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Removing MDU Operator from Community

Discussion in 'DIRECTV Installation/MDU Discussion' started by xtremeflyer, Aug 11, 2010.

  1. xtremeflyer

    xtremeflyer Cool Member

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    Aug 11, 2010
    Sorry for the long post from a newbie, but I have lurked here for a while and have gotten to my boiling point with this topic.

    We have Consolidated Smart Systems (CSS) as our MDU Opertator, contracted by the developer. This is a new build in 2008. Each building is 4 units, with 8 buildings in the community. Each building has its own MFH2 with SWM setup. Each building has the International dish installed as well. So our community has 16 dishes.

    Only 9 people in the community use DirecTV (including myself). I am the HOA president. I am tired of CSS's extra fees and attitude. I'm tired of not being able to work with DirecTV directly on offers and promotions. (example, CSS wants $209 for WHDVR install, whereas D* only wants $148, and as you've seen on this forum, people have been getting some of that waived).

    I've spoken with other residents and they are not happy with the extra fees either. (Some have been required to pay their $65 maintenance plan). Two residents have said they want D* but have been unwilling to order due to CSS.

    With that, I am going to be proposing at the next board meeting to cancel CSS's exclusivity agreement and right of access to our property. All the cabling is the property of the community. All the other equipment is the property of CSS. The contract has a 5 year agreement (so 2+ years left), but the contract was never assigned to the community and was originally signed by the developer.

    1) How hard do you think CSS is going to fight over the 5-year term? (especially with only 9 units) What could they do to enforce it (there is an arbitration clause in the contract, but again, we (HOA) aren't named on the contract)

    2) If we go to individual accounts, will homeowners have to pay for dishes or could they ask for the Movers Connection Package even though they aren't actually moving? Would we be better off recommending that people cancel their account and have another person in the house sign up as a new customer (if they aren't under contract of course).

    3) Anything else I'm overlooking as to why we should stay as an MDU?

    Thanks!
    David Imboden
     
  2. boba

    boba Hall Of Fame

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    First is consult an Attorney as the HOA to find out your obligations to honor contract under your states law.

    Expect to lose all equipment owned by CSS if you can terminate the account. As existing customers the 9 of you may get screwed on qualifications for any promotions.

    8 x 4 could mean 32 dishes thrown up on the buildings with individual home owners installing their own systems.
     
  3. spartanstew

    spartanstew Dry as a bone DBSTalk Club

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    Wylie, Texas
    Not counting international.
     
  4. xtremeflyer

    xtremeflyer Cool Member

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    Aug 11, 2010
    Re: Attorney.. Yes, we plan on consulting our HOA Attorney on the contract and will be having him write up the termination letter.

    It is potentially true that we could have 32+ dishes, but after two years, we only have 9 accounts. Each building has a flat roof and the dishes cannot be seen from the ground. The location of where each of the two dishes per building are now could easily fit 5 or 6 dishes, so I'm not concerned about that.

    Developer is supposed to get $3200 from CSS if they have 40% penetration by Oct 2010, but that isn't going to happen unless we get 4 more accounts in the next two months.

    I don't think we'd want CSS's equipment anyway as it would probably just confuse the D* installers that come out to install the individual dishes. All the connections happen in a maintenance closet on each building at that is the property of the community.
     
  5. BattleZone

    BattleZone Hall Of Fame

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    And this is why you generally only see MDU systems in large high-rise apartment buildings. While the concept of a single shared antenna system on each building seems like a good idea, no one wants to pay to support it (and there are lots of on-going support costs).
     
  6. CivicBeater

    CivicBeater Cool Member

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    Apr 22, 2009
    Actually, I think it would be a horrible choice to allow individual tenants to handle their own contracts/installs with Directv. I've never seen that go well anywhere. Not to say that's what you're suggessting, just for the fact that bulk accounts are the best option. Unfortunately there are retailers that can't support it properly and a lot of times there is improper communication between parties that take things where the OP is at. MFH systems work great in small or large properties, however a lot of that depends on correct upgrade procedures, communication, etc.
     
  7. xtremeflyer

    xtremeflyer Cool Member

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    Aug 11, 2010
    CivicBender.. Two points, we aren't tenants, we are homeowners, we all have access to our flat roofs. We don't have bulk accounts, we all have individual accounts with DirecTV.

    So, with that said, I still don't understand the benefits of having an MDU in our community. It's another contract the HOA has to deal with, homeowners are charged more for the same service that they could get from D* directly (I know programming is the same price, but my example of the WHDVR is just one of many, if I want a new receiver, they charge $40 to come install it, DirecTV will do it for free if I order the receiver online).

    As the HOA president, it is my duty to make sure that my residents are not being taken advantage of on vendor services and currently, myself and other residents feel we are being taken advantage of by CSS.

    How would your company be different?
     
  8. BattleZone

    BattleZone Hall Of Fame

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    The primary advantage of a SMA (System Master Antenna) system, which is what you have, is to minimize dish count and eliminate external wiring, as well as holes and other damage that occurs as customers switch service providers, which they tend to do a lot. But the disadvantage is that someone has to manage the system, and the connections/disconnections/reconfigurations of the customers/tenants to the system. And someone has to pay the costs for that work.

    How much does it cost to send a tech to an apartment location to trace down lines, verify that those lines aren't in use for something else (cable modem, for example), make the connection in the switch room (wait for management to allow access, etc.), and then go to the unit to install the receivers? A tech needs to make $50-75 for that at least (this tech will always be a contractor), plus the company he works for needs to make something to pay for his dispatching and other overhead. DirecTV isn't going to pay for any of that, so who will? The customer/tenant, is who.

    But the tenants never want to pay. Sure, they don't mind using the system, and don't mind that their neighbors don't have cable strung everywhere and dishes all over the place, but they forget that those fees pay to mitigate those things by driving the connections back to the SMA system.

    Without an SMA, you're going to have cables strung all over, walls swiss-cheesed with holes, dishes mounted every-which way, custom charges for non-pen mounts, and a bunch of dishes, switches, and cabling to be maintained. That means lots of techs walking around on the roof with a much higher potential for damage and/or injury on the property. But you won't have those MDU fees...

    I've seen both sides. SMA systems really are in everyone's best interest, but it is next to impossible to get people to see that until it's too late.
     
  9. CivicBeater

    CivicBeater Cool Member

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    Apr 22, 2009
    Well put. Couldn't agree more and we're definitely on the same page.

    I personally deal with very large MDU properties all the way down to the corner apt. lots.

    There are several different options that I've seen work great. Becoming a private cable operator requires some continual leg work however the opportunity for serious profit as you're reselling the service to homeowners is huge and well worth the time spent.

    A SD Head end system offering basic cable services is a simple way to go. Offer 30-50+/- channels, charge $50-75 a month and call it a day. For those wanting to upgrade you can have a QAM Overlay for DNET or MFH Overlay with Directv. I personally for one am not a fan of Dish Net QAM systems but this is an option available to offer.

    Yes, the customer wanting to upgrade in the building will deal with the retailer, in your case CSS. Sounds like what they're charging is a bit on the high side but nothing too strong. Bottomline these customers/homeowners need to understand they're in a MDU property and not at a single residence where 90% of ads are marketed towards. It's something they don't want to hear but it is what it is. Reason for not the free upgrade/installation is that the resident isn't typically forced into signing any contracts. This is a plus for several reasons, however a negative as you're paying upfront for the receiver. Honestly, once people understand this, they're more accepting of what they're paying for. Directv can offer residents at single family homes free receivers etc. because they lock them into a contract where they know they will make money to cover the equipment on residuals.

    Just as Battlezone stated you have to for the tech's time to service as well.

    The way I set up a lot of properties is where the property is not responsible for any in-house issues. Basically jsut how Home Owners Insurance would work. We'll directly bill the resident for any wiring issues inside leaving the board/property mgmt out of it. However, if it's something in the distribution that is the properties responsibility as they own it.

    The other plus (sometimes depending on who your retailer is) in dealing with a retailer is your getting experienced technical support. 9/10 employees at Directv's call center have no idea what MFH is besides the basics. In case there is ever any issue many cases can be closed in a matter of minutes when talking to the right person. Rarely is a tech needed to be dispatched if the distribution is in decent shape.

    I deal with a couple properties that just rent out all of their apartments and some are timeshares etc. There typically is a front desk that hands out receivers when they get occupied and we can keep record of all of this for the location making activation/deactivation extremely easy.

    There are goods and bads with any route you go, however outlining an MFH Set-up through an authorized dealer should look like:

    Quick service
    Knowledgeable technical support
    No contracts to homeowners
    Controlled evironment (Not a million different DTV techs coming in/out installing/deinstalling dishes & equipment.
    Easy billing
    Case Management
    The list goes on...
     
  10. xtremeflyer

    xtremeflyer Cool Member

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    Aug 11, 2010
    BattleZone, thank you for the insight, I completely agree with what you are saying for most communities, but our new build has some great advantages.

    We have two sets of cables going into every home from the maintenance closet in each building. One set is white and is designated for Time Warner, the second set is black and is designated for Satellite. We have conduit on the roof that goes from where the satellite dishes are currently placed (would be places) to feed the cable from that location to the maintenance closet.

    Then in each home is a communication box where all the telephone, cable and satellite cables feed into and where all the telephone, cat5 and coax feed out to to all of the rooms in the home.

    So for our community, we'd have no additional mess, less cost, less confusion and less finger pointing between CSS and D*. I don't think anyone is going to convince me that MDU is a good idea for OUR community (although I understand the benefits to MOST communities). My questions are more focused on the reprocussions of removing the MDU provider for the residents, ie getting new dishes from DirecTV for the lowest possible cost and coordinating the effort.
     
  11. xtremeflyer

    xtremeflyer Cool Member

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    Aug 11, 2010
    CivilBeater,it does sound like your company does a better job.. As an example, I just had a homeowner install today. He is a new customer. He was charged $40 for install, $40 for MRV install and a mandatory $65 protection program that is cheaper than D* but has a $40 deductable and he still had to sign a 2 yr contract.

    All of this would have been free with D* directly and he probably could have gotten another $100 back with referral. Plus the protection plan with D* is free swapping of broken boxes.. All of this while CSS has NO STARTUP FEES on their website.

    Do you understand my frustration now?
     
  12. netraa

    netraa Godfather

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    one thing for you to think about would be to find a private dealer that is willing to take on your buildings.

    They can do new customer accounts, they will be regular d* accounts but give that dealer 'exclusive' rights to new customers in the building.

    this will give them the extra $$ to maintain the system on the installs and upgrades and keep things in order in the closets so that they are affordable to maintain.

    this might get you the best of both worlds and keep the dishes under control, the wiring closets sorted, and get rid of the MDU at the same time.
     
  13. xtremeflyer

    xtremeflyer Cool Member

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    Aug 11, 2010
    I love this idea actually. How would I go about finding someone to do that? Also, how could he be assured the exclusivity, what if someone just called D* direct or signed up with Costco or something?
     
  14. netraa

    netraa Godfather

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    1. get the yellow pages out start making calls and ask.

    2. that's going to be your job as the spokesperson with the HOA. your not exactly dealing with thousands of units here, it's 32 units. that's 32 letters, and making sure you keep the closets locked.
     
  15. CivicBeater

    CivicBeater Cool Member

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    FYI. When you're set up on a commercial bulk account, you will not have to worry about anyone else calling to get service through anyone else. The account will be flagged and will not allow activation through anyone but the retailer you chose/contracted.
     
  16. raiders1

    raiders1 New Member

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    Sep 8, 2010
    If you were successful in removing CSS from the property, are you aware of other video service providers other than DTV that could come in with the exiting wiring?

    Fios or UVerse would be great, but could you bring the fiber into the building without massive construction? Or would you need to stick with just cable now?
     
  17. xtremeflyer

    xtremeflyer Cool Member

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    Aug 11, 2010
    Our HOA Lawyer is working on a termination letter as we speak, so we have not yet gotten rid of them. Fios and UVerse are not available in our area, so I haven't looked into those options. Our plan is for homeowners to contact their preferred provider directly.
     
  18. jdspencer

    jdspencer Hall Of Fame

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    Have you given any thought to OTA as well?
     

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