Comcast is the AT&T of the 70s: Part II

My most recent post on Tuesday May 5 detailed how, during the three days starting April 28, I talked to a dozen or so Comcast employees by phone and in person trying to get internet and telephone service into the condo we had just moved into. Ultimately these services became available only because I kept calling for three solid days until I found someone at Comcast with the skills to address the problem.

I then pointed out my victory dance at this point was premature because while it was giving me the runaround, Comcast had cancelled our 45-year old phone number and given us a new one so that if we called someone, Caller ID displayed a new and unfamiliar number and that we were calling from Hobbs.

As I said in my last post, Comcast staff had promised on both on Friday, May 1, and on Monday, May 4, that we would definitely be getting our phone number back in 48 hours of my phone calls to them. The 48 hours from the Monday promise ran out on Wednesday, May 6, with no results.

Nor did our phone number come back on Thursday.

So on Thursday afternoon I made yet another call to Comcast. Yes, they said, we see the work order in your records and so we will now connect your old number.

[So, you might ask, why was this order just sitting there until I called? Maybe these people need some To Do Lists?]

After another 30-40 minutes of back and forth, I was told the new phone number was now transferred and in two hours it be working just fine.

Of course, the number didn’t come back either that night or the next morning.

So I called Comcast again on Friday and they referred me to the “Activation Center” which I had found typically operates from the Philippines. It employs ESL operators who work from a very limited menu of possible solutions. I had already had a number of disappointing experiences with the Center.

But luckily my call did not go to the support desk in the Philippines but instead to someone with good English and technical skills. While it took about an hour, I am pleased to report that we did actually retrieve our original phone number on that day, May 8 and it continues to work for all three of the days since then.

Hey, it was only 11 days that people were being told our number had been cancelled. And maybe some of them were telephone solicitors.

So what does this experience tell us?

Without competitors to Comcast, there will just be more of the same in our future, except that the price will keep going up. Comcast is not likely to have good systems then and it still won’t be adequately training its support staff.

Perhaps our condo building will switch over to DIRECTV after Comcast’s contract runs out. But then who will provide high-speed internet service? Comcast will do it but will the price be reasonable and can we deal with the hassle?

Other alternatives?

CenturyLink’s internet service is quite slow, a reminder of the dial-up days.

Google is expanding its internet service to more communities across the country and is actually laying fiberoptic. Albuquerque with its economic woes is not likely near the top of their list.

Perhaps if AT&T does buy DIRECTV as it now proposes to do, maybe it will find a way to provide reasonably-priced robust internet service to its DIRECTV customers in New Mexico.

And maybe those said to be planning to provide low-cost internet service with low-orbit satellites will do so sooner, rather than later.

There is hope.

In any event, the cable and satellite model of delivering lots of channels we don’t use or want for a fat price is on the way out. More and more first-rate programming will move to the internet just as HBO is moving right now. But that does require that we have reasonably-priced high-speed internet access.

It is possible that with the unbundling of cable TV programming and the increased availability of good programming over the internet, maybe the incumbent cable and satellite providers will somehow conclude they are playing a losing game and feel the need to start serving their customers far better than is now the case.


[FYI, if you want, you can leave a voicemail complaint about Comcast by calling the City of Albuquerque’s Franchise Authority at 768-5340. But don’t expect a callback. I’m still waiting.]

Chuck Wellborn

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