I recently complained here about the problems we’ve been having with our Comcast service, both Internet and TV related. The gist of it is this: The underground line from the drop box to our home had degraded to the point where our service was being partially or completely interrupted. Almost three weeks ago I finally got a technician to identify the problem and schedule a line replacement, but I had been waiting for the work to be done ever since. Permits had to be pulled, utilities flagged, etc.
After some time went by, I started calling Comcast to see if they could tell me when the repairs would be happening. After all, when the line gets replaced, my Internet is going down. Since I telecommute, this could mean that I’d need to pack up and go work elsewhere for the day, and I wanted to be prepared. Each time I’d call in, they’d tell me that the job was scheduled for sometime in the next few days. So I’d copy my work files to a portable hard drive and get ready to leave on a moment’s notice. But when those days went by with no results, I’d call again, and they’d give me another date which was magically a few more days away. Meanwhile, my wife Apple and I were starting to miss our shows because we were getting no digital or HD channels whatsoever (and the analogs were so snowy as to be unwatchable).
Then, this week, yet another Comcast problem arose. We got our latest bill, and found we were once again getting mis-charged for our TiVo HD. The billing for the TiVo and its two CableCARDs has always been unnecessarily complicated in this area, requiring that manual discount codes and other crap be applied to our bill to make the charges come out right. But this month those credits were gone, and we saw we were being billed two HDTV service fees — one for each CableCARD — despite the fact that both cards are in a single box.
This has happened before, and fixing it is never fun. I have to call Comcast’s customer service number and try to explain the whole situation until they work whatever magic is necessary to sort it out. I never know exactly what steps they take to fix it, which is maddening because I can’t give them guidance on how to do it right. Which I’d love to do, because they often fix it wrong (by simply removing one of my CableCARDs from the account, thereby deleting all service access on one of the TiVo’s two tuners), screwing up the level of service I get on my other standard-def TV, and a host of other possible outcomes. But I’ve always managed to — eventually — get things sorted.
Not this time. Despite calling in on several occasions and talking to different people each time, Comcast’s support folks continually assured me that their billing me two HDTV service charges was correct. One guy even said that his notes on TiVo customers indicated that this was how the account should be set up, and that he was required to bill me for HDTV service on each CableCARD because I was getting all the HD channels on each tuner.
This, of course, is ridiculous logic, because if I rent Comcast’s own HD DVR, which also has two tuners, they will only charge me one HDTV service fee. I know, because I used to have one of their incredibly shitty (hence the TiVo) HD DVRs. Additionally, my TiVo HD is capable of running both of its tuners on just one CableCARD, provided the card is a multistream card (otherwise known as an M-card). In that circumstance, because there would only be one card in use, Comcast would only be able to charge me one HDTV fee — even though I’d be getting exactly the same service I am now; the full tier of HD channels on two tuners of one DVR. Naturally, though, Comcast doesn’t offer M-cards in my area.
Despite presenting their support reps with the aforementioned arguments, they all refused to help me, because like good little first-tier support robots, their hands are tied by the scripts they have in front of them. Logic, by definition, cannot enter into the argument when they have notes that say “Do it this way” even if those notes are flat-out wrong or nonsensical.
So I did what any determined, anal-retentive customer would do. I researched other Comcast customers’ experiences (including the charges they volunteered to share) on the TiVo Community message boards, gathered up my own evidence and composed a detailed email message to Comcast’s customer outreach department at We_Can_Help@cable.comcast.com. This is apparently the same department that runs their efforts on Twitter, with which I have had good experiences in the past.
Hopefully, I thought, this would get me a final answer on who was right — me, or the support reps who said I needed to be paying $13.90 for HD service on my TiVo instead of $6.95. While I was at it, I mentioned that we’d had essentially zero cable TV service for the last 2-3 weeks due to the defective line, and asked if that job could be expedited or at least given a firm due date.
The results started to come in almost immediately. Yesterday evening I received an email response from Comcast, stating that if I had only one TiVo HD DVR, I should pay only one HD service fee — just as I thought. The sender told me that he’d be reaching out to leadership in my area to get the problem fixed, and that I should expect a call the next day. Well, all righty then!
Then, this afternoon, right before lunchtime I heard a sound outside my window and went to investigate. I saw what appeared to be two Comcast subcontractors digging up the yard. Could it be? Was the line replacement actually happening, right now, right before my eyes? As it turns out, it was. Not only were these two contractors finally here to do the job I’d been waiting for, but they were both working on it expeditiously.
I kid you not, while I was watching this happen, the phone rang — and it was Comcast. A very polite and knowledgeable-sounding woman from the local office told me she was calling in regards to the “corporate complaint” I had filed yesterday (oh, is that what that’s called?) and that she had identified the billing issue with my account. According to her, the crux of the issue was that my CableCARDs had been set up improperly in the account, and that Comcast was in fact missing some crucial pieces of information about the cards themselves. I gave them the information they needed (host ID numbers and PowerKEY numbers mostly), after which I was told they’d fix everything up on their end, and I’d receive a call back later in the day to make sure everything was working right.
90 minutes later, the line replacement work going on outside was completed, and without even a power-cycle, all of our Internet and cable TV service came back online. Now, my TiVo reports a digital signal strength of 75-80%, as opposed to the 40% I was getting prior to the repair.
I still haven’t gotten that call back from the woman I spoke with earlier, but so far everything is working properly. Hopefully whatever account corrections they’ve made will take care of the duplicate HD service charge — but either way, now I’ve got written confirmation from the Comcast higher-ups stating that I was right all along.
So I have to give Comcast credit where it’s due. Although you apparently have to light a fire under their butts by complaining directly to corporate, once that happens, stuff gets done. And with luck, I’ve had my last Comcast issue for quite a while.
Needless to say, Apple and I are going to celebrate tonight by watching some HD programming.