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A customer experience story: After a year of Comcast, my verdict

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Oh, [bleep]. It was an uh-oh moment when I realized that the house we’d just rented after escaping Hurricane Irma had Comcast, and only Comcast, as a broadband service provider. I’d never used Comcast before, but I’d sure read my fair share of horror stories.

I rely on the high speed internet in my house in order to make my living. Here I was, facing a year or possibly more (we would have to sell our Florida home and find and buy one in Oregon). And now, I was stuck relying on Comcast, a company’s whose reputation oh-so preceded it.

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My [expletive deleted] perception of Comcast wasn’t just personal opinion. It was a matter of public record. I’d never actually used Comcast, but I’d sure read all the stories.

Xfinity is Comcast’s name for home cable service.

Comcast’s reputation

Perhaps the most classic of them all was when former Engadget editor Ryan Block tried to cancel his Comcast service. CNET (and just about everyone else in the world) reported on this epic conversation. There’s a recording in there that just can’t be missed. In fairness, Comcast did apologize on behalf of their rather over-eager rep.

Frankly, based on their reputation, I dreaded dealing with Comcast reps before I met them. After a year talking to at least a dozen folks, I can say that they’ve all been pleasant, reasonable people with good attitudes.

Even TIME Magazine picked up the story. When TIME runs a recording of bad customer service, you know it’s legendary.

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That was back in 2014. This wasn’t the first time that Comcast was in hot water. Back in 2011, Comcast was voted the worst company in America and CNET covered that as well. Consumerist ran an online poll about which company was most hated — and, to make matters worse, apparently Comcast encouraged its employees to vote on behalf of the company. And, making things even worse, they got caught.

For years, there were stories like this. Customers annoyed at Comcast. A reputation made worse and worse. Like me, many folks were stuck with Comcast as a monopoly provider. If you wanted broadband, you had no choice. You had to use Comcast.

Yes, 2011 and even 2014 were a long time ago. This is true. But then there’s the story PCMag ran in January 2017, just months before I discovered Comcast was suddenly my only broadband option. Comcast, the story declared, is America’s most hated company. Yowch!

My experience

As many of you know, I’m finally out of our temporary rental house and in our new home. The town I now live in is an historic rural small town. It’s beautiful. And it doesn’t have Comcast. So last week, I cancelled my rental-house Comcast service and yesterday, I returned the cable modem to the nearest Xfinity store (Comcast has rebranded its home cable service as Xfinity).

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As I drove the 30 minutes home from the drop-off, I reflected back on my Comcast experience. Honestly, it was pretty benign.

I did have a few issues. First, I had a service failure that took a while to clean up. I was annoyed that my appointment was canceled out from under me ( read about that here), but when the technician finally showed up, he did a comprehensive job rewiring and repairing my feed and I had no additional problems.

My second minor issue was data usage. The normal Comcast plan caps data at 1TB per month. For normal consumers, I guess that’s probably manageable. But for me, well, let’s just say I didn’t last more than a few days before I started getting warning messages. Fortunately, Comcast did offer an upgrade. For an extra $50, they had an unlimited bandwidth plan.

I wasn’t thrilled about paying what amounted to an extra $600 last year for unlimited data, but it could have been far worse. They could have tiered that data plan, and I could have found myself somehow trying to limit my bandwidth usage or going into debt. A fifty buck per month surcharge for the amount of data I use was not unfair.

Finally, upload bandwidth was slow. It never got above 10Mbps, and often hovered lower than that. I found that difficult, moving from the Spectrum/Brighthouse service I had in Florida. Back there, I had a 25Mbps upload speed, and it held that rate pretty solidly. Of course, I always wanted more, but I didn’t realize how good I had it until I tried doing backups with 4-6Mbps up.

Also: Comcast: How AI, machine learning, DevOps, and a bit of hardware may make it a smart home platform

So, while my experience with Comcast wasn’t ideal, neither was it traumatic. A big shout-out to every Comcast person I encountered. Everyone was unfailingly polite and pleasant. Yes, one or two of the phone reps were a bit dense, but not in any way worthy of TIME Magazine coverage.

Frankly, based on their reputation, I dreaded dealing with Comcast reps before I met them. After a year talking to at least a dozen folks, I can say that they’ve all been pleasant, reasonable people with good attitudes.

Given the famous service disconnect call mentioned above, I was curious what I’d encounter. When I called in, I was asked for my reasoning for disconnecting. Once I said I was moving, I was immediately shunted to a “customer loyalty” rep. That seemed weird, but the rep actually had a great sense of humor. She understood the idea that the town I’m not in isn’t serviced by Comcast and made the disconnect process easy.

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Dropping off the cable modem at the local store took — and I’m not making this up — less than a minute. A rep at the door greeted me, scanned the bottom of the modem, and handed me a receipt. Done.

Comcast isn’t perfect, but at least my experience doesn’t support the initial dread their reputation engendered. If I had to work with the company again, I don’t think I’d mind. I’d want better upload speeds, but otherwise, I’ve had far worse experiences with other companies over the years.

Comcast was quite simply not bad.

Ooh, fiber

That said, boy-oh-boy did I trade up! Back in the early 2000s, the little town I now live in discovered that they were too small to expect any of the traditional carriers to install broadband. So, in 2005, with a loan from the state, my new town and its neighbor teamed up to create MINET, a public utility broadband service.

A small town public broadband service certainly didn’t inspire high hopes. That said, the reality of MINET in this town sure wasn’t what I expected. Okay, are you sitting down?

The best upload speed I’ve ever had was 25Mbps. Even when I paid for a commercial, dedicated line back in New Jersey in the early 2000s to serve the millions of pages ZATZ sent out each month, I didn’t have speeds anywhere close.

Now, with MINET, I’m getting verified 250Mbps upload speeds and 1Gbps down. 250Mbps. Holy cow! Do you know how much faster my backups and YouTube uploads will be? Weeks down to hours. Days down to minutes. I get tingly all over* just thinking about it.

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The idea of community, citizen-owned broadband fiber is fascinating to me. I’m still unpacking, but once I get fully situated, I want to dig deeper into how community fiber is changing the face of small towns.

I’ll tell you this. If MINET wasn’t here in this town, we wouldn’t have bought our house. We get to live in a beautiful, rural town and I can still do my job. So while my Comcast experience wasn’t bad, they don’t hold a candle to 250Mbps up. Wheeee!

*Yes, I know I’m weird. But this kind of stuff does it for me. You all know me. You know it’s true.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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Rivian EV configurator opens to all – R1S and R1T Launch Edition sold out

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Rivian has thrown open access to its online configurator, meaning you no longer need to have a reservation for the R1T or R1S in order to customize your perfect electric truck. Set to begin manufacturing and deliveries next year, the two EVs share the same platform – the R1T having a pickup body, while the R1S is a full-size SUV – though are likely to appeal to different markets.

We saw the first results of the configurator last week, when Rivian granted access to those who had paid the $1,000 deposit to stake a place in line. In the process it confirmed some of the options that buyers will be able to pick from, including multiple paint finishes, different interior trims, and some of the more unusual accessories.

The R1T, for example, can be equipped with a slide-out mini kitchen for camping. That has a sink – with a water tank and pump that’s powered by the trunk’s own battery – along with an induction stove for cooking. Rivian even has a custom set of prep and cookware from Snow Peak to go with it.

Arguably more useful every day, meanwhile, is the Max Pack battery. Offered only on the R1T pickup, it’s not inexpensive at $10,000, but it boosts the estimated range from the standard 300+ miles to 400+ miles. Final EPA-certified range is unlikely to be confirmed until next year, closer to the R1T’s summer release.

While it’s nice to be able to tinker with the configurator, there’s also some bad news if you were hoping for a R1S or R1T Launch Edition. Reservations for that special trim are now full, Rivian has confirmed, closing the order books on the very first examples of the two EVs. Priced at $75,000 for the pickup, and $77,500 for the SUV, the Launch Edition is prety much a maxed-out example of each, and offers exclusive options like Launch Green paintwork.

It means that, if you didn’t get your order in already, you’ve some wait ahead of you. The two mainstream trims for both EVs – the entry-level Explore and the better-equipped Adventure – are both available to order, but deliveries aren’t expected to begin until January 2022.

Before then, we may have heard more about some of Rivian’s upcoming competition. Ford’s all-electric F-150 is due in the next couple of years, the first time the bestselling pickup will be offered in a fully-electric form. Chevrolet, meanwhile, has an electric pickup in the works too, GM confirmed last week, tapping the automaker’s new Ultium platform.

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NHTSA: GM must recall 6m pickups and SUVs over Takata airbag danger

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GM will be forced to recall almost 6 million vehicles to repair potentially dangerous Takata airbags, after losing a years-long battle with the NHTSA to avoid the hugely expensive repairs. The automaker had argued that the recall – which covers some of its most popular SUVs and pickups – was unnecessary, given it had undertaken third-party tests to show that the airbag inflaters were not prone to dangerous or abnormal explosions.

The Takata airbag saga has become the most significant vehicle recall incident in the US, and forced the most manufacturer recalls. Commonly used across multiple brands, the inflators are designed to trigger in a crash and rapidly inflate the airbags themselves to support vehicle occupants.

However the chemicals inside the flawed inflators can degrade over time, particularly in conditions of high heat or high humidity. That in turn can cause an increase in force beyond the intended specifications, shattering the metal canister and releasing a spray of dangerous shrapnel as a result. There have been 27 deaths blamed on the inflators worldwide, 18 of which have been in the US, and hundreds of injuries.

GM’s argument was that the vehicles – based on the GMT900 platform from brands like Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC, and including the Avalanche, Escalade, Escalade ESV, Escalade EXT, Sierra 1500, Sierra 2500/3500, Silverado 1500, Silverado 2500/3500, Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, and Yukon XL – actually used different inflator designs, integrated in different ways. It undertook third-party testing by Northrop Grumman’s OATK, among others, in the hope of demonstrating to the NHTSA that, unlike with other manufacturers, a full recall wasn’t necessary.

Now, after a four year back-and-forth between automaker and agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has denied GM’s request. “After reviewing GM’s consolidated petition, supporting materials, and public comments,” the agency said today, “NHTSA has concluded that GM has not met its burden of establishing that the defect is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, and denies the petition.”

The decision will impact approximately 5.9 million vehicles, from model years 2007 through to 2014. Estimates peg the total cost to GM at $1.2 billion.

Despite GM’s validation of its changes to the Takata design and implementation, the NHTSA deemed the risk still too high. “Given the severity of the consequence of propellant degradation in these air bag inflators – the rupture of the inflator and metal shrapnel sprayed at vehicle occupants – a finding of inconsequentiality to safety demands extraordinarily robust and persuasive evidence,” Jeffrey M. Giuseppe, Associate Administrator for Enforcement at the agency, wrote. “What GM presents here, while valuable and informative in certain respects, suffers from far too many shortcomings, both when the evidence is assessed individually and in its totality, to demonstrate that the defect in GMT900 inflators is not important or can otherwise be ignored as a matter of safety.”

The automaker now has 30 days to submit a proposed schedule of how it plans to notify owners of the affected vehicles, and how it will launch and operate the recall process.

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2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E official EPA range confirmed

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Ford has final EPA range figures for its upcoming 2021 Mustang Mach-E, and there’s good news for those waiting for the imminent all-electric crossover. While the company had estimated range numbers for the new EV back when it unveiled it in late 2019, they’ve only been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency today. Turns out, Ford’s predictions were almost exactly on the dot.

The automaker had been targeting 230 miles for the Mustang Mach-E standard range RWD configuration, and 300 miles for the extended range RWD version. The EPA says that’s the case, as is it the 270 mile rating of the Mustang Mach-E extended range eAWD car.

The Mustang Mach-E standard range eAWD actually did ever so slightly better in its official rating. Ford had promised 210 miles; the EPA ranks it at 211 miles. Final testing for the Mustang Mach-E California Route 1 version of the electric crossover is still underway, with that configuration estimated at 300 miles.

It’s a note of good news in the final few weeks before Mustang Mach-E cars actually arrive with preorder customers. Ford says that customer deliveries should start in December 2020, though high-end versions of the EV – like the Mustang Mach-E GT – aren’t expected until 2021.

Though the range figures aren’t exactly the largest in the category, Ford’s argument has been that there’s more to driver satisfaction than just a big number. For a start, there’s ease of recharging. With up to 150 kW charging support (or 110 kW on the entry-level Select trim), assuming you can find a DC fast charger you should be able to add 52-61 miles of range in 10 minutes, depending on drivetrain configuration. Using the FordPass Charging Network, effectively an umbrella access several different third-party networks like Electrify America, actually finding those stations should be more straightforward too.

The Mustang Mach-E will be one of the few electric vehicles in the US to support Plug&Charge, too. That means, at a compatible charger such as those offered by Electrify America, drivers won’t even need to scan a card to begin the charging session. Instead, that digital handshaking – including authenticating the driver’s account – will all be done between the EV and the charger.

Ford’s other push has been around a more accurate range estimate for the dashboard. Range anxiety, after all, isn’t just about total miles of driving left, but uncertainty about whether the number displayed is actually accurate. Ford plans to not only use data from the individual EV itself, but crowdsource better estimates between cars.

The first iteration of Ford Intelligent Range will take into account things like past driver behavior and forecasted weather as it calculates how much driving you’ll be able to do before a recharge. Later, though, Ford plans to light up range data sharing, which will use the EV’s embedded modem to give anonymized feedback of how battery use was affected by things like speed, terrain, and climate conditions. That way, if your journey is going to take you on a new route where other Mustang Mach-E drivers have used more energy than might be expected for one reason or another, the car will proactively take that into account.

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