Comcast–Customer Service

Comcast does try to fix things, but they aren’t persistent until the problem is solved.  I have internet and telephone service with Comcast.  Months ago my phone started acting up after many months of perfect use upon switching from AT&T.  I was also experiencing outages with my internet too.  The phone service is voice over IP, so it’s dependent on the internet.  The trouble was the outages were intermittent, the worse kind of technical failures for customer service.

When I’d call Comcast they’d run tests and tell me everything was fine.  I complained enough they sent a tech guy out and he tested stuff.  He checked my lines out to the pole and declared that everything was fine and I should call when the outage was happening so they could run a test.  The trouble is my phone doesn’t work when the outages happen, and my damn cell phone doesn’t work in my house.

Just when I was researching returning to AT&T my phone started working again.  It then worked  without any problems for several months.  I assumed Comcast fixed something in their system and nothing had been wrong at my house.

Well, the problem is back and my friends are again tired of trying to chat with me on the phone.

The outages are fleeting.  I’ll be talking on the phone and I’ll have random moments, seconds or even minutes, when the people I’m talking to can’t hear me.  I can hear them fine, they just can’t hear me.   My wife works out of town, so I like to talk to her, or other friends in town.  But my phone service is so annoying people don’t want to talk to me.

And I just don’t want to go through the same customer service rigmarole as before to get it fixed, when customer service didn’t fix it the last time.

Concurrent with the phone outages my Netflix is giving me trouble – and I’ve become quite addicted on streaming Netflix.  My daily life has become dependent on Comcast technology – for socializing on the Internet, talking on the phone, and watching old TV shows late at night.   I wish I could just pack it in and be content with reading books in the evening and live without the aggravation of fighting with Comcast customer service.  And it’s not that Comcast isn’t pleasant to deal with on the phone, they are very nice, but like I said, they are quick to get rid of me when they don’t have something to work on directly.

I wonder why they don’t build modems that automatically monitor uptime and just inform the central office when their service is out or deteriorating.  There’s no reason why they can’t build self-healing networks.  In fact, they should be able to build networks that notice the trouble, inform the central computer, email me an apologetic note saying there is a problem and they are working on it, and then send the technicians a diagnosis of the problem to be fixed.  Now that would be great customer service.

So what are my options?

  • Install my own monitoring tools and try to decipher the problem myself?  Even if I could provide event logs I doubt if Comcast customer service will want to study them.  It’s out of their work routine.
  • Wait for the system to fix itself like before?
  • Call AT&T and ask them to install U-verse?
  • Split my services so I go back to a AT&T land line but keep Comcast for internet (assuming things get fixed) and not have all my communication needs provided by one supplier?
  • Get a dual WAN router and pay for two internet services hoping one will always back up the other.  I could get a land line and keep the VoIP, so I had dual phone systems too.

Notice, none of my options expects Comcast customer service to solve the problem.  I sent Comcast an email and got a nice email back with several suggestions.  The same tips they give you to try when you talk over the phone.  Because my system works great most of the time, it shouldn’t be my system at all, unless it’s a flaky modem, and they claim they have run tests on it.  The email was much more apologetic than the phone person, but the results are the same.  They are rid of me until I try again.  But I’m tired of calling.  And I’m frustrated I can’t talk on the phone.  And I’m annoyed that Netflix has stopped working like it did.  And I’m depressed that my Rhapsody music stops and starts.

Ah, the woes of internet life.

JWH 12/14/10

Living Without Cable TV

Because I’m approaching my retirement years, and contemplating living the last third of my life on a fixed income, I’m spending a lot of time examining how I spend my money.  One of my biggest monthly bills I pay is from Comcast.  I get cable TV, Internet and local/long distant phone service from them, so naturally the bill is going to be big.  Even after I retire, I know I’ll want high speed Internet, so I positively have to budget $50 a month for that.  For now, I’m not ready to be one of those people who live a cell phone only lifestyle.  So that leaves the $120 a month for cable to consider. 

I’ve already cut $23.90 from my bill by returning the bedroom cable box/DVR, so I’m down to $96.  My plan is to quit cable entirely as soon as True Blood season 2 wraps up, but I want to explore just what I desire from cable TV and how much is it worth, and what I will miss when it’s shut off.

Pros of Cable TV

  • Watch shows in DVR time
  • Excellent selection
  • Elegant integration of DVR and guide
  • Channel guide
  • Convenient

Cons of Cable TV

  • Cost
  • Hate paying for channels I don’t use
  • Overwhelmed by the choice of too many channels
  • I watch too much TV

Pros of Over the Air TV

  • Free
  • Non-compressed high-definition
  • PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC actually cover most of what I watch
  • Simple – less to worry about
  • Will watch less TV

Cons of Over the Air TV

  • Must watch in real time
  • No channel guide
  • No DVR unless I build one
  • Missing 9 favorite cable channels

The worst downside of free TV is watching in real time.  I could build a Home Theater PC, but I’ve explored that idea and there’s a great deal of aggravation involved.  [Note to television makers:  Invent an elegant but simple to use over-the-air DVR turner that works with an online guide via the Internet – but doesn’t require the show stopping $13 a month subscription like Tivo.  A 1gb model for $199 would be a killer product.]

I’ve also explored the idea of just getting basic cable, but at $50 a month I still get far more channels than I want, and most of my favorite HD ones would be lost.    [Note to Comcast:  Offer over-the-air local HD channels and my favorite HD cable channels listed below, with a simple DVR for $30 a month and I’d stay with cable.  And I think a lot of people I know who don’t get cable would consider it too.  Or this setup with high-speed Internet and voice for $99.95.]

Most folks I talk to, hate cable because they feel cheated by the huge bill and being forced to buy far more than they want.  Cable needs to reinvent itself.  Since everyone is moving to digital reception and digital TVs, offer a basic HD package for $25 a month, and provide a la carte selection of cable channels at $1 for those with commercials, $2 for those like TCM, without commercials, and whatever the premium channels think they are worth, and then see what people really want.  Also offer bundle packages for those folks who like to buy in quantity.

Which Channels Would We Miss the Most?

My favorites are:

  • The Science Channel (wished it was HD)
  • Discovery Channel HD
  • National Geographic HD
  • History Channel HD
  • Turner Classic Movies (wished it was HD)

My wife wants to add:

  • Home and Garden HD
  • TLC HD
  • Food Network HD
  • DIY Network (wished it was HD)

If we had those 9 channels with PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC – and a DVR with channel guide just for those channels we’d be in TV heaven.  Everything else, Susan and I could get on Netflix.  And if the documentaries I love from those first four cable channels were easily available on Netflix, I could live without them too.  Netflix and streaming Netflix could be everything for me with just PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC for random watching.  Those are our lucky 13 channels.  Currently we’re overwhelmed with two digital tiers, a bunch of premium channels and scads of music channels we never even flip through.

Comcast and other cable companies need to study what people really want.  Ever since I wrote “Saving Money on Cable TV and Internet” a bunch of my friends have come up to me and told me they were thinking about the exact same thing.  Everyone I know hates paying a big cable bill for so many channels they don’t want.

Living the Simple Life

Our culture forces everyone into living with information overload.  I’m predicting a movement towards simplifying life.  Even the young will burn out from Twitter and Facebook overload.  Kids feel bad if they don’t have 800 friends in their social networks, but the reality is you can’t have that many friends.  And you can’t watch 200 TV channels, and the Internet is just as overwhelming.  There’s got to be some consolidation.

Because I won’t get the a la cart cable service I want, I’m going back to four TV channels:  PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC.  Maybe this makes me a TV Luddite, maybe this is bad for the economy, and maybe it will even reduce what I get to learn about the world, but it might also be innovative for my lifestyle.  There’s that old saying about your life flashing in front of your eyes when you die, well, too much of the life I will see flashing in front of my eyes will be sedentary in front of a TV.  I regret that.

JWH – 8/29/9

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