I’ve been Twittering the never-ending saga of firing my cable company and switching to a (finally) newbie competitor. I’m sure the journey’s far from over, but here’s a summary report — also my latest MediaPost column…
I Finally Switched To Fiber Optic Internet
April 18th, 2008 by Max Kalehoff
Last October, I contemplated canceling my bundled Internet-television-phone package through my local cable company and switching to Verizon FiOS. The new fiber-optic data service fiercely entered my town of Pelham Manor, New York, and the pitch was seductive:
“Dear Max A. Kalehoff: I bet you remember the first time you heard the unmistakable mating call of your computer’s modem dialing into an ISP. And I’m guessing you remember the feelings of frustration that it brought too. Well, soon you’re going to feel the same way about your High Speed Internet. That’s because we’re about to change your expectations of what Internet should be, with Verizon FiOS.”
The features were even more compelling: a superior connection – 20 Mbs standard – along with a wireless router capable of handling all simultaneous WiFi connections in my household. Verizon underscored a digital phone line, and a more extensive lineup of digital television channels. Finally, Verizon promised me the highest quality support, including 24/7 access to technical support, as well as a specialized trained consultant to help me with my service if needed. All this bundled for $99 per month – $40 less than my existing cable company after its simultaneous rate hike.
Of course, I had to consider feedback from several of you Spin readers – many who said I’d be crazy not to switch.
I finally gave in and had FiOS installed in early March. How did it go? Everyone in my neighborhood and beyond has been asking. Here’s my report:
The bottom line is that the FiOS Internet, phone and television lineup performs better across the board. Coupled with a significantly lower price versus my existing bundled cable offering, the decision was a no-brainer. And to support competition is only a good thing – we’ve all been haggled by our local cable monopolies for far too long.
While the competitive analysis points to a simple decision, it’s still important to weigh the pain involved in switching. For one, you have to sacrifice a day at home for installation. Then you have to sacrifice many hours to learning new systems and interfaces, including the Internet, phone and television. Whether it’s learning how to reset a crashed router, switch your phone line, program voicemail, or switch television channels on a new cable box and remote device. Perhaps most painful is that I still haven’t had the time to configure my TiVo – if there’s a solution at all.
While customer service has been far better than what I had, it’s still not perfect. For one, the technicians will only answer my TiVo questions with “You’re better off searching Google.” Secondly, I received two bills in my first month: one for my bundled service, and one for a second, surprise line, which I never ordered. After spending an hour with billing services – which are only open during my working hours – the rep said she believed she knew what the problem was and would call me back the same day with resolution. It’s been 48 hours and still no resolution, nor a promised callback. Finally, I ordered an on-demand movie last Saturday, but the movie failed to play. I better not get billed for that one! As you can see, FiOS was the obvious choice, but the switch was not without hitch.
Again, competition is good for customers. And that brings up a final word about my former cable provider. I will always remember three things: First, the Internet reliability and bandwidth I expected with my subscription was inconsistent. Secondly, I received an abrupt and significant rate hike – an ironic way to thank me for my business on my first anniversary as a customer. Third, the company made it seemingly impossible to transfer my legacy phone line to FiOS – it took four weeks.
Here’s the icing on the cake: after I completed the switch to FiOS, my former cable company offered me several hundred dollars credit if I would return. That was far too little too late. After sacrificing 15 minutes to answer a customer-loss survey with a so-called retention department, I still received two additional calls from retention reps wanting to talk further about my switch.
Memo to all companies: If you make it easier for your customers leave of their own free will, there’s a greater chance they’ll return. If you make it difficult for them to leave, they’ll remember for a long time why they should never come back.
Verizon FiOS is the better alternative. But in the end, we still need more competition for Internet data services.
How are things in your neighborhood?