• Comcast


    The Vices of Victory

    Comcast is one of the premiere internet providers in the nation, sporting fifty years of experience and a dogged pursuit of relevance in a competitive marketplace where only half a dozen brands have truly penetrated the market nationwide. Founded in 1963 by Ralph Roberts, Comcast began its career as a basic provider for phone and television service. As the market evolved, so did the company, and the Comcast of today stands in stark contrast with the pursuits of its early beginnings as it plunges headfirst into the fast paced online market introduced by pioneering companies – and competitors – like Netflix and YouTube.

    Originally known as the ‘American Cable Systems’, the company found its namesake several years later as a compromise between ‘communication’ and ‘broadcast’. In the middle years of the company’s success, they premiered a variety network show for subscribers called the Comcast Network, which offered a range of exclusive news, weather and entertainment content aimed at personalizing their service brand. Comcast did not take its first step into the online world until the late 90s, and by that time the world wide web was already taking its own ‘first steps’ towards a new and adventurous market for service providers to utilize in the future.

    In 2010 Comcast was serving twenty two million cable customers and nearly seventeen million cable internet users, and the company soon combined those two services with Comcast Xfinity, an online service from Comcast that intends to target the Netflix market by offering their on version of free streaming television and movies for their subscribers. This service currently covers a broad range of cable channels like HBO, Showtime and FX, as well as network channels like ABC, FOX and NBC (the latter of which was eventually purchased by Comcast and absorbed into the company’s arsenal of entertainment). The service works in cooperation with Hulu, offering a variety of content that used to be exclusive to Hulu, with friendly and cooperative links between the two websites in order to foster a mutual sharing experience for their consumers. What once began as a small cable provider has expanded into the four corners of an expansive market searching for innovative ways to dominate newfound frontiers of entertainment.

    As of 2012, the company provides for an estimated 18,582 million Comcast internet users with six different internet plans targeting internet users of every price range and speed, in addition to offering several specialized and high-priced services for internet aficionados. But while Comcast internet is a nationwide provider of cable internet, some of its plans are losing their availability in certain back east regions like Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New Jersey, and problems have also been reported in the performance and speeds of Comcast internet, which often fail to match their quoted potential unless they are in a convenience and specific location that can utilize the full extent of Comcast’s cable internet.

    Comcast provides their high speed internet service for a fixed rate, while customers with modern needs will be interested in saving money with Comcast’s bundle offers, which abbreviate the costs of individual services with the singular cost of a packaged service. Their lowest high speed internet plan, Economy Plus, offers download speeds of 3.5 megabytes a second with upload speeds of 768 kilobytes a second. The Performance Starter and Performance high speed internet plans double the download speeds of their predecessors while also updating the upload speeds to nearly fifteen megabytes a second. Their higher level plans, Blast!, Extreme 50/105 and Extreme 305, ‘jack up’ the power of their standard plans to offer speeds as high as 305 megabytes a second, but comes with an exclusive price tag of nearly three hundred dollars.

    Interested Comcast internet users should verse themselves with Comcast’s unique and controversial policy against users who take up excessive amounts of bandwidth. Although similar policies are now being introduced by other internet providers, prospective users should be aware that Comcast can cap the speed of your service should you exceed over two hundred and fifty gigabytes a month.

    But bandwidth caps are becoming a popular solution for internet providers whose speeds are being diminished by a small group of excessive users, and are by no means indicative of the company’s commitment to the customer. In addition to their Business class services, Comcast’s ‘Internet Essentials’ program provides for customers whose income level qualifies their children for discounted school lunches, allowing discounted house-wide internet service to suit lower income families. Comcast’s internet service offers several such incentives exclusive to its brand and customer pool, including dynamic IP addresses and a ‘PowerBoost’ delivery system designed to allow users excessive speeds at the start of their downloads. Comcast’s Xfinity service is offered with several bundled packages, while Xfinity itself comes with compatible phone provisions for access on mobile devices. Comcast’s ‘Constant Guard’ internet security system is a direct competitor of antivirus security services like McAfee, and come prepackaged with the Norton Security Suite and Identity Guard.

    Comcast offers a standard variety of ways their customers can get in touch with them, including toll free phone numbers, instant online chats, and email, but many studies into Comcast customer satisfaction levels have produced ‘substandard’ results. The American Customer Satisfaction Index conducted two studies which concluded that Comcast received not only the worst customer satisfaction rates of any cable provider – but the worst rates of any company or agency in the entire country. Although this unflattering distinction was made by a slim margin – the ACSI noted in their study that about half of any cable customer files complaints with their provider, Comcast’s customer service quickly took on a negative reputation all its own. According to the ASCI, the dissatisfaction level among their customers has actually increased since their preliminary studies, despite Comcast’s growth as a company. The American Customer Satisfaction Index suggested that much of Comcast’s current popularity rests on their relative monopoly of their industry, as Comcast has been one of the top internet service providers for over a decade.

    This ‘customer service controversy’ was only exacerbated by some bad filing and fact-checking that occurred after Hurricane Ike, when numerous Houston, Texas residents were billed by Comcast for services and devices that were destroyed by the hurricane. One of the affected customers reported two separate charges of nearly a thousand dollars for unreturned devices and unpaid service use.

    Comcast’s relationships with their customers have always been tentative at best, and adversarial at worst. Recent ‘peer-to-peer’ and torrent controversies in the online world prompted Comcast to implement certain measures that would block users who were trying to utilize such networks, which only continued in souring their relationship with much of their customer base. Much of the customer complaints set against Comcast are similar to the complaints against other cable provider – customers are unhappy with the unavoidable dips and surges in bills, prices and internet speeds. Comcast has a uniquely controversial relationship with the wants and needs of its customers that has resulted in several implementations which actually hurt the needs of their customers, if not the customers themselves. In addition to their crackdown on peer to peer services, Comcast has been accused of misrepresenting the quality of their HDTV service, engaging in extensive lobbying efforts in order to ensure their continued supremacy by stifling investments, innovations and intrusions by their competitors, and even going so far as to begin charging certain Business class customers for using the Netflix streaming service on their network.