21 February 2007

We're getting a divorce

You're looking at such a pretty sight. Our two DVR boxes, remotes and (needlessly) rented cable modem, in a state of disconnection and standing by for their return trip to the Comcast office in Savannah.

This afternoon marked a change in the Gleck family's method of receiving both internet and television. Tomorrow we are filing for divorce from our cable provider.

It all started early in December, when we began experiencing frequent interruptions in our broadband service. An "appointment" followed, where the Comcast tech said the problem was our cable modem, which we bought when we signed up for broadband back in 2001. Facing two options -- shelling out $100 for another modem, or renting one for $3.00 -- we went with the most logical choice.

But the problems kept coming, and beginning in late January the interruptions became more frequent. Comcast continued to say the problem was in my house. "Take out the splitter", "Maybe it's your router", or -- my favorite -- "Coaxial cable can degrade over time, and I show that the cable feeding the modem is going bad" and that another visit would be required, this one costing almost $40.00, since "inside wiring isn't covered by our visits." That's right, a Comcast tech actually said that the cable feeding my music room was going bad.

That's funny, I didn't know it had such a short lifespan, as the house was built in 2003!!

The last straw came on January 31, when another outage caused me to be late in uploading a monthly update to a website I maintain on the side. Make that a straw with a bendy thing toward the top, because the Comcast agent I talked with had no notes about the two previous calls that week.

After that eruption of supreme incompetence, I began making phone calls inquiring about DSL service. I found out that we could have 3 Mbps DSL installed along with a bare-bones landline (read: only $10 a month, plus 15 cents a minute outgoing calls) for the same price as Comcast charges for broadband service -- a pleasant surprise after thinking that we'd have to endure $30+ for DSL and another $30 for a full landline = more than 60 smackers.

But it didn't stop there. I asked about the bundled Dish Network service (for the record, BellSouth-cum-"AT&T Death Star Ma Bell Redux" is NOT our provider out here in Effingham County; we're served by Windstream, a spinoff of Alltel's landline business). I had some misconceptions about satellite over the years, largely centering on my assumption that Dish Network and DirecTV were more economical than cable ... provided you had only one TV. It was the extra boxes that ate you alive.

We know what happens when we "assume", right?

Well, I did the math. Seraphim and I could have Dish Network, with two DVRS - as we had with Comcast, the "America's Top 250" package - more than we had with Comcast's digital tier, and Sirius music channels - instead of the dry and boring "Music Choice" offerings on digital cable.

The price we'd been paying Comcast: $145.
About what we'll be paying for the dish/DSL combo: $125.
Net savings = $20.00!

I talked it over with my sweet bride, and, after her assurances that she'd continue to be able to get her Hallmark Channel fix, we decided to slaughter "the cable pig" once and for all. Last Tuesday, 02/13, I made phone calls and got the wheels a-turning.

And this afternoon, the guy came out and installed our Dish Network service. And our DSL service was activated this afternoon, too.

Tomorrow (Thursday), I have the pleasure of telling Comcast where they can stick their service.

However, my typical and trademark snarky self will be tempered. I can't help but think that Comcast didn't used to be this terrible. We signed up for Comcast broadband in September of 2001, and for a long time we had what I'd call very reliable service. Even when we left our apartment in the now-slum of southside Savannah in early 2004 when we bought our house here in Rincon, Comcast didn't drop the ball and the transition was seamless. I was very impressed, truth be told.

The trouble of late has been the customer service angle. It's gotten worse. Comcast used to have some sharp minds at the phones, but of late it's been nothing but total dee-d'DEEs!

One tech who came out and checked the drop to our house last week admitted that the node serving our neighborhood was going bad. What's more, Comcast finally put this matter on Defcon-5 and it became high priority.

Ahhh, but what timing. The trouble sirens were activated the day after I'd gotten the wheels rolling on the DSL, phone and satellite installations. Hell, I almost thought Comcast had wiretapped our cellphones and monitored our internet traffic (If George W. Bush can do it, I guess so can a big monolithic cable company, eh?).

I'll give thanks tomorrow for the attention given this matter. Two Savannah-based techs I talked to recently were very professional and knowledgeable in their manner. That's good for the other homes on that node, because I'm sure others have been pissed off -- just perhaps not the 'squeaky wheel' I became.

And whaddaya know -- until this afternoon we had not had a single Comcast outage since the day after we got the ball rolling on the new services.

My issue is with trust. I lost trust in Comcast not just for this, but for several other related reasons. Broadband was good again, however I asked myself what if it goes down again. Would I have to go through all this again? Sorry, no sale.

DSL is a tad slower than cable-delivered broadband. Yet I haven't known the difference through the DSL service we have at work. Pages load just as quickly, the only thing being a few seconds longer to download a piece of video or other large file. A few seconds longer. Ooooooh, terrible........

A Corvette is faster than a Camry. But what good is a Corvette when it's in the shop half the time?? Trustworthiness and reliability over speed, that's what I say.

Comcast has the benefit of being a franchise-protected monopoly. Fortunately, we do have other options. And we've exercised them.

Goodbye, Comcast. Here's your ring back.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Communications Divorcee" Gleck

No comments: