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My life with Comcast (bennjordan.com)
148 points by coldtea on Apr 5, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

I encourage people to do the same thing that the OP did. If you're thinking of kvetching here about Comcast, you're doing no good. The FCC doesn't read HackerNews. It does, however, read comments sent to it.

You'll want to go here: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/hotdocket/list

and click on:

14-57 Applications of Comcast Corporation and Time Warner Cable Inc. for Consent to Assign or Transfer Control of Licenses and Applications

That link 404s

They probably blocked your access to the page :


(can't edit, so posting correction) Looks like HTTPS Everywhere breaks FCC's website.

Working for me.

Sounds eerily similar to my experience with Comcast over the last decade. I've had collections filed against me for service at addresses I've never lived at, countless service disruptions, weird, rude, and tardy technicians, incomprehensible customer service agents, unreturned equipment fees for items I bought, etc.

Comcast is a blight and the cost on the American economy as a whole is underestimated. They would simply not exist in their present form if there was a diverse, competitive telecom industry.

Perversely, fighting for a healthy telecom industry seems like it might be one of the few things Democrats and Republicans could ideologically agree on, yet the truth is that no progress is even in sight. The relative lack of importance of ideology is highlighted in cases like this, where the excess of lobbyists are the only true source of influence.

Att overcharged me for two months. I called to asked them about it, and they said they upgraded me to a new service. I told them my speed hasn't changed and I would gladly accept the new price if they increased my speed. They agreed.

For two weeks I had half the speed, I called them many times and got disconnected. I couldn't stay on the line for 45 minutes on a work day. When I finally got a hold of them, they apologized and fixed the issue. They promised me a free month of service. That's where things got interesting.

Maybe it was a bug, but every month, I got credit instead of a bill. So every month I was getting -20 dollars. A whole year passed. I never complained. If it was a good company I would report it. A year and a half into it, it was fixed. I got a call to ask me if I was paying my bill.

I answered "totally"

Ideology isn't the issue. We vote on individuals who encompass a variety of causes, rather than on the individual causes themselves. So we'll vote because candidate A is in favor of lax gun control, or candidate B is in favor of more readily available abortions, or whatever other hot button issue is most important to us, or who encompasses a selection of important issues better than 'the other guy'; to very few of us does "has a sane position on how to regulate the telecom industry" overrule that.

So every candidate is faced with "I can accept these huge campaign contributions from telecom companies, and not hurt my chances at winning, or I can decline them to take a stand against the telecoms...and do nothing to help my chances at winning". Of course they take the money, of course they vote to keep the money flowing to them.

Is it just a testament to how much Americans love TV that we let Comcast get to the seemingly "too big to fail" state that it's in?

Practices that Benn describes, like unreturned equipment fees and dubious installation fees, seem like a borderline legal way to eek out better margins--but it also seems like it shouldn't have taken all that much for consumers to say "no."

Well, yeah. I worked in cable TV distribution systems years ago. Family business, we owned or maintained a handful of CATV/MATV systems around the south bay.

Anyway, TV was a big deal for a lot of people. People in mobile home parks who were barely scraping by would want expensive packages with ESPN and the like. Minor disruptions occasionally made people furious (as a smaller system, equipment replacement usually meant that a channel had to be off for a few minutes, and the downtime got worse as satellite equipment got "better").

Even now, go to an apartment complex and see how many small dishes you see.

It's been like this for a long, long time and Comcast and Time Warner and a few others have converted their considerable wealth into political influence to make sure that they have a locked in and minimally competitive market for a long time to come.

For those that aren't so interested in TV (like me), "high speed" internet access has become a staple.

Google is the only real newsworthy disruption of the big ISPs in recent history. If Musk does get a low-orbit satellite network going, that might change the game a bit. Otherwise, we're all just stuck with this situation for the foreseeable future.

It might help to consider TV as the Internet before the real Internet made its way into people's homes. You got a newspaper once a day, but cable TV news was up-to-the-minute, and local TV news filled you in on local events from the day. You couldn't forward cute cat videos to your co-workers with one click, so you'd bond at the coffee machine every morning talking about last night's basketball game, or who shot JR, or that clumsy guy that fell off the roof on America's Funniest Home Videos.

In 1970, 1% of the U.S. population (20 million citizens) was illiterate. Do you know 100 people; friends, family, neighbors? One of them might not have been able to read. As an audio-visual medium, TV is an equalizer. America loves to think of itself as a classless society. With apologies to Andy Warhol: "You can be watching TV and see Alf, and you know that the President watches Alf, Liz Taylor watches Alf, and just think, you can watch Alf, too."

So much of cable TV's influence reflected its ability to educate, inform, AND entertain. Communities were given public access studios without the need for powerful, expensive transmitters. They could have a whole channel with computer-generated text over soothing elevator music showing the latest happenings at the public library. CSPAN put the legislative process in your living room. TLC was originally The Learning Channel and it had actual educational shows, but so did all the local community colleges on their own low-budget cable stations. On the morning of the Challenger disaster, I watched the shuttle crew drive to the launch pad on NASATV while I ate breakfast. Is this what everybody watched, all the time? No. But when it came time to vote on "Community Antenna TV" and eventually cable, this is what was trotted out and you can't deny the power of bringing that into people's homes.

TV was a huge deal until we replaced it with the Internet, and in many ways we're using it in the same ways. It's shared culture. It's audio-visual entertainment. It's news & information.

It's interesting to note that the median age of TV viewership in America is mid-40s or so, depending on the network.


> The median age of a broadcast or cable television viewer during the 2013-2014 TV season was 44.4 years old, a 6 percent increase in age from four years earlier. Audiences for the major broadcast network shows are much older and aging even faster, with a median age of 53.9 years old, up 7 percent from four years ago.

> These television viewers are aging faster than the U.S. population, Nathanson points out. The median age in the U.S. was 37.2, according to the U.S. Census, a figure that increased 1.9 percent over a decade. So to put that in context of television viewing, he said TV audiences aged 5 percent faster than the average American.

(September, 2014)

So if it is just, or mainly, TV, Comcast is in serious shit.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that Comcast will be dependent on exclusively TV in the future, and instead appear (to me) to be actively adapting: They own Hulu and are the only broadband ISP available to many Americans.

Regulation as a utility, prosecution under anti-trust laws or disruption (like thaumaturgy suggests above) seem like the only hope.

The age stats are interesting though. Times have changed since the world that csixty4 describes.

I think it's more like a testament to anti-trust systems not working as they are supposed to.

The final statement saying this is why they need to be regulated -- regulation is the problem! Competition is what's needed, not more regulation. Phone companies almost universally suck and they are highly regulated.

Really the key isn't more regulation but the Sherman Act and related anti-trust laws that are clearly being broken, often abetted by local government.

Sometimes the only way to introduce competition is via regulation when the market is a natural monopoly or the capital costs to compete are so huge (phone system, water system, gas system, electricity system etc).

One way to do this is to force the current monopoly to provide it's services at cost to competitors who can then sell value add on top (this is what we did in the UK with British Telecom (though the different here is that BT was nationally owned)) not sure if you could do that in the US since comcast is a private corp.

There is a wrinkle to the UK situation nobody mentions. BT has a monopoly and guarantees in place that ensure return on investment. BT OpenReach, the monopoly division, is more profitable than most U.S. cable companies, including TWC.

That's how the phone system used to be regulated: one company owned all the infrastructure in an area, but there were set fees (tariffs) that any other company could use to provide service on those lines at the end-user's option.

This worked reasonably well for long-distance services (those used to be separate from local phone service) but the advent of high-profit DSL meant that the local monopoly would prioritize fixing their own customers's lines over their competitors, and perhaps do difficult-to-prove-intent things like repurpose competitor copper during a field repair, and then never put it back.

Power distribution is generally done like that in the "deregulated" states in the US. The electric utilities were technically private entities, though not very free. The same legal framework could be used for other sorts of wires, I suppose.

Around here, Comcast (or their predecessor) actually does resell other providers' services through their service. I don't know if it's voluntary or not. It's kind of an odd relationship, but I'm happy to divert a few of my dollars from Comcast to Earthlink.

Same thing in France, France telecom was nationally owned until the early 2000's. Now it still maintains the local loop but is forced through regulations to share copper pairs to any other ISP. That way concurrent isps only have to setup a backbone.

I use sonic.net here in SF and I think they work in a similar way by piggybacking on the ATT local loop. I wonder if there is any local law that forces ATT to co-operate in that case.

It's not a local law, it's FCC regulation. AT&T is the ILEC and Sonic the CLEC. This is part of the reason AT&T wants to move everyone to U-Verse---it's not subject to the same regulation as regular phone lines (being FTTN instead of service via central office, as in regular DSL).

The "natural monopoly" that you speak of actually tends to be enforced by municipal contracts. Cities and counties signed over exclusive service provider rights in this market.

Having regulations that acknowledge the reality of a natural monopoly does not make that monopoly unnatural. When a municipality grants a provider exclusive rights it is almost always done in exchange for requirements that they provide service to residents who would have zero providers to choose from in a competitive market.

This has been illegal for over 20 years.

What can we actually do to fight back against comcast?

How can we get antitrust charges pressed against these assholes?

More like "Kafkacast," amirite?

I'm thankful I have Cox where I live, who, while no white knight, know how to at least give off the veneer of giving a fuck.

I have only had to deal with Cox (FL) and Verizon FiOS (FL and D.C.).

I have had very few minor issues that at the time I thought were a big deal. It blows my mind the more Comcast stories I read how bad it can really be...

The OP seems to move around a lot. You'd think having a Comcast alternative would be on the must-have list for a new home by now. I guess he is moving into 20+ mile radii with no ISP other than Comcast?

Not OP, but I move often. For your consideration:

- My DC apartment only had support for Comcast

- My NY apartment only had support for TWC

- My Portland apartment only has support for Comcast

In every instance there was only two real options but because of the way apartment complexes work you really only have one option. It doesn't get better if you own a home either. I know plenty of homeowners that are stuck with Comcast because the alternative "isn't available on their street"...for whatever reason.

The wiring in the apartment complex is owned by Comcast or the provider. It is technically a separate asset to the real estate in the building.

You'd think. A bit of this sounds self inflicted though, it's easy to hate Comcast. I'm not defending them but in the 8 years I had them it was rock solid, no issues at all, and they actually upped performance a couple times at no cost to me.

Every month or so, my Comcast service goes down for at least 1/2 day at a time, but Comcast is currently my cheapest option. Many local businesses also rely on Comcast and when that happens, you can't pay by card. ATT used to be priced similarly but since they only let you subscribe for U-verse (DSL is no longer available for new customers), the price increased twofold for the same services (6mbps DSL VS 6mbps u-verse)

I wonder whether that was when your neighbors hired attorneys.

I'm paying a ridiculous amount of money for bandwidth that just barely qualifies as "broadband" under the new FCC standard -- but I'm paying it to RCN, not Comcast.

I live in one of those lucky areas where there are three residential bandwidth providers: Comcast, Verizon FIOS, and RCN. Having been a customer of all three, I can say that RCN has the least worst customer service and the least anti-user policies. If you think I'm damning with faint praise, you are correct.

Are you in Boston/Cambridge? I'm in the same boat, although I'm not in a spot that RCN covers. I can't complain about the service I've gotten from Comcast, and I wonder if it's because FiOS keeps them honest. To be fair, I have Comcast Business, which has its own support.

Like otec below, I had RCN in goldcoast Chicago and it was really cheap (40 bucks) for 25MBPS. I can't complain about that.

FWIW, I live in the same Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago. I've have Comcast for 11 years and I can count outages on one hand, both tv and internet. I've had to deal with Comcast on a handful of occasions without issue. Including a self-installed cable card activation on a Tivo and self-installed cable modem. I'm not defending Comcast, but YMMV.

Only people with complaints or axes to grind tend to post in forums. So if you're just reading forums, you'd think that Comcast was the spawn of Satan. I've had Comcast in the Bay Area for the last 5 years. No problems at all to report. Their prices are outrageous, of course, but the product has been good.

* Internet service has been rock solid, never a problem * Runs at close to advertised speeds * Comcast adopted native IPv6 before other ISPs even knew what it was * TV service has been probably ~99% reliable

Only complaint: When TV service went down once or twice, their phone support ability was utterly incompetent.

Basically, as long as you never have to interact with them in any way, Comcast is great.

Better source of data: http://www.dslreports.com/gbu

One notable data point I can corroborate: Charter Business customer service is actually pretty good. It's their consumer end that has earned a poor reputation.

Nice try, Comcast PR

ok, let me ask this question: if Comcast is so terrible, why aren't we seeing reporters on CNN/NBC/MSNBC/ETC talking about it non-stop? Why don't we have late-night talk show pundits arguing amongst themselves about "whatever is to be done with this horrible company?!" Why isn't the President addressing the nation about cable companies that are too big to fail?

The second part of your question is a really good one, I'm curious about that as well.

I will say, however, that just because those things aren't happening, does not mean that Comcast isn't a terrible company. I think it's pretty clear that there are a lot of terrible things that go on in the world that don't hit the news cycle.

Modern era Blood suckers.

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