Comcast Still Not Quite Sure If Its $70 Gigabit Offer In Chicago Actually Exists

Image courtesy of Consumerist

One city at a time, Comcast is upgrading its cable internet networks to a fast new high-speed standard, called DOCSIS 3.1. In Chicago, the launch of the tech itself seems to be fine… but finding out how much it costs, if you can sign up for it at all, has proven much harder for consumers.

A week ago, Comcast said that the DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade in metro Chicago would cost customers $139 per month. As we and several others reported, that rate is nearly double what Comcast charges for customers who sign a contract for the same service in Atlanta and Nashville — cities where Comcast faces actual competition from Google Fiber and AT&T’s GigaPower.

After all those stories about the price differential hit the news, though, Comcast abruptly changed their tune. Chicagoland customers could indeed get the $70 rate and the three-year contract, Comcast said; they just had to know to call and ask.

Well, that’s not working out so well for the actual customers in the area, as it turns out. Folks who call, willing to sign the three-year service contract, are sometimes still being told the $70 rate doesn’t exist at all, or, if it does, it’s not available in their area.

Ars Technica spoke to one customer who tried, and failed, to get the $70 rate for himself.

The subscriber, Chris, lives in a suburb north of Chicago. Comcast called him to offer gigabit service for $140 a month, plus a $10 monthly fee to rent a compatible modem.

Chris, like many customers, likes fast internet! He set up an installation appointment, but then saw Comcast’s statements that no, Chicago-area customers can totally get the $70 rate by calling to ask. So he called to ask.

The rep said no and, Chris told Ars, confirmed that it’s a matter of competition.

“She advised me that while the $70 rate is available to ‘certain’ people in Chicago, it isn’t available to me,” he told Ars Technica. “I then stated, ‘so, what you’re telling me is that if AT&T [gigabit service] is available, you’re marketing $70, but otherwise, you’re not matching where you don’t have competition.'”

According to Chris, the representative said that Comcast is “Testing the discounts in certain areas, and as more competition is available they will expand it to other towns.”

Chris also spoke with Consumerist about attempts to get the $70 service, and his frustration with Comcast saying that “they were offering [the $70 rate], just not published.”

“Imagine if a small town had a single [chain] gas station, and they charged $7.00/gal for gas, just because there was ‘no local competition,'” Chris mused. The chain “would have their butts in a sling! But that is happening right now with the internet, and nobody wants to do anything about it.”

“My hope,” he told us, “is that the continued bad press about this terrible sales tactic will bring visibility to what is happening, and hopefully will get Comcast to change course.”

At least Chris’s service rep knew the offer existed; others seem to be completely in the dark. Ars Technica cited several readers of their site who had Comcast customer service agents telling them, variously, that gigabit upgrades don’t exist; that they only exist in Georgia; and that if they do exist, that the $70 rate isn’t available in Chicago.

When Ars asked Comcast what the deal is, a spokesperson told them that the best way for a customer to get the $70 deal is to go onto Comcast’s website and register their interest. Which is an interesting suggestion, as you can’t actually do that thing. The $70 rate is not, at this time, listed on Comcast’s website for would-be subscribers and, as Ars points out, registering your interest online requires potential customers to opt-in to receiving marketing robocalls and email.

Comcast also received the messages from Ars readers and said it would be “doing some additional communications to and training for” customer service representatives, so they stop telling people who want to pay money to subscribe to their service that said service does not exist.

So if you’re in metro Chicago and asking for the half-price offer, where should you be able to get it? Comcast says the current list includes the Chicago neighborhoods of Uptown, Grand Crossing, the Loop, and South Loop. It also includes the towns of Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield, Waukegan, Tinley Park, and Batavia, as well as the towns of Bloomington, IL and South Bend, IN.

Comcast’s $70 gigabit deal is shockingly difficult to sign up for [Ars Technica]