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Industry Insider Blasts Comcast

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the dissected-in-the-trades dept.

Television 413

gordette writes "I'm posting this because Comcast did the same thing to me that this journalist describes — held my HD channels hostage by insisting that I shell out for an expensive cable package. The journalist is blasting Comcast for their 'shakedown' of consumers, and is doing so in full view of industry insiders. She also links to an earlier blog post describing Comcast's Motorola DVR problems."

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"back charges" (3, Informative)

farkus888 (1103903) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562471)

comcast once required a notarized letter from my landlord stating that I was not resident at a particular address while a previous resident was before I could turn on my service. unless of course I wanted to pay off the $300 in back charges said resident owed. left me without internet for a week since my landlord was on vacation. needless to say they are getting canceled the day FIOS is available in my area.

Re:"back charges" (2, Informative)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562733)

You'll be surprised how many deadbeats are out there when it comes to cable bills.

A household of three people can easy amass a $1000+ debt to a cable company by having someone who lives there sign up for service under their name after someone [i]else[/i] there has been disconnected for non-payment. This is just one address we're talking about here.

People balk at having to give their SSN's to the cable company to get service, but it's information they want so they can send you to a collection collections if you don't pay or run off with digital boxes (those thing can run $300-$500 [i]apiece[/i] depending on the model's capabilities.

The notarized letter sounds like overkill, but they could have chosen to charge you a deposit instead. I know of one cable company that did this if anyone was signing up for service around the time colleges started, because students were especially bad about skipping out at the end of the spring term with unpaid bills.

Comcast sucks donkey balls... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19562955)

Back when they did the @home takeover, they halved our bandwidth, took away our newsgroups, and thought that it would be funny to charge subscribers $8 more/month and non-subscribers $22 more/month. I wouldn't trust these clowns to stick bread in a toaster, unless, of course, the toaster were unplugged and had no way of heating up.

I don't give a shit, Comcast. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19563085)

unless of course I wanted to pay off the $300 in back charges said resident owed. left me without internet for a week since my landlord was on vacation.

Am I the person who lived there? No? Then switch me on.

Comcast is large enough to absorb tens of thousands of freeloaders - they choose to ignore the apartment leeches and instead focus on nailing new signups to make sure those folks are note deadbeats.

Getting harassed is NOT Comcastic! Once you've verified me by SSN/whatever, then fucking bill me and we'll figure it out. Just switch on the service.

Re:"back charges" (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563305)

I actually had a similar issue, but the guy had lived in the house for less than a year and still had 3 months to go on his Dish service... which worked out cheaper for him to 'keep' but not use. SO when I tried to sign up with Dish, they said there was service already at my address and wouldn't install it.... the answer.. I went with DirecTv. no problems.

But this is where your system is back to front.... (IMHO): I'm more than happy to pay a deposit for the first one or two months and the hardware, but the system here works on the provider essentially 'loaning' you the first months service and giving you the hardware free. I'd have no problems if the service is cut off when the outstanding amount owed is greater than the deposit.

I'm sure there are legal issues with what the provider can do with your deposit money, and I thought the had to pay interest when you eventually go re-paid... but still, it would stop companies getting ripped off wholesale making it a pain in the arse for the next guy.

Re:"back charges" (3, Insightful)

Acid-Duck (228035) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562851)

I'm guessing this is standard practice for lots of companies, think about how easy it would be for someone to run up a big bill and all of a sudden call the provider and pretend to be someone else who just moved in to avoid paying the huge bill. it probably has been done before (just show up to pay your bill caash every month, no credit cards to verify your name)and that's why they're so strict now. I'm with them on this one.


Re:"back charges" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19563189)

It shouldn't be easy to run up big bills on your cable. As soon as they don't pay, shut the deadbeat's cable off. At most it should be 1 month's payment they owe and a cable company should be able to absorb that.

Re:"back charges" (2, Insightful)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563401)

How many pay-per-view movies and "events" can you watch in a month? Now consider you have 3 college kids living in the same house, all with a light courseload. Big bills can't be that difficult.

"gordette83"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19562879)

McNamara, we didn't all just fall off a turnip truck.

Promote your cause honestly next time rather than astroturfing please. Or if you must do it, make it less screamingly obvious.

Re:"back charges" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19563129)

How exactly is this a bad thing that they did? How do THEY know you aren't that same person, trying to get service in a different name so you don't have to pay your back charges (which happens alot, believe me). It is unreasonable to expect a company who does not know you to take you on your word, especially when there is money involved.

Wouldn't you want proof if you were in the same position?

Re:"back charges" (1)

solitas (916005) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563341)

That's an understandable request to prove you're not the same deadbeat who lived there before (who is just changing the name & payment method to get out of paying the bill) . _I_ wouldn't want to be accountable for the charges of whoever lived there before _me_ either.

True, the companies ought to better police their own accounts and methods of ident verification of account holders, but the next-best thing is to prove that YOU'RE not who they THINK you might be.

Re:"back charges" (2, Interesting)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563363)

Well that will certainly teach them. Pay them now and punish them later. How is that going to prove anything? They've already gotten what they want from you. It's almost harder to cancel service than to get it started.

This is the exact problem with Comcast. They have no problem telling people they don't need your business and we as consumers seem to think that's somehow acceptable. If you don't need hi speed for work, don't pay them a penny and suffer the dial up for a while.

They tried to double charge me every month for nearly a year and I finally gave up. I told them they could cancel my service and I wasn't paying the money I didn't owe them. I figured one negative credit hit (which mysteriously never showed up) was not worth the effort of wasting my time arguing with them over a couple hundred dollars. Comcast can kiss my ass.

Oh stop whinging (0, Troll)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562475)

Its just TV for gods sake, not life saving medical equipment. As the provider that can choose what terms they like. Yes maybe its unfair but you as a consumer have the option of taking your money and custom elsewhere.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Keeper (56691) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562511)

That only works when there is somewhere else to take your money to.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562557)

Theres always the satellite option even if theres no other cable option. Unless he really needs HD in which case he may possibly be stuck. But like I said , its just TV. Hardly something to get worked up about never mind post your grievances onto slashdot as a "story".

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Keeper (56691) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562603)

Satellite isn't always available. Line of sight and all that. And don't get me started on ATSC tuners...

Re:Oh stop whinging (3, Informative)

Mistlefoot (636417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562705)

And she was hardly fleeced. To quote "When I upgraded to HD in 2005, Comcast never disclosed - not once - that they would require a shift into an even more expensive cable package.". Oh my god. Comcast didn't indicated that almost 2 years later the price might go up. I'll be Comcast currently offer many more HD channels then they did in 2005. And of course, by her logic, they should do that without raising their price. Because offering this additional content (and HD content cost more to feed then normal channels) does cost.

I notice as well that the customer rents her HD terminal - hardly like she's being forced to stay.

She could choose Direct TV (satellite) - but oh, wait, they charge $9.99/month for HD content. Hmm.. Isn't the same $120 per year she is complaining that comcast want?

I'll also note that on May 7 this same author writes "I'm a Comcast customer, too. But my experience with Comcast, bar some exceptions, has been fairly positive. For one thing, the system is incredibly reliable. Outages just don't happen, at least in my area." (http://www.multichannel.com/blog/1300000330.html? starting=13) It's amazing how her attitude can change so quickly when she finds out she'll have to pay more money for more content.

Re:Oh stop whinging (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19562847)

And she was hardly fleeced. To quote "When I upgraded to HD in 2005, Comcast never disclosed - not once - that they would require a shift into an even more expensive cable package.". Oh my god. Comcast didn't indicated that almost 2 years later the price might go up. I'll be Comcast currently offer many more HD channels then they did in 2005. And of course, by her logic, they should do that without raising their price. Because offering this additional content (and HD content cost more to feed then normal channels) does cost.

Comcast's profits are soaring because of the "triple-play" bilking:
http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/57104.html [ecommercetimes.com]

This has absolutely nothing to do with what it cost them, but rather with how much they think they can charge people. They could offer a much better service and still get a lot of profit. Instead, like all publicly-traded companies, they've chosen the path to profit maximalization, which benefits the share holders at the expense of the customers.

It is not inappropriate to complain about these practices.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563413)

I'll be Comcast currently offer many more HD channels then they did in 2005.
Around here, Comcast has only added 3 HD channels since 2005. UPNHD, TNT HD, and I think MoJo (no idea what that is, maybe it's old and I don't remember).

Besides that everything appears to be the same for the last 2 years: network channels and 1 or 2 cable channels. There really aren't that many non-Premium HD channels offered in my area, and the premium channels only have 1 HD channel a piece.

As for Comcast raising the prices, that's the only reliable thing I get out of them. I just expect it to go up every 1-2 years.

Re:Oh stop whinging (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19562887)

>Theres always the satellite option even if theres no other cable option.

Interesting fact: 50% of all apartments and condos do not face south. Also, an unknown percentage of homes have obstructions (such as apartment buildings :) towards the south.

Re:Oh stop whinging (4, Insightful)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562567)

You're missing the point - it's only TV - you can go without it, your life isn't going to end. I used to watch obscene amounts of TV but between work and having children, I don't think the TV ever gets to see kids channels. I reckon I watch maybe an hour a fortnight if I'm lucky. I haven't died yet.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Keeper (56691) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562591)

Oh, so getting ripped off by a monopoly is ok because you can live without it?

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562635)

I was merely commenting on the relative importance of TV. The way Comcast are handling things does indeed suck, I'm not disputing that. Being in the UK, I'm lucky (?) enough to have the option of free digital TV c/o Freeview.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

secretwhistle (1116881) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562721)

The TV part isn't what bothers me. They're the only option I have for high-speed internet and with so much of my financial life (credit cards, bills, banking, etc.) tied up there, it often seems like a hostage-type situation. They also don't provide phone service in the area of Minneapolis, MN where I live so I've had to run thru Vonage, which of course relies on a high-speed connection. DSL's out of the question because the apartment I live in will not allow the installation of a satellite dish. This also prevents me from running thru AT&T and their affiliates without paying through the nose for basic phone service. Something's screwed up in the telecom/cable world when there are so few options available in a major metropolitan area. At this point I've slashed my cable down to about 20 channels and am paying nearly double for my internet connection as compared to when I signed up ($29.99 to $49.99 in less than a year). It's not all about my TV time.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562813)

"so much of my financial life (credit cards, bills, banking, etc.) tied up there, it often seems like a hostage-type situation."

Well thats your fault then. You should have thought about that before you started doing everything online shouldn't you.

Re:Oh stop whinging (0, Offtopic)

secretwhistle (1116881) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562823)

Well, with three kids, it's simpler to take care of these online rather than gathering up the family and running several errands. Yes, the convenience could be a trap. But it's also a convenience.

And I'm sure you've heard something about the outrageous price of gas?

Re:Oh stop whinging (-1, Offtopic)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562859)

>And I'm sure you've heard something about the outrageous price of gas?
What, that it's about half to a third the price it is elsewhere?
I was listening to diggnation the other day and Alex was boasting his car did 24mpg which was supposed to excellent and up there with some hybrids - huh? My people carrier does 44mpg which embarasses me when some VW Golf's are over 70mpg. 24mpg in the UK would be considered a gas guzzler and the sort of thing you'd expect of a performance car.

Re:Oh stop whinging (-1, Offtopic)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562999)

"And I'm sure you've heard something about the outrageous price of gas?"

Where , in the USA? I don't think so. You lot have the cheapest petrol on the planet. Besides , theres always public transport. I assume you still have that over there?

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563095)

We have public transport in USA??? WoW ! That is news to me.
Tell me where i can i get one in CT reliably well enough to go to Slater Rd from Brittany Rd.
My roommate had a lexus that we shared...(he was an overpriced Oracle DBA anyway).
I never could find a bus anywhere nearby although i see the bus stop everyday.

Re:Oh stop whinging (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19563147)

Oh, God, down here in the basement, we think the U.S. is a bomb-throwing, gas-sucking superpower, beeeyothches!!! We'll show you brown people!


What, we're just another country with a large land mass and not enough resources?


Re:Oh stop whinging (3, Informative)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562835)

This is quite surprising. I always thought the US was awash with options. In the UK we only have one cable company now after the two main ones merged and changed their name. ADSL is all handled by BT but resold via the hundreds of ISPs so you choose who you want based on price/download cap etc. WIth the local loop being slowly unbundled, speeds are rising. Most people have the option of 8Mb ADSL but those who have been unbundled can go to 24Mb I think. Not sure about cable - I think that's 10Mb - it was when I used to be Blueyonder.
As far as TV goes, it's cable via Virgin Media, Sky (spit) if you want digital Sat and Freeview for digital via an aerial. There is of course also analogue TV via aerial but that's about to be switched off - a pity as a good analogue signal beats the current crop of digital ones hands down.
Many operators are now offering bundles with phone/TV/broadband and mobile (cell) all in one package assuming you can find one that suits your usage.
HiDef is still in its infancy with a handful of Sky and Cable channels at premium prices.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562943)

"Not sure about cable - I think that's 10Mb - it was when I used to be Blueyonder."

It's 20Mb now. Or it will be when they finish swapping everyone else over. I switched yesterday and, apart from the the modem crashing a couple of times, things have been good. 94kB/s upload is nice for sending huge email attachments.

It's a shame my LAN can't handle those sorts of download speeds. Damn my old, old equipment.

Re:Oh stop whinging (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19563223)

... Freeview for digital via an aerial. There is of course also analogue TV via aerial but that's about to be switched off - a pity as a good analogue signal beats the current crop of digital ones hands down.

Are you aware that the only reason that the digital signal is currently crap is because the channels are squeezed into too small a part of the spectrum, and have the power cranked down to 10% of what it should be to avoid interfering with analogue? During the analogue turn off, they're moving the frequencies used by digital (still works on old equipment, but you'll need to rescan for channels) and turning the power all the way up. You'll get a lot less blockiness and signal drop-outs.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563383)

Are you aware that the only reason that the digital signal is currently crap is because the channels are squeezed into too small a part of the spectrum

You'll get a lot less blockiness and signal drop-outs.
I've not seen that mentioned anywhere in the literature so that's good news. I hope it's better than Sky as most of their channels have terrible picture once you get off the main ones like Sky One etc.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

danaris (525051) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563391)

Yeah, well, welcome to the US (figuratively, of course ;-) ).

The rule here, so far as I can tell, is one cable company, one phone company, and maybe satellite (if you like the type) in any given area...and speeds of 3Mbps down, 384-768kbps up. For at least $50/month.

To be sure, there are exceptions, but from all I've gathered from what I've seen and heard, that's the most prevalent situation throughout the country. That's why I'm praying that the "third pipe [arstechnica.com]" really happens...though I know it's probably doomed to be swallowed up by the telecom conglomerates just like everything else :-P

Dan Aris

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Keeper (56691) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562723)

Your commentary on the relative importance of TV applies to every form of entertainment -- books, movies, theater, music, video games, sports, etc.

I would expect you to feel a similar form of outrage should your chosen form of entertainment receive similar treatment. I don't disparage your entertainment preferences, and would encourage you to extend the same courtesy to those who prefer forms of entertainment different than your own.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562819)

"I would expect you to feel a similar form of outrage should your chosen form of entertainment receive similar treatment"

Prices of books, cinemas, fitness centres etc go up in price all the time. You buy or your don't buy. You don't have a god given right to be able to pay the same price forever.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

secretwhistle (1116881) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562961)

Well, viol8, you've won me over. I'm cancelling the whole frickin' mess tomorrow. I'll get rid of the indoor plumbing and electricity, ditch the car (28-30 mpg) and move the family...um... to Montana or something.

Obviously, we, as consumers, have no reason to expect reasonable prices and respectable customer service. We're selfish that way.

Re:Oh stop whinging (2, Informative)

secretwhistle (1116881) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563029)

I'll cast my last post into the flames:

I lived in South Dakota in a town with a pop. of 50,000. There were two cable providers and prices were lower and services better because of the competition.

I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska (pop. 200,000) and got a huge cable package with DVR for less than I'm paying now. Again, there were multiple options.

Now, in a metro area with a pop. of approximately 1,000,000, I can't get the services I want at a price I want. I can't get the best deal thru my current provider because they don't provide the phone service in my area. They do in other parts of town. I can't run an all-in-one package with the phone company because I can't install a satellite dish.

Companies like Comcast get away with the abhorrent service record because they climbed into enough back pockets to ensure monopolies in large metro areas. They don't have any reason to keep prices low or provide responsive customer service.

In a supposed free-market economy, this should be near impossible. But, sadly, it isn't.

Re:Oh stop whinging (2, Insightful)

pallmall1 (882819) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563293)

You buy or your don't buy.
That's not the point. Comcast cut her service level without notification -- basically like getting slammed on cellphone service. What they did was drop the package that she subscribed to (again, without telling her that her package was discontinued) even though her account was in good standing. Just because that package was "grandfathered in" from AT&T before Comcast took over the cable in that area doesn't mean that Comcast can just drop the package that current subscribers have. They can raise the price of that package along with system wide rate hikes, but if the channels in that package are available on the system, they have to be included in that package. I had a similar situation with COX about two years ago, so unless the FCC regulations have changed, Comcast may be violating some rules. Comcast probably changed the lineups without making provisions for legacy packages. This may have been unintentional, but the fact that they did not notify legacy package subscribers of the change should raise questions. The lack of notification could be an oversight, or it could be because they realized they made a mistake and thought they could quietly get away with it, or it could be the result of a plan to illegaly force subscribers to "upgrade" their packages. In any case, there are probably other packages that have been affected, and the FCC should investigate the matter. It may just be TV, but TV is part of the fabric of modern society just the same.

boycott everything? (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562873)

I'm one of those people who never played the cable TV companies' games. Lot of times didn't even bother having a TV. Closest I got was cable Internet. I wouldn't mind some cable TV access, but they'd have to come way down in price and knock it off with the nickel and dime charging, overly complicated deals, trying to market black as white, insults to intelligence, etc.

I don't like the phone company either, for much the same reasons. I'm stuck with AT&T. Would love to dump the land line, but got to have Internet access somehow.

Then there's the RIAA/MPAA. If you don't watch TV, not watching movies either is no big deal. As for music, I'd like some new stuff that's good, but I'm not hearing anything. So I've cut back there too and buy not quite none but very few music CDs anymore.

Next are book publishers. I can't get over that in the early 1980's, a paperback was $2. Today, it's $8, which is about double what it should be if they were simply keeping pace with inflation. I used to keep up with the latest in SF/Fantasy.

Next up is Windows. I think MMORPGs are a tad overpriced too, but they're a better deal than these others. Unfortunately, that means you have to have Windows. (I don't see WINE, Crossover Office, and those as really viable, because then creaky budget hardware wouldn't be adequate.) However, Windows is easy to pirate, so one can indulge in all sorts of justifications. Yes, could live without, and still get in some gaming. For most things, I stick with Linux.

I haven't 100% boycotted all that stuff, but I'm close. There are many other things to do.

Re:Oh stop whinging (5, Informative)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562617)

You certainly didn't RTFA. They sold an upgraded (and expensive) package for her promising HD channels but now they are wanting her to upgrade again to another more expensive package in order to get the *real* HD channels. That's the traditional bait and switch, and it doesn't matter if it is TV, medical treatment or a piece of soggy wet paper, it is outright fraud.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562627)

I imagine buried somewhere in reams of smallprint there was a get-out clause. These companies might sail close to the edge but they're generally smart enough never to go over it.

Re:Oh stop whinging (2, Informative)

Matisaro (939487) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563165)

She actually has an old package of gold from at&t and if she wants new channels she has to get the modern package, pretty simple

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

farkus888 (1103903) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562687)

if you are referring to me, take note, otherwise ignore my paranoia. I specifically said internet. I needed internet for my job, and dsl in my area is not fast enough to cut it. I also would have had to add a landline which doubles the cost of the supposedly cheaper and definitely slower dsl internet. dsl is not fast enough to connect before the timeout of some companies citrix servers, which means we need cable internet.

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

Thng (457255) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563233)

While you've already discounted DSL due to it being too slow, your cost estimates ("doubled") aren't really accurate. You can get naked DSL, although it is $5-10 more expensive than a bundle w/ a home phone.

Also, getting a basic phone line (not digital, no call waiting, voicemail, etc) can cut the cost, too. Problem is, phone companies make it very difficult to get this. I had to find an obscure link on Qwest's webpage to get only basic phone service, then the bastards tried to switch it to digital several times in the ordering process. Like I'd select basic phone service in one screen, another few screens for other options related to dsl. then I'd get to a summary of what I just went thru, and the higher priced phone package would be the default selection... wtf...

Re:Oh stop whinging (1)

nosferatu1001 (264446) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563241)

Surprising that, here in UK at least ADSL is quick enough to deal with Citrix no problem - i've got a high speed package (16meg / 768k up) whihc is quick enough to connect without any hassle - our cable isnt much quicker!

Fibre would be lovely, however the rate the UK lags behind we;ll just be moving onto fibre shortly after the worlds end....

Wow (4, Insightful)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562521)

I'm kind of shocked that anyone would shell out $2000 a year for TV. Is that common?

Re:Wow (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562563)

To be fair, about a third of that was for Internet access, but that's still shocking; even more gobsmacking is how much they were expecting her to pay on top of that.

Yeah, I know it's easy to be snotty about TV and all that, but she's a professional (I assume); how much time does she have to actually watch the bloody thing anyway?! I know it's nice to sit on your arse after a hard day and watch your favourite show, but when you consider the horrendous amount of crap and being f***** about she's putting up with on top of the money... Eh, well, she's not me and I'm sure she can judge what and what isn't worth her time and money.

Re:Wow (1)

GreyPoopon (411036) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563109)

but she's a professional (I assume); how much time does she have to actually watch the bloody thing anyway?!

Let's take a look at this. Even if she only has thirty minutes to watch TV each day, she should be able to watch what she wants in the quality she was expecting. Also, does being a professional mean that she should have to work more than forty hours a week? I know most of us do (myself included), but I really don't think it's fair that we're forced to do so. Assuming eight hours of sleep, one hour for commute time and two hours for getting ready, breakfast and dinner, I see five hours left to watch TV (if she has no children). Now while I feel that watching five hours of TV a day is just crazy, if that's her version of entertainment, she should get what she paid for. Agreed?

Re:Wow (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562655)

I pay $120/mo for cable TV (HD, DVR) and Internet (6mpbs). I don't find it hard to believe that a decent movie or sports package on top of that would run another ~$46.

My package is the 'standard' one with HD being another $10/mo, I think. It includes all the channels you expect like Comedy Central, Discovery and Scifi Channel, but none of the premium channels like HBO and Showtime.

So, yeah, for people who are into both TV and Internet heavily, $2k a year is pretty standard.

Re:Wow (5, Informative)

drawfour (791912) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562681)

Her breakdown was:

$102.99 for the DIGITAL GOLD Package which includes: standard cable (limited basic and expanded basic), digital special interest channels, music choice, Starz, Starz Plex, Encore, Encore Plex, HBO, HBO Plex, Showtime, Showtime Plex, and Digital Converter and Remote where applicable;
$11.95 for DVR with HDTV;
$45.95 for high speed Internet

So $46/mo ($552/yr) was for Internet. But to answer your question, I'd say it's fairly common for people to pay something close to what she's paying. Lots of people get the premium channels packages. A few years ago, I had it. Then I moved in with a friend who was a cheap bastard, and all we had was the non-digital expanded basic. Got used to not having all the premium channels, and I got along just fine. Now that I've moved into my own place, I didn't bother with the premium channels. No need, there's plenty of stuff to watch as is.

Re:Wow (2, Interesting)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562949)

But...she's still paying around $1500/year just for TV. I'm absolutely gobsmacked that anyone would pay that much each and every year to watch the box. That's more than I pay towards the fixed costs of a light aircraft!

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19563197)

Let me guess - $1500/year on new underwear, because you and your passengers keep shitting themselves in that light aircraft? *shudder*. I hate those things.

Re:Wow (0, Offtopic)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563425)

That's more than I pay towards the fixed costs of a light aircraft!

Most people have no concept of the costs of light GA. Most people expect that you drive to the airport in your very expensive European car while giving the finger to everyone else. Worse, if they take the FAA's word at face value, you then go about taking an unshare fair of FAA consumable taxes and cause delays for major airlines. This is of course why the FAA's moto is, "We're not happy until you're not happy."

In other words, if you're going to throw out a tidbit like that, you might include more details so the masses have some hope of relating. While piloting is expensive, people don't realize that the average GA pilot makes less than $60,000/yr. In fact, I believe it's actually less than $40,000/yr.

Hell, people shell out a $1200 for cell service. (4, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562795)

I know quite a few people with 1 or two kids who pay nearly $100 a month for cell service.

Combine that with all the other monthlies people tend to accumulate and no wonder most are always "broke"

Re:Hell, people shell out a $1200 for cell service (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562871)

I saw a news piece about Japanese teens who are addicted to DoCoMo services and texting and they had a few 15yo's who were racking up $450 a month. No idea who was paying their bills.

Re:Hell, people shell out a $1200 for cell service (2, Insightful)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563069)

no wonder most are always "broke"
Its called living above your means and something people do on a fairly regular basis.

Re:Wow (2, Interesting)

Ka D'Argo (857749) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563071)

Yea, very common. I've got a Digital Cable package from Time Warner Cable, we got it in early 2000, and the price of the package has gone up a lot. We didn't get their highspeed cable till a year or two later, so that tacked on another $50/month. I think atm we're paying around $180, for a package that has all the HBO's, Cinemax's, Showtimes, Starz, Encores etc including On Demand channels (though PPV On Demand still has it's own per movie price).

I just love how every year, like clockwork, they increase the price. And there aren't a ton of new channels being added to justify the cost. We don't have HD, so there's no HDTV channels that need to be there. I'm not sure if it is just costing them more to license out or lease out (however it's done) the channels from companies like HBO and such. I mean I love HBO brand tv shows, watch them all the time, especially On Demand, but I'd never buy them on DVD cause HBO prices their dvd's horribly (like $80 for 13 episodes of The Sopranos? 13 whole episodes? come on...).

I'd go with another company but there aren't any real broadband cable providers, everyone else only has DSL and since my PC is ancient, it can't use a USB connector for the modem and I really don't want some house-call technician installing a DSL card (we're a low budget family so if he fubars my 7 year old PC, I'm screwed).

Re:Wow (4, Insightful)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563445)

You're a "low budget family" paying $180/month for cable?

I think we have different definitions of low budget.

Is this EVEN LEGAL ??? (5, Funny)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562651)

No, I mean, to criticize comcast in a public forum.. there must be a law against making libelous comments directed at corporate america.

Re:Is this EVEN LEGAL ??? (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562747)

No, I mean, to criticize comcast in a public forum.. there must be a law against making libelous comments directed at corporate america.

There is. It's called Libel. However to be Libel, it has to be untrue. Posting the truth in your consumer relations is call Freedom of Speech.

If I said Comcast cut 50% of my channels and doubled my fee only halfway through the 1 year subscription agreement and it was false, that would be Libel. If it were true, that would be freedom of speech.

The above is an example only. There is no intent to Libel Comcast in this post. Opinions are permitted. It is my opinion they charge too much for internet service if you don't bundle services. Posting my opinion of their prices is not Libel.

Re:Is this EVEN LEGAL ??? (1, Funny)

MLease (652529) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562791)

That whooshing sound you hear...? That's the sound of irony doing a quick flyover above your head....


Re:Is this EVEN LEGAL ??? (3, Insightful)

nysus (162232) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562763)

Remember when Oprah got sued by the beef industry for expressing her concerns about the safety of meat? Better watch what you say in public about the products you use. Unless it's gushing, fan-boy enthusiasm, you could have the "product libel" lawyers all over you. So, yes, it's safer to just shut up; don't make any waves. It's one of the small prices we have to pay for freedom in this country.

Re:Is this EVEN LEGAL ??? (4, Interesting)

nysus (162232) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562797)

"For more than 200 years, our country's legal system has refused to recognize 'product libel.' People can maliciously libel a human being and be required to pay damages; but not inanimate products like Corvairs, Pinto fuel tanks, asbestos, the Dalkon Shield, fruits, vegetables and meat products. ... One has only to look back at our history and see how the dissenters of the past -- criticizing tobacco, coal dust, useless over-the-counter drugs and a variety of health-damaging food additives and pesticides -- have been proven right again and again. ... These ranchers know they will not be awarded any money by the time their case is disposed of in Texas or before the higher courts. The main objective of these frivolous lawsuits is not money; it is to send a chilling message to millions of people that if Winfrey can be sued for speaking her mind about not eating hamburgers then they had better keep their opinions to themselves."

-- Ralph Nader

Starting a inde cable (4, Interesting)

calcutta001 (907416) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562757)

I am absolutely frustrated with the cable companies in my area. Be it comcast, RCN or WOW. First the charges are sky high, then the internet service is throttled. They keep pushing the phone service. If you have to get HD you have to 'rent' their DVR boxes. I dont need a DVR because I have a HTPC but I am still paying for it.

I have wondered what would it take to start a community cable service, which provides basic HD (OTA reception is bad) and basic cable. Internet service offloaded in bulk to a competing ISP. Has any one any experience in such project, any links on how one can achieve this ?

I know one has to get licenses from the local municipality for providing utility, besides the politics, what are the technical challenges. Is it even doable ??

back2 the future;-) (1)

airdrummer (547536) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563171)

cable started out as catv: community antenna...locales out of the metro areas, behind hills, etc, put up an antenna array on top of the ridge & piped the signals down into the shadow.

then they privatized...

Re:Starting a inde cable (1)

Dan_Bercell (826965) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563263)

In my small town in Northern Ontario their is only one DSL provider. They provide 'ok' service, but I am a strong believer that competition makes any business or service better. There are currently 2 other small companies that offer a wireless service in my town and from what I have been told they are garbage and from a technicians point of view a nightmare to support. When the first one came out it did manage to drop the main service providers price, at least that is what I believed happened.

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19562761)

I for one find it difficult to believe any of this! I mean, come on, since does the one service provider of a particular medium (say, cable) in an area, institute monopolistic venues such as these?

Next thing you know people will get sued over MP3s!

but what??? (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562787)

> ..."Oh," he sneers, "you must have talked to our Morgan Hill [California] office. I'm not supposed to say anything but..."

but *what*?....talk about a cliff hanger :(

Re:but what??? (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562803)

at that point I think you're meant to click on the link to page 2

Re:but what??? (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562817)

"Link"? I don't see no stinking link...

Ahhh. 'Click here to read the rest of the story'. I didn't notice that...I just read right over it thinking it was something to do with the comments/etc. doh! ...though I don't take all the blame. IMO, a simple "page 2" or "next" would have worked.

Cable companies will soon be parasitic relics (5, Insightful)

Belacgod (1103921) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562807)

I've gone completely computer. I buy a lot of DVDs, download through Itunes, and watch off network websites (specifically Heroes on NBC.com). The last one is free, but relatively low-quality (but will tide me over 'til the DVDs arrive). A whole season of a good show goes for

I think this is the future of content provision--over the internet, straight from the content companies' websites. Speed and quality will increase, the content companies will start charging on a pay-per-view or subscription basis for the good stuff/good quality, a large number of individual plans will proliferate, and the cable companies will be reduced to ISPs.

just cancel (2, Informative)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562861)

I have Comcast for Internet access and am reasonably happy with them. I think their cable TV channels are way overpriced, so I'm not subscribing to anything there, but, then, I have never watched much cable.

So, why not just cancel? You have alternatives: DSL, satellite, OTA, other cable companies.

Re:just cancel (3, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562929)

no he doesn't. In most of the areas serviced by comcast, and time warner they are the ONLY game in town. They are fighting like mad to keep it that way too, because if they have to compete on price they will lose, fast.

Re:just cancel (1)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563063)

In most of the areas serviced by comcast, and time warner they are the ONLY game in town.

No satellite dishes? No DSL?? No DVD rental stores??? No Netflix???? Get real!

Re:just cancel (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563301)

Satellite locally is problematic with the constant overcast we get, and our long winters. reception quality is okay but not that good.

The only DSL in town is done by the local phone company, who is bundling with the satellite provider and requires a 2 year contract with a $500 get out of contract clause. Time warner has been using that little bit of information in it's advertising like mad.

Both companies want your complete package, internet, phone, and TV trying to get less than those three items they charge you more and hassle you to get the rest.

Re:just cancel (1)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563077)

They are fighting like mad to keep it that way too, because if they have to compete on price they will lose, fast.
Its really quite pathetic and telling of our government that they have any sway on the matter.

Comcast HD receivers soon available for sale? (5, Interesting)

frostycellnex (571215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19562951)

I recently added HD to my Comcast subscription, and admit to still being a bit confused by the specifics of Comcast's scheme. On their channel listing, they indicate that with their most basic digital cable package, the HD versions of the broadcast networks (NBC, FOX, CBS, ABC, and PBS) should be accessible. What they don't tell you in that listing, is that currently the only way for you to decode the HD signal transmitted by Comcast is to get their tuner (either in DVR, or standard tuner models), and presently, the only way to do that is to rent the device from Comcast. Now, as I understand from the Comcast sales rep, the only way to get that device is to upgrade to a more expansive cable package, which includes SDTV channels such as ESPN, MTV, etc, and naturally costs more.

However, the installation technician clued me in to a possible new option. He thought that the tuners would soon be available for sale at Best Buy stores. Now, from Comcast's own channel listing, I'm presuming that I should be able to purchase one of those tuners at a one-time cost, drop back to basic digital cable, and reduce my monthly bill by some $40 a month while still getting at least the broadcast networks in HD. Of the channels currently available to me with my chosen package, the only HD channels that really are of interest to me are the broadcast networks, ESPN (occasionally), and Discovery HD. So it's certainly not worth an additional $40 a month. Were my cable TV subscription not also tied to a lower rate for my cable internet connection, I'd probably just plunk down the cash for an over-the-air tuner and antenna. Come to think of it, at $40 a month, that option might quickly become more cost effective.

Re:Comcast HD receivers soon available for sale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19563381)

If true, this is probably not a "purchase" in the normal sense. It's probably similar to the way you can "buy" DirecTV receivers at Best Buy and Circuit City, i.e,: you plunk down $$$, and then are entitled to lease the box which you thought you actually bought. Back in the day, you actually could purchase DirecTV gear (I own my receivers and dish), but apparently not any more.

Sets with QAM tuners work fine (4, Informative)

SIGBUS (8236) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563497)

My Sharp Aquos set has a QAM tuner for cable, as well as an ATSC tuner for over-the-air reception; also, I have a pcHDTV HD-5500 in one of my systems, and it also works with both QAM and ATSC. Both work just fine on the unencrypted local HD broadcast channels. I'm on Comcast in the Chicago area (Romeoville front-end).

When I was shopping for the HD set, I specifically made sure that what I was buying had a QAM tuner. I was not about to take a salesman's word for it.

Comcast Horror Stories are Common (4, Interesting)

tekrat (242117) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563003)

I had Comcast when I lived in Jersey City. I was one of their first broadband customers in that area. I was also one of their first "Digital" customers in that area.

#1) I often had to go for months without internet service.
#2) More than half of my digital channels didn't work.

I had to buy a new phone every month because their customer service (or lack thereof) had me so frustrated, I would throw the phone against the wall, and I would scream so loudly, my neighbors would call an ambulance.

I eventually returned their "Digital" box, and told the rep that their service wasn't ready for prime-time. The nail in the coffin for me was when most of the channels showed up as pixelated blocky bits with no sound. It was a waste of time.

The internet problems, as well as the Digital TV problems, all turned out to be a lack of signal coming into my building. I repeatedly had technicians come over, determine the signal was bad, and proceed to clip the cable coming out of my wall another inch shorter and then leave.

Finally, they couldn't make the cable any shorter.

I called Comcast time after time to explain to them that the problem wasn't the short cable in my wall, we'd been through that already. I wanted them to run another cable in from the street, since the cable from the street split 20 ways after it came into my building.

After about 2 or 3 years of this back and forth issue, a guy came by with an amplifier that sat under my couch to try and amplify the 1/20th of a signal I was getting. That worked for about a week and then I couldn't get the internet.

A technician replaced my cable modem. That worked for a week, and then stopped.

Then I was told that they'd have to replace the wiring in the building. That was unfeasible.

So, again I complained. By this time, I was seriously considering moving.

By the time they installed the amplifier in the basement as well to amplify the signal before it was split 20 times, I was house hunting (I needed a garage anyhow, and I'd outgrown the condo).

That worked for a while. But not long.

I can only wonder if they EVER ran a second line into my building. All I know is that I now have Verizon DSL and Direct TV.

The only way I'd ever go back to Comcast is if they paid me. I spent more time teaching their tech support people how to do basic networking than I spent at my own job. Frankly, I should send Comcast a bill for $72,000 for consulting.

They are possibly the WORST corporation I have ever had to deal with. How they got so big with such crappy service I cannot understand. They make Verizon look competent, and that's saying a lot.

Re:Comcast Horror Stories are Common (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563079)

They are possibly the WORST corporation I have ever had to deal with. How they got so big with such crappy service I cannot understand. They make Verizon look competent, and that's saying a lot.

A number of possibilities occur:

1. They didn't. The crappy service is a result of recent cost cutting, prior to that it was OK.
2. Relatively few people include "customer service" in their list of things to consider when choosing a provider.
3. A monopoly in some areas.

As I'm not an American, and I know zero about the US market for cable/TV/internet, I've probably missed out a few.

Re:Comcast Horror Stories are Common (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563411)

3. A monopoly in some areas.

As far as I know, the only major players in America's Cable game are Comcast, IO (the old Cablevision), Time Warner Cable, Direct TV, and Dish (if they are even still around). That's five companies servicing approximately 100 Million households.

It is no wonder that certain people get crappy service.

You can look at the competitive numbers for DTV, Comcast, Dish, and TimeWarner [yahoo.com]. Combined, they bring in $60B, which is $600 per year from my estimated 100M serviced households.

For that price, people should really demand better service.

And, who hasn't ever seen the pixelated boxes on their digital television connection? I've had IO and DirectTV in the last six months and both signals show the pixelated boxes often enough to be annoying... but not bad enough that I would be prompted to call up to complain. I just accept the mediocre service (and don't watch all that much TV in the first place).

Opposite Experience (1)

xsadar (627057) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563051)

Personally, I've often had the opposite experience with comcast. I often get an $8 basic cable package because it discounts my comcast internet by $10 (internet cost without TV $60, internet cost with TV $50 + $8 = $58), then they always seem to forget that I'm not supposed to get the standard cable channels, so I get Internet + standard cable for two dollars less than the normal Internet price. Not only that, but whenever I've had any little problem with my service, they've had a guy out there to fix it within a couple days, and once within minutes.

They probably think if you're willing to spend over $2000 dollars a year on TV, they shouldn't have much problem getting a little more out of you, but if you're finding every possible way to cut costs like me, they know they have to take care of you or they'll lose you.

Wonderful comcrap service. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19563153)

In my area Comcrap bought out the old local cable provider about 17 or so years ago when I was a kid. They weren't too bad to begin with, and moved with a fair amount of alacrity to provide high speed internet service to the area. (As a contrast, AT&T after listi ng DSLAM as coming soon to the local CO for c. 10y finally showed up a few months ago with DSL service, a decade late, if not with a few bucks extra. Too bad that it's pathetically slow speed by comparison though.)

In any event. over the last few years, we've had a variety of entertaining conversations with comcrap, and like the article's author, Verizon's FIOS should be available here in the next year or so, and AT&T's Uverse is supposed to show up soon)hope that it's not like that DSLAM coming soon...), but in any even when a viable alternative shows up with decent highspeed internet access it'll be FOAD time for comcrap.

Of course part of the bait and switch, rate hiking, and push for more expensive option from comcrap is to cover the big bonuses that they gave out to their management for doing, eseentially, nothing other than not bankrupting the company.

'over the air' HD is $5 per month from comcast (0)

another_neophyte (1050364) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563219)

my experience with comcast and HD wasn't too painful. We get a fairly basic family package (no premium movie channels) and to get HD had to get a comcast digital box which costs $5 per month. We get 5 or 6 HD channels on the one set that has the digital box.

Money way of solving problems (3, Interesting)

dino213b (949816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563245)

So I lost the ability to renew my IP address. After a week's time and numerous attempts to regain it, including minimizing my equipment and cabling, the techs finally showed up. They did their job as they were trained; afterwards, they witnessed four or five different pieces of equipment experiencing the same problem I was having and promptly said "Oh, why don't you upgrade to a dedicated IP?"

"Sure, I'll consider that .. if you can get me a dynamic IP address."

Comcast isn't the only one who's guilty of this... (2, Interesting)

8127972 (73495) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563249)

... Rogers cable here in Canada tried a stunt called "Negative Option Billing" (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_option_billi ng [wikipedia.org]) which sounds sort of like what Comcast is doing. This caused a major outcry across the country that included thousands canceling their cable service. Rogers eventually caved and the practice was made illegal shortly thereafter.

Revenge: (1)

ehaggis (879721) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563259)

Rabbit Ears! That's what I use. Picks up approximately 10 stations. That's more than I can handle. If I want more, I go to the library and borrow it. Cable offers little for quite a lot.

\ /
| t v |

A utility screwin with you, mercy me !!!!! (4, Interesting)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563319)

The funny thing is that companies REALLY DON'T care if you drop them or not. This is not a rhetorical statement.

MCI - My MCI Neighborhood phone line. It started out at $49.95. Now it's up to $54.95 for 100% exactly the same service. Of course between junk fees and taxes the true cost is about $77/month

Sprint - My cell phone bill has 'errors' in the vicinity of 5% every month. Every month. For the last 3 years. I would rank customer service somewhere between Gitmo and prison rape. And the retail stores are in fact useless for anything other than new customers. That's actually a fact they will verify if you ask them. It's debatable whether the level of lying they perform when you try to buy something from them crosses into the realm of fraud. In either case they don't care. As an experiment ask them to verify the price they tell you with what's on their website. They will simply hang up on you without comment.

CIGNA Healthcare - Cannot verify over the phone whether I am a subscriber or not, to the pharmacy. I could understand if they refused to because HIPPA is the new holy grail of an excuse to refuse to 'do' customer service. No CIGNA actually can't. Their online systems don't work well enough to do that. But hey my call is very important to them.

Time-Warner - well their service relatively speaking is ok. It works and the bills keep coming. But when the service drops out because of some technical glitch, even in some cases for more than a day they suddenly speak only Ebonics when it comes to rebates.

Xbox support - Just give up. They're in India. They can't understand what you're saying and you can't understand them. They literally cannot speak English well enough to communicate with you. Hang up the phone and keep calling till you find someone who does.

Mitsubishi USA - Their official policy is to have their lawyers send you a threatening letter if you complain about one of the dealerships. In this case Leith Mitsu of Raleigh, NC. Even though they have service bulletins up the wazoo they will not address any of the issues unless you pay for them. And the dealership told me with a straight face that parking my car outside invalidated the warranty. The national network's response to a complaint is to send out a letter telling you to go to hell and if you persist in writing to them they will sue you for something.

Crock (4, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#19563331)

Digital cable is a crock anyway. It's wrapped up tight in DRM, and not just the DRM that the cable company needs to ensure you're not stealing from them. There's no chance of being able to use a custom-built PVR, for example, to record digital cable, which means you're either at the whim of TiVo or your cable company, neither of which has a stellar track record when it comes to not interfering with your rights as a consumer. They charge you extra money to get you on board a service that is a net benefit for them due to the reduced bandwidth, and then they charge you even more any chance they get.

And now the various states are passing legislation to take away regulatory power from municipalities. They're pretty much the only thing that stands between us and monopolistic abuse in many cases, because the states sure don't care.

And some people actually think that net neutrality is a bad thing. What's going on with cable TV should be proof enough that without net neutrality, we're screwed. Lack of enforcement of net neutrality is the same as subtle deregulation of the cable TV industry - it lets the cable companies use their monopoly (or duopoly, if there's a DSL-providing phone company in the area) to abuse their customers.
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