Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why Comcast sucks

I was reading about Comcast, that cable giant, over the last week and they're the lowest rated company for customer service at the same time they plan to expand the services and products to providing games on the network to customers. One of the articles mentioned the best remedy for Comcast, which is simply, fix what you have.

The reason Comcast sucks is they've been pushing too much signal and applications through a too small network, and despite improving their network in many local areas for the recent services with Internet phone and Web and TV channels, they can't deliver it over the existing network. And I've had my fair share of these stupidity over several years now, and nothing gets resolved.

Like what?

First, I bought a HD TV over two years ago and upgraded to their HD service, along with adding some channels. At the time, they had Dolby 5.1 sound with the HD channels with many shows, and at the time the software worked to understand the digital and Dolby signals to route it to the digital audio jacks correctly. Within a year they installed the new Microsfoft developed user interface and signal processing software.

Except the software didn't know the digital sound was already digital, especially Dolby 5.1, and all the digital outputs on the cable box didn't work anymore where all you got was pure garbage. I did a test and showed it to two technicians who agreed that the audio signals with video channels under 100 were being converted correctly from analog to digital, but all channels 100 and over were being converted as analog and being garbaged because they already were digital.

At first Comcast blamed Motorola who responded to me that the problem wasn't their hardware but Comcast's software. So then Comcast blamed Microsoft but then said it wasn't a critical issue to be fixed right way. So two years later, it's still not fixed, and there are not plans to fix it. And so advertising Dolby 5.1 sound is a sham. And all the technicians said, even after seeing it at another customer's home, was that they're report to the engineering section, but didn't let me know to followup to ensure they actually did report it.

Second, I noticed several channels seem to drop out for weeks, sometimes months, and come back for a while and go blank again. And over time these channels go blank so much that now I rarely get them, which include the Sundance Channel and a few others, for more than a few hours every few weeks. Technicians say it's the bandwidth and some channels get lost.

But that includes three of the 8 local channels, both the analog and digital versions. Off the air for days on end, sometimes weeks, but even when it works, it's intermittent at best. And the service folks say it's the cable box, but they can't seem to get the idea that replacing the box hasn't (tested) and won't solve the problem when the signal isn't getting to the box.

And recently I lose a number of HD channels, consistently 3-6 including two or three of the movie channels. This happens at peak hours during the week day nights and weekends. So I'm paying a fee for movies and HD without any assurances it won't pixelate or go blank in the middle of the show.

And On-Demand? It's slow to start if it even starts, sitting there for minutes on end before kicking me out with an error message or give me a menu that may or may not work. Once it dispays it seems to work if you can wait while it fetchs the video you want. It's only on demand when they want to let you see it.

And there service? Well, I gave up. Why? Because they don't have local call numbers to check the channels in the area. Every problem has to be reported through the 1-800-number. And that's the comedy, or tragedy, of errors.

First, they always ask if you recycled the cable box, not just turning it on and off, but the power, unplugging it for 20-30 seconds. Except that wipes out the software and database, so turning it back on takes a 3-5+ minute wait while the software loads and boots. And then you'll lose the entire schedule, which can take hours to reload just today let alone the week or so the box holds.

Then when the problem still isn't fixed, they reset the cable box from their office, "Just to check.", meaning they don't trust you. When that doesn't change anything, they ask if you want a technician to come and replace the box. What? The box isn't the problem but they want to do it anyway, so you have to schedule a morning or afternoon to wait for the technician.

The technican sees the problem, replaces the box, and then see the problem wasn't fixed, often says, "Well, I'll report it to the technician to check the circuit. They'll schedule a visit to check the lines into your place." And they leave not offering any assurance anything will be fixed, but if you want a followup, you have to start with the 1-800-number and hope they didn't close the repair order.

So that's me tale of woe and anger. I don't have Comcast telephone or Internet, they're clearly a waste of money. And satellite companies aren't that much better or cheaper, so where's the competition? If the FCC opened up local areas to competition, where is it? I haven't heard good stories about the competition either, so who's the lesser of evils?

In the end, it's a screw the customer and don't care about their problems, which are really yours since the products and service suck. And how do I know this? Well, I'm trying to watch the Yankees-Red Sox game on Fox Sports, except I can only get the analog channel for an inning or so before it goes blank for awhile and the digital signal is always blank. You know the message, "This channel will appear shortly"?

So in my book, they deserve all the criticism people write and talk about. They oversell their products and services, underprovide those same products and services, and suck on their customer service. But without a good competitor, they know they have a monoply, so why try to actually deliver what they promise?

Oh, I forgot, it's not about the customer, but the customer's money.

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