Monday, March 3, 2014

The Comcast Comedy and my Cable Internet

Following my previously mentioned move, I had to select a new Internet service provider. After looking through the options for cost and bandwidth, I wound up with Comcast and their Xfinity cable service again. Just Internet though, no TV. I even decided to try their 50 Mbps service in order to gauge the performance, but the entire time I was wishing that I had other options for reasonably priced higher bandwidth connectivity.

So last week, I was trying to pay my bill. As we often do these days, I started with trying to pay my bill online at work. As I worked my way through the login screen and trying to get to my account, the first thing that I realized is that I would need the account number that was listed on the initial paper bill that they had sent me. It was also the only paper bill that I expected to receive from them, since I had signed up for electronic billing during the activation process. I should note that the self-activation and the bring-your-own-modem process were both pretty straightforward, and didn't leave me too frustrated. Anyway, realizing that I needed that account number, I delayed paying until I got home.

Once at home, I tried to log in using the account number, but Comcast's network insisted that I had already created an account. Since I didn't set up the account and didn't have the password, I tried to do a "I forgot my password" reset, but the system wouldn't let me and directed me to customer service.

BTW, a note for you prospective Comcast customer service users: after going through several communications channels, I recommend Online Chat. It's actually much more direct. While you might think phone would be quick or quicker, working your way through the phone system will frustrate you before you come close to interacting with a human -- unless you're calling sales.

So I'm in the online chat with the Comcast discussing this issue, and this is what the Comcast rep informs me:
Comcast Rep: Just to set proper expectations, in order for you to pay your bills online, you will need to use the Comcast Email, to manage your account.
Me: seriously?
Me: There is no way to change that?
Comcast Rep: We can attach your email only to receive the billing statements that is sent to your Comcast Email.
Comcast Rep: But to manage your account, we need to use the Comcast Email.
I then proceeded to explain how AT&T doesn't require that I create or us an AT&T email in order to manage my iPhone bill, nor does PG&E. And my customer service rep explained:
Comcast Rep: Please understand that this is to make sure your informations will be safe. This is for your own security.
That's right. Even though my bank, credit card companies and a host of others are comfortable with the security of me using a third party email address to manage my account, Comcast is not. Comcast would rather have me set up a new email account so that I am forced further into their system. Rather, let me correct that -- by default they set up an email account and they were so convinced that I would use it right away that they began sending my bill to that email address.

Ultimately I think I was able to get this sorted out. If you replace the term "Comcast Email" with "User Name", you can closely describe their system; it just has an email attached to it. Oh, and it starts out as the default email address for all of your account interaction. Imagine if you changed the communication above to "you can't manage your account without a Comcast user name." That would be one of those "duh" moments. Short answer: Comcast User Name should not equal Comcast Email Address.

In the end, I probably narrowly avoided another customer service call with them in a few days, trying to figure out why my Internet had suddenly stopped working, only to discover the root cause being the unpaid bill sitting in the email inbox of this unused account.

Recently, Google announced plans to build out Google Fiber in a number of cities here in the south bay. I, for one, can't wait. A high-bandwidth broadband service that's reasonably priced and not one of the entrenched monopolies carriers -- and they probably won't tie their managing your account to a Gmail account. Then again, they may use it to force you to into Google plus (sigh). We see. Still, more options can't come soon enough.

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