How to halve your cable/broadband bill

Another day, another Comcast broadband outage. It has been that way for nearly three weeks.

Another day, another Comcast broadband outage.

It has been that way for nearly three weeks. Right around mid-morning EST my Internet access from Comcast croaks. I made at least 5 service calls with my annoyance levels increasing each time. Comcast dropped notes on doorsteps around New Year's Day informing customers they were upgrading the network and there may be sporadic outages--for a week.

Yeah right. Recent outages were way more than sporadic. Instead of upgrading its network, Comcast has been fixing it. With each outage, my desire to jump to Verizon's FiOS service, which offers more speed for the same money as cable, rose. Verizon has been laying fiber optic lines throughout my neighborhood and once those pipes are lit up FiOS service will be available. I'm also likely to ditch Comcast once FiOS is fired up.

But since FiOS won't be available in my neighborhood until at least March--Verizon says it lays the fiber optic lines and then works backward to its central offices--I needed to get by with Comcast. The solution: Gripe about my bill and try to get a break.

Let's face it: $124 a month ($42.95 for high-speed Internet) is a lot to pay for a service that croaks during crunch time. I wasn't a lunatic--only because I had a wireless card as Internet backup--but noted I wanted "a break on my bill."

"Let's see what I can do with promotions," says the customer service rep.

After holding a bit, he comes back with $9.99 for cable access for three months--just enough for me to see if Comcast stabilizes its network--and a substantial discount on basic and standard digital TV service. Once the math is done--factoring ridiculous fees and taxes--my bill will be at least half what it is now.

The moral of this tale: Comcast is hearing Verizon's footsteps in areas where they will compete head to head. My hunch is Comcast wouldn't be sweating its network in my neighborhood if Verizon wasn't laying bright orange lines everywhere. Meanwhile, Verizon will have the speed edge--50 Mbps to the home. And speed kills.

Comcast knows all about this changing landscape--and it'll only get worse once Verizon rolls out TV service--so it'll cut deals. It's important that Comcast holds customers so it can potentially sell them phone service. Bottom line: If you have a genuine gripe call up your soon-to-be-challenged cable provider and cut a deal.