Comcast gets Marching Orders

There was a lot of buzz in the Blogosphere and Twitterverse yesterday because Michael Arrington got his Comcast issues resolved quickly by creating a Twitter storm that was being monitored by a Comcast executive. Shawn Morrissey noted that a quick Twitterscan showed that lots of people were complaining about Comcast yesterday ( and every day, apparently). Brandon LeBlanc summarized a lot of people’s feelings yesterday when he noted that the “famous” folks got their Tweets responded to, but the “little people” were ignored. This resulted in a highly read TechCrunch post that is recommending that people skip the 45 minute customer service phone queue and just Twitter a lot. Good advice if you are Michael Arrington, but apparently not so helpful if you are a “regular” customer. Hey, no hard feelings to Michael, if I had the leverage and it worked to my advantage in a very annoying situation, I would use the hell out of it. I wonder if Michael could create Twitterstorms for all the other outraged Comcast customers as well. Unfortunately, the more I look into this, the more convinced I am that he would have to abandon TechCrunch and take on “Comcast user advocate” as his new full time job. There are a lot of pissed off people out there.
Include me in their ranks.
Here in Indiana, we used to have Insight Cable. They were wonderful. Now, don’t get me wrong- they have had glitches and problems, issues and outages. But their people are friendly, helpful and responsive. The longest on hold queue I ever sat in was maybe 15 minutes and that was in the middle of a major outage. Our bandwidth was great and very stable.

Then at the beginning of this year, we were the loosers in a bounty divide between Insight and Comcast, which resulted in all our connectivity being owned by Comcast. I had heard some of the horror stories, so I held my breathe. But then people like Arrington and Dvorak constantly praise their Comcast connectivity, so maybe it was going to be OK.

It is SO not OK, and I am not the only person in the area to think so. Everyone in town is complaining about how their throughput has slowed. Think about this… this is the exact same hardware and field infrastructure. Comcast did not come out, tear up old wire and lay new stuff. They never touched our boxes or hardware. All that changed was that our traffic is getting routed through their switches and software now, instead of Insight’s. And it sucks.

I telecommute from home most days. It is a wonderful thing, especially being a Mom. The alternative would be to be on the road ALL the time, which would be very expensive and time wasteful for my company as well. I can handle most issues via teleconference or netmeeting, gathering enough information to do architecural designs and estimates. There are exceptions and some travel does happen. For the most part, I am camped out in the home office. With a VPN connection into the corporate network. It does NOT generate a lot of traffic. We are not yet advanced enough to be video conferencing over the corporate network ( don;t ask me why not- that is an entirely different rant). This is text and data and file exchange only. But I upload files into coorporate sharepoint systems, and ftp data into servers. This must be some kind of comcast flag. When my fiance is here, he is also dialed into his work and often uploading large files into supercomputers. This is NOT a change in how we behaved under Insight. We were not bringing down the town and preventing anyone from being able to send emails to their great aunt Mary. Insight never had a issue with this. Comcast is throttling the hell out of us. They will not admit it, but our bandwidth has dropped significantly, with our avg upload speed often at 500Kbs or less. This has started to impact the speed and effectiveness with which I can do my job.

They are not just throttling uploads, they are also throttling downloads as well. We are having a good day when we get 1.5 Mbs download shared across multiple computers. This is a drop from what used to be an average of 6-8 under Insight. If you have a single computer connected to the internet and are cruising the web, or watching a youTube fest, 1.5 is probably just dandy. But we have a household where when everyone is here and plugged in, we easily have 8 computers or more connected at once. Sharing 1.5Mbs across that is painfully slow. Even my 13 year old starting complaining about the internet being slow, thinking something was wrong with her computer.

I started watching the alternatives, and thinking about Dish. The problem with Dish connections is that we get a lot of weather and weather tens to interrupt the satellite link. I was concerned about the alternatives, but actively pondering it. I even found that there is a customer advocacy site for Comcast users ( not run by comcast), their service and support is so notoriously bad. You can check it out and see the long running list of service problems that have not changed for years. One customer gets an issue resolved, but another has exactly the same problem. Comcast is living in firefighting mode and has no intention of changing the fundamental way they do business. I really did not want to get caught in the middle of that.

Then last month, a friend who was also switched from Insight to Comcast had her service interrupted, with headaches and slow action to resolve it. As a fellow telecommuter, this meant a trip out of state to stay with her parents just to keep working. Comcast just does not care. She dropped their Comcast and switched to AT&T. That was when I found out that AT&T potentially had their new uVerse TV service available in our area. I made some calls and sure enough we can get Uverse as well as the DSL Max ( 10 Mbs down, 1.5 Mbs up) for the same price as out current Comcast bill. This actually gives us more channels- which if we do not watch, I can downgrade and save 8 bucks per month) and three receiver boxes. This means the TV connection into the bedroom computer can now include a box and get all the good channels, the Main living room TV will have the DVR box and the old TV downstairs which had been just a game console can get connectivity as well. Who’da thunk?

I got my confirmation over the weekend that the technician will be here on Wednesday morning, and since they are NOT contractors like the Comcast folks are, I have high confidence they will actually show. At that point, if everything is installed and running smoothly, I will be calling Comcast and giving them Marching Orders ( once I get past the 45 minute onhold queue) no questions asked.

Edit: ( 4/10/08) Update: I was out of town on Monday and Tuesday, and when I got home, there was a voice mail from the executive offices of Comcast. Since I had to be concentrating on ATT in the morning, I intended to give them a call and explain this to them in the afternoon. Before I had a chance to call them back, I got a call from them. I explained to a very nice lady in the executive offices that our bandwidth had significantly decreased, that I was not pleased with the customer service levels and I felt I was placing myself at too high a personal risk if I stayed with them as a provider. I explained that even if they could make my pipe whizzy fast again, I could not support Comcast in this way. She apologized, took my order to discontinue service and I went on with my day. About 40 minutes later,i got a call- from the Comcast executive offices, asking about my email. I explained that I had just talked to someone and explained it all- but that I was willing to explain again. She commented on how this was odd, as there was no note on my account that anyone had spoken to me. ( why am I uncomfortable again???) I went through the whole explanation again, she apologized again. I will be taking the box back to the offices later today, anyone want to bet if my service actually got discontinued yesterday or not??