All cable companies must die

I never cease to be amazed anew at how cable companies think it is their job to make their customers’ lives difficult.

I challenge any cable executive to publicly go through the experience of being a customer at their own companies and tell me straight-faced that it’s pleasant and efficient and worth the money and effort.

Today, I drove a half-hour to the only Cablevision “store” within the area to get a cable card for our new TiVo (shhh; don’t tell anyone that I’m only now getting one). I walk in and face a wall of ladies who look more bored and angry than prisoners. I am told that they won’t give me a cable card. I must make an appointment and wait a day for the damned cable guy to come to our house to stick it in the slot. It wastes them money. It wastes me time. It wastes some more of my three free months from TiVo. It inconveniences me. It’s just stupid. I walk out angrier at Cablevision. But I’m stuck with them because Verizon tore up my street two years ago — exaggeration — to lay fibre but still has not hooked up Fios. I’m a prisoner and Cablevision knows it. But that is any excuse to treat customers this way>

For Christmas, I wanted to get my father broadband and so I contacted Bright House in Florida (with whom I used to work) to get a gift certificate. They don’t do that. Can’t I just give you money? No. So I order the service but only on the condition that the installer will hook up the wi-fi router I was wrapping for under the tree. Yes, they said, that’s included. I tell them not to tell my father and to wait until after Christmas to contact my father because, of course, it’s a present. The next day, the phone rings. They called my father. Good work, Bright House. Scrooge. I tell my father to reschedule but instead they cancel the entire account. They were going to bill him for his own present. They also tried to charge him $149 to hook up that modem. I spent a good hour and a half calling Bright House and having fits before they finally switched the billing and agreed to do what they said they would do and hook up the modem (saving the company, by the way, the expense, time, and effort of running a cable halfway around the house; I saved them money by buying a router and they complained).

And, of course, we mustn’t forget Bob Garfield’s jihad at Comcast Must Die.

The only solution to this is true competition and openness. At CES, Brian Roberts promised a Cablevision 3.0 with the customer at the center — all of you who believe him, raise your hands — and a new standard for TV devices. We’ll see.

Jeremy Allaire of Brightcove (no relation to Bright House) sets a higher standard for a fully open alternative. We must be able to plug any device we own to the connectivity coming into our homes and get to any content. It’s that simple. I shouldn’t need to call them to beg or go to their distant offices or ever, ever, every wait all day for the damned cable guy. Connectivity is electricity.

Rather than telling Comcast that they can’t grow any bigger, the FCC should be telling them one thing: Open up.

  • If you want to see a horrible experience with Verizon then check out the website:

    Safe to say that these huge telecom companies have a horrible customer service problem.

  • Despite their similarly abysmal customer service, I have to recommend DirecTV over any cable company. The DVR units function (I’m told) just as well as TIVO and require nothing special other than an additional token charge for the DVR service (keeping the schedule updated, etc.).

    My only complaint is the satellite dish apparently can’t “see” through rain…

  • HM

    And, of course, we mustn’t forget Bob Garfield’s jihad at Cablevision Must Die.

    It is actually comcast must die (

  • You’re right. Every cable company should die. I want free WWE programming once again please!

  • Paw

    As Hazel says, why not try DirecTV or Dish instead? They have more channels in HD than Cablevision and their DVR works as well as Tivo. There’s your choice.

  • HM.
    Thanks! fixed. I was projecting.

  • Turbopooch

    Jeff, I had the same experience in the UK a couple of years ago with the cable company, Sky. I tried to buy it for my father as a Christmas gift to enable him to watch cricket (Sky has that sewn up tight, which is a bit sad). I specifically asked them not to contact dad until after Christmas, so of course they rang him on Dec 22. In the event, he decided he didn’t want it anyway. I wasn’t best pleased. They also tried to charge me. Terrific!

  • Rob

    It’s a $h!t show with these cable companies Jeff. I’ve done some reporting on Comcast and Cablevision, spoken to cable systems engineers and politicos. I can only wonder what these companies pay for their PR flacks… they’re good.

    But that’s besides the point. Rates continue to rise and quality diminish because digital cable was never regulated by the FCC like analog was. And guess what happens Feb. 17 2009? That’s right, the end of television that is regulated for quality. The analog spectrum will be auctioned off to the telecom industry.

    The drive now appears to be to compress as many third-rate channels as possible to up the bill as much as possible. Oh right, customer service. What’s that?

  • laskin

    …blame your local/state/federal politicians for the cable TV mess.

    The whole cable industry has been heavily “regulated” by your noble government benefactors since 1948 … enforcing real or de facto cable monopolies in most American markets.

    “…true competition and openness” is impossible in a government controlled
    (“regulated”) economic market.

  • Eric

    Dish is fine for watching television, but you can’ t get internet over dish, can you?

    I have cable television I never watch because you can’t just get internet from Comcast – you have to get both. So I pay $17 a month for a service I only use as a diagnostic tool when my internet connection isn’t working.

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  • Marc Savoy

    I’ve been a customer of Cablevision for over four years and only have nice things to say about them. I’ve got phone, cable, high speed internet and have never had a problem with any and the customer service has been as good as it gets.

  • I used to worry about not being “good enough” to go to Heaven. Well, not anymore because now I know I’m getting in by default. Hell is overbooked with Cable and Health Insurance company demons!

    What happened? Back in the day, you plug your t.v. in and bamm, you get at least Channel 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 13. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you!