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Communications Businesses Television

Revenge of the Cable Customer 397

Posted by timothy
from the spindling-jim-carey dept.
crimeandpunishment writes "After years of poor service and poor reception, years of hoping the cable guy shows up sometime within that four-hour window, years of constant price increases ... it may be payback time for cable customers. Cable TV companies are trying to treat customers better. Considering the industry has long had some of the worst customer satsfaction ratings of any industry, it may take a while to overcome that reputation. But they'd better succeed. Cable customers are switching to satellite and phone companies in droves. According to industry research, cable companies lost five million video customers from 2006 to 2009."
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Revenge of the Cable Customer

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  • by selven (1556643) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:13AM (#32321830)

    It's called replacing cable, satellite and everything else with just the internet.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:19AM (#32321852) Homepage

      Also known as turning off the TV and experiencing the truly wonderful show known as "real life". It can be boring at times, but the upsides are worth waiting for.

    • by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:44AM (#32322052)

      yeah, that's cool... how do you get the internet? I don't subscribe to cable TV, but I get my internet connection from the cable company, because there isn't any FiOS in my area and DSL is crap, so its either cable or buy a fractional DS3, but why bother when cable internet connection is just as fast, if not faster, and cheaper?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JerkBoB (7130)

        You can get cable Internet and not pay for TV. I am, anyhow. True, I pay an extra $10/mo because it's not part of a bundle, but $50/mo vs. $90/mo or $120/mo isn't hard math. I take the money I'm saving and buy shows a-la-carte on the xbox 360 or apple tv. Paying for each show seems weird at first, but when you think about it, at least you're directly supporting the programming you want, and not the 99.9% bullshit that's on cable.

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          And if you are lucky and live close enough, you can get DSL for less and have better speeds. I pay for lowest tier of DSL here and I get almost no jitter and faster downloads than any of my friends with 5Megabit Comcast with speedboost. All my VoIP comms are rock solid. They cant keep a VoIp connection live for more than 20 minutes at a time.

        • by NervousWreck (1399445) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:59AM (#32322162)
          I pay $15 for DSL but absolutely nothing for TV. It is a law of nature that there is never anything to watch on TV. It is also natural law that people must prove this law by observation a minimum of once a week. Having 15 channels instead of 150 cuts way down on your observation time.
        • by tepples (727027)

          I pay an extra $10/mo because [my cable Internet is] not part of a bundle

          Where I live, Comcast charges an extra $17/mo, which comes dangerously close to the price of lifeline cable.

          I take the money I'm saving and buy shows a-la-carte on the xbox 360 or apple tv.

          Can you get sports that way?

        • by kaiser423 (828989) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:09AM (#32322878)
          I have internet and cable. I wanted only internet. I called to cancel cable. I'm now paying $5/month for cable. Guess I'm still a customer, but that $5 is good value for being able to watch some sporting events and the wife's occasional show. They asked me how much cable was worth to me a month, I told them, they charged me that. That made me fairly happy.
      • by tagno25 (1518033)
        A SLA? Guaranties on speed? Ability to resell and have static IPs?
        • by bsDaemon (87307)

          I don't know, the 15Mbit cable connection I have at home seems to be quite a bit faster than the 10Mbit/sec cavtel fractional ds3 we have at the office, and there are only 3 people at my location, so it's not network saturation that's the problem. It might be all the test equipment that we have in-line though. meh.

      • by mangu (126918) on Monday May 24, 2010 @08:31AM (#32322378)

        It's true that for many people the cable company is the same as the internet company, but at least you get a better choice of programming, besides not being forced to watch ads.

        Having to pay to watch advertisements is the worst trick the cable companies have done to us, IMHO. And the worst of them all is the AXN channel, where the commercial breaks grow longer and longer during the film. The last time I tried to watch a film on AXN it started at 9 pm. The first break lasted about three minutes. Around 11:30 pm, when the break had lasted for some twenty minutes, I gave up and downloaded the torrent for that film instead.

        These days I seldom watch anything on TV. If I have to pay for all that programming through advertisement I have the right to get it any way I prefer, without having to watch those ads. Since in every product I buy the cost of marketing is in the price I pay and the marketing includes the ads that finance TV I have earned the right to watch those programs without having to pay again to the cable company.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417)

        While technically true, cable providers don't make all of their revenue anymore by your standard-vanilla cable connection. They sell you video on demand, extra channels, "HD content" (read: You pay more but since the networks rarely broadcast HD, you don't get much more) and their cable box that lets you record their show (and, strangely, any other box, even the same box bought somewhere else for a fraction of the price, doesn't work, odd...).

        You don't buy any of that if you just "abuse" them for their inte

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      this is the truth and what cable is really scared of, but screw them for not taking care of their Customers. That is that a market economy is really about isn't it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K (682162)

      And that's not only in the US that happens - it's also happening in Europe.

    • by eharvill (991859)
      That's great. Too bad for some of us who can only get the Internet via our local cable company...
    • Seriously? What kind of TV service was available with the internet 10 years ago? I was still on dial-up and stayed there until we got DSL back in 2004 I think.... And even then there wasn't that much available in the way of TV on the internet.

      Thankfully that's changed now though. Hope the cable companies learn how to adapt... and not just by raising internet prices/screwing the customers over in some other way. It's fortunate for them that satellite internet is (and probably always will be) so crappy. Don't

  • Right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:15AM (#32321832)

    Because the phone company is known for their warm, friendly, helpful customer service. Can't speak for satellite, but my years with DSL with SBC yielded only marginal support at best.

    • by PhongUK (1301747)
      Not sure why this is marked as flamebait, he's drawing a relevant comparison between the services mentioned in TFA.
  • Nothing new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:16AM (#32321836) Journal

    Time Warner, at least here in north central NC, has been making a concerted effort for the last several years, and actually has pretty darn good service. Their broadband is almost never down. They almost always show up when they say they will, you can get someone on the phone typically within 5 minutes, and the people on their phone support seem to actually know what they are talking about. Yes, they are still too expensive, but service hasn't really been an issue for me. We are moving our business phones and internet access to their business class service as it will save us around $30k a year, so we will see how that works out, but other than price for home service, I'm pretty happy with them.

    • Favorite (Score:5, Funny)

      by TheMeuge (645043) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:25AM (#32321884)

      My favorite is being on the phone with the cable company after the 4-hour window:
      "Hi, I had an appointment, but nobody came"
      "It says here nobody was home."
      "Listen to me, I took a day off work, in order to sit here and wait for someone who didn't come. A day I could've used to make a 3-day weekend and go somewhere warm. I certainly was in my god damn house"
      "Would you like to reschedule?"
      "Can I schedule it so that I don't have to take a full day?"
      "We can offer you 12pm-4pm or 11am-3pm"
      "Will the technician come this time?"
      "The technician will arrive within 30 minutes of the 4-hour window"
      "So you mean it's a 5 hour window"
      "And you need to be at home" /slams the receiver.

      • I had one of those and took a day off, and the part where I chewed them out was almost identical to yours. The only difference was they scheduled the guy to come out in a four hour window, and after he never showed, I called and was told he did already came.

        "The service technician was already there. Do you still have the problem?"

        "No."

        "Thanks for telling me I needed to be at home then. Vacation time isn't free!"

        The guy fixed whatever was to be fixed without ever coming inside, and also without e
      • Re:Favorite (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ndogg (158021) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nrohr.eht]> on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:29AM (#32323134) Homepage Journal

        I used to work for a cable company (a major one, I might add), and I had that unfortunate conversation with lots of customers.

        What's ironic is that this usually took place in areas where the company I worked for used some local contractors. In areas where the company hired directly, I only heard praise of the technicians, and their punctuality.

        Supposedly it's supposed to be better for businesses to hire locally, but from my experience, the local contractors were lazy fucktards.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DragonWriter (970822)

          I used to work for a cable company (a major one, I might add), and I had that unfortunate conversation with lots of customers.

          What's ironic is that this usually took place in areas where the company I worked for used some local contractors. In areas where the company hired directly, I only heard praise of the technicians, and their punctuality.

          Supposedly it's supposed to be better for businesses to hire locally, but from my experience, the local contractors were lazy fucktards.

          Hiring directly in the area an

    • Do you also have a Mini office deal in your local Mall?? (Hanes Mall does)

      • by Pharmboy (216950)

        I live in Lexington, we don't have a mall, we have "Uptown", complete with "Pigs In The City" as you know. When we want to go to a real mall, we either go to Hanes or Four Seasons (I work N of GSO), or perhaps Concord Mills where they have a Bass Pro shop. ;)

    • by Miros (734652) *
      I know of a campus that went from a leased line to TWc for internet. Unfortunately, the cablemodem+router provided was a POS that couldn't handle reasonable PPS rates for the application meaning that they never were able to take full advantage of the bandwidth provided by the service. It was the only cablemodem+router that TWc would provide/support/allow. Now, I think they are switching to a metro-ethernet provider.
    • When I last worked for Time Warner in Austin, TX, (between 2003 and 2006) our tech support motto was "One and Done". Basically, the idea was to help a customer with their technical issue and try and get it resolved the first and last time over the phone. This was done for two reasons. 1. It makes the customer happy not to have to call back. 2. By them not calling back, they tie up fewer TSR and CSR resources in the long term.

      Unfortunately, it was often the on-site technicians or dispatch that fucked everyth

    • Re:Nothing new (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sandbags (964742) on Monday May 24, 2010 @08:49AM (#32322588) Journal

      Really? TWC in SC has essentially given up in the last 2 years. No new hardware, virtually no new services, they stopped even trying to price match sattelite service, they're the most expensive ISP and internet phone period around here, most of their field techs are essentially outsourced lowest bidder crackpots who can't install anything properly or cleanly and never get the job specs and special notes clarified on their work orders, and tech support over the phone simply sucks. If they can convince you that bringing your hardware to them is what's required (even though they have in home service) they will, there's rampant mis-billing issues and problems with packages and discounts, spotty Internet bandwidth and heavy packet loss issues, and just general misinformation.

      I got pretty good service from TWC during a period from 2000 - 2006. After that prices went up, discounts went away, equipment became spotty, internet prices went up without improvements in service, and eventually my complaints fell on deaf ears. Finally someone told me quite litterally "if you can get better service from Dish and AT&T at a lower price, you should switch. We no longer price match our competitors offers" so i left. I get much faster internet from AT&T for $5 less per month, got $350 for switching, combined my mobile bill and added generic home phone (with no options for only $11/month) and now get calls to all AT&T subscribers (not just mobiles) without using minutes. I swtched to Dish and instead of having 1 DVR and 2 boxes I now have DVR in 4 rooms (2 in HD), the ability to watch a recorded show in another room, more channels, and i pay $30 less per month. The only time i see image break-up is during REALLY heavy storms, and I'd still call it generally watchable with the exception of 2 local stations who's upstream satellites have issues (which also cut out on TWC btw). I simply switch over to a traditional HD antenna when its bad, but I've only done that 2 times in a year, and I only do that when something I'm trying to record is not also available on netfix, hulu, or another website.

      I initially had some billing issues with Dish due to some discounts not applying properly, but they not only fixed it, they gave me a month's service free. i also had 2 installation issues they had to come back to resolve, and i got additional free time added without complaint (one case, the didn't have a ladder big enough to get to my 3rd floor, the other was a failed dish installation, a bad cable). They were on time within 20 minutes of schedule all 4 time's I've seen an engineer. TWC has shown up 4-5 hours late on more than 1 occasion, and all i can get out of them is 1 week of basic cable (not my entire bill, a whopping $9 and some change) free when that happens, and it takes an hour long phone call to do even that...

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <<gterich> <at> <aol.com>> on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:17AM (#32321846) Journal

    My wife and I just purchased a Bluray player that does Netflix, Amazon, and several other on-demand video services. I also installed an HDTV in the attic and ran the signal down to both of our HDTVs. We still have to pay Verizon for internet access, but we no longer have a $100+ video bill every month.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by EmagGeek (574360)

      ... HDTV *antenna* in the attic ...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by squinty_s (1738438)
      Unfortunately for the sports lovers out there, you still kinda have to have some TV service. You can always pirate the games afterwards, however what's the joy of watching a game after its already ended? At that point you may as well just watch one of those couple of minute summaries they have. Also, no everyone can get more than a channel or two with even a roof antenna since the digital conversion.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Sechr Nibw (1278786)
        That's where the HDTV antenna in the attic comes in. Most live-or-die games are available on broadcast TV, such as the Super Bowl. For everything else, there's either your friend's place or the sports bar.
  • In My City (Score:2, Insightful)

    I know where I live, Charter has a monopoly on cable. There isn't much you can do about it; They've got the fastest internet. They charge you 50 dollars cash on the spot to hook up a modem and provision it for you. Hard stuff. The service techs they send to your house are dumb as hell too. They couldn't figure out the crappy interface that their newfangled modem / wifi router had installed on it. I laughed quite a bit after they couldn't figure out how to enable WPA2. Although, in their defense, the admin
    • Re:In My City (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Moryath (553296) on Monday May 24, 2010 @08:03AM (#32322194)

      Very similar issues with Comcrap.

      First, when they came out to do my install, I was getting a crappy-as-hell signal. Their techs sat around scratching their asses for three hours, and eventually (only after I'd been on the phone with a supervisor behind their backs) finally went out to check the routing equipment, only to find that some ass-tard had simply shoved shit together any which way out there and had broken the lead on the connection going to my house. Elapsed time before they got that fixed: 7 days later.

      Then they started rolling every goddamn thing into the "digital only" package. "Doesn't cost any more" except that you have to rent a specialized fucking receiver for each goddamn room you want it in, or if you want to actually use the CableCard function built into your TV, they actually charge you MORE to rent the fucking cablecard.

      Then we get to the network crap.

      I had three machines; one recently rebuilt, one laptop, one old machine I use for video-to-TV playback.

      Video-to-TV box and laptop are configured to OpenDNS. They worked the moment I wired in. Upstairs box, newly rebuilt, started getting Comcrap's "we hijack your traffic" crap-DNS info, kept trying to make me go through a fuck-ton of meaningless registration crap and "please sign up for a comcast.net email" (don't need or want yet another fucking email address) before crashing both IE and Firefox (supposedly they were "in the middle of updating it" for multiple days).

      Took me 3 phone calls. On the third call, after calling bullshit on their "well they must be working on it" lie, it then took 4 hours and 2 levels of jumping up and down screaming "just give me your supervisor or someone who goddamn knows what they are doing" to get the goddamn thing cleared. Went through afterwards, said "fuck you" to their DNS servers, and set both the final box and my router itself to use OpenDNS instead.

      Every time I have a service issue, I wind up calling them, and some retard in "customer service" insists "well the tool says your cable modem is fine" (bullshit, both cable TV and internet service are down completely, and yes I already went through your ENTIRE TROUBLESHOOTING METHOD you fucking dingbat, it happens frequently enough that I have the goddamn process memorized after all). Then I insist they pass me to a supervisor, who half the time is a complete ass who's mad I took him away from playing his fucking facebook games, and the other half the time admits that yeah, there is either a "scheduled maintenance outage" (which they never inform us of AHEAD of time) or a problem at the local routing station... which they are too fucking lazy to inform the level-1's about.

      The only reason I'm on comcrap at all is that my alternatives in the area are crap. AT&T DSL in my area gets maybe 0.5 Mbit down, if that. Verizon FiOS is a mile away but keeps saying that because they don't "own the lines" in my subdivision, they aren't allowed to offer service. Functionally, Comcrap is a goddamn monopoly, and it shows.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hatta (162192)

        Video-to-TV box and laptop are configured to OpenDNS. They worked the moment I wired in. Upstairs box, newly rebuilt, started getting Comcrap's "we hijack your traffic" crap-DNS info

        You know OpenDNS redirects [wikipedia.org] NXDOMAIN too.

  • The link is not safe (Score:4, Informative)

    by mxh83 (1607017) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:25AM (#32321886)

    It had some chick, I had to close the tab and reload without images

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It had some chick, I had to close the tab and reload without images

      We apologize for the inconvenience. We can schedule a technician to come by and check the computer. Can we schedule a 4 hour window? The service fee will be $45, which is non-refundable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tagno25 (1518033)
      The Link is safe, but borderline. The image is just an advert for their "Sex" section.
  • Bulletproof Glass (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skraut (545247) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:26AM (#32321892) Journal

    I worked for a small(er) cable company 15 years ago, in their community Television department. We covered city council meetings, parades, had several shows about life in Cleveland etc. It has changed ownerships a few times, and is now Time Warner, and I stopped in not to long ago to see if I still knew anybody who worked there.

    The entire community TV department had been replaced by more call center lackeys answering angry phone calls, and what was more interesting was the main reception area where people could pay their bills has the customer service reps behind bulletproof glass, and there was an armed guard sitting in there.

    If you are doing such bad job servicing your customers needs that you feel you have to protect your employees from customers so angry they might start shooting up the place, maybe, just maybe, you might want to try and improve your customer service a bit...

    • by rwv (1636355)

      customer service reps behind bulletproof glass

      Any business who operates with the expectation that their customers will blindly make larger and larger deposits every month is forced to take this precaution to protect against unruly customers who might occasionally want to make a withdrawal when they find out that their money isn't available.

      Any sufficiently advanced business is little more than a cash collection organization, especially when the government can be depended on to pay for critical infrastructures.

    • Re:Bulletproof Glass (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:39AM (#32322008)

      If you are doing such bad job servicing your customers needs that you feel you have to protect your employees from customers so angry they might start shooting up the place, maybe, just maybe, you might want to try and improve your customer service a bit...

      I'll stay away from the whole customer service thing, but, think about the crime angle.

      If you had good enough credit to have a credit card, or even a checking account, you'd pay by mail or online or pretty much do anything other than stand in line. Who enjoys standing in line? Now if the monthly bill is only $100 (you wish), and you're paying in cash pretty much by definition of going there and standing in line, and there's always a line, and there are only two reps (probably more), and the rep takes a pessimistic 5 minutes per bill payment (including a 4 minute nap time?), even pessimistically, that's an absolute minimum cash intake of $2400 per hour. Even if you have an armored car swing by every four hours, that means an armed robber can pull an average of $5K but if he cases the joint out to harvest his cash right before a pickup, thats darn near $10K. At an absolute minimum.

      I defy you to find a legal small office that pulls in more paper money per day. There are plenty of retail establishments with way more dollars in checks or credit card receipts, but not in cash... Maybe a large gentleman's club pulls in more cash, but then again, they have more bouncers...

      Robbers can in fact multiply, even if they have to use a calculator. And that's why they have an armed guard.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by discojohnson (930368)
        That assumes 100% of the people are there to pay a bill. In my experience they're there to bitch about yet another issue. In the 4 or 5 times I've stood in line I saw lots of people with a bill in hand (not guns though) and had a problem, like me, with their bill--and I paid online too, it's just more effective to bring up problems in person.
        • by vlm (69642)

          That assumes 100% of the people are there to pay a bill.

          Correct. On the other hand, charging at least five times per transaction more than a fast food joint, makes up for a lot.

          Even if only 1 in 5 people paid a cash bill, that's still about the same cash flow as a McDonalds. And even McD has people paying by CC and by that electronic "food stamp" card thingy instead of cash.

          And in some bad neighborhoods around here, they do in fact rob McDonalds and shoot employees.

          I bet a cable payment office has more paper cash flow that some small bank branches (like the on

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In my experience, the cable companies were incompetent all around and existed only because they had local monopolies. I worked at a engineering/construction company that built cable networks. Our normal business cycle was, get hired and get plans from the cable company. Review plans then tell the cable company their plans are flawed and the network won't work. Listen to their angry rants then get them to sign a paper saying we told them so. Build network, making note of all the places their diagrams f the e

  • by arkham6 (24514) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:28AM (#32321910)
    Simple. The three plan (Internet, TV, Phone) all worked out to be cheaper and better. I got faster and more importantly, more reliable internet. When I was with cablevision/Optimum Online I would get maybe 5Mbit speeds that would flake out during prime time hours since they were over subscribed. Now I get 20 Mbit consistently, even during peek usage hours. The TV was a better quality image, more channels and more innovative products (Multi room DVR rocks). Phone is nothing exciting, but since we also have cell phones with verizon, we get a small discount for linking all our bills together.

    Overall, I got the impression that cablevision simply stopped innovating since they were the only game in town, and they did not care that much about their customers. They sure got a big surprise from Verizon, and they are calling us up every week it seems begging us to come back.
    • by rwv (1636355)

      I still use Comcast. I'll be the first one on my block to be on the phone with Verizon when they finally decide to roll out their fiber optic service to my neighborhood.

      I'm also in a seemingly rare area where Comcast has natural cable company competition. Trouble is... it's a company called RCN that (at least for my experiences) sucks worse than Comcast.

      • by Suzumushi (907838)
        I was in your shoes until I got the email that Uverse is available for my home a couple weeks ago. My install is scheduled for next week. I can't wait to cancel the Comcast, that phone call will be very satisfying. (I am going to give them a chance though; 'every channel, premium movie channels, foreign channels, EVERYTHING, for life, at the price of their most basic service', then I won't cancel my TV service... internet would still be Uverse though...) I am slightly curious to see if Comcast will impro
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tyen (17399)

        ...with Verizon when they finally decide to roll out their fiber optic service to my neighborhood.

        You are going to be waiting a long, long time [wikipedia.org], as Verizon has stopped their FIOS expansion for the indefinite future. Why anyone in a FIOS-served area would ever choose any competitor for Internet service is beyond me; their sell-through rate (ratio of subscribers to all potential subscribers) on their Internet service should be way, way higher than its current 25% or so. I'm currently waiting for AT&T Uver

    • by Miros (734652) *
      Cablevision has pretty terrible customer service, and their ads have always been designed to mislead (which rubs me the wrong way). But I would disagree that they stopped innovating. In response to Verizon rolling out FiOS service, they began offering service all the way up to the 100Mbit level to compete on what is really their core business: providing more bandwidth. However they are going to have to get a bit more innovative when it comes to providing TV service. Slow cable boxes, limited boring serv
    • by migla (1099771)

      >and they are calling us up every week it seems begging us to come back.

      If a company was calling me up every week I'd entertain the thought of hiring goons to go bust some kneecaps. Then I'd remember I'm supposed to be a pacifist and pursue some other avenue. At the very least, I'd just say "Fuck you" and hang up every time they called if I couldn't automatically screen the call due to hidden or different numbers. Surely there must be a way to get them to stop calling if you'd want to?

    • by EllisDees (268037) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:47AM (#32323392)

      I recently moved to Seattle and was looking into fios, but freaking Comcast still has some antiquated exclusive franchise deal with the city that won't let Verizon offer it to anyone. How does this make sense in any world?

  • Why stop at cable? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:33AM (#32321952)

    Last month I got sick of my Comcast bill creeping higher and higher without my consent or notification. I cut it. I get my TV over the air and the quality is _better_ because it isn't compressed further to cram more channels into a finite bandwidth. I paid 17 dollars for an antenna and 40 dollars for a distribution amplifier. That's still less than a month's worth of cable TV. I went back to a copper landline for increased reliability and a cheaper price. I get my internet from FiOS to stream netflix and other internet videos. I suddenly find myself with entertainment that is better in quantity, quality, and price. Who needs 900 lousy quality channels all with nothing good on?

    • Truth. OTA rocks (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jeffmeden (135043)

      When "basic" cable costs $20 or more a month and is basically the same channel lineup you can get OTA, why the heck would you bother subscribing when you can take that first $20 bill payment, get a cheap antenna to hide in your attic, and get crisp, clean HDTV for free.

      Since cable availability has been ubiquitous for so long, I always thought that broadcast TV was a dying art; and subsequently that the HDTV rollout was a death-throw or at best an exercise in futility. Now, having canceled my IPTV based cab

  • wrong strategy (Score:4, Informative)

    by hort_wort (1401963) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:36AM (#32321978)

    The problem isn't when the service men show up to fix a problem -- it's that there's a problem at all. We've had internet outages 20+ times a day since Comcast acquired the local cable company. All they had to do was not touch anything and it would've been fine. But instead, they screwed it up, and have sent people to our house on 4 occasions trying to fix it. They have no idea what the problem is. They don't need help that shows up on time, they need help that can get the job done on the first visit.

  • ...and forgo TV alltogether. Hockey game on? I'll stream it online or listen on the radio. TV show that seems cool? Hulu or Netflix. Don't even try to convince me that channels like HBO are worth the premium...again, Netflix.

  • Happy telco customer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Monday May 24, 2010 @07:47AM (#32322076) Homepage Journal
    As a VERY happy Verizon FiOS customer, I can tell you that cable absolutely has something to worry about. The installer showed up when he said he would, did a good job, and the service is absolutely perfect (and actually came out a few pennies cheaper than the cable company's equivalent triple play).

    So it's no surprise that the cable company is running ads that say things like "40% of customers switched back to cable!" (they had to *really* mess with the sample set to get that number) and "we've been using fiber since 1991!" (yeah, fiber to the node, not to my house, and yes, people know the difference).

    What's the creepy part? I've become a cheerleader for the phone company. That just blows my mind.
  • Yep, the cable operators suck big way.

    Back in 2001, when I decided to go for Cogeco, Canada (their reputation was better than others), I didn't believe the mess they made me go through. The installation never happened thanks to time mismatches. And customer care rep had hard time to figure out that I am not going to be home for 24 hours and she needs to give me some scheduled time. That made me finally decide not to go for their service and I told her over phone to cancel the installation with assurance f

  • FTFS: Cable TV companies are trying to treat customers better.

    As well they have to. Comcast's new digs [wikipedia.org] ain't gonna pay for themselves, ya know.

  • Comcast's customer service has been good for me, but their costs, not so much.

    With a $150/month bill, I turned off the TV side, turned in the receivers and bought a new flat-screen and an Apple TV, which I use through my Comcast internet to download content.

    With the Apple TV I can itemize the few cable TV programs I watch, such as "No Reservations" from the Travel Channel and "Mythbusters." The iTunes Store lets me buy these shows as a season for the cost of 1/3 of a month's bill, rather than renting. Being

  • About a year and a half ago, my Comcast internet service failed for about 12 hours on a Saturday evening, so I called to complain. There was no report of an outage, they lied, but they would make a note of it. The next Saturday it failed again, so I called again. They not only repeated the "no report of any problems" lie, they refused to issue me a credit because this was my first complaint (i.e, they claimed I hadn't called the week before).

    So I canceled right then. The first available customer service w

  • by SureshotM6 (1539779) on Monday May 24, 2010 @08:16AM (#32322276)
    JERRY: Well, said he was waiting about two hours. Seemed a little put out.
    KRAMER: Oh, was he? Was he? I guess the cable man doesn't like to be kept waiting.
    JERRY: You don't seem too bothered by it.
    KRAMER: You remember what they did to me ten years ago? "Oh, we'll be there in the morning between nine and one", or "We'll be there between two and six"! (quiet anger) And I sat there, hour after hour, without so much as a phone call. Finally, they show up, no apology, tracking mud all over my nice clean floors. (malice) Now, they want me to accommodate them. Well, looks like the shoe's on the other foot, doesn't it?
    JERRY: Boy, I've never seen you like this.
    KRAMER: Oh, you don't wanna get on my bad side.
  • I've heard that Time Warner is better now, but in late 2003, my internet was down more than it was up. The service monkeys couldn't fix the problems, so I tried DSL. TW claimed their internet was faster than DSL, and it probably was, but the DSL worked nearly all the time compared to 50% for TW. And since I was no longer using their internet, there were no barriers to switching to DirecTV for television.

  • why I hate Charter (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ephemeriis (315124) on Monday May 24, 2010 @08:21AM (#32322314)

    I hate Charter, our local cable company, with a passion. We still use them for Internet only because we don't really have another choice. As soon as something else becomes available we'll drop them like a hot potato.

    I didn't hate them originally... We've been Charter customers for years - basically because that's the only option for cable TV in our town. We had Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) DSL for Internet, and Charter for TV. I wouldn't have changed anything, but we were moving out of town and couldn't get DSL there. Had to switch to Charter Internet.

    On the move day we had a call scheduled with Charter.

    We had Vonage for phones, so I'd explained to them that they couldn't call that phone number to confirm that somebody was home. I gave them my cell phone number to call.

    We waited and waited... Couldn't make as many trips with the U-Haul because somebody had to hang around the house. Nobody ever called. Nobody ever showed up.

    Turns out they were calling the disabled Vonage account, instead of my cell phone.

    We scheduled a second call... Made sure they had the cell phone on record... Took out the Vonage number entirely...

    They showed up this time. But then they decided that we were actually some previous owner who'd failed to pay some bills. So instead of hooking up our Internet (the TV was already working for some reason) they turned off our TV.

    We had to go down to the local Charter offices with various forms of ID to prove that we weren't actually that previous owner who'd failed to pay the bills. Then we got another install date scheduled. And they actually showed up to install things - about a month after we'd moved at this point.

    And since we used Vonage for our phones, we were without phones (besides my cell) for that month.

    Since that time we've had an assortment of issues. It's horribly unreliable. So much so that we gave up on Vonage and got everyone cell phones.

    And the prices keep going up. Eventually we dropped them for TV and went with DirecTV.

    The Internet performance is crap. When I call technical support I have to use my old cell phone number to look up the account, because they can't manage to update their records. Their technicians aren't even in the same state as me, so they never know if we're having issues in the local area or not. They just want me to reboot my modem - over and over again. And then they tell me that my wireless is bad, when I don't have any wireless, and try to sell me an upgrade.

    Seriously, I will drop Charter Internet as soon as it is possible.

  • You can't get live sports online W/out blackouts.

  • I finally bailed on my cable a little while ago. There were a lot of problems, including spotty internet service. The cable subscription included basic TV service, but only because that was cheaper than internet by itself. The rates kept going up and up for no reason. Then they call me and tell me they're no longer going to support my cable modem and I can't buy a new one, I have to rent one from them or they won't support it... but they'll still provide the service... oh and the rates are going up as well.

  • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Monday May 24, 2010 @08:40AM (#32322480)

    I've been trying to explain this to my girlfriend for a while, I have a good grasp but can't explain in a way that makes sense, so if someone else can help I'd appreciate it.

    Cable companies suck, they know they suck. Wouldn't they try to build customers by giving decent service? I understand the idea of cutting costs, but if a service person has to come out anyway you're not saving anything by scheduling poorly. You have a list of service calls for the day, an estimated time to fix each, and a truck with just about everything the guy will need.

    Simple scheduling where you arrange the visits in a reasonabl order (going out of town or coming in, not going back and forth) should be able to give you a 2 hour window maximum, without the 30 minute +/- on the outside. Even if you have to get a confirmation from the national service hotline and then an actual schedule from the local office, this is very basic stuff. You're sending someone out, you're scheduling a number of hours for the guy to work, this is known in advance. If the guy finishes a call early, moves on the the next house early, and the customer isn't there, you're actually costing real money by visiting and then having to re-schedule. From a business perspective, I would want to minimize costs by making sure the visits happen, and if one of the guys has a large number of "person not home" visits, I'd start putting a GPS recorder in the van.

    So why did it get to this point? What business driver is there to make people wait and take off time and re-schedule? It's been a joke for years, enough that by the time of the Seinfeld episode everyone just nodded and said yep I know what you mean. Even if they haven't had to wait they've heard stories because their coworkers had to be off.

    In other words, why would the business sabotage itself in this manner, in a way that doesn't give them any advantage? Obviously choosing the right people to hire is important, as is making sure they do what they are supposed to - but this is part of any job, any industry where you can't stand right over the people and watch over their shoulder. Normally, the CEO makes decisions for the short term so they can exercise their stock options and then cash out, but this isn't even a short-term strategy. This is intentionally running the business into the ground.

    From the free market perspective, most people haven't had options and are only just now beginning to be able to switch to something else. So is it just apathy due to knowing they have the only option available for most people? If so, why wouldn't you future-proof your customers by treating them correctly? How does this help your business?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tibit (1762298)

      Because most businesses have specialized in making money as their sole raison-d-etre. Everything else is outside of their "core competences", and is really a cost they would rather avoid. If they can get away with it, noone at the helm cares whether it's "nice" or not. They have customers while being an ass? They will just become a fatter ass.

      There used to be time where big businesses would be good at something, and *that* was making them money. Then they started optimizing everything to make money, not on

  • Comcast can suck it (Score:5, Informative)

    by jburroug (45317) <slashdot&acerbic,org> on Monday May 24, 2010 @08:50AM (#32322622) Homepage Journal

    While living in my last apartment I had SpeakEasy DSL which was my only connection to the outside world, because of some weird local (Houston) ordinance that parceled out cable service monopolies to multi-tenant buildings to a handful of local cableco's who survived entirely on gouging apartment customers and didn't even bother advertising their service to people with a choice (house dwellers). If I wanted TV type entertainment torrents and usenet downloads served my needs just fine, would be even easier today with Hulu, Netflix instant and Amazon VOD but I digress.

    After renting a house and moving in with my GF we had to cancel SpeakEasy because we were too far from the CO and ended up on Time Warner. At the time their service was actually really good overall. The tech showed up in the middle of this four hour window and we were online within an hour. Couple times we had problems they were cleared up pretty quick. Internet service was almost as good as SpeakEasy, speed was fine, reliability was a little better but no static IP options and the uplink speed was too slow for running a server. Overall though life was good in cable tv land. Then they did that weird switcheroo with Comcast and it all went to hell. Within about a year everything started to go to crap. TV service got worse when comcast "upgraded" to their branded interactive guide service which was slow as hell to update, put in a worse and more expensive VOD feature. Internet stayed OK at first but then we had a really bad month when we were out for over a week due to a botched network upgrade on their end. They wouldn't admit that it was a network wide problem though and didn't mention a big outage on their telephone support line voicemail system but hold times were so bad they were rolling the tech support queue over to accounting (WTF?!) after an hour just to get a live person on the line which was worse because they had no information and no ability to help.

    What finally pushed me over the edge was maybe a month after the huge outage when internet service crapped out again. Ten minutes of poking around on my part and I realized our modem had just lost it's provisioning because we had a solid connection but our IP had changed network routing was restricted to a private IP pool. Plugged a laptop directly into the modem and found too that DNS was being hijacked to a webapp for the installer to use to provision the modem. Should be an easy fix for phone support. First I spent an hour on the phone with a tech that not only ran though the while reboot and check that your cables are plugged in bullshit but also suggested I upgrade flash if I was having problems with internet video. After that she told me she would open a case with a higher support team. She gave me a case number and told me I'd be contacted within three days. On the fourth day of no service and no callback I got on the phone again and when I finally got through was told no such case number existed and was in fact in the wrong format for their ticketing system to begin with.

    After screaming for a minute and going through the same scripted bullshit I was finally given to tier two support. She was more helpful but insisted on trying her own thing and kept assuming the problem was on my end. Every ten minutes of not making progress I'd beg her to reprovision the fucking modem but she kept insisting there was no record of my modem being moved into unprovisioned space. After a solid hour she setup a conference call with a network engineer and then fucked up the three way call and disconnected all of us. Per normal crappy tech support farms she had no direct call back number and had no ability to call out on her line. So back in the queue I went. Finally I got a support goober that just did what I told her and had her boss reprovision the modem - big surprise that solved all my problems.

    Shortly after that we got a flier annoucing that AT&T was rolling out U-Verse service to our neighborhood and we signed up within the first week of availability. Tech came out on time and

  • by Astatine (179864) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:12AM (#32322920)

    Rant mode on, but it's on topic.

    I live in the UK. I used to get cable internet service from Virgin Media (the only cable provider in the country, because they bought up all the others). I would *love* to have had the quality of service that you guys above are complaining about from Comcast et al.
    Understand that Virgin Media works great until it breaks. Up to 50Mbps wherever you are, low latency, dropouts rare. When it breaks though, getting it fixed is a nightmare. And it *will* break. They don't keep track of what models of modems they've given people; they never send existing customers new hardware to replace obsolete models; they change the wire protocols without notice; they push broken firmware updates.

    Tech support is outsourced to India. It's manned 24-7, but wait time is at least half an hour at all times. The "people" at the other end of that phone line are barely more sentient than M-x doctor. Diverge from their script, even the tiniest bit, and they'll tell you you're not supported and hang up on you. To get through their script, you must either lie to them or unplug every single piece of gear you have except for a Windows PC connected directly to your cable modem. You then spend half an hour having them tell you to unplug and re-plug all the connectors and reboot it five times. At the end of their script there's still a 50% chance that they'll tell you your PC must be broken and just hang up on you, rather than agree to do anything about it at all.

    If you're lucky, you'll get sent an "engineer". He won't have a 4 hour window of arrival -- oh no, it's all day, any time between 8am and 6pm, and his best trick is arriving at 9am THE FOLLOWING MORNING. When he arrives, he's woefully underprepared, with only about a third of the equipment he ought to have (he will complain about this). He will fiddle with your modem, attach a meter contraption to the cable, and possibly change the little widget they fit inline with the cable to make up for the signal strength being too high. If you're unlucky and this does not work, he'll spend a few minutes using *your* phone to ring someone and explain to them that he doesn't understand what's going on, he'll noncommittally say "they'll look into it", and he'll leave. If you want to chase up (and thence have a hope that they'll sort things out), it's back on the phone to India, but the goon at the other end doesn't seem to understand the concept of records -- so you're back to square one!

    Last year I was unlucky, and had a problem that was slightly non trivial. I counted. After three visits by these "engineers", SEVEN hours on the phone to India, one whole week waiting for second level support to ring back -- and they rang while I had something on the boil on the kitchen, I asked them to call me back in ten minutes, I never heard from them again -- they still had no idea what was wrong. After a month of no service despite constant chasing I rang the sales line, and cancelled, and told them precisely why. My call got escalated immediately, and the manager offered to send along one of the engineers who handle their much more expensive business service to take a look, but in a further two weeks' time; I cancelled my contract anyway, but accepted the engineer appointment since it was free.

    Seven weeks after my connection had originally broken, and one week after I had DSL fitted -- slow, but with real support (www.aaisp.net.uk -- they're very good) -- the proper engineer arrived, picked up my cable modem, fiddled with it for a couple of minutes, and said "yeah, there's a return path fault on the modem. I can replace it if you'd like." I spent some time staring at him open mouthed before I managed to explain to him why I wouldn't like him to do that. I think he was pretty shocked at the quality of service I'd received.

    Never, ever, ever use Virgin Media.

  • by Drathos (1092) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:19AM (#32323010)

    .. just ask The Hammer [washingtonpost.com] how it's done.

    Comcast's customer service is so bad they drove a 75 year old lady to taking a hammer to the local office.

  • From an insider (Score:3, Informative)

    by daveywest (937112) on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:49AM (#32324170)

    I work for a small cable carrier with roughly 8,000 subscribers. Competing with Dish and Direct TV is a nightmare for the cable industry as a whole. Satellite providers are not regulated in the same way as cable providers despite offering the same product to the end user.

    Our area is roughly 40% retired old white people and 40% Hispanic. The FCC prohibits a cable carrier from offering a $20 package with just Spanish language channels like Dish Latino. Instead, we must first sell a customer a basic and an expanded basic package before allowing the customer to buy any kind of premium or special interest tier. When you throw in all the national networks that are only sold by the package to the cable company, we can't be competitive.

    For instance, we have a very small population that actually cares about MTV or VH1, but we can't offer Nick which is very popular without the first two. ESPN is one of the worst. Roughly $4 of your monthly cable bill goes straight to that one channel. But, to carry ESPN the cable company and eventually the customer are required to buy the other ESPN channels like ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, etc. at $0.50-$1.00 each

    I'm not going to say cable companies are a misunderstood hero, but article in the OP barely scratches the surface of the issues.

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