Most people might not care about this story, but with numerous instances floating around the internet nowadays where people have had horrific experiences dealing with Comcast, I thought I’d let people know about my terrible experience dealing with a cable company recently.
About two weeks ago I changed apartments. When I moved I was told by the people working in the office that they only offered Charter Communications for internet. While slightly annoyed that I couldn’t keep my AT&T U-verse internet, I know how apartments typically work. Usually they’re tied in with contracts with a certain company, in this instance Charter Communications, and that’s about the only option residents living in that complex have.
Well, upon being approved for the apartment I quickly called Charter to get my services setup. I got ahold of a representative who informed me that I would be getting 60 Mbps download speeds with my internet service.
I was pretty happy. That was faster than what I had with AT&T and the representative I dealt with was very nice.
But being how I am, and not exactly trusting that I would be able to “definitely” get Directv service as the leasing agents told me I could upon applying for the apartment (I’ve dealt with line of sight issues before) I decided to add a television package to my order with Charter just in case Directv didn’t workout. It was the typical HD DVR, sports channels, how many HD channels would I get kind of thing. And they also informed me of the “good news” that they offer free HD. More on that later.
Once again, being how I am with these things, I called back at least twice before my scheduled appointment with Charter to verify my appointment time and what packages I was going to be getting.
But it was the call two days before my scheduled installation when things began to unravel. I was informed by the third person I spoke with that I wasn’t actually going to be getting 60 Mbps, but 30. Though they did inform me that I would be upgraded by the end of the year “at no extra charge.” Okay, no big deal. Even 30 Mbps is more than what I need for internet service. Though I was a little annoyed that I was mislead.
Well, my worries about Directv were confirmed, and the tech wasn’t able to get a good line of sight. So it looked like I was going to have to stick with Charter for both internet and television.
So the next morning the installer for Charter came out to hook up both services. Upon installing those services he informed me that while they had me setup for HD DVR and over 100 HD channels – they don’t actually offer them in my area. I actually started laughing because I thought he was joking. I don’t live “out in the boonies.” I live in a decently sized suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. But he was dead serious and informed me that it’s not at all uncommon for Charter sales reps to lie to people about the services they would be getting. In fact, he informed me that he’s been set up for installations at addresses that Charter doesn’t even provide services. But that didn’t stop their sales reps from selling those services to those homes.
Oh, and he also informed me that my internet wasn’t actually 30 Mbps, but 15.
Not only that, but take a look at the condition of the cable box he brought to install in my apartment:
Ignoring for a moment the horrible condition of this equipment, and the fact that the box itself measures about a foot and a half wide and about 13 inches deep (it’s massive), it looked like a cable box I had been given when I had cable services in 2005. To call this box “out of date” doesn’t even do it justice.
Upon learning that I couldn’t get HD channels I quickly called Charter Communications back, and that’s when I was finally told that I wouldn’t be offered HD programming. It was at that point when I informed the sales rep that my bill would clearly need to be adjusted because I was setup for HD, except it’s not offered in my area.
And this is where their “free HD” scam comes in. Because they don’t “technically” charge for HD, the pricing they quote customers is the same whether or not they offer HD services. So the reality is, HD isn’t “free.” There are just a lot of Charter customers paying much higher prices for SD (the old standard definition) services. While those who get “free HD” are essentially subsidized by those customers not getting HD.
In other words, Charter has literally no reason to spend money on upgrades in areas where it has a monopoly. They’re not “losing” money with customers who are forced to deal with SD-only setups – because they’re paying the same amount as customers in HD-available locations.
But it gets worse. It only took me one night to realize that my internet speed that had gone from 60, to 30 to eventually 15 was actually around 2-3 Mbps during “peak hours” (from about 6pm till around midnight).
Before I even called a tech I checked the website, put in my address and the website itself states clearly “up to 30 Mbps.” Now I know cable companies use these “up to” loopholes to promise speeds you’ll almost never get, but in 2 weeks I have never seen a download speed of 30. The highest I’ve seen is 21 Mbps with an average non-peak speed of around 13-15 Mbps. Though once 6pm rolls around those speeds drastically drop as people get home from work.
The first time I called a tech, the woman on the other end tried to tell me that maybe my Wifi router was responsible for the higher speeds I saw during non-peak times. Now I’m not a tech genius by any means, but I do know a router has nothing to do with the actual speeds the cable company is providing. A router can’t “give me” 20 Mbps speeds when the network is only able to provide 2. I quickly informed her that I wanted to talk to someone else because she didn’t seem to understand what she was talking about. It was at that point she laughed at me, put me on hold – and after 10 minutes of waiting nobody ever picked up on the other end.
Mind you, this all happened within the first 12 hours of having Charter services.
Well after finally getting a tech to switch out my modem, corresponding with that local tech after my speeds continued to be horrific after 6 pm, and after he got with his supervisor to monitor traffic in my area, they determined what I knew all along: The equipment running services to my area wasn’t able to handle the demand being put on it. In other words, Charter was once again selling services to customers that it could not provide.
I’ve since called tech support twice to inform them of this issue to which I’ve been told “they’ll look into getting it fixed.” But like the local tech told me when he switched out my modem, they won’t do anything. They’ll tell me they’ll look into fixing the situation, but they won’t do anything about it.
But this is why mergers like the proposed Comcast/Time Warner merger can’t happen. Because these cable companies don’t care at all about the service they provide customers. Especially when they have a monopoly over an area – which many of them do.
Because the situation I’m in right now is a lose-lose for people like me. If I want internet, I have to deal with Charter Communications because I don’t have any other options. And knowing that most people can’t do without the internet, what motivation does Charter have to provide my particular area with quality customer service when it knows our only “options” are to go without internet or deal with their lousy service?
And I know millions of Americans are stuck in the same situation. They either go without something they might need (like the internet) or deal with horrific customer service and products, often at premium prices.
Which exactly what I’m having to do.