A Tale of Good (and a Bunch of Stupid) with Comcast 

When I received a letter from Comcast a few weeks back informing me that they would ship me a new cable modem for free, I didn’t think much of it. I figured “Sure, why not. Should be better than my current one,” as my current cable modem is over four years old.

Less than a week later, I had a package from Comcast containing the new cable modem and the instructions on how to set it up.

I should say, first, that from a technology perspective, I’ve never really had a problem with our Comcast service. I have almost never had outages, I get pretty solid performance, and I’ve never had any issues with seemingly getting throttled. Looking at our history, our house uses between about 100 and 150GB of data per month (well under Comcast’s limit). That’s 90% Netflix viewing.

Prior to setting up the new modem, I grabbed the current performance of our connection from speedtest.net.

Screen Shot 2014 05 31 at 9 12 36 AM

32Mb down is pretty solid—according to this site the average in the US is 24.5 Mbps, and in Massachusetts it’s 33Mbps. So pretty much dead on.

The upgrade process was pretty straightforward (it’s an Arris TG862G modem). Hooked it up, followed the instructions for online activation. And … nothing.

So, as I sort of expected, I had to call Comcast. I luckily got a competent phone agent who verified me as quickly as Comcast seems to verify you [1]. The agent sends a couple of reset signals and the modem springs to life. I’m able to get onto the web, all of my devices are working, everything seems great. I thank the agent and go about my business.

I want to secure everything (I don’t want people leeching off my network, as best I can), so I log into the modem to change its management password and to turn off its wifi (since I’ve already got a wifi network). Turns out, you can’t turn off the wifi without calling Comcast. [2]

I decide I don’t care enough about turning the wifi off. I’ve turned off the SSID, it’s WPA2, and the password is complex enough that nothing should find it too easily. I pick up the land line to make sure it’s working (since with Comcast, it’s cheaper to have a phone number than not—even if you tell them you’ll pay the same amount, you just don’t want a phone number). It’s not working. Oh well. [3]

I pop open the backup battery compartment just to take a look. It’s empty. Turns out, Comcast charges you $40+ for a battery. That’s a real dick move. [4]

Now, to the fun stuff. I rerun the speed test …

Screen Shot 2014 05 31 at 9 49 37 AM

Well, that’s pretty nice. Almost doubling our download speed.

And, in the end, that’s why I stay with Comcast. I generally get good internet performance, generally don’t have issues with our cable, and they’ll generally let me handle stuff on my own without having to wait for someone to show up at my house.

That doesn’t make me like Comcast. There’s a reason they’re the second most hated company in America.

And, somehow, they’re still the best option many in the country have available. [6]

At least my internet is fast.

  1. And here’s where Comcast starts to erode any goodwill they build up with people. You call from your home phone, validate your account number, it matches the number on your account, and you think “cool, now they know who I am.” Then you have to repeat that information to the agent because they don’t trust the phone info? Just validate one more piece of information. “Hi sir, based off of your info, we just need you to tell us your X, and we’ll have confirmed your account info.”


  2. Seriously? Why in the world …


  3. My fault for not checking it before hanging up with the tech. It’s astounding to me that Comcast pulls this BS where you need to have phone service to get the “best” pricing. I’m assuming that they sell your phone number to marketers, which is why they give you better pricing for bundling cable, internet, and phone. This is the bullshit that pisses people off.


  4. And possibly illegal? Isn’t Comcast required to provide 911 coverage in the event of a power outage (or at least attempt to) for their VOIP?


  5. Regulatory Recover Fee? Seriously, fuck you for that one.


  6. I’m lucky enough to have other options available (RCN, Fios), but neither seem to be much better. I should probably look at RCN the next time Comcast tries to raise my prices. Though, pricing out the same plan on RCN would cost me pretty much the exact same amount. So, you know, screwed either way.