Comcast Tech: “You Don’t Need Dis Fuggin’ Box”

If you cancel Comcast, does that black, blinking box on the top of your television have any real purpose? According to one Comcast CSR, sure! It’s just a swell antenna and, not only that, but you can keep basic On-Demand service.

Wow. Like magic! Reader Stone W’s foxy girlfriend got just such a Merlinesque response from Comcast. The only problem? When the Comcast tech — outsourced to a third-party company — waltzed in, he proceeded to just rip out the box and lambast Comcast as full of shit. “That’s stupid,” he said, then told her it was just a plot of Comcast to continue to charge her.

Beware! Stone’s email, after the jump.

So, my girlfriend recently took advantage of a Comcast deal in suburban Philly where she got 6 months of digital cable w/ HBO & Encore for $50/mo. She has one TV in the living room, and one in each of the two bedrooms in the apartment. Digital was installed on all 3 TVs. The six months is due to expire in a couple of days, so she called Comcast to downgrade the service to regular cable and avoid paying >$100/mo for TV she & her roomate barely watch. The CS rep she spoke to (Bill) informed her they could send a tech out to disconnect the digital boxes and turn off the HBO, but that she should “keep the digital box in the living room to act as an antenna for the other two TVs,” which would be running on normal cable. She’s no electrical engineer, but this claim struck her as a little strange. However, Bill confirmed that even though she was downgrading to regular cable, keeping one of the digital boxes would allow her to keep some basic On-Demand service and act as an antenna improving the reception of the other two TVs.

Interestingly, when the tech (actually an independent contractor hired by Comcast) showed up the next day to remove the digital boxes and shut off the HBO, he called the idea of one box acting as an antenna for the other “stupid,” and uninstalled all three to avoid Comcast continuing to charge my girlfriend for digital cable when she specifically requested turning off the service in favor of it’s analog predecessor. She thanked him very much, and will be following her bills closely to ensure accuracy. Still, how NUTS is the idea that one digital box will somehow act as a beacon for her other TVs? Anyone else ever heard Comcast (or any other cable provider) make a similar claim?

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  1. Papercutninja says:

    UHM. I’m thinking that it shouldn’t make a difference. The digital box decodes the digital signal, and the analog decodes the analog signal. It’s basically a translator. So, it wouldn’t be serving as an “antenna”. I highly doubt the other cable boxes were all run through the main box, and if the “reception” isn’t good, ie, there is noise on the line, just get an antenna booster.

    Also, if her tvs are cable-ready, they will receive analog cable without a cable box at all. Just plug the cable wire into the antenna/cable port and then switch the tv’s settings to cable.

  2. Sounds ridiculous to me…The boxes AFAIK, are only for receiving digital signals from the cable and converting them to analog for your TV.

    However, during the latest Concast Guide menu advertising scam, I inquired as to cancellation of service and was told that even with analog service I would “keep” the box…I too found this incredulous.

    The only explanation that I can think of is Comcast’s rush to meet the FCC’s pipedream requirement of HD TV broadcasts as standard by 2009…It looks to me as though Concast will be removing analog service by then anyway…it will be box or nothing.

    Then I’m sure the lawyers will be touting how we should have class action lawsuits, blah blah instead of stealing satellite signals. I fart on you.

  3. thatabbygirl says:

    No, crayon, you’re right. Screw this system of law and justice that we’ve developed. Individual vigilante action is totally the way to go. That’ll show ‘em!!

  4. Treved says:

    I don’t know about what specific boxes we’re talking about, but when I had DISH I had one box for 2 TVs. Even though I was on a different floor of my house, my remote controlled a dual tuner box downstairs that provided a signal for my upstairs TV. Maybe something like that is going on?

  5. Well Tabby, as a lawyer, surely you can understand the absurdity of the laws and regulations governing the cable industry. Namely the fact that they remain unregulated monopolies due to the ignorant classification of their lines as “informational networks” and not “communication networks.” Ignorant…or maybe just biased thanks to corrupt lawyers and politicians.

    As for vigilantism, I am a proponent of that. In fact the mere existence of the Consumerist website is a form of vigilantism that is necessary to defend the customer from the unethical practices of large corporations with their hands down congressmen’s pants and deep pockets, like Comcast. Not all businesses are bad, but the problem is that groups like Comcast, the RIAA, and the MPAA have chosen litigation, lobbying and monopolistic bullying over providing a better product and service.

  6. Breticus says:

    I read this entry because I thought there would be more about the foxy girlfriend. Not only are there no pictures (maybe her posing next to a digital cable box with foil extensions), there is no indication that the girlfriend was foxy (at least in the superficial sense). Can’t you make consumer issues sexier?

  7. Breticus:

    Tragedy. I know…

    tabby:

    We the consumers do not have the power to fairly fight back against the companies. Not all of us have an Elliot Spitzer hiding in our back pockets to preserve our rights. The cell phone example in the previous thread was a minor example, but a much larger one that will affect all of us very soon is network neutrality.

    Soon, if the companies have their way, the companies will be controlling the way we access the internet. A minor list of rights that may evaporate in the near future when companies steal control of the internet from “We the consumers”:

    * VPN Access (Oh you want to connect to the company VPN? Sorry we block outbound PPTP traffic. That’s part of our “professional” package. Cough up 20 bucks extra a month)
    * VoIP Telephony (Sorry, SIP traffic shall be blocked)
    * Hosting a server from home (Already being implemented in the EULA’s for many major ISP’s, but rarely enforced)
    * Tunelling protocols besides VPN access (Might allow any of the aforementioned services to sneak through their access controls)

    The companies that are moving into the digital age are determining that the only way they’re going to preserve large profit margins is to nickel and dime us into subservience. Consumer vigilantism is at an all-time high and I suspect due to the asphyxiating restrictions that companies are putting in place that it’s merely going to get worse.

    How do we as a people, the consumers, justify vigilantism? Simply put, a twist on the Mandate of Heaven philosophy. We give companies power to rule, but if they rule unjustly, then their mandate is lost and we take matters into our own hands. As more and more people come to the realization that these contracts and their mistreatment of customers as a whole are unjust then consumer vigilantism is a legitimate and warranted tool to fight back.

    If enough of us become vigilantes, then the companies will be compelled to repair their clauses and the vigilante coefficient will significantly dimnish.

    I hereby declare this as clause 1 of the consumerist bill of rights. :>

  8. Grasshopper says:

    Comcast offers a basic level of cable service called “antenna service” that supplies only the locally available broadcast channels. By using Comcast’s cable-supplied antenna service, you improve the reception of these channels as compared to using an over-the-air antenna.
    I’m guessing there was some misunderstanding, either by Stone’s girlfriend or… is it possible the Comcast CSR didn’t understand the product he’s supporting (naw, that couldn’t be it).

  9. Triteon says:

    As consumers we all have inherent rights (and not the kind of “rights” far too many people post on Consumerist)–
    1) If you don’t like how a company treats you, and they are a government-licensed business: complain. To your precinct committeeman, alderman, mayor, state rep or senator, US Rep or Senator, Governor, or hell– write to the President.
    While you’re complaining to your elected political leaders, complain to any of the many oversight agencies: the FCC (yes, crayon, they do have oversight over MSOs), the BBB, your Attorney General, the Television Advertising Board or the Cable Advertising Board.
    Wait, have I forgotten the complaint to the company you feel wronged by? Talk to them and tell them what’s wrong and what you are doing about it. Take your complaint up the ladder. It may fall on deaf ears, but this is due diligence.
    Complain– publicly. If you don’t know how to do this you’re on the wrong site.
    2) Find others who feel wronged. Go back to #1 and start over, this time with the voice of many.
    3a) So you’ve done 1 & 2 and nothing worked. Vote. Politically– throw the bums out. You already have a network of others who are sympathetic to your cause.
    3b) Vote. With your wallet. Cancel the account. Tell them why. Don’t run to Caliente, NV to do it, cancel it within the agreement you signed.
    3b.1) Don’t whine that you can’t watch ESPN or CNN because you don’t have cable. Watching cable TV is a choice. Make the hard choice. 75% of the US population has 7 networks to choose from if you must watch television. Don’t like the offerings? Pick up a book, listen to the radio, go outside and play.

    If you’re not going to do something about the problem, at least stop whining.
    Unless you’re Breticus, in which case I also agree.

  10. Triteon:

    All valid points except the bottom line is that companies don’t appear to truly respond to anything except their profit margin.

    1.) A singular complaint from one person will rarely change company policy. An exception would be Mr. Ferrari’s call, which turned bad policy into a maelstrom of complaints and bad publicity.
    2.) A grouping of people complaining will rarely change company policy. Here are some great examples of where complaining has singularly done nothing: DRM, Security Exploits on MS Operating systems, Ala carte cable programming, etc.. A class action lawsuit will often grab their attention rather quickly on the other hand.
    3a.) As we all know, kicking a bum out of office does not necessarily mean that our needs will be met. Even when a politician is looking out for the people they will often be caught up in many years of bureaucratic red tape.
    3b.) Can’t vote with our pocket when there are contracts that are so strict that we can’t break out of them when we are dissatisfied with our service.
    3c.) You make a great example for an argument as to why we should have ala carte cable operations instead of being bundled into 60+ channels that we don’t necessarily want or need to pay for. Oh wait.

  11. AcidReign says:

    …..I bought a fabulous little piece of gear for analog cable a decade ago: a powered splitter with an adjustable attenuator. A house on my street sells nearly every month, and cable to houses is started, stopped, etc. The lazy Charter techs rarely alter the signal strength on the main line.

    …..Someone moves in or out, everyone’s analog cable gets snowy. I just head to the splitter and adjust it back into focus. Easy. Just like dialing in UHF stations in the 1960s.

  12. AcidReign says:

    …..You can get these at Radio Shack. It gives every TV on the splitter a decent picture, too.