.

Many residents of the 696-home development say a new service contractor is to blame, and some have crusaded for months to can the company, saying it hasn't delivered on promises of good TV quality. Things get particularly bad in poor weather.

"You're better off reading a book or listening to radio," said Ken Green, a Valencia Lakes resident. "It's been a nightmare."

On June 15, lawyers for the homeowners association sent a warning to the company. "Service is lost whenever it rains audio drops out, receivers stop working and require constant resets," the attorneys wrote.

Executives at Paladin Broadband Alliance, the South Florida vendor that signed on with Valencia Lakes in May 2011, said the problem is being blown out of proportion by politics and tension between residents and the homeowners board.

"If you would talk to anybody who has ever had a small dish on the side of their house, when a strong storm comes through there is satellite interference," Chief Operating Officer Don Smith said. "Any dish company on the planet."

Not everyone in the 55-and-over gated community is fuming.

Board member Bernie Bashkoff said the company has placed full-time staff on site to handle problems and is improving the function of its 24-hour technical support line. Paladin is a recent startup and, like any technology company, has kinks, Bashkoff said.

The board chose Paladin over five other companies because the technology was superior and the price was right, Bashkoff said. Internet and cable service costs about $75 a month and saved residents about $10 on average.

"If anything, it needs applause," he said, and suggested only a fraction of the residents are unhappy.

Resident Alan Cohen scoffed at this idea. He's been a vocal critic of the board for putting up with the problems too long. "I can barely talk to anybody without that subject coming up," Cohen said.

Nasty weather has always been a handicap of satellite television as raindrops soak up the microwave signals on their way to the dish, a phenomenon known as "rain fade." But Cohen says the discontent goes beyond thunderstorms.

He complained of three-week customer service delays, TV boxes becoming dangerously hot and frequent picture "tiling," when the screen becomes pixilated.

Smith and Paladin CEO Martin McClancy denied this, saying their tech workers "respond almost immediately." Only 2 percent of customers report complaints on a given day, they said, and added that many of the problems are "pilot error," the learning curve of switching to dish from cable.

Besides, Bashkoff said, "I don't spend my life watching my TV."