Editor’s Notes

Pub date January 2, 2007
WriterTim Redmond

› tredmond@sfbg.com

Every time I have a problem with my cable TV service, I’m reminded how much I hate Comcast and why the city ought to be running its own municipal cable system.

The latest saga: a couple days ago, late in the afternoon, I was hanging out with my kids, and I noticed that we’d lost the signal on the TV. Yes, I am a terrible parent — the kids don’t need to watch TV at all, certainly not in the afternoon on a weekday. But I wanted to watch a football game (which doesn’t count against the ban on weekday TV), and Vivian, who is 4, wanted to watch the cheerleaders, which is my own personal nightmare, but what can I do? The damn tube didn’t work. I called Comcast.

A service tech told me that someone needed to come out to the house and look at the connection and set up an appointment for the next day, between 4 and 8 p.m. I hate these four-hour service windows, and the repair people are badly overworked and always late, but whatever: I rearranged my entire afternoon and evening schedule and sat at home waiting for the knock on the door. It never came.

Around 7 p.m. it occurred to me to call and see what was up. A computerized voice told me there was no scheduled service appointment at my address. Three times I tried to connect to a human being; three times I heard "please wait" over and over before the line disconnected.

I finally got through to someone by choosing sales instead of service (they always come to the phone to sell you stuff), and a nice sales staffer promised to route me to a service rep. Ten minutes later the line went dead again.

Hanging up on customers is not good, and blowing off a repair call without so much as a phone call when someone is sitting at home for four hours waiting is pretty lame. I don’t give up easy, so I went to Comcast.com and found a way to get a live chat with a tech (it’s not easy to find, but it’s there). Someone named Jennifer came on, accessed my cable box remotely, and — after 30 minutes of back-and-forth — told me it was broken and that I should go get a new one. No shit. Thanks, Jen.

Even in this world of high-end broadband, live chat on the Internet is slow and clunky. Jennifer and I spent half an hour accomplishing what would have taken about 45 seconds on the phone. Why couldn’t I speak to a live human being? Why won’t anyone at Comcast answer the phone?

Comcast spokesperson Andrew Johnson told me that the storm and power outages had messed up Comcast’s call centers, which is understandable. But this isn’t the first time this has happened to me (or, judging from the sorts of calls I get, to many of you).

Meanwhile, I really look forward to dealing with EarthLink and Google over wi-fi problems (see "Free Wi-Fi — for Everyone," this page).

We don’t have to put up with this shit. Cable and broadband are rapidly merging, and they’re part of the city’s basic infrastructure. San Francisco can run its own system, make enough money to pay for the operations many times over, cut rates — and be a whole lot more accountable when things go wrong.

What are we waiting for? *