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I have a beef with Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) -- and I swear it will boil over into an investable point.
The country's largest cable company is in the process of rolling out its Xfinity platform, and that's bad news for folks like me, perfectly complacent with my one digital set-top box and the countless other TVs around my home plugged in directly to coaxial cables at no additional cost. By early January, all of my televisions need to be hooked up to digital adapters or risk only accessing a handful of local broadcast channels.
There's a monthly charge for every set after the first three, so Comcast stands to rake in a little more money out of larger family homes.
I finally received my box of digital adapters last week, but they unfortunately don't work on newer TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) boxes. I need a CableCARD for that, and Comcast doesn't trust me with a self-install. We set up a technician appointment for yesterday, between 2 and 5 p.m.
Consumerist.com readers voted Comcast this year's Worst Company in America, so you can probably imagine that I was in for an afternoon of disappointment yesterday. If so, then you won't be disappointed.
- A technician shows up at 2:30 p.m., but he's a contractor. He's not allowed to install CableCARDs. He doesn't know why he was sent. I don't know why he didn't read his paperwork.
- I call Comcast. A handful of minutes later, dispatch confirms that another technician will be here in the scheduled time.
- Comcast calls me at 4:15. It's going to be closer to 6. I ask her about the $20 account credit guaranteed when technicians miss their appointment windows. She then informs me that I won't be serviced at all today, because the warehouse where the technician needs to pick up the CableCARD closes at 4.
- Blown away, I get passed on to a supervisor. He apologizes. A technician will come over, but closer to 7.
- I call Comcast at 8. The rep has no idea why a technician hasn't come over, but a dispatcher will call me within 40 minutes.
- I call Comcast at 9:15, since I didn't hear from dispatch. The rep will put in another request, offers me six free months of Showtime, and tells me that she will process the $20 account credit in case others forget.
- A dispatcher finally calls me back. Today!
I've been with Comcast a long time, and I think the cable provider has come through with only a few of the dozen credits that I've been promised. It's just a rep's way to silence a customer it seems, hoping that they'll forget about it when the bill ultimately arrives. I know that I usually do.
I have to compare this to Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) . It has had streaming disruptions lately. Unlike my fellow Fool Seth Jayson, I haven't had any problems streaming through Netflix, yet I -- like every streaming customer it seems -- received an apologetic email twice over the past month. A 2% credit was offered each time, and a single link click sets it in motion. It will cost Netflix money, but it's better than Comcast quietly breeding a nation of resentful cord-cutting couch potatoes.
It doesn't surprise me to see that Comcast has 822,000 fewer video subscribers than it watched over a year ago. Cable television lends itself to disappointment, and service is universally rotten. Smaller rivals Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC ) and Cablevision (NYSE: CVC ) also lost net subscribers in their latest quarters.
The defections will continue -- and the whole Xfinity push may be the mother of all wake-up calls to those who were already fed up with the already lofty cable bills.
HDTV antennas are a cheap way to receive over-the-air broadcasts from local networks, with Netflix and a now cheaper Hulu Plus to fill in the programming gaps.
Then again, GE's (NYSE: GE ) NBC Universal is one of the Hulu Plus backers. Who knows what Comcast will do to foil those plans once it assumes ownership of NBC Universal?
Consumerist was right about Comcast.
Is Comcast the worst company in America, or do you have a better nomination for 2011? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.