Home > Archive >  2008 >  April >  16

A new reason to hate Comcast

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 by Dave Winer.

A picture named remote.gifAs long as I've been a customer of Comcast I've been writing how much I wish they'd sell their Internet business to a company that doesn't hate its customers so much. But sometimes you forget, when the service is good, you just cruise along, happy and productive.  Permalink to this paragraph

And so I was blissfully forgetful until I read, on Twitter, that Dave Sifry was testing the bandwidth on Comcast with PowerBoost and was blown away by how great it was. I had Comcast as a backup, rarely used it, so I hooked it up, tried it out and I got even better bandwidth than Sifry did. Amazingly I was getting 28 megabits down, about 3 megabits up. So I started using it on my LAN, I kept my DSL service, but I'm not using it as much. Permalink to this paragraph

Then this morning around 9AM the service went down. I called the service number, and was quickly directed to call a special number. I couldn't record the call because I didn't have Skype working, but I wish I had found a way. The recording said I was talking to their legal services department, Press 1 if you are stealing content, 2 if you are using too much bandwidth, 3 if Comcast hates your guts, 4 if you're a criminal. (I don't remember the exact wording, this wasn't it, but the implication was that I was guilty of abuse, me, a paying customer, in good standing. By pressing a button I was admitting to doing something wrong.) Permalink to this paragraph

Update: Later I called the number back and recorded the opening sequencePermalink to this paragraph

I was quickly connected to a man who told me I had been deliberately disconnected because they had tried to call me and I didn't pick up. The number they called was my Blackberry, which I disconnected a couple of months ago because I never use it, I much prefer the iPhone. Then he threatened me. He told me I was in the top 1/10th of 1 percent of all their Internet users and that if I didn't immediately stop using so much bandwidth they would suspend my service for 12 months. I asked if I could get this in writing, he said no. I asked how much bandwith would be acceptable, he wouldn't say. I told him this wasn't much of a threat if they weren't willing to put it in writing, and I wasn't intimidated. I also told him I was a blogger and would be writing it up. He didn't care. Permalink to this paragraph

Now, before I called the first number, I posted about the outage to Twitter, and sent a direct message to comcastcares, an amazing account, staffed by a guy named Frank who works at Comcast in Philadelphia, who really does seem to care. A few days ago, Mike Arrington of TechCrunch mentioned on Twitter that his Comcast service was down, they contacted him immediately, and had a service tech at his place the next day (I think). Mike was so pleased with the service he said he'd be willing to pay double if they could keep it up. Pretty impressive.  Permalink to this paragraph

So I spoke with Frank on the phone after receiving the threat. He asked me to write it up, and I am doing so here. Permalink to this paragraph

I also recorded a podcast with Christina Warren of Download SquadPermalink to this paragraph

A bunch of ideas and questions resulted. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named chicken.gif1. They should have sent me a letter. This idea of disconnecting customers to get them to call is utterly unprofessional and disrespectful and should get them in trouble with the FTC and the FCC and everyone who uses Comcast or who works at Comcast who has any self-respect. The letter should have said something like this: "We noticed that you're using a lot of bandwidth, and we're happy you like the Internet so much, and like our PowerBoost service, but if you're going to use this much bandwidth you should seriously consider getting our higher-class service, which will cost $X more per month, but along with it you get 5 new features that only our most special customers get." I told Christina, there are few things I'm so happy to spend money on as bandwidth and Internet connectivity. It's so easy to make it a positive instead of treating a customer as a criminal. Permalink to this paragraph

2. I used AT&T DSL the same way I use Comcast and they never threatened me. So their claims in their commercials that they're better than AT&T are bogus. I still love Comcast's commericals, esp the faux news announcer and the turtles, all who ridicule AT&T but I think Comcast is dishonest, they're selling something they don't deliver on. (Except PowerBoost really is awesomely fast when they haven't cut you off.) Permalink to this paragraph

3. I can see where people would be very intimidated to have their service turned off and to be lectured the way they lectured me. Permalink to this paragraph

4. Honestly, I think Comcast should give me my service for free and let's work to create new services that use more bandwidth so they can sell them to customers as part of the upsell to people who use a lot of bandwidth.  Permalink to this paragraph

5. I figured out why I use so much more bandwidth than the average Internet user. I have five computers, all Macs, all sucking down FlickrFan pictures once an hour. That adds up to quite a few gigs. It would be easy to cut back. Not sure I will though, cause I hate to be lectured and threatened by companies I pay $180 per month to. Permalink to this paragraph

6. The thing that amazes me, that is totally unacceptable, is that they refused to put the threat in writing. I knew, having dealt with lawyers enough, that I had a right to receive the threat in writing, and I wanted to scan it and put it on Flickr along with my $3 million Comcast bill. ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

7. I've now spent all of today working for Comcast. Should I send them a bill? Permalink to this paragraph

8. What's the big issue with bandwidth anyway? Does a company like Comcast pay their ISP for bandwidth? Do they even have an ISP? Permalink to this paragraph

Update: A plausible explanation of why they'd want to constrain bandwidth usage. Permalink to this paragraph


Recent stories:

A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

Dave Winer Mailto icon

My most recent trivia on Twitter.

I'm a California voter for Obama.

© Copyright 1994-2008 Dave Winer Mailto icon.

Last update: 10/20/2008; 8:22:33 AM Pacific. "It's even worse than it appears."

Click here to view blogs commenting on  RSS 2.0 feed.