So you've decided to cancel your cable subscription -- maybe you're tired of all the shady crap these companies have been pulling recently, or maybe you figured out how to use that Netflixster thing your grandkids keep telling you about. In any case, well done! Now you don't have to put up with their ridiculous bullshit anymore!
Unfortunately, here's a taste of the even more ridiculous bullshit you can look forward to after you decide to pull that plug ...
#4. Canceling Your Subscription Is Absurdly Difficult
Say you want to leave Comcast, so you decide to handle this the same way you'd end a relationship: through the Internet, obviously. After all, just a few clicks on Comcast's site can you get you a subscription, so it should be equally easy to opt out, right? Nope, for that you have to call a representative, who, as this recorded call that went viral last week shows, might hassle you for 10 minutes to try to get you to stay. If your monitor doesn't have a fist-shaped hole by the time you reach minute two of that recording, you're a better person than us.
Why's the customer service representative pleading like an unseen hit man has a gun to his head? Because he's going to be in Comcast's shithouse if he lets the canceling customer -- whose call he took out of sheer fucking kismet -- waltz off without his account intact. The most the employee can do is scream out an infinite labyrinth of words and pray the customer becomes bored, confused, or frustrated enough to keep the damn account. (That, or starve to death.)
And it's not just a Comcast problem. Back in 2006, one AOL representative famously tried to get a canceling customer's father on the line to cajole him into staying with AOL. Time Warner sweet talks you when you try to leave, but once you say no, they go from "I promise I'll change, babe!" to "YOU'LL PAY, MOTHERFUCKER" -- as in, you'll literally have to keep paying them unless you physically return your cable box to one of their offices, which of course involves putting up with limited hours and DMV-level line length. Comcast does this, too, by the way, and it's no coincidence: These companies know their customers hate them, so they try to make leaving them as inconvenient as possible.
But maybe they shouldn't bother, since ...
#3. You Probably Have No Other Cable Company to Choose
Here's a fun, obvious fact: Over half of all Americans have said they would leave their current cable company if they could. So why don't people actually switch? If you don't like McDonald's, there's always Burger King. If you are not a fan of Coke, there's mescaline. If you had a bad experience with one of the big companies, you can switch to another, right?
For most of the country, no. During a recent congressional hearing on a Comcast-Time Warner merger, the Comcast CEO actually said that the merger would not squeeze any competitors out because each company already sticks to its territory. Just like gang members, or the most boring game of Risk ever.
Moments before Time Warner threw down a cannon and horse on Arizona, claiming the rest of the Southwest.
But what about the smaller providers worried about being taken over, Uncle Pennybags style? Well, how about Comcast just fucking selling 1.4 million of its customers off to rival Charter Cable as a "See? We're not so bad, we know who the real bad guy is here -- the customer."
At this point, you might say, "Screw it: I'll drop the cable, keep the Internet, and just stream my favorite shows." Not so fast ...
#2. Streaming Is About to Get More Expensive for You
Back in the Wild West of streaming days that was 2011, cable companies like Time Warner began to see a rise in Internet usage during times that used to be prime time for TV viewing. So, they just invented something called usage-based billing. The more you streamed online, the more it would cost, so the less you felt like browsing Hulu.
Comcast is now testing a different method: bandwidth caps. Once you go over 300GB a month, you suddenly get a $10 charge for each additional 50GB of usage -- if you have Netflix playback on the high setting, that's a little over 100 hours of streaming (or a Frasier marathon). That seems like a lot, but if you're a streaming-only person, it really isn't: The average American watches 150 hours of TV per month. Now multiply that for a family of four.
And that's not counting the additional 300 hours you'll be using talking on Frasier message boards.
The cable industry has even straight up admitted that they are putting in data caps not because of congestion problems, but to get money from customers who use high bandwidth streaming services. You know, the ones that wanted to save money by not getting the cable options in the first place.
Well, there's always Google Fiber. Except ...
#1. Your City Might Have Faster Internet, but Can't Use It
Google Fiber seems to be a great hope for many across North America. This technology allows Internet speed at over 100 times faster than the current level, and it's already implemented in several cities ... that can't use it. Why not? Guess.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Yep. Cable companies are petitioning local governments to sign agreements saying that the city won't provide Internet or sell access to local companies, thus preventing anyone from using the fiber technology already in place. This happened before in 1999, when Washington, D.C., almost got a super-fast Internet connection ... but then Comcast petitioned the local government to make sure only nonprofit organizations and government offices could use it. So while the Department of Veterans Affairs got to use the Internet of our dreams when that technology arrived in 2006, D.C. residents had to see a buffering screen every three seconds while trying to watch the latest Da Vinci Code trailer.
"That time was actually a security precaution to help ease viewers into Tom Hanks' hair."
And that Comcast D.C. agreement is almost exactly like the ones providers are giving local governments to sign right now. The reason? Using the fiber would be "unfair competition." If you haven't punched your monitor by now, you're not human.