Edited to add that they did get here by 2:30 and had it up and running by 4:30. They stayed until they were sure that it was working, and went the extra mile to check connections outside the house and on the pole. Not that the pole is a mile from my house. I’m speaking figuratively. So this is why I’m never tempted to leave them. As much as we bicker, they usually work out any problems we have along the way. Funnily enough one of the installers was a trainee and when I brought up the bandwidth cap he said that they talked about it a lot in training class. It’s pretty much understood that most homes will exceed it in 5 years once they step up to the tech level we’re using and have more than 3 devices connected to the modem. The other, seasoned, installer said that when they first launched the cap there were no problems but now that more and more people use netflix and smart tv services like YouTube and Pandora they’ve had a lot of customers regularly exceeding. So they know it’s a problem.
I’ve been pretty happy with Comcast for, oh, like 15 years now. I’ve never been one of those who wants to switch to AT&T or Dish Network or whoever the trendy Other Woman is.
Until recently, that is.
See, Comcast is my Internet provider. About a year ago they announced a new “service” whereby they would monitor all their customer’s web usage, and kindly let us all know if we were approaching the cap they installed. When I spoke to a chatty dude in their sales department last year he told me that this was just something they were doing to crack down on pirates who downloaded illegal movies and music over torrents. Good, fine upstanding people like me didn’t have anything to worry about.
Except…not quite. Fine upstanding people like me watch a lot of Netflix, hang out on Facebook, have husbands who use VPN to access the home computer remotely, rent a lot of movies through Amazon On Demand and Cinema Now and iTunes, download a ton of podcasts and ebooks through Amazon and have a fairly forward-looking digital lifestyle. We are the customer of the 21st Century. And we are constantly hovering around the upper limit.
The thing is, unlike your cell phone company or your water company or gas or electric or any other utility, Comcast does not give you the option to pay more for using more. Instead they have a “three strikes and you’re out” policy. If you go over the cap more than three times in a one year period, they will terminate your service. So every month we hold our breath, checking the usage rate every day. I’ve watched tv shows and movies that we have on DVD about a million times, since we’re locked out of Netflix, and I’ve curtailed FB, blogging and any other thing that involves using Comcast’s bandwidth.
It’s sort of like saving for years to buy a speedboat and then having to row it everywhere because gas is rationed. Except that gas is actually NOT an unlimited, renewable, expandable resourse–unlike bandwidth. So I can more readily understand gas rationing. Arbitrary bandwidth rations are designed to keep customers from using Comcast’s facilities for competitors like Netflix and Amazon UnBox and iTunes. It’s a huge conflict of interest–they sell the bandwidth and they sell content. They’d rather not sell you extra bandwidth, and instead sell you OnDemand programming, which is a higher-profile, higher draw for them. Unfortunately, their shortsightedness means that OnDemand is nowhere near as reliable as those other service providers. We had to stop using Comcast for our video rentals when EVERY movie froze at some random point midway through. The “rent video, watch video, have video freeze, sit on hold with Comcast for 12 minutes until they ultimately tell you they can’t fix it and will refund the charge” cycle ruined more Saturday nights than a nine o’clock curfew.
So what’s a person to do? After a year of sending complaining letters, we finally got a call from Comcast saying that we could upgrade to Business Internet, which has a higher (no?) cap.* And so we paid for some dude to come out and switch the modem. That was a week ago. And we haven’t had decent internet service since, because the business modems have a built-in router that doesn’t allow for new ports to be opened because they disrupt the firewall. So our internet access works in spurts. And you can only have one thing connected at a time. So some guy is coming “between 8am and 7pm today” to give us our old modem back. We’ll still have the business account, though, so hopefully I can go back to watching Upstairs Downstairs via Netflix.** Until then I’m hanging around on a very thin thread, holding off on my meds so that I can be available whenever dude decides to come by.
*We found this out after a series of phone calls. During one phone call the Customer Service Rep said she’d have someone from business sales email my husband the information. She then asked for his email address. Yes. You read that right. Our internet service provider asked for our email address. When she was calling us in response to an email. From the email address on our Comcast account.
** If OnDemand REALLY wants to compete against Netflix, they’ve got to majorly expand their offerings. Right now, OnDemand is super big on showing the most recent four or six episodes of a show. But Netflix will offer every episode up to the current season so if there’s something you want to catch up with (Sons of Anarchy, Downton Abbey, Gossip Girl, Parenthood, Parks and Recreation, The IT Crowd) you have to do it on Netflix Streaming. Content-wise, I’d say that OnDemand has about 30% of what I’m looking for, whereas Netflix wavers between 60 and 85%. OnDemand seems mostly geared to those folks whose DVR didn’t record last week’s Ghost Hunters.