Hooked into the Matrix again!

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I’m baaack.

Well, thanks to free WiFi at Panera’s, I was never really truly away. Thanks to Comcast, I was away longer than usual. In any case, although between waiting for Internet access, running errands, and doing some snowblowing last night, I didn’t have time to do the usual epic substantive posts that I’m known (and either loved or hated) for. That’s unfortunate, because it figures that when I go three or four days without any Internet access other than that I can manage to find by having lunch or getting coffee at a place with free WiFi, lots of things that I would have liked to have blog about pop up. I’ll try to get to some of them over the next few days, but I can’t forget that I have to find something for Your Friday Dose of Woo in two days, and–egads!–the Skeptics’ Circle is due to land at Bug Girl’s Blog. (You have submitted something to her, haven’t you?)

In the meantime, while you’re anxiously waiting for the spigot of Respectfully (and not-so-Respectfully) Insolent verbiage about medicine, “alternative” medicine, and skepticism to be turned back on for real later today or tomorrow morning, I’ll give you a brief update. I’ve changed my opinion of Comcast somewhat. Basically, I’ve downgraded my hatred to sort of neutral “wait and see” attitude. Here’s why.

After the debacle of Monday, described in my rant composed right afterward and posted at Panera’s that afternoon, I tried to get through to a real human being at Comcast to bitch about the utter lameness of the installers. As you may recall, the excuse for not doing my cable, Internet, and telephone hookup was that they were “out of remotes.” Now, it was obvious that these guys were not the sharpest knives in the drawer, the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree, or whatever other metaphor for stupid you want to use, because when I told them I was going to call Comcast to complain they shrugged their shoulders and said that I should go ahead.

Frustrated with the phone experience, I decided to try the online feedback link on the Comcast website. I sent an e-mail complaint, and, believe it or not, someone got back to me within a couple of hours. Sadly, I was not aware of this until much later–mainly because I still had no Internet access. However, the e-mail stated that they’d reduce my installation charge (whoopee!) and looked for my feedback.

However, action did seem to occur. At 9:30 AM sharp (the window promised us was 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM), a Comcast truck pulled up to our house. Unlike the previous two clowns who came to my house (whom I dubbed “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumber), this installer was professional and gave the air of knowing what he was doing in exactly the opposite of the way that Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumber did not. He was also considerate, putting on shoe covers as he came into the house and taking them off before leaving. After he ran a cable to the house, he was soon joined by another installer in another Comcast truck. The two went to work. Because the house had not been wired for Comcast before, it was a fresh installation. It took them a couple of hours to get the job done, but when it was done we had cable TV, Internet, and telephone. So far so good.

Out of curiosity, I asked the guy about the installers from the previous day and their excuse that they had run out of remote controls. He looked at me with a look as though I had lost my mind, shook his head, and said incredulously, “They told you what?” He then went on to explain to me that those installers didn’t work for Comcast but rather were independent contractors, complaining that he was tired of cleaning up their messes, as they had pulled crap like this before. Indeed, he told me that they had recently bailed on a job for one customer, who could not be home again for two weeks to have an installation done. He even asked for a copy of the work order that I had had to sign to reschedule my installation.

Finally, last night, I was trying to get my Airport Extreme wireless router to work with the Comcast cable modem. It was driving me crazy; I couldn’t get it to work. For some reason, the Airport just couldn’t get an IP address via DHCP, even though my computer managed to do it just fine when I ran the Ethernet cable straight to it. (The time wasted doing this is another reason why the insolent verbiage about substantive topics hasn’t flowed today.) After some fruitless searching of the web and the Comcast site, reluctantly and with great dread, I decided to give tech support a call. Shockingly, it didn’t take too long to get through to a human being. (Word to Comcast and every other company that uses them, though: I really, really, really hate those electronic voices that ask you to say answers to questions into the phone and then navigate through various menu options; I hate them with a cold, vicious passion, and they’re guaranteed to put me in a truly horrible mood before I finally do get a human being on the line. I’m sure I’m not alone, and that can’t be good for the morale of your employees.)

In any case, the woman on the other end was cheery (borderline too cheery). She did, however, rapidly take me through the reset procedure for the modem, and soon the Airport router was working fine. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised after all the annoyances before.

Then, when I finally got around to catching up on my e-mail last night, what should I find in my mailbox but an e-mail (to Orac) from a Comcast employee named Mark Casem (I don’t know what his level is), who had seen my blog post and wanted to contact me. I don’t know if this means Casem is a fan of the blog (unlikely) or as part of his job does Technorati and Google blog searches looking for negative mentions of Comcast by bloggers. Either way, I’ll respond (with a link to this post, of course!) and see what comes of it.

Overall, I guess Comcast has mostly redeemed itself. Although a bit more in the way of cash off of the installation fee and/or perhaps a couple of free months would have been nice, at least the company got someone out immediately the next day to fix the problem, and its tech support was decent in tests (N=1). I have to wonder if it’s because there is another option in my area that I had briefly looked at and in fact had wondered if I had made a mistake in not choosing. Indeed, Monday night, so steamed was I at the utter lameness of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumber, I called this other option to see if I could arrange for installation of a similar combination of services. The company was more than happy to get me hooked up within a day or two. True, it did not offer the six month “teaser” low price that Comcast did, but otherwise the prices were similar for similar packages, and there was no installation fee. The problem was, it would have necessitated a different phone number, and my wife and I had already given out the phone number that Comcast was going to give us to a number of important people (like at our jobs). The other problem was that, due to some FCC regulation, we couldn’t have that phone number for a week. We had already been without a phone for a while, and another week would have been bad. So, although I came this close to telling Comcast to take a hike, in the end, I gave it another chance.

Of course, if Comcast turns out to be as bad as many of the comments in my previous post suggest, it is reassuring to know that I do have another choice. Believe me, if six or twelve months from now I’m unhappy with Comcast as I was on Monday, I will switch. Competition is a wonderful thing; it’s only unfortunate that for cable TV there are only two choices in my neck of the woods. On the other hand, I’m fortunate that there are even two; in most places, there’s just one monopoly chosen by the local government.