Openness, Technology and why Comcast Sucks.

Imagine my surprise today when my new TivoHD arrived today, earlier than the 8 days I was expecting it to take from its California warehouse. I called up Comcast and asked for two CableCards, and was told I could pick them up from any of the billing locations.

Off I went, braving the rain, to my local billing office. There, I was told by an incredibly surly woman that only “qualified technicians” could install them. I recognize that not everyone works in tech here in the Greater DC area, but I’d say a sizeable number of people can understand the concept of plugging in a card. It’s not that tricky, honestly. Slide the card in until you feel it seat, then plug all the goodies in. But no, they send some contractor lackey out, instead. The earliest I can get one is Sunday from 3-6. So, for the next couple days, I’ll be suffering with just the local channels, including this afternoon’s Girlfriends marathon on UPN 20.

But what this really comes down to is openness in technology. In 1996, Congress passed an act that required cable systems to open up, meaning that we weren’t required to use their crappy ass set top boxes anymore. I know that the HD DVR they installed is the single shittiest piece of consumer electronics I’ve ever used, and I was very pleased to get the new TiVoHD unit today. The openness that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandated is coming soon to cellphones, as the latest broadband auction has a few more rules tied up in how the bandwidth will be used (all handsets made for the spectrum will be usable on any carrier, the same will be true for various applications used in the spectrum, as well), making it more open, too.

What’s left? Well, our cable companies still are messing with consumers instead of giving them the technology to enable their further use of their system. More and more, consumers want companies out of the way of their goals. Apple recently accomplished this with their iPhone. Want a new phone? Buy it in the store and activate it at home, instead of having to wait for a good 30-45 minutes while a pimply faced teenager misspells your name or street for the third time. You control the experience. You control the technology, even if you’re beholden to their network, it’s a start.

C’mon Comcast, we can figure this stuff out, if you just let us.

5 Comments so far

  1. Same Boat (unregistered) on August 9th, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

    It’s not just Comcast. Years ago, my boyfriend switched to Directv to escape Comcast. To reward him for being a long time customer, Directv will upgrade us to a HD receiver, gratis. Only problem is that they insist that Directv install it. Nevermind that he put the first one in by himself, they insist that THIS dish is way to complicated for a layman to understand. So now one of us will have to take time off to meet Directv’s lackey contractor.


  2. Don (unregistered) on August 9th, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

    DirecTV’s reasoning is a little less egregious, actually, since existing customers may need a new dish, LNB, and almost certainly these two goofy dongle things. Sending someone out with a truck full of those things is easier and less trouble-prone than shipping things that the customer says they need, which they may or may not.

    I speak from recent experience on this…


  3. digitaldefection (unregistered) on August 9th, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

    yeah i got my tivo hd a couple weeks ago. i love it, and i had to go through a similar experience, although i never went to the store.

    the techs are terrible. all they needed to do (or so i thought) was as you said, install the two little cards and call the corporate offices and tell them the numbers on the card. well, instead of even opening the cards or anything like that, the guys immediately pulled the cable out of my wall socket and started testing the connection. i was like ‘dude, i have cable, just gimme the cards’.

    but they wanted to make sure the signal was ‘strong enough’. two hours later, they had been in my apt building’s cable closet, and moved me to the top priority port (i assume, therefore, making some other poor bastard’s cable suck ass). they came back, happy with my signal level (which appeared to still suck) and attempted to set up the cable cards. they couldnt get one to work because of failed hardware, and the other one had a problem with the serial number not being able to be activated (reported it as stolen or something).

    so then the next day a different tech came out, and he did exactly the same thing, ignored my request to just install the damn cards, and went straight to the closet and started messing with my cable again. he finally got the cards working four hours later, after fiddling the whole time with cable and the cards.

    also make sure you update your tivo before they come. there was an incompatibility issue between the scientific atlanta cards and the tivo software.

    that having been said, the new tivo is really sweet (especially given that i only paid 235 dollars for mine)


  4. w0lf (unregistered) on August 10th, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

    Comcast owns Tivo anyway,….and Do you realize that Cable cards, and the whole provisioning software for them is a horrible technology?

    Also comcast doesn’t manufacture the cards, are you going to buy a leaf blower at walmart, and blame walmart because its a pos. Or are you going to blame,
    the company that produces it. One last thing, any digital equipment a cable company installs , is very dependent on the rf signal to work properly.If they would have “just install the damn cards” , and you would have tiling , or other intermittent service , then you would still be on here flaming, and whining like a little girl,

    good day sir…….


  5. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on August 11th, 2007 @ 2:52 pm

    I’m blaming Comcast for not making the cards available to their customers, but rather making them available from their “technicians” over whom 90% of us here in this tech heavy area have more electronics experience.

    I recognize that things are dependent on signal, but why isn’t Comcast making sure that signal’s high all the way around? I mean, that is what we pay you for, right?



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