A customer experience story: After a year of Comcast, my verdict

Customer experience (CX) is becoming everything in our hyper-connected world. Over the years, Comcast's customer experience reputation has been far less than stellar. But after a year using the service, how has our favorite broadband-addicted columnist fared? Read on to find out.

Oh, [bleep]. It was an uh-oh moment when I realized that the house we'd just rented after escaping Hurricane Irma had Comcast, and only Comcast, as a broadband service provider. I'd never used Comcast before, but I'd sure read my fair share of horror stories.

I rely on the high speed internet in my house in order to make my living. Here I was, facing a year or possibly more (we would have to sell our Florida home and find and buy one in Oregon). And now, I was stuck relying on Comcast, a company's whose reputation oh-so preceded it.

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My [expletive deleted] perception of Comcast wasn't just personal opinion. It was a matter of public record. I'd never actually used Comcast, but I'd sure read all the stories.

comcast-van.jpg

Xfinity is Comcast's name for home cable service.

Comcast's reputation

Perhaps the most classic of them all was when former Engadget editor Ryan Block tried to cancel his Comcast service. CNET (and just about everyone else in the world) reported on this epic conversation. There's a recording in there that just can't be missed. In fairness, Comcast did apologize on behalf of their rather over-eager rep.

Frankly, based on their reputation, I dreaded dealing with Comcast reps before I met them. After a year talking to at least a dozen folks, I can say that they've all been pleasant, reasonable people with good attitudes.

Even TIME Magazine picked up the story. When TIME runs a recording of bad customer service, you know it's legendary.

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That was back in 2014. This wasn't the first time that Comcast was in hot water. Back in 2011, Comcast was voted the worst company in America and CNET covered that as well. Consumerist ran an online poll about which company was most hated -- and, to make matters worse, apparently Comcast encouraged its employees to vote on behalf of the company. And, making things even worse, they got caught.

For years, there were stories like this. Customers annoyed at Comcast. A reputation made worse and worse. Like me, many folks were stuck with Comcast as a monopoly provider. If you wanted broadband, you had no choice. You had to use Comcast.

Yes, 2011 and even 2014 were a long time ago. This is true. But then there's the story PCMag ran in January 2017, just months before I discovered Comcast was suddenly my only broadband option. Comcast, the story declared, is America's most hated company. Yowch!

My experience

As many of you know, I'm finally out of our temporary rental house and in our new home. The town I now live in is an historic rural small town. It's beautiful. And it doesn't have Comcast. So last week, I cancelled my rental-house Comcast service and yesterday, I returned the cable modem to the nearest Xfinity store (Comcast has rebranded its home cable service as Xfinity).

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As I drove the 30 minutes home from the drop-off, I reflected back on my Comcast experience. Honestly, it was pretty benign.

I did have a few issues. First, I had a service failure that took a while to clean up. I was annoyed that my appointment was canceled out from under me ( read about that here), but when the technician finally showed up, he did a comprehensive job rewiring and repairing my feed and I had no additional problems.

My second minor issue was data usage. The normal Comcast plan caps data at 1TB per month. For normal consumers, I guess that's probably manageable. But for me, well, let's just say I didn't last more than a few days before I started getting warning messages. Fortunately, Comcast did offer an upgrade. For an extra $50, they had an unlimited bandwidth plan.

I wasn't thrilled about paying what amounted to an extra $600 last year for unlimited data, but it could have been far worse. They could have tiered that data plan, and I could have found myself somehow trying to limit my bandwidth usage or going into debt. A fifty buck per month surcharge for the amount of data I use was not unfair.

Finally, upload bandwidth was slow. It never got above 10Mbps, and often hovered lower than that. I found that difficult, moving from the Spectrum/Brighthouse service I had in Florida. Back there, I had a 25Mbps upload speed, and it held that rate pretty solidly. Of course, I always wanted more, but I didn't realize how good I had it until I tried doing backups with 4-6Mbps up.

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So, while my experience with Comcast wasn't ideal, neither was it traumatic. A big shout-out to every Comcast person I encountered. Everyone was unfailingly polite and pleasant. Yes, one or two of the phone reps were a bit dense, but not in any way worthy of TIME Magazine coverage.

Frankly, based on their reputation, I dreaded dealing with Comcast reps before I met them. After a year talking to at least a dozen folks, I can say that they've all been pleasant, reasonable people with good attitudes.

Given the famous service disconnect call mentioned above, I was curious what I'd encounter. When I called in, I was asked for my reasoning for disconnecting. Once I said I was moving, I was immediately shunted to a "customer loyalty" rep. That seemed weird, but the rep actually had a great sense of humor. She understood the idea that the town I'm not in isn't serviced by Comcast and made the disconnect process easy.

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Dropping off the cable modem at the local store took -- and I'm not making this up -- less than a minute. A rep at the door greeted me, scanned the bottom of the modem, and handed me a receipt. Done.

Comcast isn't perfect, but at least my experience doesn't support the initial dread their reputation engendered. If I had to work with the company again, I don't think I'd mind. I'd want better upload speeds, but otherwise, I've had far worse experiences with other companies over the years.

Comcast was quite simply not bad.

Ooh, fiber

That said, boy-oh-boy did I trade up! Back in the early 2000s, the little town I now live in discovered that they were too small to expect any of the traditional carriers to install broadband. So, in 2005, with a loan from the state, my new town and its neighbor teamed up to create MINET, a public utility broadband service.

A small town public broadband service certainly didn't inspire high hopes. That said, the reality of MINET in this town sure wasn't what I expected. Okay, are you sitting down?

The best upload speed I've ever had was 25Mbps. Even when I paid for a commercial, dedicated line back in New Jersey in the early 2000s to serve the millions of pages ZATZ sent out each month, I didn't have speeds anywhere close.

Now, with MINET, I'm getting verified 250Mbps upload speeds and 1Gbps down. 250Mbps. Holy cow! Do you know how much faster my backups and YouTube uploads will be? Weeks down to hours. Days down to minutes. I get tingly all over* just thinking about it.

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The idea of community, citizen-owned broadband fiber is fascinating to me. I'm still unpacking, but once I get fully situated, I want to dig deeper into how community fiber is changing the face of small towns.

I'll tell you this. If MINET wasn't here in this town, we wouldn't have bought our house. We get to live in a beautiful, rural town and I can still do my job. So while my Comcast experience wasn't bad, they don't hold a candle to 250Mbps up. Wheeee!

*Yes, I know I'm weird. But this kind of stuff does it for me. You all know me. You know it's true.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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