TV Crush

Comcast Celebrates July 4th with California Rate Hike

7/04/2010 2:30 PM

With press rooms manned by skeleton crews, Comcast took advantage of the Fourth of July lull  to announce their latest rate hike, slapping Californian customers with an average of 3.8 percent increase starting Aug. 1, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Per the San Francisco Chronicle, regional VP for Comcast California Andrew Johnson justified the rate hikes as necessary to pay for more programming choices, new features, and - my favorites -  faster internet, plus improvements to customer service.

(ETA: Customers are fuming in Santa Rosa.)

“We missed the memo,” grumbled my husband.  “It must have been lost during one of the outages.”

Here in Northern California the rate hike comes on the heels of multiple service outages over the last month and agonizing slow internet access reminiscent of dial-up.

What was unprecedented, and a little unsettling, about these outages was the failure of our phones.  We were just about to pull the plug on our old fashioned AT&T land line, but we’re now reconsidering.  (Cell phones, you say?  Our neighbor’s house nearly burned to the ground after he called 911 on his cell.  The emergency response time: eight minutes.)

Ironically, our area, here in San Rafael, was part of Comcast’s initial roll-out of the highly touted Xfinity, which promised higher internet speeds.

This following is from my notes, to name just a few vexing days.

June 28, 2010 - internet slow all evening, frustrating.

June 27, 2010 - email slow to download.

June 25, 2010 - service outage, phone and email down.

June 20, 2010 - evening service outage, phone and email down.

June 15, 2010 - evening service outage, phone and email down.

June 4, 2010 - evening, internet and mail down, then slow as molasses.

May 28, 2010 - evening, internet and mail either down or extremely slow for several hours.

There’s also the additional problem of the periodic rejection of my passwords.  There are days when the Comcast system demands my passwords (sometimes every ten minutes) with this message: “The POP server ‘mail.comcast.net’ rejected the password for user ‘*****’  Please re-enter your password, or cancel.”

Inexplicably, email is trouble free for a few days, or so.  And just when I think the problem has resolved, the system starts rejecting again.

And every once in awhile, this message surfaces: “There may be a problem with the mail server or network.  Check the settings for account ‘*****’ or try again.  The server error encountered was: The connection to the server ‘mail.comcast.net’ on port 995 timed out.”

Calls to Comcast customer service have yielded multiple explanations on the email problem.  One supervisor blamed my Apple mail program; another explained that Comcast had implemented tighter security.  I was advised to change the passwords - which I did - but the problem persists.

One bright spot amid the frustrations, and someone who deserves an honorable mention, is a customer service agent named “Tom” working out of the Sacramento call center.  He apologized for the outages, thanked me for our loyalty (seven years), credited our account for two days of charges, and also pointed out our antiquated modem.  Tom dispatched a Comcast tech who showed up the next day and installed a Cisco modem which seems to have resolved some of sluggish internet issues.

Bottom line: a rate hike after a flurry of service issues, amidst the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression (with upwards of 1.5 million losing unemployment benefits), is just plain bone headed.

In my area, AT&T and Dish Network are chipping away at Comcast’s market lock.  Three neighbors have made the switch in the last six months and another is contemplating changing carriers.  The rate hike might be the deciding factor.

September