Comcast VoIP's service is no great bargain- and I'm talkin' more than just the high price

I've been a Comcast broadband subscriber ever since they bought AT&T Broadband Internet's business. I've even filed this entry over my Comcast high-speed Internet connection, which happens to be working.

I've been a Comcast broadband subscriber ever since they bought AT&T Broadband Internet's business. I've even filed this entry over my Comcast high-speed Internet connection, which happens to be working.

And I am here to tell you I am quite skeptical about the pricing model, and the reliability justifications. Read my previous post to get the details of these.

Let's take a look at the two "reliability" crucibles of Comcast's intent to charge a small fortune ($39.95 for existing broadband customers, $54.95 for a la carte) for VoIP.

In any type of telephony, the reliability service standard is "five nines." That means that the service should be up and running 99.999 percent of the time. This standard should be assessed in tandem with Comcast's stated, reliability-based justifications for charging more:

Reliability point 1: Digital Voice Calls travel across proprietary Comcast lines, which allow for higher quality and reliability than calls from upstarts that travel exclusively across the public Internet.

Point 2: If your power goes out we give you a battery with 16 hours of backup.

Point one is valid in theory. But strictly judging from my own experience, Comcast's broadband service gets maybe a 99.5%. What compounds the problem - and this is a big one, folks - is that it seems that when service goes down, and you call in to ask about it, they may know about it and then they may not.

Comcast seems to outsource a good number of their first-line tech and repair calls to Canada. In most cases, their people really try to be helpful, but if you ask them questions about local weather or other conditions that might be causing the problem, they are clueless.

That's because while they have their uses, remote service updates and monitoring capability just isn't the same as being situated down the hall from the engineering department. A CSR in Saskatchewan ain't gonna be able to look out the window and notice that the parking lot has all of a sudden become devoid of repair trucks. Or, that the roads outside are icy, and maybe that's why the cable's down.

Lou Dobbs knows about you, Comcast. You're outed.

In some other cases, they don't even know the problem exists. In still other instances, they contradict themselves. Our neighborhood had a service outage recently. One Comcast rep, from Saskatoon or something, said yes, there is an outage in your area. I called an hour later, and the rep who answered said he could "find no reports" of an outage.

And the 16-hour battery backup? You can buy an Uninterruptible Power Supply for less than the monthly subscription price. Which is why I recommend that if you do have VoIP, keep a cell phone handy. The battery thing may elicit some comfort, but there are better Plan B's out there.

And better VoIP calling plans, too. This is the company who wants to charge you an arm and a leg for VoIP?

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