OZARK -- For Sheri Aldridge, having a fast Internet connection is the difference between working to support herself and having very few job prospects.
Legally blind, Aldridge doesn’t have the same work options as most people, but she does have a background in information technology, a job she can do online from home.
After losing her job in North Carolina during layoffs at the company where she had been working, Aldridge decided to move to Ozark where her brother was already living. Aldridge said she got a job with a company that would allow her to do online technical support from home, a job that requires a very fast Internet speed.
“If I don’t have high speed Internet, I don’t have a job,” she said.
That is why Aldridge said she went to Troy Cable on April 27, before she signed a lease, and got an application for service indicating the high speed Internet she needed could be installed in the Eufaula Street apartment where she planned to live. After putting down a deposit, paying rent and signing a 12-month lease, Aldridge said she went back to Troy Cable to make arrangements to have her Internet service installed and that is when she got troubling news – the Internet connection she needed couldn’t be installed in her apartment.
“This is not a minor inconvenience,” Aldridge said. “I just can’t move into any place.”
Aldridge suspects what happened was an honest mistake by Troy Cable, but it prevented her from being able to work.
“Even if it’s an honest mistake, it’s a mistake and has cost me a lot,” she said.
Jake Cowen, general manager at Troy Cable, said the fiber connection Aldridge needed is available all along the Eufaula Street area of Ozark, but there needs to be a power source in order run the fiber. The apartment complex has the power coming in on one end of the building and the cable comes in on the other side.
“We don’t have a power room on that end,” Cowen said.
When the site survey was conducted after Aldridge came in to have her service connected, the problem with running fiber to the apartment was discovered. Cowen said new apartment complexes are generally set up so this isn’t a problem.
Without the proper Internet connection, and committed to a 12-month lease totaling $3,900, Aldridge was stuck.
“I just can’t drive to Dothan for work,” she said. “Living down here I have to have a telecommute role.”
Aldridge said she called Troy Cable the same day she signed the apartment lease to explain the problem and was told somebody would call her back. She said nobody ever called her so the next day she sent an email to Troy Cable, explaining the situation. A reply back 11 minutes later read “I'm sorry and apologize for someone telling you it was fiber when it was not. I will get someone to contact you about this.” Aldridge said that was the last time she had any contact with Troy Cable.
“I had a $45,000 a year job when I moved in there and that evaporated,” she said.
With few options, Aldridge began looking for another place to live where she could get high speed Internet. With seemingly no work options if she continued living in the apartment in Ozark, Aldridge found a house to rent in Dothan and moved there. She is still responsible for rent on the Ozark apartment, money she says she can’t afford to pay.
Aldridge said Troy Cable should pay her for her expenses based on her renting an apartment where she was told she could get high-speed Internet that was necessary for her job.
“I just want them to pay for (my) costs,” she said.