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County Asks: What Should We Get From Comcast?

by ARLnow.com — May 31, 2011 at 12:15 pm 4,723 104 Comments

Every 10-15 years, the ‘franchise agreement’ that gives one company a virtual monopoly over cable TV service in Arlington is put up for review. The current agreement with Comcast is expiring in 2013, and the county is asking for citizen input into whether it should renew the company’s franchise, and under what conditions.

Right now, if you exclude fiber optic TV provider Verizon FiOS, Comcast is Arlington’s sole cable provider. Under its current franchise agreement, Comcast provides a number of guarantees, including customer service standards, regular system testing and maintenance, and free internet service for Arlington Public Schools. It also makes annual contributions to support the television channels run by the county government, county schools and by public access organization Arlington Independent Media. (About one percent of your cable bill goes to support AIM.)

Arlington, a lucrative market for cable operators, must now decide what to ask for as part of another 10-15 year agreement with Comcast. As part of that process, the county will be holding a number of focus groups that will discuss ways to improve cable service and while providing additional community benefits.

The focus groups will involve specific interest groups with a stake in the outcome of the franchise negotiations. A total of eight focus groups — each open to the general public — are planned for the month of June. Among them:

  • K-12 Schools, Teachers, Staff, Students, and Parents (June 16)
  • Local Government Agencies and Departments (June 20)
  • Emergency Services, Federal Agencies & Institutional Network (June 20)
  • Non Profit, Health and Human Service Organizations, Civic Societies and Groups (June 21)
  • Arts, Culture, Music and Heritage (June 21)
  • Churches and Faith-Based Organizations (June 22)
  • Neighborhood Organizations, County Board Commissions (June 22)
  • Higher Education, Healthcare Institutions, and Businesses (June 23)

“These focus groups… provide a chance for interested community members to learn about the franchise renewal and to share opinions about future services that could be available to our community through the Comcast cable system,” the county said in a press release. “The process of granting a new franchise to Comcast deserves serious consideration and public input.”

See more information on the meetings on the county’s web site. The focus groups will be conducted by The Buske Group, a consulting firm that’s assisting the county during the franchise renewal process.

  • ClizzleDizzle

    How about no franchise agreement? I want FiOS or Uverse!

    • Teevee

      The franchise doesn’t affect whether you can get FiOS.

      • yequalsy

        That’s correct. I’ve had Verizon FIOS for years.

    • bred

      Uverse is an AT&T product and not available in Arlington. My brother does have it in Ohio.

  • Comblast

    Comcast is the absolute worst. I have lived in five different states in the last 10 years and have never received such terrible customer service and quality of cable product.

    Since moving to Arlington last July, we have had a 38 visits from Comcast to our townhome and countless phone calls to resolve our HD cable issues. Thanks to this blog, there is a phone number to call that reaches someone in Arlington County which significantly improved our service. However, at our last visit to try and resolve why we cannot receive NBC in HD, they told us there was nothing left to do and we would need to pay to re-wire the entire house. The fact that this embarrassment of a company has a monopoly on the county is laughable.

    Open up the cable market to all providers and based on simple time-tasted rules of supply & demand, rates and quality of service will improve for the residents of Arlington County. We deserve more.

    • Anon

      You can get NBC in HD via over the air tv. Free, no cable, no hassle.

    • Teevee

      So maybe you do need to rewire your house.

    • Blueloom

      “Open up the cable market to all providers and based on simple time-tasted rules of supply & demand,”

      + 1000

  • Comass

    How about upgrading the equipment so we can do remote dvr programming and other features (new guide anyone?) that a lot of other areas of the country that have Comcast already have. Comcast is beyond the worst.

    • TGEoA

      +1

  • Aaron

    Cue everyone who hate’s Comcast in 3-2-1
    Cue Comcast response that they are working on it 5-6-7

  • JustSayNo

    How about no monopoly agreement. We can get better customer service standards and regular system testing and maintenance simply by bringing in more competition. Competition should induce Comcast to compete for customers based on their committing to better service, a more reliable system, and better pricing — all without having to bind the county’s citizens. Of course, that’s contingent on Comcast acting as most rationale companies do when forced to compete: produce a better product. A mighty big assumption, indeed. I welcome the likes of Cox, Time Warner, or whoever can hold Comcast’s feet to the fire. There is nothing like monopoly power to encourage laziness and ineptitude.

  • Max

    I was unaware that we received so much from Comcast. If that’s the case, then it seems like we should continue.

    On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of complains about Comcast, so who knows if their customer service clause is actually upheld.

  • Comass

    Cue the guy that always says “cue..in 3-2-1″ in 3-2-1.

    • Aaron

      a little late! I’ve already been “cue”-ed :)

  • Arrrrrlington

    F— Comcast. Seriously, f— them in the a–. Sorry, immaturity over.

    When FIOS became available in my neighborhood, I couldn’t get it fast enough. I finally did and was blown away by the improved signal and the far superior customer service.

    When the Comcast guy came out to disconnect their service, he saw the fiber optic line being run to my apartment and CUT IT! Then he put a special unremovable terminator on it. I had no FIOS for a week and had no idea why.

    FIOS guy comes out, find the terminator, and had to rerun the fiber line from the main pole to my apartment again. He showed me the terminator that the Comcast guy used. I called a couple of papers about this incident, thinking this was newsworthy. The FIOS repair guy verbatim said “You have no idea what kind of war it is with Comcast right now.” The papers didn’t care one bit….probably Comcast is too big of an ad buyer.

    Also, Comcast, please stop sending me adds for your shitty Xfinity service. Coax can only carry so much signal so you compress the shit out of it, and the picture looks like crap. Fiber optic line is theoretically unlimited in its bandwidth.

    I’m not just for FIOS. There should be ZERO MONOPOLY. Let the consumers decide what’s best for the county. I ask Arlington government buildings to give up the free Comcast service in favor of competitive pricing amongst multiple carriers.

    • NPGMBR

      +1000

  • Chris Slatt

    This seems like a good opportunity to remind folks – if you’ve got a beef with Comcast and they aren’t being responsive, Arlington Cable Administration Office has a handy online complaint form!

    http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/TechnologyServices/CableTVAdmin/customercomplaintform.aspx

    • Bill

      Thanks, Chris. I no longer am a Comcast subscriber but I submitted my complaint from a year or two ago.

  • Bender

    I’m no fan of Comcast, but if there is something that “we should get” from Comcast, whatever it is, it should NOT be making them pay bribes (free service) or make them provide outlets for County government propaganda.

    Every time I flip on one of those government channels, they are trying to tell us what a great job County Board members are doing. Frankly, if you ask me, such blatent self-promotion for free would seem to be contrary to any number of campaign finance laws.

    The “we” of what should “we get from Comcast” should be the public, i.e. the private customers of Comcast. As such, an improved channel line-up for the price that they charge. And don’t merely provide three or four versions of the same channels and then claim that you provide hundreds of channels, when in actuality, you only provide a few dozen.

    • Josh S

      I think you misunderstand the meaning of the “we.” “We” are not consumers. “We” are “the people.” As in, “We the people.” As distinct, quite distinct I might add, from we the consumers. So things like channel lineups are not of interest to the “we” in question. Those are left for the consumers to worry about.

      Allowing a monopoly of any kind into the community should be met with conditions. Benefits to the public are those conditions. A cable-provided channel dedicated to local government is an obvious choice. This channel would ideally be used by the government to provide information to residents about government programs and activities and to provide access to various public meetings for those who cannot or choose not to make it to the meeting in person. These public concessions become increasingly important as fewer and fewer people watch broadcast TV.

      (My own personal experience is that broadcast TV provides a much better picture than FIOS so I discontinued my FIOS. Yes, I get many fewer channels but it’s worth to me.)

      You yourself define the public as “the private customers of Comcast.” Not really “public” is it?

      The fact that board members speak about their achievements on a free channel is a far cry from campaign finance laws. Pick up any newspaper around the country or watch any news broadcast – incumbent politicians talk about what they have done. There is no implied endorsement.

      • Stu Pendus

        But what is Comcast actually providing when they provide “a channel”? Their out of pocket for a channel or two, compared to the crap they get away with and the millions they pull in from customers every year? I’d like to see what this really costs them, how much the county is paying for their own productions on this “free channel”, and how hard would it really be for the county to just pick up all the cost themselves.

  • BoredHouseWife

    Do we really need cable tv? It’s all just programming.

  • Bender

    Not one of those listed focus groups, NOT ONE, includes everyday customers of Comcast. The customers should be the NUMBER ONE concern, not government or special interest groups.

    • Comblast

      Great pt

    • Stu Pendus

      They seem to be the groups that you would have to satisfy (for the public good) to maintain a government facilitated monopoly.

    • Max

      It seems to do a good job providing free internet to schools.

    • Teevee

      So go organize a Comcast customers group.

    • CinnyMinny

      While I completely agree that this is an oversight, it does say on the website “In addition to the focus groups, residents will be able to provide feedback through a phone survey and online survey in the coming months.” I hope this is true, and I hope these surveys are well advertised and residents are made aware of them, since I would hope Arlington County is interested in hearing what its residents (not affiliated with a designated focus group) have to say on this topic!

    • Well..

      +100
      My thoughts exactly. Why don’t the rest of us merit representation? Consumers should be the primary audience. I’m finding the list of priority stakeholder groups as enlightening as it is insulting.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Beat me to the punch – I’m completely baffled by the cable commission’s perspective on this. A long list of special interest groups – rather than the whole of the community. The principle behind this is that the county allows a franchisee sole access to public resources(primarily the right of way) – in return for things that benefit those yielding this – each and every resident of the county.

  • nothing_to_watch

    Open up the cable market. Paying over $100 a month for one tv hook up and one internet line is way too much. That is your only choice in many apartment buildings. Although I do pay it, so that makes Comcast smarter than me.

    • Steve

      My bill is $144 a month, I have it on one TV, and the basic network TV stations were included from my building, then added comcast digital with HBO and internet..

      The same thing last year I was paying $88 a month. Now it’s over $140. And it’s not that HBO went up. It was everything else, and I had it for years.

      • G

        Steve, my building also includes basic cable… but I added on the DVR, HBO and Blast internet. I’m currently paying $55/month. I have some promotions now, but over the years they have expired so I just keep calling back to sign on for more promotions.

  • Steve

    Those jerks at comcast increased my monthly rate by $60 a month and I have fewer stations now!

    • Kirk

      Call them, and tell them that you aren’t willing to pay more. I’ve done it twice. They always lower it back down when I threaten to cancel. The last time they lowered below the original price.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/gogogaryo Gary

    Of the top ten worst customer experiences in my life… I’m quite certain five of them are with Comcast. Go on Twitter or Facebook and simply search “Comcast” – on twitter the update rate on the search is by the second. 99% of what you see are people upset with Comcast. They bribe the county (As noted above) and we get stuck with overpriced service and extremely poor customer service. I’m on my third dwelling in Arlington and not one has allowed for satellite (HOA rules or simply facing the wrong way) and not one has had FIOS available. I’m stuck with them. It’s a complete monopoly and calling Comcast a service provider is a complete oxymoron.

    • bred

      I don’t think that HOA rules can preclude you from having a dish (FCC regulations) but they can tell where to put it (no pun intended). Facing the wrong way from the sat will.

      • The Native

        Sure HOAs can prevent you from putting up a dish on the exterior of your house. You can still put it inside…

  • Abe Froman

    , including customer service standards,

    WTF? Are they kidding? Is this some kind of joke?

  • Tom M

    While it may be the lone cable provider, there is a good amount of competition in the Arlington market from satellite, Verizon, online VOD services like Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, etc, not to mention iTunes, Amazon, and other offerings. I don’t think it’s good government to look to squeeze as much out of businesses as possible.

  • Notyou

    Just wondering… for those that don’t want any cable monopoly are you willing to fork over more tax money to pay for internet and cable in schools? Just asking…

    • https://twitter.com/#!/gogogaryo Gary

      Good point – but I’m not against the monopoly. I’m against Comcast. Let Time Warner, Cox, etc in here to give it a shot. Comcast had the pleasure of being named one of the “worst places to work in America” – Why would we welcome that in our county? I like happy employees, they take care of their customers.

      • Comass

        Well Comcast is based in Philly so that makes sense why it’s one of the worst places to work. Philly and everyone there is disgusting.

        • Steve

          Wow. I like you! I cannot stand philly, and the people are the most horrific and immoral people I have ever met. The worst people in the DC area are the ones from Philly.

          • Notyou

            Being from Pittsburg myself Philly always was the wrong end of the state… :)

          • Notyou

            … can’t believe I left off the ‘h’ …

    • Bill

      Internet – yes. That’s a worthwhile use of my tax dollars. Cable – no.

      I would imagine I’m not alone in that.

    • nothing_to_watch

      Yes. Or just get a cable/internet contract for the county offices, schools and organizations.

    • Arlwhenever

      Yep, we can take the $$$ for cable out of the 40 percent that is cut from APS’ budget to make the per pupil cost no higher than the every bit as good Fairfax County schools.

    • Jim

      ah – there is plenty of waste in the schools to pay for internet. the schools need to live within the means of the people. they get more than 99% of the schools around the country per student.

  • Fight the powers

    I managed, via Twitter, to engage the Verizon FIOS folks to do a multi-unit wiring in my apartment complex in North Arlington. The whole process took a little over a year. After long suffering under Comcast rule to include unexplained annual rate increases, constant outages and horrible customer service, the month before FIOS went active, Comcast changed their tune. They offered no obligation 40% rate reductions and were very receptive to customer issues. Don’t tell me that competition can’t change the market. Most of the residents in my complex still switched to FIOS, not because they were better, but because they weren’t Comcast.

  • D W

    I’d like to get the same service in Arlington that they advertise in Arlington. For instance, the iPhone App doesn’t let you control your DVR (as advertised), you can’t program your DVR remotely (as advertised), and the DVR boxes aren’t as good in general as the ones in DC.

    Just a few examples but it’d be nice generally if they gave the level of service that all our neighbors get.

    • Comass

      Agreed. And by the looks of it we will never get that service. Apparently only Motorola boxes can do those things and we are stuck with Cisco or Scientific Atlantica boxes with software that makes the guide look like it was made in 1992.

    • Martha

      DW: Please come to one of the forums and make those points. One of the goals of the forums is to identify services that are available elsewhere that Arlington residents/businesses want. Another goal is to identify future applications.

      Contrary to what has been stated above, all forums are open to anyone.

  • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer

    What a cluster f of groups.

    Here is one to consider: get a group of Arlington business executives together and learn how to negotiate a win win by actually competiting this thing so Cox and others can put their offers on the table to see how good or bad a deal our current Communist style business model is costing us.

    • Confused

      Similar to what I was thinking. Sounds like the county’s mentality is that a franchise agreement is a foregone conclusion, and that they just need to know which minor freebies to negotiate for. I’d rather see a truly competitive request for proposals.

  • Confused

    I’m confused. Section 3.24(a) of the linked franchise agreement explicitly says that “the Board intends to encourage the development of competition.” Yet every other indicator is that a Franchise Agreement ensures a Comcast a monopoly. So what does this “Franchise Agreement” actually get Comcast? And what does it get Arlington other than some free network services to a few dozen locations (e.g. schools, courthouse, etc.). Better yet, what would happen if the county could truly encourage some competition (potentially saving citizens money) and then just put the internet services up for a standard county contract?

    Maybe I’m missing the primary goal of the franchise agreement and why a standard contract for the “free” stuff wouldn’t serve us? Seriously, if someone understands this better than I, please enlighten.

    • Martha

      The franchise renewal is for Cable TV, not Internet. Both Verizon and Comcast offer Cable TV in Arlington. What we have is a duopoly, a bit better than a monopoly.

  • Bort

    I find it hilarious that the targeted focus groups are primarily geared to organizations that are getting free service from Comcast. No forum targeted to the thousands of subscribers who continue to pay more for less service?

    I know what I want — The ability to opt out from funding AIM and other county beneficiaries.

    • Stu Pendus

      They need to build these groups’ involvement and stake in the service because they become the biggest inhibitor to disrupting the monopoly. Replacing the free services in a competitive market is the first argument people raise to keep Comcast in here, and it’s the one most people quickly understand because OMG no new taxes!

    • Well..

      +1
      I already pay taxes to fund the schools. If those amounts aren’t sufficient to fund needed internet service, then put it in the budget request where it belongs, don’t sneak it into my bill in a backdoor manner. Comcast isn’t “donating” out of the goodness of their hearts; they pass along these charges to consumers who apparently aren’t priority stakeholders to them anyway. I won’t miss them.

  • NomNom

    Does anyone who lives south of 50 have FIOS? I thought Verizon was not in that area.

    I am surprised to hear how much Comcast gives, but I still would prefer FIOS.

    • Rover

      I am in Arl Heights (south of 50) and just got FIOS a few weeks ago. It is great!

    • Josh S

      Yes, I have FIOS. I was / am extremely disappointed. The picture quality was significantly worse than what I was / am getting by simply using an antenna. Yes, even on HD broadcasts. I tried for a while to get Verizon to address it as a customer service issue but wasn’t making progress and wasn’t willing to fight them over it. Eventually, I called to cancel the service and they offered to give me a credit on my bill (it’s a bundled service) for the amount of the television part. And I could continue to keep the service. So, that’s where we are now. I don’t pay for it. But I still never watch it. In fact, I disconnected my box so I could plug my PS3 into the internet without having to get a splitter.
      I actually would like to watch FIOS, but I’m not willing to put up with such a crappy picture.

      • Virginia^2

        OTA is way underrated and overlooked and I don’t want to be “that guy,” telling you that you’re doing it wrong… but if the picture quality is “significantly worse,” to the extent that you’re “extremely disappointed,” then you most definitely have an issue with your setup.

        That issue is probably worth figuring out, at least if you’re going to keep mentioning that you’re unimpressed with it. No one I know (myself included) has any gripe with the picture quality. I used an antenna for a week when I first moved in and couldn’t tell any difference when I transitioned to FiOS.

    • Biff

      I live south of rt 50 (Penrose) and I have had FIOS for years.

    • The Native

      I’ve had FIOS for years and live South of 50.

    • NomNom

      Interesting. I am off Columbia Pike and S. Scott St and when I asked FIOS if they were in my area I got a no.

      • 5555624

        I’m a block away and was told a couple of years ago that FIOS was just “a block or two away.’ I’m guessing the Verizon guy meant up near Columbia Pike and S Courthouse Rd. I think Verizon sees all those apartment buildings and figures they can’t convince enough people to switch to make it worthwhile. I know I keep asking and the only response is “we’ll let you know.”

    • NPGMBR

      FIOS is available at Westmont Gardens…and its bliss!

  • CableSucks

    It’s a wonder why anyone would even pay what cable costs now days. Nearly $100 for nothing but crap shows, crap movies, and endless commercials. With all the commercials and crap being thrown in your face, it should be free, paid for by advertising. No thanks. I’ll stick with my converter box, rabbit ears, neflix and hulu premium. Comcast can belly over and go to hell for all I care, what a rip-off!!

    • Virginia^2

      For years I used rabbit ears and an HD tuner card on my PC and still prefer Windows Media Center to any DVR interface I’ve ever used, including Tivo. Best of all, no monthly fee for recording/guide info or hardware rental.

      I’d probably miss the ability to channel surf, but going cable-free is totally doable and is obviously a heck of a lot cheaper.

  • rish

    Arlington county should ask them to provide a service that actually works. Its a long shot, but if you want a monopoly, you should be able to deliver.

    Fios is much better

  • Jim

    let us have competition…

  • Arlington Cable Administrator

    There seem to be a lot of misconceptions as to what this process is, and isn’t. We are fortunate in Arlington to be one of the few communities in the nation that actually does have competitive programming options – we have Comcast cable, Verizon FIOS, and direct satellite … not to mention off-the-air HD and many on-demand internet options (e.g., Apple TV, Netflix, Vudu, etc.). Comcast built the cabling infrastructure to support its network – and owns that infrastructure. The regulations concerning cable TV franchise renewal were all decided at the federal level many years ago.

    The current process is to get viewers’ feedback on future services that might be made available to our community through the Comcast cable system. A major emphasis is on hearing from “regular” people, including: a statistically-valid telephone survey; online survey; 8 focus groups; and a public hearing. With all the interest shown by this group – I hope that you’ll also take the time to provide the County your feedback through one of these methods as well.

    • Blueloom

      Nice to know that the Arl Cty Cable Administrator is reading these comments. I hope you keep reading them over the next few days as more comments are posted. You absolutely need to create an addition focus group: Arlington Comcast Customers. Just plain ordinary folks who just want good TV reception, predictable internet service, polite responses to telephone inquiries, and an iron-clad rule that all service calls will be completed within 24 hours. This last (service calls) must be backed up with the threat that any time this service requirement isn’t met, the customer is entitled to a full refund on that month’s service. And like cigarette-package warnings, it should be printed in large bold type on every bill: If you require service and a repair representative does not fix the problem within 24 hours of your phone call to Comcast, you are entitled to a refund worth one month of your service.

    • Rover

      Arlington Cable Administrator, we are fortunate? So, you are saying that the rest of the nation does not have have direct satellite, off-the-air HD, Apple TV, Netflix, Vudu, etc? This type of spin is why there might be misconceptions.

  • CW

    I’ve had FiOS since day one here…what’s this “Comcast” you talk about, and why in the world would anyone pay money to have it happen to them?

  • Terry

    I sympathize with the guy who said he had 38 visits from Comcast servicemen. My internet was out for two months and I had at least 13 scheduled visits from Comcast service reps. They missed at least three of those, though. Never been so annoyed with a company in my life.

  • Carmen

    I hate Comcast! I haven’t had to pay them in months because they were overcharging me for 2 years. Only after I threatened to sue did they give me a credit. And even though I signed up for eco bill as soon as they offered it (way after everyone else), I can not get them to stop sending me paper bills no matter how hard I try.

    • G

      I’ve had the same problem. They wont stop sending me paper bills.

      • Dan

        It took me year to get them to stop sending me paper bills.

        What makes this worth mentioning is that I do NOT currently use Comcast nor have I ever used Comcast.

  • MC

    Cable TV will be dead in 10 years, maybe even sooner. The real issue is how to foster more Internet service competition.

    The County needs to push for open access to any Internet access to the home, be it cable or fiber, so that other providers can use it. It should not create a guaranteed monopoly for anyone.

    The sub-text of this effort is: what can we ask Comcast to pay for? Does anyone believe that the franchise would suddenly be granted to Time Warner? That would violate existing rights of Comcast subscribers.

  • Ballstonian

    Want to protest against Comcast? Set up a time when everyone who subscribes to ARLnow streams Netflix or some type of high-data rate streaming all at once in the Arlington area. It’ll crash their service. I see it in a microcosm in my high-rise apartment building in Ballston from 7 to 11pm most nights. The high-bandwidth carrier L3 Comms goes into the biuldings and then goes out over Comcast lines…anyway, if you want to crash the system, just stream video all day long and clog up their pipes.

    • huh

      Exactly what would Comcast users gain by this, other than causing their own service to go out?

      • doodly

        It’s like a riot – you protest by burning down your own neighborhood. Makes plenty of sense.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    I’d easily trade the AIM – county/political machine promotion channel for some real consumer based initiatives.
    1) Require them to make their advertising truthful – that the recent changes to the system(that require boxes on all TV’s) are NOT making it digital(there are open digital video standards) but it is ENCRYPTING the signal so that Comcast can maintain and increase it’s control over consumers.
    2) Require them to invest in and improve their support for cablecards and other open hardware intiatives that allow innovation in systems(Like TIVO etc – if you need to understand this I’ll refer you to the ATT breakup).
    3) Require them to agree to not oppose or challenge community/public based intiatives for internet service as they and others in their industry have done in places like NC and MINN.

  • AntiComcast_ArlingtonResident

    I say open up the cable/ISP options for the average everyday paying consumer and eliminate the county sponsored monopoly.  Let the almighty Dollar show who should be the winner and primary supplier to Arlington Co.  Expand the focus groups to the commoners so ALL can be heard.  It’s all about options and provided we’re offered them, I’m sure Comcast would be kicked to the curb.  I’d gladly pay more for Cox Cable just to get rid of that God awful and lousy Comcast customer service.

  • Blueloom

    “Comcast provides a number of guarantees, including customer service standards”

    And what, precisely, is that “customer service standard”? If your internet service goes down (either your home individually or your neighborhood), we absolutely/positively plan to get a Cable Guy to your house in 14 days. Unless it rains. In which case, we’ll be there in 21 days. Or maybe unless the sun is shining. In which case we’ll be there in 28 days.

  • db

    End the monopoly franchise agreement and let in other cable providers to compete. This will do more to ensure service standards than an agreement with the county that is renewed once every 15 years. As far as the “free” stuff Comcast is currently doing for the county, that stuff isn’t free, it is paid for and more by cable subscribers. Stuff worth doing, like public school internet, should just be paid for with a direct tax on cable service which will be cheaper and more transparent. Stuff that isn’t worth doing with a direct tax.

    • Stu Pendus

      The big problem, as was said earlier, is that Comcast owns all the infrastructure they’ve built throughout the county over the past three decades. No company can come in and compete unless they can afford to play catch-up by stringing cable everywhere.

      It’s kind of similar to how Verizon got cell service into Metro and monopolized that for years. They made a deal to restructure and upgrade WMATA’s hand-held radio service as they were installing their switch gear for cell phones. Then they took over all the space and made it prohibitive for anyone else to compete. That’s why the new cell phone services are appearing in all those ugly cabinets sitting on the platforms and all their cabling and wiring is strung in plain view in the tunnels. Verizon left nobody else any room.

  • Thomas

    Maybe part of the guaranteed customer service agreements can include re-opening the Wilson Blvd service office?

    Recently, I had to drive all the way to Picket St. in Alexandria two time in one day to acquire (then replace a faulty) HD cable box.

    • now a FiOS customer

      Comcast once told me on the phone I could get a part there, but when I went there they said they don’t have parts at that location. Jerks.

  • Travis

    Comcast is plain and simple horrible when it comes to customer service, times to come to your house and fix problems, and installation. They never have the correct equipment you ordered and their available installation times requires to to take off work, and then their always late. Then when you complain the installation folks blame the office folks and vice versa. I ended up having to pretty much do everything myself except the main cable box and they still charged me installation fees. Fios is way better! I moved last year from North Arlington to South and I was very disappointed that I couldn’t get Fios anymore. It’s simple, when a company has a monopoly, they don’t have to provide adequate services and people have to take what they can get. Bring on the competition!

  • JenLynn

    Why do we need to even have a monopoly. I say open it up and allow for competitive rates, we pay way too much for basic cable and internet and I would welcome some friendlier rates. I’ve had many problems with ComCast and have been wanting to ditch them for years but have yet to find a viable option.

  • Failed Again

    This inspires me to get a HD antenna! I hate Comcast and although Verizon is better, their billing department is lame. What do it??? I’m going to live off Uncle Sam’s cable via HD antenna!

  • TedL
  • Clarendonner Party

    I’ve lived here for about a year now and the install process was a goddamn nightmare. As for the actual service, sometimes there are random outages, about once every 2 months.

    You’d think they’d be customer oriented enough to at least have groups on social media where they could update customers about outage patterns, or even online support of some kind instead of requiring the phone calls. But nope.

    Back on FIOS in July, looking forward to it.

  • Chuck

    Why don’t we make actual suggestions instead of repeating how much we all hate Comcast. That’s kind of a given. I switched to FIOS the instant it was available and have never looked back. Still, if the requirements are raised for Comcast, Verizon will have to follow suit. I suggest:

    1. We should be able to BUY, not rent DVR boxes. There should be a choice of brands.
    2. Cable cards should be much more widely advertised and the service with them should not be deliberately crippled.
    3.The equipment rental charges from both Comcast and Verizon are ridiculously high. We should be able to buy them or use 3rd party equipment with no penalty and no hassles.
    4.Comcast should be required to publicize their policies on “throttling” and giving priority to certain types of data.
    5.Comcast may own the wires, but it’s just a pipe. Other content providers should be allowed to compete over those wires.
    6. There should be publicized service standards. When I had Comcast, I would call and insist on a prorated bill when the service would go out, which occurred often. They would always do it, with some argument, but very few people know of this. I think it should be AUTOMATIC. When the service goes out, all bills are prorated.

    How about unbundling all those TV channels? I’d like a fully a la carte TV menu. Any argument that they can’t do this is utter BS; they just don’t want to.

    The internet service, Comcast and Verizon both, is VASTLY overpriced. The “high speed” bandwidth they provide is the equivalent of 1-2 HDTV channels and the content is FREE!!! If basic TV is $60, then a fast internet connection should be about $5. They are selling bandwidth and applying an enormous differential charge because they somehow get away with it.

    How about more concrete suggestions like these. Perhaps our county cable administrator can get some of these things improved.

    • Michael H.

      I agree with some of your suggestions, but it’s not true that the content is free. Cable companies have to pay for access to popular channels like ESPN. Otherwise they are not allowed to carry those channels. A significant part of the monthly cable bill is tied to the fees charged by ESPN and some of the other popular channels.

  • dbokie

    My bldg on the western end of Col Pike doesn’t have FiOS and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near getting it. My coworkers who live in DC and MoCo have RCN and it sounds wonderful. It’s certainly cheaper than Comcast. I’m tired of my bill constantly going up. I’ve tried to get a cheaper rate but I must not be saying the magic words. I saw Arl Co’s post on here but I don’t believe them at all. They just want more community channels, not rate and customer service level regulations.

  • Archan

    The very simple answer should be that we stop permitting a monopoly. Any economist can tell you that there is more total surplus (and substantially more consumer surplus) if you create competition and tax the suppliers the amount the monopoly contributes to public causes. What happens is that prices will still come down due to competition and more people will buy the service, thus being able to get value from it. Everyone is left as well or better off, except perhaps the monopolist. In many places what they’ve done is required the incumbent monopolist who owns the cable lines to rent them out at a regulated price to any company that wishes to provide service. The service providers all compete and they end up lowering the cost substantially and offering new services. When I lived in a city that did this in the early 2000s I got cable and internet for $38 a month.

  • PikerGirl

    FIOS is not yet available in my condo building at the western end of Columbia Pike, but discussion with Verizon has started. We have to sign an agreement with them first and then they have to figure out how to wire our whole building.

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