Customer service from a monopoly

Comcast has a monopoly on really high-speed internet where I live (in Mountain View, CA). And it shows. About a month ago, my internet connection at home started being quite flaky. So I tried all the normal things: turning everything off, turning everything on, sighing loudly, and, finally, calling Comcast.

The first Comcast employee I talked to sounded really excited to help me.
"Oh, well we should be able to help you with that. Is your modem connected to a router by chance?"
"Yes, it is."
"Well I'll transfer you over to XFINITY customer support. They specialize in trouble-shooting routers."
Well it turns out that XFINITY customer support costs money. So after being transferred, I just had to say, "No, I do not want to pay you money", hang up and call again.

The second person I talked to managed to make it sound plausible that the problem had to be either in my router or my modem. After eliminating the router hypothesis (by connecting my computer directly to the modem), she told me that Comcast could just send me another modem. The problem is, I don't rent my modem from Comcast. So I hung up the phone and ordered a new modem.

A few packet-loss-filled, excruciating days later, the new modem arrives. I hopefully plugged it in, only to disprove Comcast's second of two hypotheses. So I call Comcast again. After all these calls I was on hold for so long that I actually went over my cell phone plan's monthly allotment of calling time. This time I have the courage that only scientific experimentation or religious fanaticism can bring, and I refused to get off the phone until the Comcast employee scheduled a technician to come to my apartment. Perhaps he did not hear the conviction in my voice, because before he would make the appointment, he said,
"If Comcast determines that is with your equipment, you will be charged for the technician's visit. Do you still want me to make the appointment?"

So the technician comes, says he fixes stuff, and leaves.
Later that day, my connection is still flaky. As my frustration grows, I call Comcast again. Every single time I called them, I was told that they "are experiencing a higher than normal volume of calls." Once I get through to another Comcast employee, I have to exert myself to not yell when he tells me "You're modem looks like it's connected from our end. Maybe there's something wrong on your end." I explain to him that I'm seeing packet loss. So he tries a little packet loss test from his end, and, what do you know? He sees that there's a problem!

So he schedules a second technician's visit. The technician comes, says he fixes some stuff, and leaves. This time, he actually fixed stuff. Yay! Now I can blog about how much Comcast sucks.

Here's the best part of this whole story: I just checked my bill, and Comcast is charging me for both technician visits.

So some signs that Comcast is a monopoly:

  1. When I call to ask for help, so that I can make use of the service that I am already paying for, they try to charge me money just to talk to someone.
  2. They obviously have the technology to detect this problem themselves. My last phone conversation proved that. And yet they wait for me to call and complain.
  3. They charge me more money for sending technicians to maintain the service that I am already paying for.

I don't think Comcast is run by immoral people. They just have very little incentive to treat me well, so they don't. Even after all this, I'll probably stick with them. But if they actually make me pay for those technician's visits, I might go back to the slow-poke DSL, or even try using a mobile wireless service at home. Or move to Kansas City.