comcast – Stay N Alive

Comcast, Where’s the Block Button for My TV?

Around College Football Season every year my family bites the bullet and orders cable for several months in order to both take advantage of the latest Cable deal, and allow us to see my two Cougars (University of Houston and BYU) try to make it to a Bowl game.  Every year we get a digital box, HD service, and occasionally a premium channel or two and some times a Sports Package to make sure we don’t miss a game.  Especially if you’re only doing it for a few months a year, it’s a great deal, and you can often get free DVR, free premium channels, etc. as a result.  Add that to the 50Mbps downstream internet I’m getting and I’m a pretty happy guy.  Comcast’s lineup continues to improve as we go year to year, providing more HD channels, online DVR scheduling, and more.  There’s one piece that never seems to improve though – the ability to remove the channels you don’t want to watch from your line up.  Why?

For instance, today I was upstairs working on the computer when I hear my 10 year old daughter yell up the stairs, “Daddy, JJ (our 2 year old) just ordered Avatar!”  I run down the stairs, and sure enough, Avatar was sitting on the screen (in standard def, unfortunately) on pause, waiting for us to watch it.  My 2 year old was sitting there, proud of his accomplishment.  Before you say, “that’s a smart 2 year old!” (which he is), keep in mind that this same boy regularly steals my iPad and iPhone, and thoroughly enjoys trying to call Mike Arrington every chance he can get when I’m not watching (thus far I’ve caught him every time).  In fact, as I write this, I hear he’s up stairs yelling to my wife, “Computer!”, I’m sure as he hits all the buttons he can on his – er, I mean her – laptop.

So you can see how easy it is for a 2 year old to purchase things on the Cable box (I won’t even get into how my 8 year old can guess our pin codes like any 1337 h4x0r).  Comcast does have parental controls, but, at least in the last on-and-off 3 years I’ve had their service (or more – can’t remember), their parental controls have always just been a series of “enter your pin number to watch the Rated R show”.  I do notice you can hide shows marked as adult, and you can set a pin number on the main On Demand (which by default is free unless you go into the purchase section).  However, there’s no way at all you can completely block an entire channel or completely block purchases on the device.

I called Comcast just to verify.  Their answer was that my only choice was to set up parental controls, something I’m very familiar with.  They had absolutely no way for me to completely turn off a channel, even by calling them to do it.  It simply isn’t possible.  Why?

On Twitter and Facebook we have a simple solution to this.  If you don’t ever want the chance to see something you don’t want to from a particular user, you can just block them and you’ll never see them again (unless you’re really looking).  Blocking a channel ought to be even easier than that.  Why can’t I hit “info” on a channel just like I do to favorite the channel, and hit “block”, completely turning the channel off forever?

Comcast, let’s face it – I’m never going to watch the adult channels.  There are other channels you have that I’m never going to watch.  I’m never going to purchase an on-demand movie from you guys.  I know you want to tempt me to do so, but frankly, you’re just ticking me, and thousands of other customers of yours off by not giving us a way to turn these things off.  Right now Comcast is like a casino, tempting you every step of the way to put your money in and take a gamble, only there are no people watching to see if the kids are the ones doing the gambling.  Let my people go!

Comcast, you have an opportunity here – I know your competitors in the satellite and cable space do the same (if you know of a service that allows full channel blocking, let me know in the comments).  You have the opportunity here to target every single family in America right now and make them feel good about your company.  Be the hero.  Please, let us block these channels, and especially the pay-per-view if we don’t want to see them!  Keeping them in place is ridiculous, and frankly, you risk each and every 2 year old in America being exposed to this stuff by not enabling a simple “block channel” on your service.  It’s time to innovate.  Free the parents across America!

UPDATE: Per the comments, I’m going to list services here that do allow the removal of channels entirely:

Comcast Fails to Innovate With Versus/DirectTV Debacle #vfbyu #vftcu #vsstreamit

Versus-LogoVersus, the Sports broadcast network owned by Comcast, Inc., has been in a turf war recently as it has pulled customers in the middle of a fight between DirectTV and its Sales team unwilling to give way until DirectTV pays.  The fight is grounded in a feud where Comcast wants DirectTV to pay extra to gain access to the network, DirectTV being unwilling to pay.  DirectTV customers (disclaimer: I am forced to be a Comcast customer right now) are forced to either switch to Comcast or forgo games like this weekend’s ranked BYU vs. TCU game shown only on the network due to pre-arranged deals with the MountainWest Conference.  Versus is even going to the effect of asking viewers to call up DirectTV and request it be added in commercials broadcast the week of critical games.  I’d like to suggest to Comcast and Versus it’s time to eat your own dogfood – I want my games online!

Comcast, my internet provider who has the technology to do so is taking this entire approach immaturely, forcing the customers into the middle of it all in a greed for more money from DirectTV.  When in reality, Comcast could bypass DirectTV altogether and provide these games, ad-supported for free on their own site.  ESPN does this.  Heck, I’d even watch it considering I don’t have cable TV at all and I’m a Comcast subscriber!  It’s time the cable and satellite providers buck up and start to share these things so all can see – don’t pass the burden onto your customers.

Imagine a day when it doesn’t matter if your cable provider has the games you want to watch.  Imagine a day when you can watch the games, provider-free, on your TV or computer or even iPhone, no worries about who is sending the signal.  Comcast needs to take the lead in this, that is if they truly care.

I’d like to start a new campaign.  No, I don’t have the money or the voice or the bullying influence Comcast has, but I do have a blog.  I have Twitter.  I have Facebook.  I’m creating the new hashtag, “#vsstreamit” and every time I hear those commercials I’m going to be reminded to pass the burden back onto Versus through Tweets, blog posts, Facebook, and whatever means necessary to make people know this is Comcast’s problem, not DirectTV’s.  I’m sick of this.  This is Comcast’s problem which they created after all.  It’s about time Comcast starts to really care and share this stuff with all of us rather than play these silly blame games.  Take some responsibility!

Comcast – Definitely a Different Company Than They Used to Be

comcastI’ve been a Comcast customer most of my adult life. I have to admit unfortunately that most of that was not by choice.  I remember the days of going day after day of support calls trying to just get internet access, or to get the right speeds, or one time they claimed I had a modem when I had actually sent the modem back to them already.  They had a serious reputation with the Better Business Bureau back then. The customer was almost never right. Today they convinced me they’re a new company though.

It all started about a month and a half ago when I left to Boston to spend some time with my parents and just get a change in scenery.  I decided to cancel my Comcast Internet service, since it would be a waste to have it on for a month with no one using it.  Yeah, I’m cheap in that way.  Anyway, the guy we cancelled with was very friendly, understood our situation, and told us it would be free to terminate, and just a $39 (or so) installation fee to set it back up. I was happy to accept that, considering it was far cheaper than what we were paying per month in internet service.  We cancelled with no issues.

Coming back from Boston, I called Comcast again to set up our internet, hoping to have a connection ready when we got home.  The guy on the phone this time told me it was now costing $50 to install the service.  I told him what the other guy told us, and it didn’t seem there was much he could do.  We escalated it to his supervisor, and with almost no hesitation, not only did he bring it down, but he said he could give it to us for $25, AND they were willing to give us a deal at half the price per month we were paying before.

There was one caveat.  The local technicians couldn’t come out for an entire week.  As a blogger, CEO of a startup, and overall internet-dependent to be fully productive, this was a serious problem for me.  There was nothing this guy could do.  I was soon to be just another dissatisfied customer, as I was used to being with Comcast, at least so I thought.

I decided to make one last-ditch effort to get internet at an escalated time frame – I was even willing to pay for it!  So I sent a message on Twitter asking Frank Eliason (@comcastcares) if they might be able to help me.  As always he was very helpful, and had me e-mail their support staff.

It took a couple days, but yesterday my wife got a call from their support team saying someone would be out yesterday if any appointments opened up, or today for sure if that didn’t happen.  Sure enough, today I got a call from their support staff saying someone would be here, 2 days earlier than we were expecting.  The support person even left me his phone number and told me to call him if I had any problems at all.

The technician came, installed my internet, and I’m now a happy customer.  This was one experience I have to say I’m satisfied and really impressed me with Comcast.

The Caveat

Now, Comcast is better than they were before, as I mentioned earlier.  However, they’re still not where they need to be.  Here are a few things that would have made this experience even better for me:

  • First, Comcast needs to get rid of the need to have a Twitter account to get the service @comcastcares is giving people.  Sure, @comcastcares cares.  I love that team – I’m happy that at least those of us on Twitter have access.  But my Dad won’t join Comcast because he has had similar experiences and he is not on Twitter to get that level of service.
  • Second, I shouldn’t have to go to @comcastcares in the first place.  Local reps need to be given the authority and access that @comcastcares is given.  It’s not fair that I have to go through 2 steps every time I need good service from Comcast.  I should receive the service I need, from people that have access to it, on the first try.
  • Lastly, the local technicians need to trust the customers more. I’ve never had a local technician from Comcast come by that didn’t think they knew more than me (not that I know much, but that’s besides the point).  If I say this works just fine in Safari and we’re going to use Safari, work with me on that.  If I want to connect via my router because it will work just the same, work with me on that (or bring your own laptop to do the set up).  Believe it or not, there are customers who have been in their shoes before.

In all however, I had a great experience with Comcast.  They’re doing better.  They’re not all the way there, though, and hopefully this new direction is a sign of much better things, all across the board, to come for the company.  Thanks to Frank Eliason and the team there for pushing such a great program throughout the company!