My Life With Comcast

Below is an excerpt of an email I sent to the FCC and my local senators/congressmen. The reason I’m posting it here is because I’d like to encourage everyone with Comcast or Time Warner to do this. I feel that if everyone can see that they’re not alone in their frustration, they’ll be more inspired to organize and fight this thing while it’s on the table. 

Here is a brief summary of my complicated relationship with Comcast:

  • 2001 – Hometown, IL: Comcast acquires AT&T Broadband. My service stays the same, but my bill is slightly increased.
  • 2002-2008 – Hometown, IL:  After someone continually hijacked my service by merely using my IP address, I quickly realize that I can easily port scan every computer connected to my node with no limitations or security. Anyone sharing a folder is basically “on my network”, and I enjoy unrestricted access to my neighbor’s files.
  • 2006-2008 – Hometown, IL: Service outages average 4-5 per week. I frequently find myself parked outside a cafe uploading/downloading files for work.
  • 2008 – Hometown, IL: Comcast repeatedly threatens to disconnect my service for downloading and sharing my own music.
  • 2008 – Wicker Park, Chicago: I move, and am charged unreturned equipment fees for a modem I have purchased myself.
  • 2008-2009 – Wicker Park, Chicago: My service is deplorable for over a year. My entire apartment complex is sharing the same line that is simply split over and over into different units. When the modem isn’t resetting, I cannot get internet speeds fast enough to watch streaming video or download large files. The problem is confirmed by dozens of technicians over the year, but none of them can run a line from the utility pole to provide me the service I am paying for.
  • 2009 – Wicker Park, Chicago: I discover that Comcast is the only ISP in my neighborhood. Not the only cable provider, the only ISP. There are no DSL or even Clear wireless services, and that is due to “legislation”. 
  • 2009 – Wicker Park, Chicago: I hire an attorney to deal with Comcast about my billing contract and service problems. Comcast immediately sends out competent technicians who not only install dedicated lines to my apartment, but upgrade the nodes in the neighborhood, as the entire neighborhood was having constant issues due to Comcast never upgrading the network to support the amount of subscribers.
  • 2010 – Bridgeport, Chicago: I move again. Comcast technicians drill a hole through my closet door and install the line there. For the following 3.5 years I must unplug my the coax cable to access my storage area. 
  • 2011 – Bridgeport, Chicago: Again, I am charged unreturned equipment fees for the same modem that I own.
  • 2011-2013 – Bridgeport, Chicago: Other than paying an absurd $79 a month for internet access, things are pretty swell. I experience decent speeds (for Comcast standards) and very little downtime.
  • 2014 – Bridgeport, Chicago: There is a fire on my block, and Comcast has to repair the lines. They install a node directly in front of my work desk window. I ask them to please move it 2ft further down the line, and I am told this is not possible.
  • 2014 – Bridgeport, Chicago: I bring a ladder outside and move the node 2ft further down the line in about 40 seconds.
  • 2014 – Bridgeport, Chicago: Comcast unrolls “Xfinity WIFI”, where unsuspecting customers leasing modems/routers now host public WIFI hotspots to anyone with a Comcast username/password. I’m still using my own modem, so I’m unaffected, but I’m concerned about security.
  • 2014 – Bridgeport, Chicago: To test how insecure this is, I setup a very simple “honeypot attack”. People all over the neighborhood automatically connect to my “honeypot” and (manually or automatically) send me their usernames and passwords. Those usernames and passwords give access not only to the customer’s Comcast email, settings, and DVR, but would allow me to disable their “Comcast Home Security” systems and even view their security cameras. There is no encryption, no 2-step verification, and any customer who has ever used “Xfinity WIFI” is at risk.
  • 2014 – Bridgeport, Chicago: I write an email to Comcast explaining exactly how insecure their systems are with the public WIFI, no response.
  • 2014 – Decatur, GA: Guess who’s the only available ISP on the other side of the country? Also, guess who goofed and sent a technician to an empty house 2 weeks before I even moved in and charged me $50 for it?
  • 2014 – Chicago, IL: I am notified that I must return my Comcast equipment (still, my modem that I purchased). But this time I’m prepared! In the shared basement of my building there is a pile of Comcast equipment, to the tune of 7 cables boxes and a couple of modems. I tell Comcast that they may come pick up the equipment, but they explain that I have to pay them $50 for that. I take the equipment to an office and insist that I get a confirmation letter proving that I returned equipment (even though I didn’t lease any to begin with).
  • 2014 – Decatur, GA: Comcast technician doesn’t show up to install service. They have no record of the appointment.
  • 2014 – Decatur, GA: Another technician comes, is quite rude, and Comcast charges me $50 for his brief visit, and $50 for the previous visit that they had no record of. I am now being charged for installation 3 times.
  • 2014 – Decatur, GA: On my second bill, I receive an “Unreturned Equipment Fee”. I send them the confirmation letter I received in Chicago. Comcast tells me that it says otherwise on their records, and my service will be disconnected if I do not pay.
  • 2014 – Decatur, GA: I am introduced to the concept of a “bandwidth cap” in my new home. I am allowed 300gb, and must pay $10 per 50gb after that.  Of course, somehow, I am charged $20 extra in bandwidth fees.
  • 2014 – Decatur, GA: Curious to how I was using so much bandwidth, I setup a log on my router to see what is using so much data. After a month, my total usage is 197gb. My bill for the same month says I used over 400gb. Comcast tells me this is indisputable and threaten to shut off my service if I do not pay.
  • 2014 – Decatur, GA: Comcast calls me saying that if I don’t pay an outstanding balance of $120, they will shut off my service. I explain that I just paid my bill a week ago, and I am told that this balance migrated from Chicago. I call Comcast in Chicago and they do not show a record of it. The following day my service is suspended and I have to pay the mysterious $120 to have it restored.

    I’m sure I’m leaving many things out, as my frustration with this company has been almost constant since they became an unavoidable part of my life. The point I am trying to make is that in a competitive, capitalistic environment, Comcast would have lost my business time and time again in the last 13 years. I can honestly state that I would pay double for the same broadband service from a different company. And that is why Comcast needs to be not only regulated, but investigated for anti-trust violations.