Business & Technology Nexus

Dave Stephens on technology and business trends

My Comcast Experience & Sourcing for Best Value

with 3 comments

Back in the late 90’s ATT had a broadband internet division. The group was called ATTBI and they serviced Half Moon Bay, California, where I live. They charged $32.95 a month, and service was pretty good.

Comcast acquired ATTBI but that was fine – Comcast honored the original contract with their new customers. I continued getting a reasonable rate for good service.

Then a little over a year ago Comcast made an unauthorized change to my service – adding Cable TV. I called in once the bill arrived and asked for my old service back. So they changed it back. But, voila, the price was suddenly 57.95.

I called to complain & was told I was entitled to 32.95 rate but “our systems won’t allow us to use it.” I was irritated. So, the service agent put me on a 1 year promotional plan at 29.99 to smooth things over. “Fine, I said, and you’ll hear from me in another year.”

This past month the bill increased as expected to 57.95. But this time no amount of arguing got me my old rate back. “We’re sorry sir, we only keep records for 1 year. If you can fax us your original contract with ATTBI we might be able to help, else you are out of luck.” Not one to keep records going back a year let alone 5, I decided I had had enough. I put in a service cancellation request, giving myself enough time to research other options.

I use Vonage (2 lines) instead of traditional phone service, so any switch from Comcast was complicated by that.

But the new DSL packages from AT&T seemed pretty sweet. They start at $13 and go up to around $28. So I began sorting through how to choose high speed internet + phone service as an interesting consumerized version of sourcing for best value.

Just to warn you, my personal crusade to leave Comcast has a “tragic” ending. Sigh. But maybe you can use a similar approach and achieve a better outcome.

On the surface, it looked like I had 3 choices. Stay with Comcast+Vonage, switch to phone+DSL, or go with a local high-speed wireless provider+Vonage.

As an aside I didn’t include TV in my analysis as Dish Network is so much less expensive that under no circumstance is Comcast a good choice from a cost perspective. Sorry Comcast. Quality of local channels from their strange analog feed also makes them an awful choice.

1) Comcast/Cable+Vonage

Comcast high-speed internet is now a whopping $57.95. Add Vonage for your phone service at $24.95.

Monthly Total: $82.90, Yearly Total: $994.80 (HIGHEST COST)

2) AT&T/DSL

AT&T DSL starts at 12.99. For comparable service to the fastest Comcast can ever get (read, when your neighbors aren’t using theirs at the same time as you) is 27.99, although the 17.99 offering of 3Mbps is more than sufficient for home use. Currently, AT&T offers a similar package to Vonage for 39.94 a month.

Monthly Total: $57.93, Yearly Total: $695.16 (Savings: $299.64)

3) Coastside.net+Vonage

Coastside.net blankets much of Half Moon Bay with a wireless connection serving speeds up to 3Mbps. Monthly fee is 39.95 + Vonage home service @ 24.95.

Monthly Total: $64.90, Yearly Total: $778.80 (Savings: $216)

So after finishing this I got on the phone with “the new AT&T” and was excited to switch. After all, they’d been sending marketing spam to my mailbox twice weekly with great offers for a month or two.

“I’m sorry sir, DSL service is not yet available in your neighborhood!”

“Doh!”

My 2nd choice was to go local and use a great Half Moon Bay wireless network provider called Coastside.net. With absolutely fantastic service they came and did a site survey.

“Doh!”

They advised against using the service – their network is just (just!) outside of the range they like to insure highly reliable high speed service.

Which left smug, arrogant Comcast as the only “dealer” of my high-speed internet addiction. Can you spell unregulated monopoly.

I called them back and told them they won (and cancelled my service termination order.)

“Thank you for choosing Comcast!” – complete with laughing in the background along with inaudible murmur sounding like “who’s your daddy now!” :)

Now that’s Comcastic!

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Written by Dave Stephens

08/11/06 8:04 PM at 8:04 pm

Posted in Opinion

3 Responses

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  1. By the way, don’t buy your cable modem. I was given this choice a number of years ago by another cable operator, did the math, and figured that it made sense. So I bought one of the modems on their “approved” list.

    Unfortunately, what they didn’t tell me is that all their “package deals” of services include a modem rental fee. So in order NOT to pay for the rented modem (which now I didn’t need and didn’t want), I would have had to go “a la carte” on their services, which would have nearly doubled my bill.

    So for years I was forced to rent an imaginary modem.

    After a customer service experience like this, you can imagine my delight when Verizon fiber showed up at the side of my house.

    Eric Strovink

    08/13/06 4:13 AM at 4:13 am

  2. To add to your (my) misery, Vonage is in serious trouble. I have been using their service for over 2 years and cut my local/LD phone bill by 66% and now they are wrecking the company.

    I still have nightmares of the technical brain surgery I needed to perform to make a Vonage-Cable Modem-Tivo-Directv combo work. Let’s just say my equipment thinks its talking to a non-existant fax machine and I also needed an e-governor to bring the bandwidth down to 19k. Gives me a headache just recalling it.

    David Bush

    08/14/06 4:55 AM at 4:55 am

  3. You were totally in the right and their answer of not keeping records for than a year is absurd. Customer notes should be kept active while the account is active and then archived when an account is closed should they need them for legal purposes later.

    Since you didn’t have your records either, you weren’t able to fight. Y Your cable service is no different than a business contract and the same advice applies: Save everything that relates to the term of the agreement!

    Matthew W. Grant

    08/15/06 11:49 PM at 11:49 pm


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