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Anyone Know a Hungry Lawyer?

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Message Jann Swanson

At any given time I am a party to two or three class action lawsuits. Right now someone is suing on my behalf a company in which I owned stock, the brokers who sold it to me, the home warranty company that insured my dishwasher and the people who apparently failed to pay dividends on my life insurance policy. I don't necessary feel used or abused by any of these defendants (well there was the dishwasher), and have never received a cent from past suits but the litigation by default goes on. So I check my mail each day hoping that some attorney will tell me that I have finally sued Comcast.

This company is the most technologically incompetent, customer hostile and generally clueless company in America. They hold me and thousands of others hostage while overcharging for a service which they truly never deliver. Worst of all, if it is allowed to complete its purchase of NBC from GE, Comcast will soon control not only the transmission but also the origination most of my television viewing.

Why hasn't some ambitious law firm recognized the possibilities of a massive class action suit? Haven't a clue, but if my rant leads one to do so I will be happy to provide my three-inch thick pile of complaints.

I never had cable when I lived in the northeast. The local stations and PBS were perfectly adequate and free. Then I moved south, turned on my TV for the first time and found a screen full of free snow. So I called Adelphia, the local cable provider. Adelphia did come out fairly promptly, installed one of the two boxes I had ordered "Oh, you wanted two of them?" and it went downhill from there. Adelphia's owners were in jail for fraud, the company was bankrupt and so, I told myself, the aggravation they doled out was sort of understandable.

When Comcast bought the rotting carcass of Adelphia I was thrilled. A big national company would certainly stop the outages, straighten out the billing snafus, and run cable service like a real business. What is the message that kids text? Oh yeah, LOL!

Cable service goes out constantly. Sometimes it is only for a minute or two, sometimes for hours. Comcast insists it is the weather, but outages are as likely on a sunny day as in a tropical storm. Strange, as their wires run into my house right alongside AT&T's and my phone always works.

Some service malfunctions are just silly. The ABC and NBC affiliates in Jacksonville, Florida are jointly owned. One entire weekend Comcast carried NBC on both channels so ABC was unavailable from Saturday morning on. I don't know how many people tried to report this, I did, but it was the weekend so nobody answered the phone. If fact, if there is any problems on a weekend or holiday we are expected to suck it up until the next work day.

Their billing practices are predatory. I pay $60 per month for "enhanced" basic cable which gives me access to around 90 channels. I would estimate that 60% of these channels are dedicated to infomercials at least 15 hours a day. During the overnight hours only about 10 are actually programming rather than selling products. Among the channels I am forced to pay for are Fox News, three stations devoted to religious programs and ESPN, all of which I find either offensive or unnecessary. Be late paying the bill, even by a day or two and the collection calls start and they are incredibly quick to turn off service. A few years ago I was a late pay. It was the holidays, company was coming, and I simply forgot. Four days before Christmas I found the bill, (it was probably about 15 days late), drove to the local office and paid it. On December 26, with a house full of company waiting for a bowl game, I woke up to a pretty pink television screen carrying the announcement that "service was not authorized." I called, made a second payment by credit card because the first payment had not posted and was then informed that the office was closed and they could not flip the switch to restore service. They could turn it off, but they couldn't turn it on.

Why don't I cancel my service? I would love to, but I am a captive audience. My job requires access to the news throughout the day and neither of the satellite companies can establish service because I am "treed in," i.e. their transmissions are blocked by my neighbor's Live Oaks.

Comcast's recent performance has pushed me to the brink. For the last several months they have lost all control over the audio portion of their programming. The old television trick of blasting commercials at a high volume has been raised to an art form by Comcast, but there is also constant variation during regular programming and among stations. Watching ABC, for example, requires turning the volume to the max which then sends me diving for the remote when a commercial comes on or I switch channels. When I check the little volume bar graph that comes on the screen I can see that the sound varies as much as 30 percent from station to station and sometimes minute to minute.

But that is only a problem when the sound is actually present. The video pixilates constantly and when it does it usually interrupts the audio, perhaps only for a micro second but sometimes for three or four seconds. This is enough to kill a punch line or wipe out the piece of critical information needed to process a story or news item. Last night it happened at the perfect instant to obliterate the conclusion of a drama I had been watching for an hour. As I tend to watch NBC stations I thought it might be an isolated problem so I tested CBS. Last Sunday during the first segment of 60 Minutes the video pixilated 18 times, - that's better than once a minute - interrupting the audio about 50 percent of the time.

So here's the deal. If you are a hungry attorney or firm, please take on these corporate idiots. Sue them for breach of contract, failure to deliver services, irreparable damage to their subscriber's eardrums. I don't care. Just sue them long and loud. I will testify, I will help write your briefs and I don't care if I collect a cent in the end. I seek revenge and I hope that enough bad publicity will make it impossible for this level of ineptitude to be the norm on television screens across the company.

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I am a full-time free-lance writer convinced she is the only progressive living in Coastal Georgia. I relocated south from New England almost seven years ago and the culture shock is still profound. The winters, however, are wonderful and while (more...)
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