For several reasons, including the tightening economy and a desire to have more wiggle room in my monthly cash flow, I have decided to dump Comcast as my entertainment provider. I say “entertainment” because I get both my broadband internet (which is vastly entertaining all by itself and is something I consider as necessary a utility as electricity and clean running water), and cable TV, which provides the standard advertiser-supported video entertainment that has been a part of the American Dream since the fabled 1950s.
My total cable internet bill runs nearly $140.00 per month. That’s a fair bit of change, and spending that amount has given me almost one hundred and forty reasons to sit down in front of my TV and watch what’s on there. I have recently come to realize that I watch a lot of TV, much more than I’m really comfortable admitting. First it was “The Simpsons”, then it included all the Fox Sunday night animation shows, two hours of ‘toons… then, on the urging of my friend, I added “Lost” and “The Office” – and “The Office” timeslot expanded to include all the NBC Thursday night comedies, from “My Name is Earl” to “30 Rock”. “Mythbusters” is always entertaining, and filled with three important things of value: science, explosions, and a brainy sexy redhead. So it got added to my rapidly-expanding viewing queue. And so on, and so on; there was always room for one more science-fiction show, or one more cute sitcom, or one more entertaining reality show.
It’s no wonder I no longer have time to read all the books I’d like. Or, for that matter, that I no longer seem to have the attention span necessary to actually write the Great American Novel.
It was time, probably long past time, to cut back.
But there was another impetus to my decision, and it involves two aspects: one practical and technological, and the other political.
Long-time readers of this space may remember my epic battles with faceless, soulless telecom Qwest over porting my landline phone number to a mobile number. In the end, after months of phone calls and complaints to various consumer-protection agencies, I counted as a victory the fact that I got out of a stupid contract without having to pay any early-termination fees, even though the number I was fighting to protect had, in fact, been lost to me in the war. And from that moment on, I swore that Qwest, out of all evil corporations, was in fact my sworn enemy.
I even briefly found myself forced to work in a building my employer shared with Qwest, face to face with the minions who embodied and enacted Qwest’s soul-sucking policies. Chilling, I know.
But… a funny thing happened. Qwest, apparently alone among American telecoms, was shown to have stood up to President Bush’s lawless acts of intrusive, illegal surveillance of American citizens. Their then-CEO, Joe Nacchio, paid a price for turning down the lucrative blood-money contract “offered” by the White House, and found himself on the wrong end of an intimidating SEC probe.
When all this came to light, I was firmly disgusted by both President Bush’s criminal activity and the compliance of the other telecom companies – including, to my shame, AT&T, the company which exclusively provides service for my beloved sexy iPhone. Yes, money is flowing from my bank account into the coffers of a company who sold out the Constitution. I know. What can I say? I can be bought by shiny baubles – as long as they’re Apple’s shiny baubles.
And then, this past summer, Qwest started installing new equipment in my neighborhood. Not simply in my neighborhood, actually, but right next to my apartment building, on the very lot on which my building stands. Right next to my front door and living room window, in point of fact. My landlord admitted that when he bought the place, he had not known that Qwest had a lien on the property which allowed them to do this work.
You can imagine my suspicion towards this turn of events. Now double that.
But this was after the revelations that CEO Nacchio had been fighting against governmental intrusion into our personal lives. So my fears were at least partially reduced.
The equipment that the installers installed was, in fact, a switch that enabled DSL in my ‘hood. Qwest had in the past said that “work was needed” before I could get DSL broadband at my address; this was that work. They didn’t do it for me, though, they apparently did it because of a new mini-strip-mall built near my apartment, just around the block. Five or six new businesses and they all probably wanted broadband, and Qwest was (finally) glad to help, in return for fat checks for “business-class broadband”.
I could benefit, too. I had earlier vowed to never do business with Qwest again, but circumstances had changed. I could exchange Comcast’s clumsy cable internet for speedy Qwest DSL. And if I dumped the TV part, I could save considerable cash monies on a monthly basis. Plus, since the switch was literally located right outside my window, and maxmimum broadband speed is dependent on how far away the switch was located – I could get amazing speed.
It has tempted me for weeks and months.
Today I pulled the trigger. Soon I will be paying less, to a company that took an ethical stand I admire (but which is likely still rotten in other ways, let’s not be naive) for faster broadband internet.