Combing Through the Files

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There's death. There are taxes. And, apparently, there are cable complaints.

A random sampling of the hundreds of complaints filed with the Federal Communications Commission over the past year seems to suggest that the cable industry still has plenty of work to do to win over those squeaky wheels.

The following are a few of the highlights. (Complainants' names were redacted, per FCC rules.)

In one case, a service technician who had missed an appointment only made things worse when he showed up late.

"He said this was not the first time the present answering service had failed to relay repair calls," wrote the subscriber. "He said it happens all the time!" Ah, the savvy political skills of the service tech.

Another subscriber, notifying the FCC that he was canceling his cable service, wrote, "This is due to the exceptionally poor quality (volume too loud on some channels and 'roving static' on others), the frequent rate changes (without any improvement of services and/or addition of channels), and the extremely poor (not to mention rude) telephone customer service."

Instead of "Sincerely," the subscriber closed, "Good-bye and good riddance."

ON-HOLD RAGE

Consumers also griped about a wide range of billing mistakes, but seemed more angry about how long it took to resolve them.

"I have called the company several times about this and have been left hanging on hold for 10 to 15 minutes," stated one. Another wrote simply to ask that someone call him because he hadn't been able to get through on the toll-free number.

Many complaints centered on set-top boxes and their newfound complexity. "Although we ordered the above referenced movie, it failed to 'open' for our viewing," one wrote.

Another said he was billed for a movie the installer ordered to demonstrate the pay-per-view function on a new digital box. Later, he said he discovered that the old set-top he had been leasing for 20 years had never been necessary.

"I thought a credit of $480 was a fair compromise," the person wrote. "I came to that figure by taking $4 a month times 12 months times 10 years … 10 years I would write off to my stupidity for believing the con."

One subscriber, angry that he needed a new digital box to receive some of the same channels he used to receive with only a cable-ready TV set, wrote, "I am beginning to wonder if cable is worth it."

Another threatened to go buy a "disc." No word on whether a dictionary would be included.

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