Comcast Is Like Sweet Heroin

And I'm back on the junk.

Up until a few weeks ago, I’d been a “cutter.” Irked over some Comcast pricing shenanigans about a year ago, I decided to go cold turkey and sever all ties with the cable and Internet behemoth. The last straw was when they up and decided—after an “internal audit”—that I “should be paying more for Internet service” and jacked my bill up accordingly. Their audit also turned up that I hadn’t been paying “enough” the previous month either (though no problem with the many months prior?), so they billed me retroactively, which is to say they asked me to pay again for cable I’d already watched.

After hearing that whopper explained by a customer “service” rep, I slammed down the phone pressed “end call” as loudly as I could, disconnected my modem and marched it down to Columbus Boulevard.

I’d already switched to television via digital antenna after Comcast responded to my request for fewer channels—an attempt at personal betterment through watching less crap—by offering me, like a drug dealer might, even more channels … for free! I got major network programming—except when a helicopter or airplane was flying overhead (which happens more frequency than you realize in South Philly).

So I just needed a way to access the Internet.

I signed up for a new Internet carrier that had been flooding the market around the time with an adorable advertising campaign. For a while, it all worked great okay. And when my service wasn’t working, my neighbor’s open network was reliable enough.

Then one day a month or so ago, my neighbor’s open network vanished. And I had a piece due the next morning. And my own service suddenly went from okay to glacial.

I jury-rigged a 4G connection by tethering my cell phone to my computer to get the assignment filed (an aside: when will we be able to pay for the Internet just once?), but something had to be done.

I found myself pondering the heretofore unthinkable: hitting the sweet, sweet high-speed pipeline of Comcast (or Xfinity or whatever) Internet.

The logistical gymnastics I performed would make Dominique Dawes blush:

  • “Sure, Comcast kinda dicked me around on the bill, but the actual Internet was reliable and always incredibly fast,” I recalled. “And Brian, you need, dare I say deserve, incredibly fast Internet.”
  • “I’ll pay as much as I’m paying now, but get like 10 times the speed,” I reasoned. “Which I really need to fully enjoy streaming movies and TV shows that will continue to replace cable television in my life.”
  • And the coup de grace: “Buying Internet from Comcast, when it comes down to it, is buying local, and I am nothing if not a proponent of sustainable local economies,” I thought, almost choking on the logic.

So I went online (still via that tethered cell phone) and scheduled a Comast installation. And for just $30 a month for the first I-don’t-even-remember-how-many months, I’m getting unlimited quicksilver Internet; upon installation it felt, I shit you not, like how people describe their first hit of heroin: warm, calming, like kissing god.

Of course, I don’t remember how many months that introductory Internet period is, because they dangled television for just $10 per month more—for a full year. And, after having wasted way too much time futzing with rabbit ears, missing too many helicopter-scrambled punchlines on House, and suffering through way too many bad-reception PHL-17 Phillies games, I bit. Better yet, it’s a barebones package, which is what I’d wanted all along.

So here I am, back for another hit. And to be honest, so far my experience with Comcast has been, and it feels very weird to say this, pleasant. Beyond a little hitch in the install program, and the annoying way the install program plops a bunch of bookmarks I’ll never use on my desktop and in all my browsers, everything and everyone I’ve dealt with has been at least competent if not great. Is it possible Comcast is getting better at customer service as it becomes a bigger fixure in the global entertainment market? I guess I’ll see if/when I have to make one of those regular “if you can’t lower my rate I’ll have to cancel my service” phone calls that have always been part and parcel of Comcast customerhood—partly because it’s always been difficult to get a straight answer about how much anything costs and partly because no two Comcast customers seem to pay the same rate for anything.

But I’m willing to hope for the best. And this might be the first time since my very first cable hook-up back in the mid-’90s that I’ve had that disposition with regard to Comcast. It’s disconcerting. I almost feel like it could work this time. Which I know is addict talk. But you never know.