I'm Giving Cable 6 Months, Then I'm Cutting Off Its Head

Among companies I loathe, Comcast is right up there. Alongside Expedia and AT&T, they share the common thread of having typically poor service, and even worse customer service. But I’m a forgiving guy. I’m willing to give Comcast a second chance. Well, for 6 months at least.

I’ve been a Comcast customer a few different times at various points of my life. Each time I’ve had an awful experience. My favorite was two years ago when I was continually getting billed for services I didn’t have (nor had I ever had, actually). Each month I was told it was resolved, and each month it was right back on my bill. It took me bitching up a storm on Twitter to get it actually resolved by the higher-ups at the company. And I know my situation wasn’t unique — and sadly, many people have an even bigger nightmare resolving things.

After that incident, I cancelled my cable television service from Comcast. Unfortunately, I couldn’t completely sever the tie, because they were the only high-speed Internet provider in my area. Still, it was kind of wonderful, I used a combination of iTunes, Hulu, and Xbox Live to get all my content over Comcast’s dumb pipe. But something was still missing.

When I moved last year, I was in an area where Comcast didn’t reign supreme, so I decided to get cable television again. I just wanted to see if I really had missed it. It turns out I sort of had — mainly because of sports. So now I have a difficult choice. I’ve just moved again and sadly, once again, only Comcast is available in my area. I have to get Internet from them, so I’ve decided to sign up for one of their special packages that is discounted for 6 months.

I don’t particularly want to do this, but it’s also football season, and I really don’t feel like having to go to a bar every time I want to see a game. More importantly, the new Apple TV and Google TV are on the verge of launching. And there are even more potentially interesting things on the horizon. The assault is underway.

I think we’re getting closer and closer to the point where completely cutting the cord is not just viable, but a savvy move. And while some of my counterparts like Nick Bilton have been able to cut the cord already, others, like Dan Frommer, reattached it. We’re not there just yet. But in 6 months…

As everyone is well aware, Apple TV hasn’t been a success up to now. I like mine, but the content model on it is flawed. The move to TV show rentals is definitely a welcome one. But with only content from ABC and some content from Fox, the selection isn’t good enough. My hope is that this model proves to be a success and the other networks/stations get on board quickly. (Though it doesn’t look too promising right now.)

More interesting about the new Apple TV is the AirPlay functionality that is going to allow you to push almost any video content from any iOS device right to your Apple TV (and soon other devices that have this built-in). Yes, that includes Netflix and the MLB app.

Sports remain an issue in general, but some are supposedly coming to Xbox Live compliments of ESPN shortly. And there is ESPN 3, the online component of the network that allows you to watch games live online — if your provider has a deal with them to carry it (Comcast does).

Meanwhile, Google TV is set to launch as soon as next month. It’s a little bit different because it seems to be a layer that will exist on top of current television offerings. But it will also be pushing online video as well. That could definitely help change the stigma that is still associated with online video versus television.

And then there’s that new Mac mini with an HDMI output.

All of this stuff is chipping away at the cable television stronghold. There isn’t going to be one “killer”, but all of these combined are slowly doing the job. And they’ll continue to get better at it.

I fully understand that the vast majority of people are not going to cut the cable anytime soon. This smorgasbord of services is way too complicated for the average consumers to deal with. But I think it’s foolish if these companies believe that people never will (especially if cable keeps offering a user experience that is utter garbage).

Eventually, everything, including all video content, is going to be served over one pipe — the Internet. And, as is always the case, young people are going to lead this revolution. The excuse that, “my parents are never going to cancel their cable” isn’t a valid one. This is about the future.

So, I’m giving Comcast 6 months to live, then I’m likely cutting off its head and going Internet-only. The timing seems right.

Humorously, Comcast isn’t making this particularly easy. I was on the web yesterday looking at my options, and I found one I think I liked. But I couldn’t find a way to add all the options I wanted (like a DVR), so I called customer support. After about six steps where I basically had to prove I wasn’t already a customer (I mean, seriously?), I got through to an actual human being.

Naturally, he tried to get me to sign up for a significantly more expensive package (more than double the price) and tried to get me to agree to a 2-year contract. When I told him that was silly because the lease on my apartment is only for one year — what if I move again? He said I could easily transfer my plan. Okay, but what if I move to a place that doesn’t offer Comcast as an option, like my last apartment? Silence.

Moving on, I told him I knew the package I wanted. Guess what? He said he couldn’t help me get it because it was online-only. “Are you serious?” “Yes. How about we sign you up for the package I told you about so you can try it out?”

This is going to be a fun 6 months. I’m already sharpening my sword.

[images: Warner Brothers]