Comcast fees are absurd

Just about 2 years ago, I decided to sign up for a “great deal” with Comcast. $69 a month for 300Mbps internet and a lot of TV channels. The actual bill that came was $91 a month!

Of those extra $22, more than half were “fees” that are definitely not taxes. A “Broadcast TV Fee” of $7 supposedly covers costs of showing me my local TV channels, which I could watch with an antenna. This “fee” is just $7 of free money for Comcast.

The “Regional Sports Fee” of $5 seems to make sense since I know the local TV sports monopoly for the local hockey and baseball teams could charge the cable company a lot. But then I remember – Comcast owns the network that shows the local hockey games! More free money for Comcast.

After year 1 of the 2-year contract, they charge you an extra $10 a month unless you downgrade your internet speed to 150Mbps. I lowered it… no big deal but it was opt-out instead of opt-in for the extra speed in year 2. And also in year 2: the broadcast TV fee is now $10 and the regional sports fee is $8.25! Some government tax went down but still I’m now paying $95 for my special $69 per month deal.

Finally, my contract is ending this month. If I do nothing, my price will go up another $25 since I’m no longer getting the discount. I’m sure the fees will go up again too, so seeya later Comcast. My condo building recently got Starry Internet which is $50 a month, with no “fees” added on to that price. It doesn’t include TV service, which I may try to solve with an antenna (not hopeful living in a condo building surrounded by other buildings). The speed is 250Mbps – and something I noticed that’s a massive improvement from Comcast is that the upload speed is equal to the download. Comcast gave me 150Mbps download but only 5 Mbps upload. That led to some very long waits when having to upload large files for work.

I will see how I like not having cable TV service. There is another cable company in the area – RCN. Since Starry doesn’t require a contract, I could switch to RCN if I miss having cable TV too much.

Apple might actually care about privacy

Everybody is complaining that Siri doesn’t do enough in the new HomePod. This week there is yet another story about a “smart speaker” invading the privacy of the people who bought it. An Amazon Echo recorded a couple’s private conversation in their home and sent it to the boss of one of them!

There was a prior story about a Google home device literally recording everything said in somebody’s home and sending it to Google’s servers. In both cases, the companies apologized, but it seems that they have put so many features into their devices with little to no thought of their users’ privacy.

So, perhaps there is a good reason that the Home Pod doesn’t do everything the Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker can. Perhaps Apple would prefer to deal with negative reviews of a “dumb” smart speaker rather than give a device that can hear everything going on in your home too much power to invade or violate your privacy “unintentionally” or otherwise.

Wasted Effort

The Google Duplex “demo” which may have been faked, or at least edited and staged, made me sad for another reason. Some of the greatest engineers in the world are wasting human capital doing things like maximizing advertising sales and saving people from having to call each other to make hair appointments.

It appears that the new wavelength app requires a hosted site. Is that correct or am I missing something? I currently link a wordpress blog to this service…

Verizon punishes their customers

This has probably flown under the radar in the “tech world” because most people do not use the email provided by their ISP.  However, the average person may think using the ISP’s email is a good idea.

I follow the reasoning.  Gmail, iCloud, – they are all free, so they don’t care about me, and nobody will help if something goes wrong.  I send my ISP a lot of money every month, so surely I will get better customer service for my email account!

Well, Verizon recently decided to migrate all their email accounts to AOL accounts, but keep the email address.  This is pretty crappy, considering anybody can easily go to and sign up for the exact same account for free.  But that’s not really the bad part.  The bad part happens if you somehow didn’t get the notifications from Verizon that they were going to do this, or you didn’t understand exactly what was going on.  Here’s what the FAQ says:

I did not migrate my email address to AOL or extract my data. (Contacts, Calendar information). What can I do?

Customers no longer have the option to keep their email address or extract their data to another service provider. All email, calendar and address book content that was not migrated to AOL or a third party email provider before December 5, 2017 has been deleted from our systems.

That’s right.  Thanks for your money and for being a loyal customer.  We migrated your email to AOL and offer you zero customer service for it.  It required you to take steps you might not have understood.  Our notifications might have gone into your spam folder.  It doesn’t matter.  All your data has been deleted.  Please make sure that this month’s payment isn’t late by signing up for auto-pay!

If you are a tech person, you would probably consider somebody affected by this to be an idiot.  Well, I don’t agree with that.  Some people are older and don’t get this kind of thing.  Some people just don’t care much about computers – they just learn the minimum to get things done.

Let me say if you do consider yourself technically savvy, please evangelize anybody that might be affected by something similar.  Do NOT use the email provided by your ISP.  I’ve always given this advice to people for a simpler reason – if you move or switch ISP’s, you don’t have to switch email addresses.  But when you see how a company like Verizon treats its customers, you clearly don’t want to trust them with anything.

Since you’re deleting Facebook, get rid of Uber too.

I saw this article on the NY Times, which I agree with wholeheartedly.

I have seen the traffic in Washington DC turn from manageable to atrocious since Uber came on the scene.  There is now an extra rush hour after rush hour.  From 9-10am you have all the Uber drivers that took people to work - now going home.  So even if you try to have a staggered starting schedule and drive against the commute, you are stuck in a quagmire of grumpy, underpaid Uber drivers trying to get home or to their other job as fast as possible after dragging strangers around in their cars.

I've never ridden Uber, and I plan to keep that streak going forever.  I had a feeling their pricing was too good to be true.  It turns out they taking a loss on every ride to increase market share.  They pay for this behavior with venture capital.  Oh, and they also keep rates down by paying drivers less than minimum wage.  The investors are culpable here.  There is no way they don't see this anti-competitive, predatory behavior.  It's probably exactly why they keep dumping money in the fire - hoping to create a monopoly that they have a decent chunk of ownership in.

From the article:

The problem was, and still is, Uber’s business model: Its modus operandi is to subsidize fares and flood streets with its cars to achieve a transportation monopoly. In city after city, this has led to huge increases in traffic congestion, increased carbon emissions and the undermining of public transportation.

So, I'm not imagining the detrimental effects Uber has in my community.

Also, I thought "don't get into a car with a stranger" was a thing kids were taught.  Why do I see teenagers hopping in beat-up old Toyotas with people they've never met just because their cell phone says it's ok?