back to article You won't believe this but... everyone hates their cable company: Bombshell study lands

You almost have to admire the US cable industry's absolute disregard for its own paying subscribers. For the past 15 years, it has received the lowest marks in customer satisfaction across the entire American economy, and it's not planning to change that rock-bottom appreciation any time soon. Consumer Reports this week …

Anonymous Coward

America Fuck Yeah

Ah Cable... A classic example of the 'Rent Seeking' Economy...

Or how to lobby your government for every break you can get.

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Anonymous Coward

What is 'Rent-Seeking'?

"Rent-seeking is an individual's or entity's use of company, organizational or individual resources to obtain economic gain without reciprocating any benefits to society through wealth creation. An example of rent-seeking is when a company lobbies the government for loan subsidies, grants or tariff protection. These activities do not create any benefit for society but merely redistribute resources from the taxpayers to the company."

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Re: What is 'Rent-Seeking'?

That sounds like the behavior of the major cable companies to me.

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Re: What is 'Rent-Seeking'?

"Rent seeking" is pretty much all of Wall Street. All they do is blood suck off people who actually do something useful. Nothing more than leeches.

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Unhappy

Big Cable understands how to boil a frog

And you can bet Google will follow them right along once they have sufficient market share to get a seat at the "Top Table."

Seriously what is the benefit of going with one of the "Big boys"?

Access to certain sports events? That's a classic tactic to grab a slap of market share.

But what if you just want broadband?

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WTF?

Not going America !

Bloody hell ! I knew charges were high in the USA but . . .

Because I have Sky broadband and phone I just looked up the price for the complete Sky package, the standard rate - after any introductory offers - is £63.99/month which equates, according to Google to $83 + change, call it $84/month. And the median rate in the Land of the 'Free' is $186 ?

Like the suthor of this article I find it difficult to ascrbe such a price differential as anything other than the exercise of monopoly power.

Chris Cosgrove

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Re: Not going America !

Like the suthor of this article I find it difficult to ascrbe such a price differential as anything other than the exercise of monopoly power.

To an extent yes, but don't forget that you're comparing to full fat US cable. So you'd need to start from (at least) the £69 fastest Sky package, and then (as per the article) look at the add ons like Sky Sport at £20 a month and Sky Cinema at £10 a month. Sky HD is another £5 a month, Sky Sport HD a different £6 a month, and if you want Kids thats another fiver, as are Box Sets. And on the phone, you're not getting any calls - if you select Anytime calls, that's another £12 a month.

So if you want a premium package with all the add ons that compares to the US $186 figure, you'd be looking at £69 plus somewhere between £35-61. If I plump for an indicative figure of £120, that converts to $156. Add in another $10 notionally for the faster broadband that cable offers over Sky's Openreach, and there's still a pricing gap, but it isn't as big as first appears. If I do the same things for Vermin Media, the sums work out much the same - their VIP all inclusive bundle is £129 (out of the introductory offer), so that comes to $165.

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Re: Not going America !

It is hard, though, now that Internet is considered more-or-less an essential, to keep the cost to a reasonable level. I semi-cut-the-cord, by going back to mostly antenna TV, so that I only now pay $40 per month for Internet: which I get from Way-out-West, who are a relatively small Internet provider (with OK-ish customer service); and I add $25 for sling (which adds on the basic cable channels, including Premiership football on NBCSN, which is, obviously, an ex-pat survival essential). I also got rid of Netflix. We have no home telephone, using just Skype to make calls (circa $5 per month for calls to landlines), so our total "not-cable" entertainment bill is $70: which, to my mind is still scandalously high.

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Re: Not going America !

From what I've seen and hear of it, that "full fat" US cable ISN'T actually all that complete. $186 is not going to get you all the bells and whistles and only mediocre internet speeds.

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Obviously Not American But...

Virgin are pretty damn good in my area.

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Re: Obviously Not American But...

Virgin Media are of course a large US owned cable company (Liberty Global) and Vermin Media is the UK brand. When it works, I'll grant you it works fairly well, but otherwise the US findings ring true - the shittest customer service I've ever encountered, cloth ears to customer demands, horrible, one-sided lock in contracts that guarantee no level of service, rampant and repeated price rises. The off-shore customer service appears to terminate at a call centre in the chimpanzee enclosure of some third world zoo, on-line chat is operational only on the 32nd of each month, and you only get to speak to a UK based employee by phoning and selecting all the options to cancel (150 from a VM line, options 1, 1, 4, 5 - sad that I know this without looking).

Any technical fault may takes repeated visits to get fixed, and physical changes or new installs are high risk, with the work done by the lowest skilled labour VM can find to do each element. There,s no internal communication, no interest in providing a working service. A truly dreadful company that deserves to fail.

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Re: Obviously Not American But...

Any technical fault may takes repeated visits to get fixed,

That's hopelessly over-optimistic.

It assumes you can contact them in the first place. And their customer service is inspired by Kafka.

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Re: Obviously Not American But...

Same with Ziggo in the Netherlands. They got taken over by Liberty Global and their customer service took a nose-dive from "not very good" to horrendous.

I also think it's important we start calling companies by their correct name. It's not Virgin Media, it's Liberty Global UK. It's not Ziggo, it's Liberty Global NL. Putting the correct name on things let's people put 2 and 2 together, instead of allowing the company to hind behind the 20 or so different brands it uses worldwide.

Somehow people in the Netherlands are STILL surprised when I tell them Ziggo isn't a small dutch Telco but part of a massive global cable company that is doing it's very best lobbying for the right to take advantage of us.

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Re: Obviously Not American But...

"Virgin Media ... the shittest customer service I've ever encountered,"

To be fair I've just moved from Sky to VM (half the price and 350Mbps v 75 Mbps) two months ago. I've only had to call customer services three times. Getting past the first line call centre is incredibly painful. The call centre staff totally failed to even understand the issues I was having when I spoke to them.

(For example when I had phone problems.

Me: "I can make local calls in my own STD* area but cannot call someone outside this area".

VM: "So you can make national calls but not international calls?"

Me: "No..." etc - repeat for about thirty minutes).

However once you get onto the local (UK?) support staff then they are quite good. So re the call centre part then yes you are totally correct but let's give credit to their UK staff.

*STD, for non-UK residents Subscriber Trunk Dialling or area code.

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Facepalm

@Not also known as SC ref UK STD.

I've taken to using the more American phrase "area code" as all I get from my younger colleagues is a snigger when I say STD. Fnar, fnar. PP

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Yay for me!

I have a bottom five ISP and a bottom five cable company - and they're two different companies! Though actually I don't have too much to complain about with my internet service from Centurylink. True, it isn't hundreds of megabits like cable service but I always get max speed and it almost never goes out, but for the price I pay I should get faster speeds.

The internet service from Mediacom may offer faster speeds, but it slows down a lot during the evenings and goes out for hours on a regular basis. Plus they don't offer static IPs, and Centurylink does. There's a fiber ISP expanding into my city, can't wait to have the chance to check that out!

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Re: Yay for me!

<Jealous hurrumph>You suck!</Jealous hurrumph> =-Jp

I've got Comcast for my ISP & they're so firmly entrenched at the very bottom of every list (except "Worst of" lists where they're #1!), I get shitty service for extortionate prices & no viable competition to speak of. The FCC claims I've got plenty of competition in my area, but given my choices are Comcast cable 3Mbps for nearly $100/month or AT&T DSL *if* I agree to pay to upgrade the POTS copper to my house first, the FCC obviously has their head firmly wedged up their arse.

My only real way to get anything approaching competition would be to move to the San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area near a Google fibre loop, but I'd spend more per month in rent than I currently make at all, so fat lot of good that would do me. I could have gigabit fibre to my cardboard box under a bridge! <Sarcasm>Hooray!</Sarcasm>

To add insult to injury, even though my customer notes in the Comcast system state that I am totally blind & don't watch tv at all, Comcast keeps calling me up & trying to sell me a tv+internet+VOIP bundle. "Are you looking at my account right now? You are? Good. What does it say in big, bold, bright text across the top of my customer notes? And yet you want to sell me service I can't use, don't want, & refuse to pay for? What kind of idiot ARE you? Wait, nevermind, you work for Comcast. Arsehole!" *CLICK*

*Deep sigh*

I want off this rock entirely. When's the next Vogon due by that I can sneak a lift from?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yay for me!

Try mediacon err com. They are intestinal a reseller of Comcast but with a crappier attitude . If you are unlucky enough to go with medicom you must buy your own cable modem. A cheap as chips cable model on amazon is $49.99 a high end is $000 so follow me . $5 a month rental charge . Ok pretty standord. if you want why fi turned on that's $5 a month. so now we are up to $120 a month. If you are asking why can't you just go in and turn wi fi on ? They have molested this cable modem so much you have to pay $5 a month to get access to the modem. That comes out to an additional $180 a year in fees.

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"Broadcast TV fee" has not existed for decades

Not sure where the author got that ridiculous claim from. It is a fairly recent phenomena, and until five years ago was less than a buck so it wasn't even worth itemizing. But local stations have been jacking up the price they ask cable/satellite companies to carry them by 200-300% every time they come up for renewal.

Not because they are greedy, but because the networks charge them more to carry their programming. A lot of that is because they pay a ton of money for the sports they carry, especially the NFL.

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Re: "Broadcast TV fee" has not existed for decades

I do think there should be some regulation on the local tv stations who are responsible for distributing network TV. In many cities, the signal is almost impossible to pick up, forcing many to be forced into the cable trap if they want just the basic channels. Out here in the suburbs, I get a great HD signal with an external antenna, but in the city, especially in an apartment, the signal is almost un-pick-up-able. Networks should be held to account: if the transmitter they provide cannot provide a signal that can be reasonable received using equipment appropriate to the type of residence (I.e. A portable antenna in an apartment), anywhere within the area they are responsible for broadcasting to, then the cost of basic cable should be paid for by the stations representing the networks.

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Re: "Broadcast TV fee" has not existed for decades

They'll just fire back even the strongest signal allowed by the FCC can do squat if you live in a concrete canyon. The physics of a city's structure tend to make radio signals difficult to handle. Ask any cell phone or GPS user. Under the FCC mandate, they're not obligated to reach a particular stretch of people (TV is not considered essential). In fact, the cable company could (theoretically) drop the local channel if it can't reach a certain area (the onus is on the cable company, not the broadcast network).

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Re: "Broadcast TV fee" has not existed for decades

There's help on the way for reception problems. At least in theory. ATSC 3.0 uses a different modulation which nearly eliminates multipath as an issue, so having multiple transmitters on the same frequency in different directions works just fine. Thus ATSC 3.0 supports the concept of "single frequency networks" or SFNs, which allow TV stations to add a bunch of smaller transmitters throughout their footprint to fill in areas where people have bad reception (like if they live in a canyon or the wrong side of a mountain)

They can be pretty small, so theoretically they could rent out some space on the tallest cell tower in a city and cover that whole city and surrounding area.

The question is whether stations will want to make the investment for this to happen. If this causes viewers who are currently paying for cable/satellite (and thus paying the station) to cut the cord and pick up the station for free with an antenna, it'll cost them money! So it isn't clear to me that we will actually see SFNs or not.

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In fact, if you want to be less infuriated with your cable company, the answer appears to be to go with the small guys

I'd love to. Any tips on how to get one of those small guys to come into town and start competing with Cox?

Here's the real problem: unless you live in a big city - which around half of Americans still don't - they've got you. My options for internet here are AT&T, Cox, or a couple local companies that top out around 5mb speeds. And as for cable TV? The local companies don't even try. Granted I (and, in my opinion, anyone who budgets with any kind of sanity) don't have cable TV these days, but I'm still paying out the nose for internet simply because I have no options.

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Stop

Charter (Spectrum) Scum Rats Don't Offer 'Deals' After One Year

There are no 'deals' from Charter (Speculum) after your initial one year deal runs out. If you complain, they tell you to get lost. They don't relent. They don't care about customer relations. If you're in one of the many areas where you're stuck with them as the MONOPOLY, of course they laugh and laugh.

The only workaround for this sick customer abuse is to: QUIT Charter (Speculum) for a month. Then join again at an initial deal rate. I've done exactly this in order to maintain a sane cost for Internet. (I refuse to use any of their other IMHO cruddy services).

Meanwhile, because of local dirty deal doings with former Time Warner Cable (now Charter), Verizon refuses to expand their broadband into Charter (Speculum) territory and compete. This has been the case for many years. I live four houses down from the closest FIOS connection. Verizon doesn't give a rat's. They won't connect me. They'll put me on a mailing list to let me know 'when' they'll expand their network. Years later, no email ever arrives.

Summary: Monopolies are always destructive. #MyStupidGovernment came up with this stupid idea and We The People suffer for their stupidity. Now we have an FCC Director, proven liar Ajit Pai, who only says what the BIG CABLE strings to his mouth tell him to say. We The People are mere prey to be captured, gutted and strung up for blood letting. This is corporatocracy. This is insane. Stop.

No surprise that my state, New York, is booting out Charter (Spectrum) at the end of September (or so they plan and we victim citizens hope).

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Re: Charter (Spectrum) Scum Rats Don't Offer 'Deals' After One Year

Same rectum Spectrum deal here in SoCal. They upped my rate and when I called because they were offering a special deal they made no bones about telling me to go pound sand and that the special was for new customers only. When I said I could switch to Frontier (dial up, like you fiber stops at the end of the street) for a month and then I'd be a new customer they said nope, I'd be a returning customer and not eligible for the lower rate. In short, they know you're fucked and they have no bones saying it to your face because, "whatcha gonna do?"

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Re: Charter (Spectrum) Scum Rats Don't Offer 'Deals' After One Year

Unless you live alone, you might try canceling the service in your name, and getting ‘new’ service under the name of a different household member. Of course then they will hit you with a lot of upfront installation fees, and it will take several months to break even, then start saving.

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Go

To be fair, this is a pretty old problem :)

Does your incumbent local exchange carrier/cable company treat you like this and then wonder why you dislike them??

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2NNZdigSXg

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Happy

Comcast gets an award for its service quality

Sadly, the Consumerist stopped holding the "Worst Company in America" competition, because lots of powerful corporations were afraid they might one day get featured in the competition. But guess who the last "winner" was?

I loved the format too, where they would handle it like a NCAA March Madness or World Cup bracket, with company A going up against company B, and then votes for the worst offender getting tallied for that matchup and the victor moving on to do battle with another heartless corporation, on the way to selecting the true worst-of-the-worst.

https://consumerist.com/2014/05/07/watch-antenna-company-deliver-a-worst-company-congrats-cake-to-comcast-hq/index.html

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M7S

If Google are 2nd best at things including customer service

then things must really be bad

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Re: If Google are 2nd best at things including customer service

I have Google Fiber.. Their response has always be timely and helpful. I have no complaints. They are much better that AT&T in everything, including speed and reliability.

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J27

HughesNet is definitely the worst, DOUBLE SATELLITE latency...

I killed my cable subscription 2 years ago and never looked back. Although having access to an local fibre internet provider certainly helps.

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Facepalm

Conspicuously Missing...

One company that I do not see at all on any list is AT&T. I have AT&T Uverse and the quality is pretty good, and good customer service. They aren't cheap though. They are using IPTV with custom set-top boxes, so you have to get the boxes from them, but they will replace them on a drop of the hat if there's a problem. And the internet service, although slower than Comcrap, has better performance during high congestion periods.

However, to be fair to the cable companies, the bills are high because the cable channels that are carried charge the cable companies to carry them. This is especially true for sports channels. The cable companies only own a handful of channels. The rest are owned by media conglomerates such as Big 10 Networks and such which charges an arm and a leg. They charge an outrageous amount for each registered subscriber. I don't really watch sports, but I have to get it because the FCC killed off the 'al-la-cart' proposal because then nobody would get smaller TV stations and they would go under. I don't speak Spanish, I don't watch sports, so those channels are useless to me, but we are forced to pay for them anyways. So the high prices it not entirely the cable companies fault. I know, because I used to be an insider...which leads to the following:

Disclaimer: I used to work for AT&T.

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Re: Conspicuously Missing...

Well, as they say, things could be worse. Newspapers suffer the same issues, I hear. Most people only buy newspapers for one or two sections. Without all of them, though, they wouldn't have enough buyers to stay in business. So you may not speak Spanish but your neighbor may be Hispanic, yet without both your subscriptions, television can be a much sparser world.

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Megaphone

Re: Conspicuously Missing...

I've had U-verse for TEN years now and still consider it better than any deal the only competition will offer me.

My only lingering beef with them is that uploads are only one-quarter (claimed / at best! more like 1/5 or 1/6 with actual data) of the speed of downloads. I understand there are (probably) good technical reasons to architect the distribution network for downloads, but given my loyalty I am sure they could flip a bit and give me full-speed both ways, especially since I'm paying for more than bare-bottom-tier.

But I've whinged about this before and I'll spare any more details.

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Re: Conspicuously Missing...

I had AT&T Uverse for a few years (the exact length of the contract). On a regular basis, on Thursday mornings between 10:30 and 11:30 I would have a momentary outage, which would knock internet connectivity down for about 10 minutes as the modem resync'ed. Working from home made that a real pain.

Finally found out that new installs were done on Thursday morning, and the tech assigned to this area wasn't labeling the box, so he had to hunt for an inactive port to hook the new customer up to. His method for this was to unplug cables until he found an inactive one.

I laugh at the "We want you back" mailings I get from them. Or will until I need to switch off of Spectrum again to get New Customer Pricing...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Conspicuously Missing...

Disclaimer: I used to work for AT&T.

You have my sympathy. Better luck next time.

After 41+ years there they "retired" me earlier this year and they're still shoving people out the door at a rapid rate.

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Alert

This is why we shouldn't push too hard for competitors to put BT out of business. BT is the only telecoms company in the UK that is required by its license to allow other CPs to offer a service over its cables. That's why almost every property in the UK (those outside Hull basically) currently have a wide choice of CPs.

The upstart FTTP providers like Hyperoptic are helping kick start the revolution but being stuck with one provider is not good. And if the alternative is other CPs overbuilding their own fibre network that is a silly and unlikely solution.

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Out of pure spite to my "free market" cable provider

years ago I've switched to Economy Internet (they'd started to jack up prices while using moronic excuses for doing so). It hurts, but it hurts them as well (they get less than prior to starting the stupid game). I'm no netflix user and have no intent to sign up for any cloud service (that required subscription and was bandwidth intense) so it's not too bad for single household. Recently I looked into their current offer (guest at home) and while the initial rate for next tier up wasn't too bad, required bundles (I have no fricking need for any of added services and costs) cut my search short. To be honest, an idea of contacting support and going through the ordeal I had to go through to settle on my current plan is probably the best reason to avoid any changes.

Lose, lose is sometimes the only winning strategy.

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Re: Out of pure spite to my "free market" cable provider

But even that smacks of cutting one's nose off to spite one's face. There are plenty of fish in the sea who simply cannot live without ESPN. Say no, and they'll reply You Might as Well Be Walking on the Sun.

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Smaller companies aren't any better

I have this god awful company called CableOne, and I'd much rather be on Spectrum or Comcast because CableOne are overpriced shit kickers that will raise your rates and degrade your service at any chance they get where Spectrum and Comcast might be sort of expensive, but their networks don't fall over at every opportunity that they get whereas CableOne's does.

They also have this nasty habit of setting arbitrary data caps and then raising your rates, but not your speeds if you exceed it, even if you can prove that you didn't use that much data.

Fuck CableOne. The second there's an alternative to them here, that isn't CenturyLink's 1990's style ADSL (which isn't an alternative), I'm gone and never looking back.

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Happy

Or you could ditch cable ...

I've been a cord cutter for years. Century Link DSL @ 33 Mbps for $45 a month. I get close to 5 9's (99.999%) uptime, I'd say 4 9's. Even after the last hurricane it didn't go down. I just hooked the Generator to the UPS's.

The library has free movies and Netflix keeps me busy.

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Re: Or you could ditch cable ...

That's not bad, only about twice what it would cost in the uk.

(I'm assuming that's some kind of vDSL)

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Well, I...

... don't hate mine. Fibre to the premises, uncapped, synchronous speeds up to 1Gbps if I want it, no outages, knowledgeable, friendly and cooperative tech support (oh, you want to run your own router? Sure! We'll just put a convertor in and take ours away. No, no fee! Sure, if you change your mind we'll come put ours back!). Did I mention $50 a month for the 250Gbps I _am_ paying for (and getting - both ways, all the time?).

Oh. Right. I'm in Canada. My apologies... :-).

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Re: Well, I...

Damn canadians..... next you'll be listing how much coverage the health care system there gives... :)

<<Stuck with vermin media, but at least its cheaper than the US cable companies

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Re: Well, I...

Surprised I haven't started seeing a serious "America sucks! Move to Canada!" campaign yet...

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Frontier must have royally screwed Verizon's business model.

I had Verizon FiOS for 9 years. No contract. No complaints. I had a total of 3 rate hikes. Each was $1.50 and I was notified by snail mail 3 months in advance. We did not have phone service, so, most of those excessive and costly "government" fees did not apply. I did decline access to sports events which cut $12 from the bill. That was really the only thing I considered excessive.

...and not only did I rent the box, I paid a small monthly fee for the remote too. Each rime the batteries went, I went in and got a new remote. ;)

I only had two problems in the 9 years. Once, my ONT failed and it took 48 hours to get fixed, and once for a couple days one of my favorite networks became Brazilian soccer. A simple call ro tech-support resolved that one.

After moving I went 18 months with no service. During that time Frontier bought Verizon's assets sans cellular. When I did get Frontier FiOS, I got internet only, 100/100 which they do provide. 2 years in and no rate hikes or service issues. Actually, the $54 I pay doesn't even have taxes or fees. They said $54 at sign up, and that is exactly what it is.

During Hurricane Irma, I lost power and it took a little over a week to repair. With ONT, Cable modem, NAS, and smart TV connected to a UPS which was connected to a small inverter fed by my cars battery, I was pampered. The heat was misreable bit I was well entertained.

Frontier is a bit slow on service calls. The power supply to my ONT and my cable modem got hit by lightning a couple months ago. Took Frontier a week to get me back up, but, they pro-rated my bill without hassle.

Overall, FiOS is tops in my eyes.

Compared to Time-Warner/Spectrum who did pull every sleazy move possible every month. Even under contract the bill climbed every month. ...fees.

When Frontier first bought out Verizon's assets in the area, there was one bad experience for my mother-in-law. She ordered FiOS just as the the deal between Verizon and Frontier went through. When Frontier came out, they ran all new cables to and thru the house. They installed all equipment. ...and when time came to provision the equipment, the network wouldn't see anything past the streets splitter box. That tech left, said another would return tomorrow. That tech came. No luck. Spent 8 hours on-site, next day was Sunday, so, told a tech would show up Monday. Wash, rinse, repeat. It all ended a week later with a tech who said he'd be back tomorrow, left his tools, and never returned. Mother-in-law waited another week and went back to Time Warner/Spectrum.

It was 20 months before I could ask a Frontier FiOS tech if all the issues have been resolved and got back an answer that wasnt a huge belly laugh! At that time I ordered FiOS and within a week, I was online. Zero complaints since.

MetroPCS $50 Unlimited, Frontier FiOS 100/100, Netflix, Fire TV, Kodi +add-ons. That's my "triple-play" package. $116/mo.

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Unhappy

In the UK one must buy the BBC

Hate or love the BBC, if you want to watch TV the UK, one must legally subscribe (i.e. buy a licence) to the BBC. The siituation may be bad in the US, but having to legally pay for the BBC in the UK is unacceptable.

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Re: In the UK one must buy the BBC

Ditto, being forced to pay for that bunch of ***** * ** * ***** really pisses me off.

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Cable companies are terrible worldwide

I recently moved and decided I was going to get rid of cable. I was only watching star trek reruns on syfy anyway as background. They'd been overcharging me for years for a shitty DVR I'd long stopped using.

First off, there was no cancel option on the website, every mention of cancelling directs you to a phone number, and you know it's because they're not going to let you cancel it. Eventually, buried deep somewhere in the website, I found a button to do it online. And guess who calls me up soon after...

I just told them I was leaving the country in the end, that stopped them.

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