The Cable Internet Racket

In the U.S. we see ‘monopolies’ as a bad thing — well bad for anyone that doesn’t own the monopoly. We also have laws in place to protect consumers, innovation, and competition. As a country we work hard to make sure that, where possible, there isn’t just one rooster ruling the roost.

That’s why garbage service, recycling, power and water always pisses me off. Most cities/counties specify one company to handle each of the above so that there is a cost benefit to the citizens 1 — the problem though is that if you have a major issue with just one of those companies you often have to move far away to rid yourself of them.

I have lived my entire life in western Washington, it’s a great area that I very much love. Yet, more and more, I loathe the Internet options provided to me. Most of western Washington only offers two ISPs: Comcast (cable internet) and Qwest (good ol’ DSL, aka: slow Internet).

Comcast offers average speed Internet, for very high prices. Qwest offers very slow internet for average prices. Occasionally you will find pockets where there are other service providers, people like Verizon (DSL, or if you are lucky FiOS), or if you are in Tacoma you may be able to get Click (the City’s own Internet service) and there are others here and there, but they are in the minority.

Comcast Blows

Mid-Sunday afternoon I (my wife) noticed that our Internet was down. This happens from time to time and usually it comes back up quickly. After about an hour my Wife was pretty annoyed so I set to work on trying to ‘fix’ it.

I restarted everything — in the correct nerd order. 2 Nothing worked. I broke down and called Comcast, here’s what they told me to do:

  1. Unplug and plug back in the modem.
  2. Unscrew the coax cable and blow gently on each end to clear any dust (no joke).
  3. Plug stuff back in.
  4. They performed a reset of the modem on their end.

Number four worked, at least for the next six hours. Why Comcast doesn’t do the fastest, less user invasive, option of number four first is beyond me — as is why in the world they think that number 2 will actually solve anything.

I awoke the next morning to emails from my wife telling me the Internet went down for 45 minutes, and then finally at around 1am it went down for the rest of the night. That morning the Internet was not working and I tried restarting things again. No luck.

I placed another call to Comcast and this time told him I was not doing steps 1-3 and asked to not waste my time (I was more than irritated at this point). We tried step 4 with no luck. Only after I had been on the phone for 10 minutes did he think to check for service outages in the area, once he did this — well — he found the area had an active outage that was being worked on. Or as he put it: “I see we have outage in Washington State” how amazing that he can narrow down the outage to just one state, amazing.

At 6am I was told that the Internet would be back in about an hour. I asked for a credit on my account and was told that I would get one for the disruption. 3

A note to Comcast:

When a customer calls in with no connectivity do this, in this order:

  1. Check for service outages (crazy that this is first, right?)
  2. Push a modem reset from your end (because it will be easier that walking a customer through blowing dust off the cable).
  3. Ask the customer to power cycle their modem.
  4. Send out a technician.

What is missing is blowing on the end of any cable — this is not a Nintendo game.

Back to the Story

Before I left for work I told my wife to let me know when the Internet comes back online (she works from home and requires Internet access). Around 10am there was still no Internet. My wife called Comcast and whatever was said led Comcast to say a technician would be out — the soonest anyone could be there would be Tuesday morning and it was Monday morning.

That means that we would be without Internet in total for close to 48 hours before it would (hopefully) be fixed.

Amazing and pathetic.

The odd thing is that the Internet service kept returning for short bursts throughout the day, yet today — Tuesday — there is still no service. (I am hoping Comcast decides that I am worthy of Internet once again because my iPad is quickly coming up on the 2gb cap.)

The Problem

The real problem isn’t Comcast’s terrible customer service, slow response, or the fact that they generally just don’t give a fuck. The problem is that my only other option is DSL — and that isn’t a real option to begin with.

I don’t live in a small city, or in a rural state. I live in a large, well known, city and I only have one option for high-speed Internet.

All this while I have four options for cellphone service and hundreds of pizza options, and can have groceries with fresh produce and frozen goods delivered to my door, but just one option for Internet service.

If Comcast decided that they wanted to charge $100 a month I would have to pay it. If they decided to throttle internet speed to 5 mbps, I would have no choice but to be OK with it.

This is the United States and even with all of our laws and controls I am somehow forced into only having one cable Internet provider.

That’s a bad monopoly, that’s something that we must change if we want to advance the adoption and speed of our Internet services to the masses. To move the U.S. and it’s millions of households into the future we mustn’t be at the mercy of one ISP per area.

I don’t know whose palms Comcast is greasing, but it sure as hell isn’t mine.

We need change, because I swear if Comcast tells me to blow the dust off the cable one more time, or thanks me for “choosing Comcast” I am going to go postal.

  1. It would be hard to allow multiple companies to come in and just pick up your neighbors garbage, well at least it wouldn’t be cost effective for anyone.
  2. Disconnect all devices, power off all routers, power off modem. Reestablish in the reverse order.
  3. Side note: Comcast is very good at quickly issuing credits to customers — always ask for one.
Originally posted for members on: June 14, 2011
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