My Comcast Story

XfinityAs I mentioned last week, I just moved to Florida. My options for broadband here are CenturyLink DSL or Comcast cable modem. I am in a smaller town and the only CenturyLink DSL product sold here is a speed of ‘up to 10 Mbps’. The CenturyLink product is priced attractively low with packages starting as cheap as $20. I had a faster product than that in the Virgin Islands, and so I looked at Comcast.

I talked to the neighbors around here and was surprised that almost nobody uses Comcast. They use satellite for cable and most of them use CenturyLink for DSL. They all told me that they thought Comcast was too hard to work with. But I’ve had Comcast before and their broadband product is clearly superior, so I gave them a call.

Comcast in this market has broadband products that range between 12 Mbps download and 105 Mbps download. My family is two adults and a teenager. We have multiple computers, a few Kindles, an iPad and smart phones. Right now we don’t have a TV although I’ll probably get around to buying one. I decided on the 50 Mbps product. This seemed like enough bandwidth for us to watch multiple video streams, surf the web and play games at the same time. Even though I would love more bandwidth, the 105 mbps product seems too expensive at well over $100 per month. But I am glad to live in a place where I have that faster option and I won’t be surprised to find myself needing to upgrade to it one day.

We first signed up with Comcast on line, But after a few days nothing happened and we tried it again. It finally took calling the local Comcast office because the online customer service people, who seemed to be overseas, were not getting our order into the queue right.

The first thing I found out is that Comcast in this market would not sell me naked cable modem, except for the 105 Mbps product. Every other cable modem product is only available when bundled with a cable TV product. So in order, to get the 50 Mbps product I wanted I was forced to buy the smallest basic cable package which is a dozen or so channels. I got a first-time customer special and am being charged $59 for six months and then it goes to $79 per month. At that point I’ll see if they let me drop the cable, which I do not want.

Once I order the bundle, the first thing I am told is that there is a $259 charge to ‘make sure that my property can be served by Comcast’. I tell them that there is a Comcast pedestal in my front yard and that this didn’t seem necessary. But I go ahead and authorize this and then find out that it’s going to take up to ten days to make the verification. We call every day and after five days finally convince somebody that we have the pedestal and that they don’t have to come out to verify. But I still get nailed with the charge.

After two weeks into the process it’s finally time to schedule the install. I am told there is a big backlog in the area and that it’s going to be a while. I get an appointment for five days later for late afternoon. Nobody shows up at the scheduled time and we finally get a call at 9:30 PM that day asking if they still want us to come over. Since I need a new drop I tell them we don’t want them doing that in the dark, and I get a new appointment for four days later. When the installer finally shows up he seems like a good guy and pretty competent. I’ve had Comcast installers in the past that didn’t seem well trained, but this guy seems to know his stuff. He is in a Comcast truck, not a contractor, which probably explains that.

I point out that I don’t have a TV and don’t want the settop box. But he says he has to connect it and activate it for my bundle. He also leaves the drop on the ground and tells me that in three weeks somebody will show up to bury it.

In summary it took over three weeks to get a cable modem. It took a dozen phone calls. It took three tries just to get in the queue. I had to buy a cable product I don’t want. I then had to wait to verify that I could get service even though I have one of their pedestals in the yard. The installer doesn’t show up when scheduled and doesn’t call until much later in the day and we have to reschedule. I now have a settop box sitting on my living room floor although I don’t have a TV. And I have a drop wire laying across my lawn and making me wonder how I am going to mow around it.

I see now that my neighbors were right and I can see why people less determined than me give up on Comcast. It was not a good experience and costly as well. But the cable modem is fast and as long as it stays connected I guess I will be happy with it. I’m not going to be thrilled when the price goes up and I start paying for a cable product I don’t want. And I am just hoping the drop will get buried without more phone calls.

This experience makes me wonder if the big cable companies are ever going to understand that customer service needs to be their first priority. Because they still are not doing it right. They provided me with several chances in this process to change my mind and give up on them. I saw last week that Comcast is thinking about growing by buying all or parts of other giant cable companies. Perhaps rather than do that they ought to spend some time figuring out how to do things right. After all, connecting a new customer who needs a 30 foot drop is not that complicated.

5 thoughts on “My Comcast Story

  1. Ha! I guess I should have mentioned that I write a daily telecom blog. Somehow I don’t think that would matter to somebody as large as Comcast. What really surprises me is how much work was required to buy a product from them. I think broadband, water and electricity are the only three things I would work this hard to get, but that is not true for most people. Comcast publishes customer counts each quarter, but one has to wonder about how many more million customers they would have if they made it painless to buy from them.

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    • Unfortunately, they are not the only ones. I got an email just today relating the tale of woe from a township official in northern Minnesota who can’t get either the incumbent cable provider or the local CLEC independent telco to run a drop to their township hall. I don’t know the details so I will not say which companies they are, but what the heck!

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  2. Dear Doug:
    When we were looking to install broadband in our home, the “choices” were between Verizon and Comcast. I was not particularly thrilled with thought of choosing either of these vendors, having experienced raunchy service from both of them at different times over the years.
    I decided to poll the neighbors and find out what they had. Roughly half of them absolutely abhorred Verizon (a couple of them called VZ “the evil empire…”) and thus had selected Comcast. The rest absolutely hated Comcast and had gone with Verizon. I asked if any of them really liked the vendor they chose? The answer was resounding: NO.
    You are absolutely correct. The level of service provided by these vendors is dismal. And this seems to be a global issue. The airlines possess a well-earned reputation for putrid service, even earning at least one skit on “Saturday Night Live” (i.e., Total Bastard Airlines”). The electric utilities are another legion of Byzantine service — PEPCO, as I’m sure you remember from your days living in the WDC area seems to pride itself on charging first world prices for third world service. And what do they seem to be spending their captive profits on? Marketing and advertising, instead of reliability.
    Good luck in Florida… I hear Florida Power and Light can also be a real jewel to deal with!!

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    • As an update, a few days after my service started Comcast announces rate increases. The basic cable package that I didn’t even want went up $2. The modem rental went up $1. I will be getting rid of that soon. And they now have a Basic Programming fee of $1.50 which just an additional increase in basic cable rates that they are showing separately so that they can advertise lower cable rates. So in less than a week my rate went up $5.50.

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