From APT to Comcast

Sadly we found out a few weeks back that Alameda’s own cable TV company was no more, and that Comcast had acquired the service and all its customers. Until we were transitioned (more on that later) we would continue to get our cable and internet services unchanged. Right, so that’s why my DVR service was suddenly disabled on December 7, 2008. And that’s where this saga starts.

December 7, 2008
I try to pull up the list of recordings on my DVR only to be told that the DVR feature has been disabled. There was a number right there on the screen for me to call, so I called it.

The response was to transfer me to Comcast tech support. The person I spoke with there tried to look up my account using my telephone number, address and the account number on the bill they had managed to send me (funny how they got the billing sorted out so fast!). All to no avail – I didn’t exist in Comcast’s system. So, he promised to contact his supervisor and get back to me.

True to his word, I got a call a little later, giving me a new telephone number for the ‘APT transition team’ because it appears that there is no way they can fix whatever it is that they broke. Instead, they must schedule a visit from the cable technician to transition me to Comcast’s system.

After that call, I had an appointment scheduled for between 8am and 12pm, with a preference for before 10am requested, on Wednesday, December 10, 2008. And I was told that all setup fees would be waived (yes, they actually said that), and that they have agreed to fix the price to the same as APT for one year, after which we would be repriced to the (much) higher Comcast rates.

I was also told that unless they encountered problems, my existing cable boxes and cable modem would be OK so the transition should be pretty fast (basically switching me from the APT cable to the Comcast cable and getting all the boxes registered on the account).

December 10, 2008
I spent the morning working from home, waiting for the Comcast technician to arrive. Around 11:45am I called them to find out when I should expect them to arrive; while on hold, the technician called to say he was running late and would be there by 12:15pm.

Eventually, just before 12:30pm he arrives and starts the process. He claims that all the boxes need to be changed (perhaps to make sure I get Comcast stickers on them?). An hour and half later he has managed to swap the two cable boxes and the modem and switch the cable outside. One of the boxes seems to be rebooting a lot, but he assures me that is normal and will stop once it downloads the program guide.

When I get home, the box that was rebooting seems to have stopped. When I switch it on though, it immediately reboots and now gets stuck in a cycle of reboots that happen before it even finishes the previous reboot. So much for it will stop when the channel guide is downloaded!

December 13, 2008
After two days of late nights and early mornings, I finally get to call Comcast and report the fault on the digital box. Before calling though, I checked the DVR to see whether it was working. But no, I was missing Starz, which I had been getting as part of my package with APT, and their on demand service was not working either.

So, I called and reported the three faults. Another appointment was scheduled, for Sunday afternoon, between 4pm and 6pm, to have the rebooting box replaced. Then I was put through to a tech support person to fix the channel problem and the VoD service (which they did).

December 14, 2008
Once again, it was 6:30pm before the technician showed up, but this time he took one look at the box and went out to get a replacement. He was surprised that it had been left when I mentioned that it had been rebooting when first installed, and said the reason I was given was clearly wrong.

We checked the premium channels and the VoD service on the box, and all appeared to be working well.

Downstairs, I set up some recordings for the upcoming week on the DVR, and some series recordings for important things (Top Gear!).

December 15, 2008
On getting home in the evening, I discover that there is a new bill from Comcast in the mail, and the DVR clock has stopped, the recording light is on and the unit is totally locked up requiring a power cycle to get it back. One minute into the recording it had crashed.

Oh, and that bill. Well, it seems that Comcast’s idea of the same price is $8 higher than the last bill they sent.

December 17, 2008
Once again, the DVR had crashed one minute into a recording, so I called again to see what I can do about that (by now, I have now spoken to Comcast more in the two weeks they’ve been attempting to provide service than I ever spoke to APT in the whole time we had their service). I also ask about the discrepancy in the bill.

At first he tells me I’ll be paying fifty cents less, but when I say I’m looking at the two bills and the new one is $8 higher he changes his story. Here are the three reasons I was given for this, in turn:

  1. APT was incorrectly billing you and should have been charging more (no, I was being billed for the package I signed up for at the rate published on the APT website);
  2. You have added an extra cable box, and that’s where the extra charge comes from (no, I have exactly the same set of services and hardware that I had from APT);
  3. Comcast charges for the boxes and the services separately, so you are paying $6.99 for the HD-DVR box and $10.00 (discounted from $15.95) for the HD-DVR service that box needs. APT didn’t charge separately.

So, I guess Comcast’s promise of charging the same for year lasted less than a month. I wonder how many other increases I can expect in the next year.

Next, I was transferred to the tech support line and the person I spoke with there re-initialized the DVR and believes that will solve the problem. We will see later this week. I fear there are more Comcast calls and visits to come before I can even get back to the same quality of service APT provided with a single setup visit. And it is abundantly clear that I will never get the same quality of customer service.

I think it is time for something disruptive in this industry. Satellite is not bad (I had Dish Network for several years in my apartment), but it is still the same basic business model. There must be something better…

One thought on “From APT to Comcast

  1. a depressing but unsurprising tale, being a “happy” (note the scare quotes) customer of comcast. we’re stuck with their cruddy service for our broadband (as well as teevee) because we’re too far from the at&t switch to get dsl – not that the phone company is any better …

    something disruptive would be absolutely wonderful. when you find it, please add me to the co-conspirators list!

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