The Hess Report

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Comcast Are Vile Pigs

Comcast are vile pigs. I don't think anyone would dispute that. We are in the process of transitioning from using Comcast for our TV, Internet access and phone to using them only for local phone service, and hopefully, to using them for nothing. It seems to me that right now, Comcast is only able to offer what it does at the prices that it does because people have a hard time tracking down the alternatives. They do not have a strict local monopoly, but they have managed to achieve an ideological monopoly in the minds of a great many of their subscribers. Most people who use their services would not have the first idea where to start looking for something else.

In any case, we will be switching from their overpriced cable service to a satellite service, and from their cable Internet to a competing DSL service. What precipitated this was that since we had moved into our years five years ago, we were getting a great deal of "free" cable. We had signed up for the bare as rocks $11/month, local channels only service. The installer botched it, and we ended up getting their $46/month packages, which included Disney/Nickelodean/CNN/Fox News/TNT/Comedy/etc. Being the honest folk that we are, we called them and informed them of their mistake. They were unconcerned. The next time a technician was to our house for a later installation, we likewise informed him that the wrong restrictor was on our line, and that we were getting their expanded package for free. He actually gave less of a shit than the previous Comcast rep we had dealt with.

So, for nigh upon five years, we've had a free cable upgrade. Just last month, it stopped. Which is fine. I want to make it clear that I'm not bitching about losing my free cable. It was never mine to begin with. We were merely the beneficiaries of the size of Comcast's bureaucracy and the low team spirit of their employees. So, the ride was over.

We looked into going with the next cable package, but it turns out that there is no middle ground between Comcast's $11 offering and their $46 offering. To me, that's crazy. As someone providing services to a diverse population, wouldn't you want to offer a broad range of services? It would seem to me that the better you can tailor your products to your customers need, the higher your sales will be. Unless, of course, you can afford to act like a monopoly. And for now, at least, Comcast can. They know that if they make their entry level package meager enough, and don't put anything in the middle, that almost everyone will pony up the $46. I hope they know what they're doing, though, because I have not talked to one single person, and I bring the topic up frequently, who does not feel somewhat cheated by Comcast. Not one person feels that the packages are a good value for the money. So why do they keep it? Inevitably, it is because they do not see any other viable options. Most people I discuss this with say something like "When will they let us just pick the channels we want and pay for those?" My answer is: "Never, unless they're forced to." And I don't mean legislative coercion. I mean market coercion.

So, we find a satellite provider that will give us more channels than we had with Comcast, plus a DVR (a not-quite-TiVo), for $36/month. Without the DVR, it's $31, which is very close to the middle price point I was looking for from Comcast.

The only problem is that if you pull your cable TV service from Comcast, your Internet bill goes from $46 to $58/month. Verizon DSL is unavailable at my home. Fortunately, Earthlink DSL will set me up at the same speed as Comcast's cable service, for $40/month.

Both of these services will be installed by the end of next week. I'm hoping that I won't end up hating the people at Earthlink and Dish Network as badly as I hate the hoary demons employed by Comcast. And of course, I'll let you know how it turns out.

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