9/23/2014

What We Get from Our Monopoly

A while back, I decided to try to upgrade my godawful Comcast service to something that might approach the 35MPS communications speeds I’m supposed to be getting for my $58/month. Since I dumped my telephone provider and went to an Internet-only service with the only option in Little Canada (and Ramsey County), Comcast, I’ve paid for 9-35MPS service and received something more along the lines of 2MPS download/500kPS upload. (Yes, I check it regularly.) I had better internet service in Missouri, Texas, and New Mexico state park campgrounds than what I get hard-wired into my home. After looking at the “rental options” and the screwing I’d get from Comcast if I decided to try to get that monopoly to provide something resembling service, I did some research, talked to a Comcast tech I caught at my local coffee shop, and bought a 3.0 modem on eBay.

Wednesday, I tried to install the new modem. I called ahead to get a “direct number” for Comcast’s “modem initialization” procedure, charged up the cell phone, and unhooked the old RCA modem and installed the new one. When I called the new number, I immediately discovered I was making an international transaction. My best bet is that I was talking to someone in India. The phone connection was at least 80% THD and the “technician” was a woman who couldn’t understand me any better than I could understand her. 45 minutes later, still no connection. I gave up and we decided to reinstall the old modem. She couldn’t get that to work, either. She sent me to a “supervisor” who was unable to make a service reservation. The supervisor sent me to someone else who, at least, spoke recognizable English. Three hours of phone tag, “please hold for . . . ,” trying the same things with the same lack of success, and non-stop incompetence and I’m exactly where I was three hours earlier, except older, more pissed off, and even more disgusted with Comcast.

The end result of all of this was that I had an appointment for 10AM on Thursday for a tech visit who would come and “fix” the damage done by the phone “customer service.” Supposedly, a supervisor will “credit” my account for the first four attempts to initialize the new modem and inability to return my account to the original modem. I’m sure that’s about as likely as Comcast’s ability to provide service anywhere near the premium they ask for their mediocre technology.

An hour later, my internet service automatically rejuvenates itself. When I tried to call what passes for Comcast “service” to cancel the tech visit, I’m back on hold for a half hour while the non-US-based “customer service” person tries to find evidence of the service call so she can cancel it. My cell phone battery died before she managed to accomplish that task. I decided to make a trip to the Comcast office in Roseville to see if a local number was available. There were at least 30 people waiting in line for a variety of services from paying late bills to turning in equipment to picking up equipment to, like me, hoping for a live person to solve Comcast-related problems. An hour and a half later, I am at the counter and the guy has no idea who I should call and I just turn in the old modem for credit. At this point, I’m ready to try retirement without an ISP or home phone. I can always go back to catching up on my email at the local coffee shop.

After giving up on the local solution, I decided to give the new modem one more try. This time, I luck into an English-speaking customer service representative. She looks up my account, sees that I have a field tech appointment for Thursday, notices that my area’s service has been disabled for most of the day due to a neighborhood-wide problem, tells me there is nothing she can do to initialize the new modem, and wishes me luck with Thursday’s tech appointment.

I decided to use what energy I had left examining Comcast’s competition, CenturyLink. Big surprise, another half hour on hold waiting for the customer service representative who “appreciates your business.” I am a little surprised that the lady who finally answers my call appears to be English-speaking. She gives me the long winded sales pitch, offering all sorts of crap I don’t need, want, or want to hear about. I just want to know if CenturyLink can provide service to my house (Yes, at 12MPS max.) and when (No sooner than September 17, almost two weeks away.). It’s almost impossible to stop this lady from signing me up and I escape with a promise that I’ll think about it and call back.

I have thought about it. What I’ve decided is that we’ll get buy with Comcast until we sell the house. There is no chance that I’ll consider buying another home in Ramsey County or any other location “served” by Comcast. In fact, I might be disinclined to buy a home again, since it’s obvious that this country has decided to give itself over to the TBTF corporations, which means that even a smart place with local service providers will eventually be overwhelmed (Like Minneapolis was.) by AT&T, Comcast, or Qwest. Then, I’ll want to move again.

For a state that is so arrogantly proud of its “blue” and high-tech status, we are amazingly complacent about the awful service we receive from our communications monopolies. I think the only thing we’ve proved about “bigger is better” corporate acquisitions is that bigger is always incompetent, expensive, and corrupt. At this point, it’s pretty tough to remember that it wasn’t that long ago that Bell Telephone was broken up to provide better and cheaper service. It worked, for a bit, but the assholes who mismanage technology, who own the mythical “liberal media,” and wholly own one entire political party desperately dislike competition and the “miracle of the market” bullshit only exists in Libertarian fairy tales. Capitalists do not like capitalism and once they have the spare cash available to start corrupting the system to prevent competition, they do. History trumps economic philosophy every time.

It is disgusting that, due to Google’s experiment, Kansas City is kicking the Cities’ asses in the communications department. If we can’t do better than Kansas City, we’re aren’t even a “cold Omaha.” We’re just a bunch of ignorant hillbillies who’ve inbred so often we can’t read the handwriting on the wall.

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