[Warning: this post is well-reasoned and articulate. Those looking for a rant should click here.]
You may recall Bill‘s comment on my reply to his “Can Social Media Change Our Behavior?” post. Bill’s original entry made a passing reference to my ongoing Twitter war with @comcastcares — the company’s flimsy attempt at correcting its devastating customer service reputation. I suggested that Comcast would do better to fix its systemic problems (from shoddy infrastructure to agents with no authority to actually resolve complaints) rather than engage in an increasingly cynical PR campaign.
Bill suggested that Comcast’s attempt to mitigate consumer ire is at least partially effective, due to the fact that @comcastcares is a “real guy” named Frank Eliason. Bill:
. . .while you have no compunction about saying “Fuck off, Comcast. You suck!” you probably won’t say, “Fuck off, Frank. You suck!” Instead you’ll say “Hi Frank, you seem like a decent guy, but the company you work for sucks!” In the distance between those two responses, Comcast has quieted your rage and successfully taken you from unreasonable vitriol to agreeing to let Frank take a look at your situation.
While some of this is true, it hardly staunches my increasingly righteous anger at this utterly inept corporation. Yes, the situation makes me feel bad for Eliason, which is why I tell him he’s best off looking for another gig. I doubt he’ll listen, but I’m sincere in my counsel. That said, I have no inclination to stop shouting about Comcast’s transgressions at the top of my digital lungs.
Why? Because my claims of @comcastcares being a PR sham have been validated by experience.
Following my initial Twitter outburst, @comcastcares and @comcastbill sprung into action, scheduling a tech appointment for this morning, between 8-11 AM. Forget for the moment that many previous appointments did not come through, and that I even had a “supertech” sent out to my house, who confirmed a weak signal. This dude said they’d send another supertech with the superpower to actually fix the signal and refund our money. That was three months ago. Set aside the fact that I’ve spent about a week’s worth of vacation time and countess hours on the phone with customer service to no avail. Never mind I’ve canceled both cable and television service, because Comcast could never make their much-advertised “Triple-Play” work in concert. And ignore the never-ending stream of broken promises about refunds, call-backs, “escalations,” etc.
As of 1:20pm, 2 hours after customer service told me the tech was in his car and on the way, and after I have been held captive in my house for 6 and a half hours on a Saturday, there is still no one here.
Bill was right about one thing, though. I was ready to trust this Frank Eliason character, because he did diagnose my signal problem, even confessing surprise that my internet was “even up.” That’s cool. But what about our old location, where my service was also shoddy? It’s not like Metro Washington DC is some fucking rural backwater.
Now, a sane person might ask the question, “Why don’t you just switch to another provider?” Were that I could.
Actually, this is interesting. I work in the public interest sector here in DC, and my organization has been, along with other tireless crusaders, at the forefront of the call for a more robust and competitive broadband marketplace. Yet the consolidation-happy, deregulation-drunk Bush administration made this an impossibility, even as we fell further and further behind other nations in both speed and connectivity. One doesn’t have to be a genius to see a correlation between broadband penetration and adoption and global competitiveness. Yet the FCC, under the leadership of Bush stooge Michael Powell (son of Colin Powell) refused to make any of this a priority, colluding with Big Telecom, which ultimately led to the dreaded “agency capture,” (which if my Libertarian friends actually understood, would change their minds about laissez-faire right quick). Powell was followed by another Bush appointee, Kevin Martin, who was a little better (at least he seemed to dislike Comcast and the cable industry in general).
But back to my situation. I live in a condo, but I can’t get DSL because the telephone company (Verizon) has it’s own problems with buildout. Nor can I switch to an alternative cable provider because Comcast has an “exclusive” deal with my building (we’re looking into this). Which basically means I’m fucked. You see, I can live without cable TV and a landline. But reliable, high-speed internet is a must.
There’s hope that the new FCC, currently under the temporary leadership of the estimable Michael J. Copps — a longtime Commissioner and really cool guy — will finally correct some of the egregious wrongs of the Amercian broadband marketplace. Even more encouraging is the appointment of Julius Genachowski to head the FCC, pending confirmation. Genachowski was President Obama‘s tech guru on the campaign (I actually went to see him speak when Obama was still an underdog, and was suitably impressed), and will no doubt point the Agency towards the future. With a broadband stimulus package on the way that includes provisions to inspire marketplace competition and doesn’t entirely consist of handouts for telecom incumbents, we might actually see some improvement.
Me, I won’t be satisfied until Comcast’s franchise license is revoked.