Saturday, June 27, 2009

Comcast: AT&T vs. Comcast

About a week after Hurricane Ike I called both AT&T and Comcast to inform them that their lines going into my parents' house were physically down, having been taken out by a falling tree. The AT&T customer service rep (CSR) that I talked to was polite and helpful. I called on Saturday afternoon and an AT&T technician showed up at my parents' house bright and early, around 9 am, the next morning to hook them back up.

By way of contrast, Comcast had apparently configured their voice mail system to hang up on anyone trying to make tech support calls. After laboriously working my way through their voice mail system to the tech support only to be told to try again later and then be disconnected, I decided to try Comcast's online support instead since I already had internet access back at my apartment. After sitting in a Comcast chat room for 15-20 minutes a Comcast CSR finally showed up. She was rather rude and her attitude could be summed up with the phrase, "Why are you bothering me?" So I explained that I just wanted to make sure they knew they knew the lines to the house were down since I didn't know if their equipment could detect that or not and was told, and this is almost verbatim, "We'll get around to it when we get around to it."

Well it took Comcast about a month to get around to it and when they did get around to it the technician made a half-assed job of it. My parents repeatedly called Comcast to let them know there was a problem but the CSRs would just tell them to unplug their cable box, plug it back in, and wait 20-30 minutes and that would fix the problem. Even when told that my parents had already tried that and it didn't fix the problem, the CSRs would insist they do it again. It took another two months before Comcast finally decided that maybe resetting the cable box wasn't going to work and sent a technician out who then fixed the problem.

Add in the fact that every person I know that has Comcast has complained about the quality of their service and several have recently switched from Comcast to AT&T U-Verse and I was definitely leaning towards signing up with AT&T to get my internet access.

So armed with the knowledge of how much my parents already pay for Comcast cable I went down to an AT&T store to price their U-Verse service. I inquired about internet coupled with the second tier of their television service and it wasn't that much more than my parents are currently paying for Comcast's bottom tier. For more channels plus a free DVR plus internet I didn't see how Comcast could match the price but, to make my parents happy, I called Comcast anyway just to compare.

AT&T offered $10 off a month for the first 6 months plus $100 cash back, free installation, free cable modem, free wireless router, and a free adapter. Comcast offered $23 a month for internet for the first year then $43 month, I was told I could do the install myself or they could send a technician out for $50, I could supply my own cable modem or I could rent one from them for $3 per month, and they didn't supply routers and adapters so I would have to buy those from someone else.

The way it broke down, AT&T was cheaper for the first six months. Comcast was cheaper for the first year unless you had to buy networking gear, as I did, in which case AT&T was still cheaper for the first year. After than AT&T was about $7 more a month but for that $7 I would be getting more channels and a free DVR so I was all set to go with AT&T.

It was at this point that I discovered that my parents have reached an age at which they don't handle change well. Since just the idea of switching them from Comcast to AT&T was clearly causing them a lot of distress and remembering how much trouble they had learning to operate the Comcast remote and navigate the Comcast menus, I decided that it would be best to stay with Comcast despite AT&T being the better deal.

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