Internet blackouts in off-campus residences, particularly in major apartment complexes, have given rise to numerous student complaints to major Internet service provider Access Media 3.
However, Access Media 3 doesn’t have a building full of maintenance men to send to your apartment unit. It doesn’t have sensors to indicate service failure. It doesn’t even have a building for you to show up at, demanding your monthly bill be reduced for inconvenience.
In fact, you won’t find them any trace of them in Blacksburg.
Access Media 3 operates entirely out of Oak Brook, Ill., and has limited responsibility over technical issues that happen in the Blacksburg area.
According to Melissa Mercado, the marketing director of Access Media 3, few people know the media service provider industry operates essentially the same way for all companies: by using third-party companies to complete their fiber network.
Once installed, the fiber network becomes essentially a mainstay for all service providers in that area, and the service providers then partner with the third-party company, relying on that company to perform maintenance of the network.
So when Internet outages began at the start of this past semester, Access Media 3 heard all the customer complaints through their customer service center in Oak Falls, while having to rely upon its third-party company to resolve the issue.
“They had one piece of equipment that failed. It created a domino effect, and caused other equipment failures,” Mercado explained. “At the end of the day, the failure would have happened regardless of who the service provider was at the time.”
When asked for the name of the third party company, Mercado was unable to comment further.
The name of the unknown third party company in Blacksburg is not publicly available information. The company that had previously provided Internet service in Access Media 3’s current domain was NTC Shentel. NTC was not available for comments regarding the matter.
While the outages themselves have been a primary cause of negative student opinion of Access Media 3, others have also expressed discontent the exclusivity of Access Media 3’s service with many major apartment complexes in the area.
Various major apartment complexes currently maintain exclusive contracts with Access Media 3, making them the only service provider for the all units the complexes manage.
Nicholas Tully has lived in Terrace View for two years and has been dissatisfied with Access Media 3, having had better service in his hometown.
“I personally hate it,” said Tully, a junior public and urban affairs major. “I dislike the way you’re forced into it by contract here at Terrace View; you don’t have any other choice of Internet providers.”
Nicole Bowman has lived in Maple Ridge for the past year, and had a similar experience to Tully.
“They didn’t give us a choice; they just said that’s who provides it, so I guess we’re stuck with them, unfortunately,” said Bowman, a sophomore communication and English major.
While Access Media 3 has refused to provide the names of the apartment complexes they have exclusive contracts with, students have reported that Terrace View, Collegiate Suites, Maple Ridge, Hunters Ridge, Oak Bridge and University Terrace are among the apartment complexes that incorporate Access Media 3 into their leases.
No apartment complex has been willing to provide the length of their contract with Access Media 3. A source indicated that Terrace View’s contract would be up for renewal in July, though Terrace View’s management was not available to confirm this report.
According to Mercado, apartment complexes favor exclusive contracts for a variety of reasons.
“Some properties choose to only allow one because they get a break, and they are able to pass that along to the residents,” Mercado said.
Outside of outages, some students have also been unhappy with the quality of the provided Internet service. According to Tully, the advertised Internet speed at his apartment in Terrace View is misleading.