Monday, September 13, 2010

Comcast internet

Comcast cable internet is cheaper and much faster than AT&T DSL in the SF Bay Area. Here's the comparison:

AT&T DSL. $33/month plus basic phone line charges of about $12/month. 2.5 Mbit down / 0.42 Mbit up.

Comcast Internet 15/3 plan: $19.99/month (even for new customers who are not buying TV or phone). 17 Mbit (average 15 ) down, 5 Mbit up.

Here's what I learned:

Do not call Comcast's phone number. Instead, use their online chat feature. It seems the people in the call center are unable or less willing to make a deal than the chat room people.

Each CSR (rep) acts as his or her own negotiator. They all have different quotas and desire/ability to make deals. Start a chat session and just ask for current promos. If nothing sounds good, refuse politely and try again in a few minutes/hours/days. Different reps will offer different deals.

In one chat session, I mentioned that I currently had AT&T DSL. A few minutes later, the Comcast rep offered me cable internet for $33/month. What a coincidence! That's exactly what I was already paying for DSL. The reps have more information than I thought. The rep would not go lower than $33/month and I eventually refused.

Buy your own cable modem. eg
For $30 or less, you can beat the $5/month rental pretty fast.

The "internet-only" service apparently comes with some basic cable TV channels:

I do not want cable TV service (even for free), but I brought in my shop monitor from the garage to test if cable TV was indeed available. It appears so. The Comcast tech did not install any sort of filter between my house and the poll. I flipped through it, and it appeared to be all working. The only thing that caught my eye was an old Star Trek The Next Generation episode. I will return the TV to the garage and not even worry about "stealing" cable TV.

Here's a photo of a device that the Comcast tech called a "trap." It's not a trap in the electrical sense. It's more of a mechanical security device.

The tech left it on the ground after completing my installation, so I decided to cut it open to see its internals.

If this were a 1/4" left-handed drill bit, it might grab the inner piece of metal enough to turn it counter-clockwise.


  1. Thanks Ben. This was helpful as I could get a discount from a Chat agent. I got $ 19.99 for six months and $ 44.95 after that.

  2. Nandan, I'm glad you got a good deal. When the six months have passed, call/chat and ask for an extension of the promo rate. If that fails, pay for one month at full price, then request the promo rate again. I have a friend that calls every six months to restart the promo rate.

    Some business genius at Comcast must have decided that lowering the price only for people that complain and keeping the price very high for everyone else will generate more money for the company rather than charging everyone a "medium" amount.

  3. Your speedtest numbers are interesting. I get 20.5 down / 3.5 up. However, I have not been able to get a Comcast CSR to adjust my rate down from $65/month. I'm going to give it one more shot, then jump ship to Astound.

    There is one more thing that sucks about modem rental besides $3/month-- when you have to give it back, Comcast makes you take a number and wait in line, DMV style. When I did this in San Jose, it was a LONG wait. An hour at least.

  4. Peter, that sucks! When I met you guys in Foster City, I happened to walk by the Comcast office over there, and noticed quite a few people standing around. I wondered why anyone would go to a cable provider in person. That answers it.

  5. So here's what happened.

    I tried online chat twice, no go.

    So I called to cancel this morning. I asked for a date of next Wednesday for the cancellation. The CSR offered me a $20/month discount for 6 months. I asked for 12 months, but she wouldn't budge, so I said I was going with Astound. Well, she cut off service right then and there-- including the Skype call I was on. I decided to stick with Comcast though, mostly because Astound has a 100gb/month cap-- otherwise, I would have gladly said goodbye to comcast, even with lower speed. So the next two hours were spent trying to reestablish my existing service. The self install page which I got forwarded to does not work in Google Chrome, and it seemed to also require that my PC be attached directly to the modem, rather than through the router. The modem remembers the MAC address of the last thing connected though, so you have to pull the plug on it for a minute until it forgets. The provision process kept bombing out. Finally, I had to download some BS toolbar and other utilities for the "Xfinity" service to be activated. In the end, I spent about 4 hours renewing-- which makes me wonder whether it was worth it after all...

  6. Yes, you are right about the modem direct connection and the required install of Xfinity crap. When the tech hooked up the cable at my house, I believed he called the software bundle "junk". Of course, it can be uninstalled immediately, but this is the first time that I have seen a truly required software bundle. It looked like it contained actual spyware as well.

  7. Is the last sentence of this post a hint?