Comcast is now feeling the competition from Verizon with respect to it’s FiOS service. So much so, in fact, that they’ve now put together another FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) campaign directed at it.
Many years ago when I switched from Comcast to DirecTV I wrote about it for a few publications and lamented that Comcast chose to go down this path instead of improving their own product. Back then they were telling consumers all sorts of misinformation regarding DirecTV.
The message is nearly identical with respect to FiOS more than a decade later.
In the website-based ad called, “Don’t Fall For FIOS” they put forth all the typical mis-truths that they long ago perfected:
The first bullet point talks about price and mentions a promotional period with FiOS that expires leaving you to pay up to $400 more a year for FiOS. Verizon doesn’t have Comcast-like promotion periods. You lock into payment plans like you do for their cell phone plans. When they expire there are similar plans at similar prices right behind them. I also have never seen any Comcast market where, with all costs being considered, that Comcast is cheaper.
With DirecTV the difference was huge—DirecTV was 50% cheaper than Comcast for similar packages.
Their next bullet point is very myopic. It compares FiOS’ HD On Demand library to Comcast’s. While the reality may be that Comcast has more On Demand HD content this is an attempt to distract consumers from the bigger picture that Comcast has FAR less regular HD content than other providers.
The really fun point is the next one where Comcast answers the fact that FiOS has a better picture. They don’t compress their content upon receiving it. It basically goes out exactly as they receive it. Both DirecTV and Comcast compress their signals and this impacts the picture to varying degrees depending on several factors (size of TV, quality of TV, ability to perceive quality, etc.) The fact is that the picture on FiOS is better. Everyone in my family could see it immediately (we’d try out Comcast time and again during special offerings).
Their response to the question, “Does FiOS offer better HD picture quality?“, is a definitive, “Nope.” They then go on to explain this by referencing a consumer study that says both are the same (without technical details offered) and then finish it up with the totally misleading statement, “So with Comcast you get the same great picture and more HD for less.*” (note the asterisk)
Now suddenly potentially more HD via On Demand content has been expanded to the much more desirable “more HD” which is just patently untrue.
The last bullet point talks about installation and here I knew what to expect based on how they painted DirecTV installations all those years ago. “FiOS installation means you better clear your calendar. Installation can take hours and can involve digging up your lawn with heavy construction equipment and bolting big router boxes to the outside of your house. Comcast installation is quick and normally doesn’t involve heavy machinery.”
What a statement! I don’t even know where to begin with it. I guess we can go at it sequentially.
“You better clear your calendar.” Uh, okay FiOS installs are likely to take longer. However, when I called for mine I got a time window that was short and the installer showed up on time. Every time I called Comcast the window I got was several hours across. Thus, I still had to clear my calendar and sit around at home. Why is it that these guys seem to never show up at the front end of the window they give you?
Second, while it might take hours (it did in my case) it’s often because Verizon is doing this with trained Verizon reps who care about the end results and your experience. They listen to how you want things done and what you expect. My installer spent several hours getting it all just right and then spent more time making certain everything was flawless before he left. Several times I’ve had fights with Comcast installers insisting on running cable in ways I didn’t want it run and doing shoddy jobs. Fast often doesn’t mean Quality.
“…can involve digging up your lawn with heavy equipment.” Talk about playing the fear card. Oh my. While this is true (but not in most cases) note the key last five words of the bullet point regarding Comcast’s installation, “normally doesn’t involve heavy machinery.” Um, excuse me, but how does that differ, in any way, with the FiOS statement preceding it. The same is true of FiOS installs. They don’t normally involve heavy machinery. The heaviest machinery my installer had was a spade and a drill.
“…bolting big router boxes to the outside of your house.” Another fear tactic. The box they’re talking about is called the ONT or Optical Network Terminal. It’s a rather handy box that is quite similar (though a bit larger) than most of the boxes we already have on or in our houses for phone service. In my case the ONT was put EXACTLY where I requested it—inside my garage, and the old network box was cleanly removed from outside my house. They make it sound like you’ll have a hard time confusing the ONT for a garage door. By the way, this box is also functional. Customers can tap into it to test phones, their network and to make service changes if they’re informed customers.
When is Comcast going to recognize that the best way to win customers is to provide a superior product? It’s the reason FiOS is gaining so much traction and interest in the first place and Verizon is far from perfect. The service is mired with its own issues. Their DVR’s are behind the times (but so are cable’s) and Verizon’s customer service is about as bad as it gets. People have a myriad of horror stories regarding billing problems. I had one myself that was futile but only cost me $20 once. Why Comcast doesn’t focus on this I’m not sure. Maybe they feel their own service is suspect?
Comcast will never learn as far as I can tell. They improve their product only marginally and only well after the competition forces them to and then rely entirely on aggressive misinformation campaigns to hold or woo customers. Not good.
Here’s what we had to say about these ads at the Verizon PolicyBlog:
Thanks Sharon. As you can see, I think my assessment supports you (though I still stand by my concerns about the out-dated DVR and the customer service concerns.
I’m glad to see Verizon will not be standing for this garbage. I live next to the old main office and used to know key people there. Their view of how business should work used to scare the pants off me to be frank.
I’ve had so many billing problems with FIOS the last 6 months that I’m actually thinking about going BACK to Comcast. That’s how bad my billing problems with FIOS has been.
Aaron W. Thompson
My wife just told me this morning that our bill is mysteriously $70 cheaper than it’s supposed to be. It’s now down to a flat $99. We have Internet and LOADED TV service with them (all channels, MRV and 2 HD DVR’s).
Not sure if I should point it out or not. Hoping it’s just a promotion.
However, I’m also have my first outage with FiOS. Internet is up and down like an elevator with a broken controller. Calling support was a real test of endurance and stress.
When it works, it’s really great but the rest is all “cross your fingers” kind of stuff.