Comcast Confessions: Why the cable guy is always late

“The recording of the ‘Comcast Rep from Hell‘ has now been listened to more than 5 million times, sparking a conversation about the largest player in the nation’s cable industry,” Adrianne Jeffries reports for The Verge. “That debate is a timely one: Comcast is in the process of acquiring the second-largest cable provider, Time Warner Cable, and both companies are plagued by notoriously low customer-satisfaction ratings.”

“The Verge interviewed more than 100 Comcast employees in an effort to explain the company’s lousy reputation,” Jeffries reports. “We heard the same stories over and over again: customer service has been replaced by an obsession with sales, technicians are understaffed, tech support is poorly trained, and the telecommunications behemoth is hobbled by internal fragmentation.”

Read the full horror story here.

MacDailyNews Take: This, like the awful computers before Macintosh, horrid cellphones before iPhone, and laughable tablets before iPad, is an industry that’s ripe for disruption (not to mention, gone sideways with greed). How long can the content gatekeepers keep Apple at arms length?

Apple has an Everest-sized pile of money. We suggest they use some of it to start the screws turning.

31 Comments

  1. Luckily, I’m in a location where Comcast will have to sell it’s claim to someone else if the Time-Warner merger goes through, most likely to Charter from what I’ve read. All the same, I can see the “obsession with sales” quite clearly — Comcast is bombarding our area with pitches for additional services, for buying movies, for business services. It seems they want to squeeze every last dime they have out of my area and dump any service requirements on whoever comes after them.

    1. Unfortunately quite true, I’m afraid. WIred connections to the last mile (Telephone, CATV, Electric, Water, Sewer, etc) are a ‘Natural Monopoly” which in many cases have been regulated by the State.

      And one of the biggest reasons why I’ve not given up my copper POTS line is because the State regulates the phone company which grants me consumer rights that I won’t get with a VOIP connection.

      -hh

      1. There is no such thing as a “natural monopoly”. The term was coined by statists looking to rationalize the obnoxious practice of protecting companies like Comcast from exposure to competition.

        All of the current drama about asking government to enforce “net neutrality” could be rendered moot simply by abolishing this government interference that lets Comcast behave the way they do.

        -jcr

        1. Libertarian ALERT!!! Libertarian ALERT!!!
          That is one of the most asinine comments I have ever heard. Stop pushing your philosophy based on mental illness and the last bastion of trying to explain the keeping of a 20th century system Savage 1% Capitalism. So you think there can be competition in things like water delivery and sewage or even electrical power? see Kenneth Ley and ENRON. The fact is that your preferred religion the S 1% C is just as full of unbending tenants as Fascist communism had and this is what will and is bringing about it’s downfall and the empire that it has produced. Like it accept it or don’t. Yes some things ARE natural monopolies thus must be owned and operated by the commons and some things should be of a more competitive nature. Some are easier to identify some are more muddy. It is this mix of philosophies that will keep human activity on this planet viable or even desirable just as biological diversity.

  2. Building out the physical infrastructure required to support a cable network is a tough business. (Same was true of the wired and wireless phone networks.)

    It’s one of the reasons there are so many service complaints in those industries.

    1. BS.
      They built out their infrastructure in the 80’s and 90’s under government subsidies and received enforced monopolies.
      Since they have no competition, they had no incentive to upgrade their network. They just continually squeeze the customers for more and more money, making promises they can’t keep.

  3. That kinda Behavior seems 2b the norm.
    Like Sprint. Buy ur way into a Customer’s heart not by offering good service but by how much Customers u can Screw.
    I do hope the FCC never allow the T-Mobile Merger.

    (Magenta Baby)

  4. I hate Comcast. They’ll raise your rates just for fun. They used to have a monopoly here until Verizon installed FIOS in the neighborhood. We switched. I can’t say I’ve had any complaints yet. I don’t understand why the US govt doesn’t say “NO” to Comcast’s push to own the entire industry? Why were they allowed to buy NBC? It is ridiculous. This is a consumer disaster in the making and we’re just watching it happen.

      1. I consider Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon to have been shat from the same colon. The only difference is that Verizon is more vicious in its stupidity than the other two.

        And yes, #MyStupidGovernment, it is specifically YOUR fault that these three worthless crap companies are able to swagger around as monopolists. Cable TV, cable Internet and cable VOIP should have been a competitive market from day 1. But you had to do exactly the WRONG thing and screw over We The People. Damn, you’re stupid!

        1. Derek, you are over simplifying the matter. You are absolutely correct that stiff competition drives innovation and keeps prices under control, but you are assuming that competition in this industry was possible.

          it is extremely complex. What you don’t want is 100 different cables down the street with 100 different telephone poles for every pole you see today.

          Therefore, YOU were protected from unsightly and dangerous conditions by a government that protected your interest and said “no, only one pole”. Then you have “right of way” contracts and negotiations. And the area of right of way had to be sustainable to make the business work. So you had large areas. Instantly recognized as Utilities by the government and regulated as such. Then mergers happen and as companies got purchased due t the variant profitability of each region.

          All transactions then with oversight to protect YOU. (That’s the goal…regardless of the success of implementation)

          Each of the right of ways has a lease and an expiration for renewal. This is required to provide a business with an opportunity for success.

          Some of the biggest problems to consumers came during the years of massive deregulation which was not in balance with the introduction of new competition where we say cable rates move from $10/month (granted, which was probably too cheap), to more than $100/month.

          In the late mid to late 90’s and mid 2010’s, a lot of 25 year and 30 years leases expired. Also there was NEW regulation imposed to force those that owned the poles to provide appropriately priced rentals.

          In some areas, as the pole leases expired, the government took control of the poles and began renting them to providers.

          So, Derek, I respect you, but please do not blast the government out of context in this incredibly complex environment.

          Remember, the government is (supposed to be) We the people, so if you don’t like it, get involved (like posting or tweeting constructively on #mystuoidgovernment) or volunteering in a campaign for a governor you like.

          Cheers.

          1. Let’s look at the electric utility industry and deregulation for a clue on how cable should be administered. Your electric service is divided into four components; electricity provider, transmission provider, metering provider, and billing provider. The transmission provider is the company that owns the poles and wires. The other three functions can be performed by anyone. You buy your electricity from the electricity provider (see “Direct Access”). They charge you a per KWH fee. Fees from the transmission provider are added on, along with fees for metering and billing. Those four sets of fees are combined on your bill every month. They may be under slightly different names, and some details may vary form state to state, but that’s how electricity deregulation works. The electricity provider puts KWHs into the grid at their location, and you pull them out at your location. The company that owns the wires and poles gets a small “rental” fee, as does the metering company, and the billing company. Typically the company that owns the poles also does the metering and billing, but not always. A company in Los Angeles can buy power from a company in WA state if it saves them money. That’s real competition. This is the way the cable industry should be managed.

          2. Thank you for a very thoughtful reply.

            Skipping over the details, clearly the way cable should have been administered was over a common cable with multiple competitors, at the very least two. There is plenty of bandwidth across one cable for at least two competitors. That only a single source was ridiculous and resulted in inevitable problems.

            In my usual local involvement with improving governance. I once thrashed through both my city and county government to find out who administered the local cable service (which in my case is the worthless company Time Warner Cable). Not-a-soul had a clue. That’s bad government.

        2. If the cable companies had been treated as private entities, rather than as licensed public utilities, as competitors rather than monopolies, the networks would never have been built. The wires or fibers that serve your property cross hundreds of other tracts of land. If the companies were purely private, they couldn’t use the public utility or roadway easements, but would have to negotiate private easements with each of the landowners. One holdout would deny service to everyone downstream, so prices would rise to the point that it would not be economically viable to extend the network throughout the community.

          The reason everyone has telephone, cable, and electricity now is that the franchise agreements that allow use of the public easements (acquired through government power) require universal service. Without that requirement, the companies would cherry-pick the profitable customers and leave the others to fend for themselves. Look at the behavior of American power companies before the Rural Electrification Act. Similar requirements apply to broadcasters, or your local TV station would have converted to pay-TV with an encrypted signal decades ago.

          Deregulation of utilities and common carriers has not been an unmixed blessing. The networks that serve everyone would never have existed without government action, and they cannot be expected to act in the public interest without oversight.

          1. You mentioned Rural Electrification Act. I’m reminded of how several ISPs, including of course Verizon, have been paid over the years by way of fees from customers, to extend broadband into rural areas. As of last year, these companies are refusing to do so and instead wish to keep the money for this purpose for themselves. This brings up one of the looming problems of the current era: Who runs the country? The government or the corporations? Or are they now the same thing?

            Clearly, the appointment of Mr. Thomas Wheeler, former lobbyist for these ISPs, to Chairman of the FCC makes it clear what has happened. He goes through the motions, but we know full well who is his real boss. It’s not We The People.

            Verizon steam-rolled the public this past week with their reply letter to Wheeler’s concerns letter to the company. We know exactly what Wheeler intended to do about Verizon’s abuse of mobile bandwidth throttling: Nothing at all.

  5. I’m still wondering why Apple doesn’t provide their own telephone service. Screw ATT&T and Verizon and open FaceTime with Apple’s own calling number system and allow others “with fake iPhones” to sign up like they can with an iTunes account. Run everything through their giant data and content delivery systems.
    They could do the same with independent content creators and artist. Screw the Cable companies and make their own deals with sporting events.

    If I could get free HDTV to work I would but that still leaves out most live sporting events. If they did a contract with Disney, I’d have my ESPN and I’m sure Fox and some independent college stations would go for it, such as the Pac 12 network. Still pisses me off I can’t get Pac 12 on DirectTV.

    1. I’m still wondering why Apple doesn’t provide their own telephone service. “

      Well let’s just look at the US…

      Apple could be an MVNO but then you’re still going through AT&T or Verizon, just with Apple as a middle-man.

      Apple could bid on spectrum, but they’d need a time machine.

      Apple could buy spectrum, but nobody is selling it.

      None of this makes sense unless Apple’s network would be superior to AT&T and Verizon, but even if Apple already had the spectrum, that would take over a hundred billion dollars and many years to build.

    2. As previous commenters have noted, the real problem for “cutting the cable” is that the cable is precisely how most of us get our data. Most places don’t have fiber, and most of the existing fiber, like the wires, is owned by either the cable or phone companies (or Google).

      As noted above, the last mile of almost all wired systems is owned by one of the monopolies. There isn’t room on the poles or in the tunnels for another set of cables except in a few densely populated well-off neighborhoods where it might be cost effective.

      Wireless doesn’t begin to have the bandwidth to replace the wired services. Satellite has even less bandwidth down and much less up. There aren’t many unused frequencies.

      If Apple can find a replacement, it will have to come completely out of left field. Otherwise, we will still be at the mercy of Comcast and its peers.

  6. When we had our house built, we had eight rooms wired for cable and in the basement we had an eight-way splitter with the cables hooked up. Then we called Comcast to come out and set up our service for three rooms only, figuring if we changed our minds about where we wanted the sets, we’d just move them to another room.
    After Comcast left, we went to the basement to see what the work looked like. They connected the three rooms as requested but CUT THE CONNECTORS OFF THE ENDS OF THE OTHER FIVE CABLE WIRES and left them hanging there!
    You better believe, I got on the phone and gave them a piece of my mind, accused them of destroying personal property and insisted they send someone out to fix the issue.
    Comcast is not to be trusted to do anything right.
    Unfortunately, we may be forced back to Comcast since DirecTV went through the channel realignment this spring. Now we have access to only one public broadcasting station and lost all stations out of Washington, DC and Baltimore: no BBC News America, no Pet Vet or Lucky Dog, no NBC Nightly News, and the list goes on. There’s not much worth watching in our area anymore on DirecTV. If I can’t get Downton Abbey this winter, that will be the final straw.

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