Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Comcast Responds

On July 1, I complained on here about a Comcast problem.  Usually, Comcast is right on top of things.  Days earlier, I had jokingly disparaged Comcast in another post (I was making a general comment about struggling with a large company and used them as the proxy) and they contacted me within 24-hours to find out what the problem was.  But then when I posted the thing on July 1, I didn't hear anything from them.   But, that's OK, really.  I hadn't actually directly contacted them and it was the start of a long weekend.

So after a few days of not hearing anything, I posted the link on Twitter and did hear back pretty quickly.  But it was just a promise by someone to look into it.  I didn't hear anything for a few more days and so I bugged them again.  They told me of internal changes/staff departures in their office, stuff irrelevant to me, and pledged to get back to me shortly.   I had to bug them a few more times and it did ultimately take nearly two months to get a response, but I did get a pretty comprehensive response, so here it is, because while it doesn't completely answer all of the questions yet, you may want to check your bill, some of this may be relevant to you.  I'm not including their name because it's one thing to demand a lot of a company and its customer service, it's another to drag an individual through the mud and that's not cool.  Their notes are in red, any additional notes from me are in yellow.  I do not expect them to address my notes here, I will be following up with them in email.

Comcast responses are below in red: (May end up more pinkish since we're dealing with a text on a black background on the blog.)

The other day, I jokingly said "fighting with Comcast" in a blog post. I was being funny, but with their rapid response, they were immediately on the case and contacted me to ask if they could help. So now they're going to think I'm crying wolf, but tonight, I am annoyed with Comcast.

So, when we got set-up four years ago, they installed the wrong DVR. I'm not sure why. I don't know if the installer got a bonus, or didn't have any standard ones in his truck, or what. But we got an HD DVR instead of a regular DVR.

We don't own an HD TV. So every month for the past four years, we've been getting overcharged for a service we can't use. (I don't think we have any special

Well why not just take the box to your local Comcast office and swap it out, James? Seems simple enough. Yeah, if we want to give up all the programming we've recorded but not yet watched.

So I read today on Engadget about the new services coming out. They are really pretty awesome. myDVR ( ) will let you schedule, review and change your scheduled recordings from anywhere you have internet access. For now, it seems to be limited to regular internet. I figure that soon enough it will also be added to the iPhone/iPod app we have installed.

(09/01 - James - FYI, that scheduling capability is available on the iPhone app as well as the website.  It's very cool.)

As I continued to read Comcast's website, I came across their page explaining their DVRs -

First, it gives conflicting information. At the top of the page, it says "Store up to 90 hours of your favorite shows." And then when you scroll down, it says there are two DVRs - an HD one that stores 300 hours of standard or 60 hours of HD - and a standard one that stores 45 hours.

So... conflicting information and not even on different pages. There are varying DVR vendors and models in different markets. Some are older, and others are just being released. It seems that this page does need to be updated and I will share that with the appropriate team. More information on all DVR models can be found here -
Ok, fair enough, we have an older box.  

But, I saw that this afternoon and thought "Ok, so I'm at least getting a larger hard drive out of the deal. I would consider that enough to not worry about the extra $2-3 a month we're paying."

So I loaded up the DVR this evening and looked at what we had saved. 2,292 minutes, or 38.2 hours. And it says it's 76% full. So that puts its total capacity at 50.26 hours.
You may have an older DVR with unlisted specifications. Please check the link I provided to find if your model is listed

So... I thought "Ok, maybe I don't even have an HD DVR installed."

So I called Comcast (it tried to get me off the phone, told me they were experiencing longer than normal wait times. I will give them credit here, I can't remember a time when I've had to wait very long and tonight was no exception.) I got this nice guy who's name I didn't catch. I asked him if there was a way, by looking at the status screen of the DVR, if I had an HD or standard DVR.

He said he could check from there without me doing anything and confirmed that I did in fact have an HD DVR and then had me tune to the local CBS affiliate's HD channel to test. Big whoop, I don't own an HD TV. So it's letterboxed - but it's also got one or more data lines flickering at the top (they'd be outside the overscan on an HD TV - but on a non-HD, you can see them making it not worth watching, even if it's letterboxed.)

I asked him about capacity and he said that the box holds 60 hours standard or a meager 15 hours HD. I said that I read on the website that the HD box held 60 hours HD and 300 hours standard and he laughed (not in an insulting way) and said he *wished* they had boxes that big and started talking MB numbers.

So the CSR isn't versed on the offerings listed on the website. Does this mean that people getting DVRs today are getting much nicer than the 4-year-old box we have?

And then to make matters worse, I'm looking at my bill. Right at the top it says "Starting June 11, 2010, ESPN 3D will be available on channel 898 on the Digital Starter level of service. Call 1-800-COMCAST for details." According to my bill, we have Digital Starter, but if we tune to the channel, it says a subscription is required. I actually don't want any sort of ESPN, HD, 3D or otherwise.

ESPN is available in the digital starter tier at no cost, however we’d need to add those codes to your account in order for you to view it. Also, a 3D capable television is needed. More information can be found here -

And elsewhere on my bill: "HD Starter Triple Play Includes: Digital Starter with Video On Demand, Included Video Equipment, High Speed Internet, Digital Voice Unlimited" and yet right below that, separate charges for "SD Set Top Box" and "HD DVR Service (includes HD Technology Fee)"

So, Comcast, if you would be so kind as to address...

#1: Why did we receive an HD box if we didn't have an HD TV?

In late 2009, Comcast began deploying HD capable Pace/RNG set top boxes to outlets where the customer cannot receive and/or does not want HD and, therefore, is not willing to pay for HD programming. As a result, we separated the ability to receive HD programming from the presence of HD equipment. This is the HD technology fee. In this case, I do not believe this fee should apply and I would like to have a regional colleague look into this for you to confirm.

So... I'm unclear.  I cannot receive and do not want HD and am therefore not willing to pay for HD programming.  Am I being charged for HD programming?  If so, maybe it's the HD programming and not the HD Technology Fee that's erroneously listed on my account?  When you say that you want a regional colleague to look into -- do I need to initiate that, or have you?  And will I hear from them directly, or will they respond to you and you respond to me?

#2: We've now been charged more than necessary for four years. But can't really return the box because we've got a bunch of stuff on it we want to watch. Any recourse?

We are working on solutions for the very dilemma. Unfortunately, there is no way currently available to transfer recordings.

Fair enough.  I've worked in technology long enough to understand why that could be a challenge.  #2 resolved.  

#3: What *should* the capacity of our box be?

Please review this link -

Thanks, will do. 

#4: Are people today paying the same price and getting a much better box?

Yes – the fee is standard for all HD/DVR’s regardless of make or model.

Ok, also fair enough.  Technology moves on.  People today are getting better cell phones from their provider for the same price I paid for mine and receiving the same service from the carrier for the same monthly fee that I am.  #4 resolved.

#5: Why does your website conflict itself?

This site needs to be updated – it lists the current statistics for newer equipment and does not account for older equipment.

Ok.  Same as #4.  Fair enough.  #5 resolved.

#6: Are we getting a bunch (and also being charged for) of channels we can't even watch in HD? Are there also channels we're supposed to be getting that we can't get?

Based on your post, I don’t believe that you are missing channels. To confirm the application of the HD fee and subsequent programming, I’d like to have someone look into this locally.

Ok.  Will assume this is handled with #1 above.  To reiterate, we don't have and don't want HD at this time.  Eventually we'll have a newer better TV and would upgrade to HD then.  

#7: What "equipment" is included in the "included video equipment" that comes with "HD Starter Triple Play"?

The first standard definition set-top box is included in all digital tiers. Converters beyond the first and those that are HD or HD/DVR’s are subject to additional fees

Ok.  I think that's clear.  Then I have an additional problem.  If I have one standard set-top box (not a DVR) and one DVR, the first one should be no charge, right?  But I'm being charged $8 a month for an "Additional SD Set Top Box"

#8: What is the "HD Technology Fee"?

Please see the answer to the first question

Roger that.

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