Not All Cable TV and Internet Experiences Are Bad

September 12th, 2007

I know, you love to hate your wireless phone company, your local car dealers (unless you work for one of course), and certainly that company that provides your cable TV service and perhaps the Internet.

Of course, there are good reasons to feel less-than-pleased with such businesses, because they are notorious for delivering bad service and equally bad customer support. I know I’ve had any number of war stories to tell over the years with those three and others.

Yet, from time to time, I’ve had encounters that aren’t so bad. Take our local cable TV provider, Cox, which proclaims to visitors to its site that: “With more than 6 million total residential and commercial customer relationships, over 22,000 employees and a firm commitment to education, the Cox team is widely regarded industry leaders, having earned multiple distinctions in customer satisfaction, diversity practices and company strategy. In 2006, Cox received highest honor in in J.D. Power and Associates’ residential cable/satellite TV customer satisfaction study as well as in 2005 for customer satisfaction among high-speed Internet service providers.”

Among cable TV companies, Cox is dwarfed by Comcast and Warners, but they are all busy competing with local phone companies and satellite TV services to give you entire suites of bundled services. Not just TV and the Internet, but telephone landlines, and even, through partnerships with Sprint, wireless.

I’m sure each and every one of you has a horror story to voice with one of these firms. In the normal course of events, however, despite the horrendous complexities of their networks, the systems do manage to function well enough to satisfy millions of people.

Where a company proves its mettle, however, is when things go wrong. Indeed, there’s plenty of opportunity for that here in Arizona, where summertime temperatures frequently exceed 115 degrees in the shade, and the vast underground and above-ground networks of fiber, coaxial, copper cables, amplifiers and distribution networks required to maintain a cable system can easily break down.

And don’t get me started about car batteries, although we’ve been lucky so far this year.

Indeed, we encountered some difficulties this summer, during which time the Phoenix area had more days where temperatures exceeded 100 degrees than at any time in recent years. Early in July, TV reception became flaky, with occasional bouts of tiling (image breakup) and distorted sound. Clearly the digital ones and zeros weren’t getting through correctly, as the set top boxes had to work overtime to provide data correction.

At the same time, my Internet connection also would become unduly slow for lengthy periods. Normally, download speeds are supposed to exceed 12 megabits, and usually they do.

Getting a handle on all these problems proved difficult, simply because there were, in the end, several causes. Through it all, the Cox support and service people distinguished themselves as friendly, hard-working people who were dedicated to solving the problems and making sure the fixes took.

In recent weeks, they’ve been at my home a number of times, and I’ve occasionally observed them hanging out near the wiring panels nearby, diligently monitoring the systems for hours on end to make sure everything worked perfectly, or as perfectly as possible in a highly imperfect world.

Just this morning, in fact, one of their representatives called me about their solution to our most recent problem. Knowing I was technically savvy (they have, of course, been to my home and the word gets around), she was quick to talk in her native lingo, referring to a bad drop (defective wire in “cable TV talk”) and how it caused packet losses and other issues that contributed to some of the problems I had with my Internet connnection. Once they isolated this particular issue, they were quick to bypass that drop — er, wire — until it could be replaced.

In the end, it was that, plus a combination of aging splitters, a defective amplifier and other wiring issues that caused most of the troubles. In addition, they had to split our cable node, because the growing number of people using their Internet services had exceeded their capacity in this neighborhood.

Now I am not sure what it cost them to perform all that repair work, but certainly it far exceeded my monthly bill for the cable bundle. They also gave me a generous credit towards that bill for the troubles I encountered.

Through it all, in fact, our regular Cox phone service never missed a beat. The local remnant of Ma Bell, Qwest, has to be shaking in their boots over this, as Cox continues to aggressively encroach into traditional telephone service.

As I said, you always expect things not to work when it comes to cable TV and related services. But when the cable company fixes the problems with a smile, you have to feel a little encouraged to know that some stories indeed have happy endings.

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9 Responses to “Not All Cable TV and Internet Experiences Are Bad”

  1. Andrew says:

    I am EXTREMELY happy with my local Ford dealer, though the Mazda, Mercedes and Toyota dealers I’ve dealt with in the last 6 years have really made my blood boil. Good service is rare, but once in a while it can be found.

  2. I am EXTREMELY happy with my local Ford dealer, though the Mazda, Mercedes and Toyota dealers I’ve dealt with in the last 6 years have really made my blood boil. Good service is rare, but once in a while it can be found.

    I’ve never been enamored of Mercedes, but I’m really surprised you got got service from a Ford dealer. Of course, when you buy the Fusion, you get what’s essentially a cross between a Mazda6 and a Ford, so to speak.


  3. Dana Sutton says:

    Moving from cars back to cable, I can’t say that the quality of my service is all that bad, and the few times I’ve needed tech support I’ve been pretty happy with the results. I only have one gripe: I wish that they had some mechanism for giving users advance warning of upcoming interruptions of service for scheduled maintenance. Or am I the only person in the world who is bugged by this??

  4. Jeff says:

    I had a horrible experience with Comcast. My internet had become very sporadic, and I eventually called to complain when it was obvious that it wasn’t a temporary problem. I loathe calling Comcast, because the entire call, from finally getting a human being on the line to working through their decision trees to find the problem usually end up taking at least one hour, if not two.

    The support person that I got was obviously annoyed when I told her that I was using a Mac, and working through the decision tree was an exercise in frustration. In the end, she said that the fault was with my computer and that I needed to call Apple support to resolve the problem. I told her that it couldn’t possibly be my computer and that I had a PC with the same issues. She got angry, told me that I should have told her that I had a PC, and “accidently” disconnected me.

    The second person I got had no problems with diagnosing the problem on my Mac, and in the end we discovered that the problem did lie with Comcast, and they would dispatch someone immediately to look at the node in my neighborhood, as other people would be experiencing the same issue.

    I think it’s less a problem with the company than with the quality of the people that they hire.

    I had a similar problem with Qwest DSL a few years before, and swore off ever doing business with them again.

  5. Dave says:

    My experience with DirecTV for the last 4+ years has not been perfect, but overall I am very satisfied.

    I’ve had a couple of glitches with my Qwest DSL service, but the last one was fixed by a great technician who even gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him if I had any more problems. I was also contacted by his supervisor. I’m a satisfied customer.

  6. My experience with DirecTV for the last 4 years has not been perfect, but overall I am very satisfied.

    I’ve had a couple of glitches with my Qwest DSL service, but the last one was fixed by a great technician who even gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him if I had any more problems. I was also contacted by his supervisor. I’m a satisfied customer.

    Yes, sometimes you’re really lucky and you find one true geek among the crew that accepts you as a fellow traveler. So he gives you the cell phone number, and you know you have an individual who cares about what he’s doing — or just wants to talk to someone in his native language from time to time 🙂


  7. Andrew says:

    My Ford experience was totally contrary to my expectations. I have an F150 (as American as American can be) that has had an issue with fuel intake (pinging) since new. My local Ford dealer has bent over backwards to help identify the problem, and has provided a loaner car ever attempt after the first even though there are no provisions for loaners in Ford’s warranty. This was the dealer paying for a rental.

    The problem has still not been identified even after their regional service department got involved and now customer relations. Not sure if they will buy it back or replace it yet, but I’ve never had better service from a dealership, and it is proof that good service can often be found where you least expect it.

    As for cable, I got so frustrated with Adelphia that I switched to satellite.

  8. Brendan Ginty says:

    In any kind of beaurocracy you are going to have problems. Time Warner Cable is no worse then the federal or state government, i.e. DMV, getting your passport. Just be thankful you can get HD channels from the cable company… just wish the government would give an assentive like that!

  9. Linda says:

    I’ve had horrible experiences with Qwest tech support, trying to get service for my Macs. The language barriers are huge, and I’ve ended up solving my problems myself. I recently lost access to my msn premium account and contacted Qwest. After hours speaking to many people, I was told Macs could no longer use msn premium services. After I complained, a man in the “dsl loyalty department” offered higher speed dsl services at the lower lifetime price I’d been paying. I questioned him repeatedly and was assured the offer was genuine.

    Of course, the bill showed over a 50% increase in my dsl bill. After hours talking to several different people, I was told the first loyalty man had lied, I was lying, I was stupid, and I was crazy. The men I spoke to would not answer my questions, and the last man refused to let me speak to his supervisor, saying he didn’t know who his boss was. (Some of us should be so lucky!) After years as a Qwest customer, I plan to find other service and to let the world know what a ripoff, disrespectful company they are. I urge you to do the same.

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