Action 9

‘My internet was shut off’: Entire community left without service, caught in middle of legal fight

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — An entire community in central Florida suddenly lost internet service about a month ago and there’s no word on when or if it will be restored.

The Seasons at Spring Creek community in Lake County is now in its final phase of construction.  Arlene Fernandez bought her home in 2021 while relocating from south Florida.  She was excited about the promise of high-speed internet with fiber-optic lines throughout the community.

Fernandez said, “We stumbled upon this neighborhood that was being built and we got excited.  We moved in.”

She and her neighbors told us the internet service was lightning fast when it worked, but they said it was inconsistent.

Michelle DeJusto, who works from home, felt it was annoying at times, but when the service shut down completely last month that’s when her frustration really set in.

“I had to grab my equipment, my desktop and move it over to my brother’s house,” DeJusto told Action 9.

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The community homeowners association that was under control of home builder Richmond American Homes at the time, signed a seven-year exclusive deal with a company called Fastlite to provide service.  Fastlite worked out a deal with another company called BroadStar to help with the infrastructure.

But an attorney for BroadStar told Action 9′s Jeff Deal, Fastlite wasn’t paying its bills, and he said, BroadStar went to great lengths to keep the service going for months while trying to negotiate and collect money from Fastlite, but it finally had to pull the plug.

Fernandez has driven to Orlando on some days because she couldn’t work from home.

“I lost days of work because my internet was shut off,” Fernandez said.

BroadStar, which also uses the name Sunshine Communications Management, LLC, has filed a lawsuit against Fastlite claiming it still owes tens of thousands of dollars.

Neighbors told Action 9 they blame Richmond American Homes for putting them in this position.

Consumer Investigator Jeff Deal went to the builder for answers.

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A man who seemed to be in charge at the office told Deal, “I’ve had a couple of complaints, but it’s just nothing I can do about it unfortunately.”

The corporate office for Richmond American Homes said it doesn’t comment publicly on customer concerns, but does take them very seriously.

Attorney Mark Lippman, who specializes in HOA cases said Fastlite not providing the service could be considered in a breach of the exclusive contract and that could open the door to other providers.

“You can call anyone like Spectrum, for instance, call Spectrum. And they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we’d love to come in there, but we don’t have our own lines in there,’” Lippman said.

Even if it does open the door,  he believes finding another company willing to put in lines and provide service could take several month or even up to a year.

In the meantime, some homeowners are using hotspots from wireless carriers to at least have some service, but they say it’s not as fast as their home internet was.  They feel trapped in the middle of a dispute they never expected when moving into a modern community.

Fernandez said,  “Unfortunately, we live in that world now where we do need internet for everything.”

Lippman told Action 9 one other thing that could be a concern is if a company that does work in a community, like BroadStar in this case, feels it’s owed money, it could also go after the HOA or even put liens on individual homes in the community to try to collect.

Action 9 has reached out to Fastlite, but so far it has not responded.