Tag Archives: Comcast

Comcast Attempts to Stay Relevant Now While Planning For the Future

Comcast Stream image

Comcast recently responded to the growth of over the top (OTT) streaming video services by launching its own version. While not an outright OTT, the idea behind Comcast’s Stream is to provide a narrow collection of channels that will appeal to a younger demographic. Seeing as the system developed out of an earlier program designed specifically for college students, it is not surprising that Comcast hopes those same viewers will purchase Stream as they begin living on their own. Ultimately, according to a spokesman for the company, Comcast believes that once these consumers achieve higher income levels, they will upgrade to a full cable package.

Although Stream has seen some growth since its release earlier this summer, industry analysts question whether or not the service launched too early. In particular, they have pointed out that it does not provide the same flexibility as a real OTT, since it requires the user to already be a Comcast internet customer, and it can only broadcast live shows on the home wireless network of the consumer. In order to access live television programs remotely, say on a tablet while traveling, the broadcast network needs to have its own mobile app through which the Stream subscriber can authenticate. The ability to watch live shows via Stream while away from the home network should be available by early 2016, around the same time that the service will have expanded to a national audience. Currently, only Comcast internet customers in Chicago and Boston have the option to purchase the service.

Looking toward the future, Comcast is working to make its larger channel packages even more appealing. Part of the positive forecast is reflected in the announcement of a new deal with Discovery Communications, the group responsible for producing the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and TLC, that will extend into the 2020s. Additionally, Comcast is in contract discussions with companies, including Business Insider and Vice Media, to produce original programming for the cable company. In the eyes of the media conglomerate, original content can’t appear soon enough, as Comcast lost almost 70,000 cable television subscribers during the first six months of 2015.

In another realization of the changing nature of their business plan, Comcast has announced that it is beginning the testing phase of a new modem model known as the DOCSIS 3.1 The testing of this modem parallels the company’s announcement that it will be offering a fiber internet service with speeds of 2 Gbps. The potential expansion of fiber with the DOCSIS 3.1 is extensive, as it could allow speeds to eventually reach 10 Gbps, although that remains a distant reality at this point in time.

Comcast Customer Service Is Still A Work in Progress

Comcast Service Truck

For years, Comcast has been hounded by complaints about under-performing TV and internet service and almost non-existent customer support staff. In an effort to reverse course, the telecom behemoth announced earlier this year that they were promoting a new VP for customer experience. When Charlie Herrin took over this role he admitted that it would be a long undertaking and that results would not be instantaneous. He certainly has his work cut out for him, especially after embarrassing incidents in 2014 included a customer service representative berating someone attempting to close his account and a frustrated user being charged $1,000 after canceling his inconsistent service. The first part of 2015 hasn’t been any better, as Comcast held the top position in the annual Customer Service Hall of Shame rankings.

Herrin’s first step toward addressing the customer service issues was by making the initial interaction for new Comcast customers as pleasant as possible. This meant narrowing appointment windows for when the cable guy would arrive to set up the service. To help this process run smoothly, the company launched an app that allows customers to track the location of the cable man in real time. This way, there’s no need to put off that quick trip to the store to fill a prescription, whereas before, customers were left sitting around for six hours, never sure if they could run a quick errand for fear that they would miss the installation provider and have to make a new appointment. Despite these improvements in being able to track service technicians, Comcast isn’t stopping there. They are also instituting a new program where a customer receives a $20 credit if a technician arrives late to a scheduled appointment.

The next part of Comcast’s plan is to improve the quality of customer service providers, both over the phone and at their stores. An essential component to this transformation is hiring an additional 5,500 representatives to lessen wait times. Each of these new employees will undergo increased technical training, as well as workshops designed to improve their interpersonal communication skills. We all know that these skills will be put to the test, so we commend Comcast for recognizing that what they have been providing their employees in terms of communication and anger management techniques has not been enough.

The last part of the customer service turnaround involves physical store locations. In addition to more capable individuals running the places, Comcast is working to make it easier for customers to exchange cable boxes, pay their bills, and receive additional information about their accounts. Some locations have already received a facelift and include additional seating, video screens that show the customer’s number in line, and a special counter specifically set aside for returning and exchanging cable boxes. Furthermore, Comcast has made an agreement with the UPS Store so that customers may now return their cable boxes to any of their locations without penalty.

All of these changes certainly sound good, but Comcast has made similar, albeit less ambitious, declarations of improved customer service in the past. Until tangible results are evident, Charlie Herrin remains on the hot seat.

Time Warner Cable Mergers and Net Neutrality Expectations for Charter

Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable logos combined.

A little over two months ago a proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable (TWC) was called off. Almost no time passed before Charter Communications entered into an agreement to purchase TWC for roughly $57 billion. As the calendar turns to July, there remains a certain level of uncertainty surrounding the details of this proposed purchase, as well as how the FCC will respond to the bid.

 

Early after its announcement in 2014, the bid by Comcast to purchase TWC was considered a long shot. Claims from within the broadband community, consumer advocate groups, and the public all made it clear that they were concerned with the creation of what would have been the largest TV operator in the United States. Even the Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, expressed his opposition to the merger. Wheeler’s main point of contention, however, was that if the purchase were allowed to proceed, it would create an unfair competitive advantage for Comcast in the broadband market. In particular, the company would have enjoyed a controlling share of almost 60% among broadband providers. Ultimately it was this near monopoly, coupled with the lack of any penalty fee for ending the agreement, which caused Comcast to back out of the deal.

 

Drawing lessons from the failed deal between Comcast and TWC, Charter has begun to promote how its proposed purchase of TWC will not alter the television or broadband playing field on the national stage. The CEO of Charter, Tom Rutledge, has stressed that even if his company is successful in acquiring TWC and Bright House, the newly expanded company will still be only the second largest provider of cable and high speed internet services behind Comcast. At most, Charter would supply about 20% of all TV customers and 29% of all broadband customers. Another issue that Charter does not need to address is that unlike Comcast, which has a financial interest in Hulu, there is no concern that Charter may regulate speeds for video streaming services, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.

 

Charter is also drawing on the FCC ruling which made broadband a Title II utility as a reason for why its proposed merger should be approved. Rutledge made clear that the footprint of the expanded company would not overlap geographically and that there would remain competition for broadband services offering 25 Mbps in all of its coverage areas. Additionally, he stated that since the majority of the company’s investment is in broadband, not television, it would encourage the expansion of Over the Top (OTT) streaming video services and not impose any sort of data cap on customers. Indeed, subscribers with the new Charter, if the merger is approved, could see significant savings on their broadband subscriptions as their speeds are tripled while their monthly bill is lowered.

 

While the merger works its way through regulatory checks, industry analysts appear confident that the deal will occur. The latest suggestions are that there is a 75% chance that the deal is approved. The FCC has announced that they hope to have this process decided, in favor or opposition of the merger, by the end of 2015.

 

Fiber footprint increases while prices drop

A bundle of optical fibers.

 

As the review process for the proposed Charter purchase of Time Warner Cable continues to advance slowly, internet users around the United States are seeing more rapid gains in the expansion of fiber options. While Google Fiber has been one of the major leaders in this expansion, CenturyLink and AT&T have also been making gains. Throwing its hat into the ring now is Comcast, which is trying to differentiate itself from the competition.

 

While the current speed people can expect from fiber is around 1Gbps, Comcast is doubling this and offering speeds of 2 Gbps. Known as Gigabit Pro, these services will be offered to households in parts of Tennessee, Florida, California, and Georgia. Ultimately, the goal is to bring these services to around 20 million homes by the early part of 2016.

 

The latest reports indicate that Comcast is expanding its Gigabit Pro service area to include more of the Midwest and western United States. Regions of Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, Utah, Washington, and Oregon will soon be able to enjoy speeds twice as fast as other service providers in the state. This latest round of expansion has industry insiders buzzing that Comcast has invested more heavily in its fiber infrastructure than previously believed. In addition to their Gigabit Pro service, Comcast plans to launch Extreme 250 by the end of the year. This service will offer speeds of 250 Mbps.

 

Although their speeds may lack what Comcast will soon offer, CenturyLink continues to offer its 1 Gbps services in certain parts of the United States. By the end of 2015, they hope to have finished connecting over one million businesses and households to their fiber service. The same is true for AT&T which is expanding its U-verse fiber footprint in Illinois and Tennessee.

 

As more of these services are being offered, prices have been dropping. Initially, AT&T had been pricing its services in the $120 range, but competition has caused them to drop prices in some areas, including in the southern United States, by up to $50 per month. Google Fiber is currently offering its services for $70 to $100 per month. Even though Comcast’s Gigabit Pro provides speeds twice as fast as its competitors, the proposed price of $299 per month may turn off many consumers. What is clear, however, is that unlike AT&T, Comcast has no plans to establish a usage cap on anyone using Gigabit Pro.

 

7 Colorado cities attain right to create their own broadband

In the fight against big telecom, Colorado just gained a lot of ground. 7 cities in Colorado won the right to create their own broadband network – something Internet service providers have been trying to outlaw over the past decade.

The vote on Tuesday signified a big surge in the popularity of new broadband options. Colorado have a different type of law regarding the legality of municipal broadband, in that if an election is called and the majority vote against the law, it will be removed.

Continue reading 7 Colorado cities attain right to create their own broadband

Lexington Kentucky refuses Comcast merger, on grounds of awful service

There’s nothing better than seeing city leaders agree unanimously that Time Warner Cable is just awful. That’s what happened at Lexington, Kentucky, where the leadership refused the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger on grounds that the service is awful.

“We have worked aggressively and vigorously to negotiate these terms with Time Warner,” Mayor Jim Gray said. “They have just not been reasonable. We are looking for better customer service and they are not willing to offer it. That’s why the council took the action that it did today.” Until changes are made that will help Lexington cable customers, Gray said, “They will not approve” the transfer of ownership.

Considering Time Warner Cable and Comcast regularly fight for the bottom of customer satisfaction reports, it is no surprise the city leaders do not want this merger to happen.

Comcast did announce plans to revamp their customer service, adding a new VP of Customer Satisfaction, but we doubt this will make huge changes in the way Comcast deals with customers.

Unfortunately for almost everyone in the United States who doesn’t live in a competitive area, Comcast and Time Warner Cable like to keep out of each others way and purposefully ramp up prices in non-competitive markets.

Now that they want to merge, it is either spend hundreds of thousands on lobbying or improve customer service. Hopefully, with the new incentive from President Barack Obama on net neutrality and defending customer rights, Chairman of the FCC Tom Wheeler will think twice about the merger.

 

Source

Can Comcast fix their customer service with new VP?

Comcast recently announced a new Vice President of Customer Service, with the goal of changing the customer service experience for the better. Currently, Comcast are rated as one of the worst companies for customer service and support.

Charlie Herrin will be the new “VP of Customer Experience” and his job is to fix Comcast’s terrible support. Comcast Executive VP Neil Smit talked about how it might take a few years, but it is a top priority.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Comcast’s customer support. They have aggressive tactics to keep you on board, bring up random bills without notifying the customer and offer almost no response, unless you manage to get your case viral on social media.

Changing the Experience

Comcast didn’t list any major points they want to change, just flat out stating the experience between staff and support would get better. This does not make us too confident it is a number one priority, but lets remain neutral.

The first order of business will be establishing a better way to contact support and get the help needed. Not everything requires a technician at your door, but it would be nice to have one available within a few days.

Bills, cancellation and subscriptions need to be sorted and transparent. This is one area Comcast really needs to improve. No more $1k bills for turning in your equipment to Comcast and no more waiting a month to be disconnected from their Internet service.

Overall, Comcast just needs to be more transparent and down-to-earth with customers. They need to support and help customers, not push them around and force them into signing more expensive deals.

More Than Just Support

comcast-infograph

The problem for Comcast is it’s more than just support. People want options, better plans, a more direct split between phone, Internet and TV, but Comcast will not be willing to change their plans.

Changing the support structure might work for some people, but when you are on 27Mbps down for $150, it might not matter how nice the support staff is on the other side of the phone.

Image Credit: LatentView

AT&T using Comcast merger as leverage for DirecTV acquisition

DirecTV shareholders recently accepted the acquisition deal by AT&T, valued at $48.5 billion and it appears the public is fine with this deal.

In a statement to the FCC regarding the Comcast merger, AT&T said it would be hard for them to compete, unless they were able to acquire DirecTV for pay-TV market share and hold of the satellite market.

It is interesting about the public’s reaction to the AT&T and DirecTV acquisition, something that could be more devastating than the apparent Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, currently being debated by the FCC.

twc_comcast_map

Comcast and Time Warner Cable do have lower customer satisfaction rates, along with Comcast known as one of the worst companies in the United States for aggressive business tactics and pathetic customer support.

The merger has also shown Comcast will take control of all of Time Warner Cable’s markets. This wouldn’t be so bad if they were competing with one another, but all this does is give Comcast another 20 or so states to ruin.

In the FCC filing, Comcast said they have had overwhelming support for the merger. It feels like Comcast is living in a dream world or pushing their lies so hard, just to see how fickle the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is at saying “no” to corporations.

We will have to wait and see what the FCC says. If they say no, Comcast will undoubtably try again and again, and if FCC repeatedly deny it, they might start threatening them with worse service.

This would be great for Google Fiber, Cox Communications and other broadband providers who have decent customer service. We might also see the introduction of more municipal broadband, to curve Comcast’s reach.

Both acquisitions are bad for the industry. We would advise you write to your state representative, to try and push the government away from AT&T and Comcast gaining more control.