Comcast are scum

The ‘Digital Television Switchover’ took place here a couple of weeks ago. Not long after, we received this letter from Comcast[PDF 900kB]. While I suspect it doesn’t say anything that is actively illegal, I do think it could be highly misleading and is taking advantage of less well informed people1.

Q: How do I get my signal back?
A: There are several options, but the easy answer is to call Comcast.

How do you quantify ‘easy’? Comcast’s offer probably is ‘easy’ in the sense that once you request their service, they’ll send an installer over to set everything up for you. Of course RCN, Verizon, DirecTV, Dish Network or others would do the same thing, so it pays to shop around, if that’s what you want. They’ll all need to you stay at home to wait for the installer, then add some extra boxes to the outside of your house, drill holes and run cable around.

Assuming you have a TV antenna in place, I think it’s quite easy to buy a digital converter box, connect the antenna to it, and connect it to the TV.

Q: How do I get FREE Basic Cable?
A: It’s easy… sign up for Internet and/or phone (each starting at just $24.95/mo.)

So this is that special kind of ‘free’ where actually you have to pay for something. Whichever deal you choose you’re out a minimum of $10 every month to Comcast, and reading the small print you may also have to pay for equipment, installation, taxes and other fees. Don’t forget, it’s only ‘free’ for the first year. Do you expect to watch TV for longer than a year?

Compare this to a digital converter box. You can request a converter box coupon which gives you $40 off the price. The boxes are selling for around $40 – $60, so your maximum outlay will be about $20 (plus sales tax), with no ongoing cost. If you were previously watching broadcast TV, you can use the same antenna.

Should you take up Comcast’s offer?
I don’t intend to. I don’t think it gains you anything other than another monthly bill. If you just want to get broadcast TV back, a converter box is a cheaper option. If you really want cable, look around at all the possibilities.

1 Though my impression of US culture is that there is more of an expectation for people to inform themselves to avoid being taken advantage of.

One Comment

  1. Kara
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Agreed. They are pretty scummy. The channels I “lost” are because I need to purchase a UHF/VHF combo antenna. I only have one half right now…

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