Replacing Comcast in Baltimore
June 9, 2010 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Sick of Comcast and want to switch to something else...anything. Looking for suggestions to replace Comcast internet in Baltimore.

So - I just moved within Baltimore city. With some trepidation from earlier experiences (I have a cable card in a TiVo and my own modem), I set up an appointment (two weeks ago) to transfer service on June 8th.

Of course, I spent 6.5 hours waiting (and quietly seething) for a Comcast technician to arrive - he arrived 6 phone calls and 3.5 hours after the appointment window - the technician did nothing apart from add a new cable from the wall socket to the TV (instead of the TiVo), stare mystified at the cable box outside & proclaim that he knew nothing about cable cards. I still have no internet or cable service. In response to 4 phone calls to friendly CS robots (3 disconnected), Comcast are rolling a truck for Sunday morning between 7 and 10am (!).

It took several beers for me to calm down last night - I missed several key meetings for this run-around...the implacable indifference of this company is infuriating.

Life is too short to deal with this company - I've hit my limit. I'm in a house and can switch to satellite easily - no problems with line of sight to southern sky. Internet is the problem. Verizon FIOS is not available thanks to Comcast monopoly within city limits. I'm looking for internet access for multiple computers (PC and Mac, wired and wireless) that is reliable and and as fast as possible without having to deal with Comcast. I am willing and able to pay for it. Any ideas/experience from the hive mind?
posted by tandemrepeat to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In Baltimore City, you get screwed by Comcast (cable) or you get screwed by Verizon (DSL). You'll pay a lot for the screwing, too.

I get DSL through these folks (resold Verizon DSL). I used to recommend them as being geeky and easy to deal with. Their tech support is still good, but they've made a few major changes to webmail and such without warning people (removing e-mail in the process), they aren't cheap and there are signs that they are trying to move from a geek-oriented ISP to a general ISP for Joe AOL.

Some neighbours use Believe Wireless, but I'm leery of 100% wireless.

You might want to e-mail your city councilcritter about your experience with Comcast, but they all seem to be pretty well paid off by Comcast, so that probably won't do anything.

I hope someone else has a solution. Internet access in Baltimore City pretty much sucks.
posted by QIbHom at 7:25 AM on June 9, 2010

I know this isn't what you're asking for, but have you tried to reach out to Comcast via their twitter account? I'm a Charter customer myself, but have found that in cases where phone support has failed, where I have wanted to throw my phone across the room, their Social Media guys have actually been tremendous. It's something to consider before you begin reinventing your internet wheel.

It also seems that Clear just came into your area--that may be an option as well.
posted by litnerd at 7:28 AM on June 9, 2010

We get DSL from Verizon. I hate to give them money, but it's not so bad since the only things we get from them are Internet and the cheapest landline with no long distance. At the end of the day, I'd rather deal with them than Comcast.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:35 AM on June 9, 2010

Is there a local Comcast office you could go to or call? That's typically what I do, instead of calling their 1-800 number. That or drive down to the office to talk to someone face-to-face.
posted by hellojed at 7:51 AM on June 9, 2010

The difficulties in getting CableCards installed on any cable provider are legendary on the Tivo forums, so that's not surprising. Wouldn't you lose the Tivo if you switched to satellite?

I too had some difficulty getting my system setup initially, but I'm a happy customer now. It's so much faster than my old DSL that I don't think I could switch back.
posted by smackfu at 7:52 AM on June 9, 2010

I use Verizon DSL in Baltimore city now, but I used Believe Wireless for a year until I moved to where I couldn't use it. I had 2 outages, each lasting maybe 10 minutes. Customer service was second-to-none: Each time I called, I got one of two guys--one of them the president of the company. It's been 6 years since I used them so they're probably not going to be quite that responsive since they've grown.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:56 AM on June 9, 2010

Verizon FIOS is not available thanks to Comcast monopoly within city limits.

Not really the case, it's more that Verizon went for the low hanging fruit in the suburbs where they can get high subscription rates and lower installation costs. They're starting to hit the fringes of the City and some of the institutional users like U of B and TV Hill, but it's going to be awhile before it's widely available.

We have Comcast internet-only right now and we're reasonably satisfied with it. It can be really expensive if you opt for the faster speeds, but we have the economy package and it works just fine for streaming Netflix etc. Most of our neighbors have satellite for TV. My wife previously had Verizon DSL and experienced a lot of drops in service.
posted by electroboy at 8:03 AM on June 9, 2010

Believe Wireless. That is all.

. . . well, OK, it's not all. But it's a great company, it's local, their customer service and responsiveness is top-notch, their service has been ultra-solid and reliable, and you can get 12MB in parts of the city (if you can't, then you can sitll get 8). That's not quite as high as Comcast, and it tends to cost a bit more, but it's worth it. You also get a de-facto static IP (the only time mine changed is when I got a service upgrade that required "talking to" a different router in a different part of town), nothing blocked, and no messing with your Internet traffic (I've tested it).

It's a nice locally-owned alternative to the anti-Net Neutrality megacorporations. You'll feel clean and happy when you switch.

(No, I have nothing to do with the company, other than being a satisfied customer for 4.5 years.)
posted by CommonSense at 8:16 AM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Verizon has no plans to install FiOS in Baltimore, so don't hold your breath.

DC will be getting FiOS, but Verizon's don't anticipate to have the network ready for the next 9 years.
posted by schmod at 8:42 AM on June 9, 2010

Seconding (thirding?) Believe Wireless. I have friends who have been happy customers for years. They're not particularly tech savvy and rave about the customer service.

I had Verizon DSL in the city for 5 years with no major complaints. Occasional brief outages, usually in conjunction with storms, but nothing that prevented working at home multiple days per week. In contrast, most of my friends with Comcast have experienced several multi-day outages. (Personally, if I had to choose between Comcast and no internet, I'd go with no internet.)

FWIW, I'm out in the county and have FiOS now. For internet it's okay, but I'm not impressed with the TV. Pixellation is common, short outages are frequent, the line-up changes almost weekly, and the set top box doesn't play well with a stand-alone-TiVo.
posted by weebil at 10:46 AM on June 9, 2010

Quantum Internet Services might be a possibility; I know they do internet in Maryland, but not sure what else they offer and whether they cover your area.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:59 PM on June 9, 2010

Response by poster: Awesome answers all! Believe Wireless was a great suggestion and I'm looking into it. Scoping out satellite options too.

@electroboy: I don't know if Comcast has a literal monopoly - just an effective one from having no competition! From what I've read, Verizon can be just as bad as Comcast. Just wish that wonderful utopian idea of real competition could be put in place in Baltimore...

On the advice of litnerd & hellojed, I sent an email to Bonnie Smalley (, one of the visible Comcast folks running social media "interventions" for them. I didn't get a response but got bombarded with phone calls from Comcast over the next few days. The ones I was able to answer were automated notifications of outages in my area (yeah, right).

In any case, I'm finally connected. The good Comcast technician came out at 7:35am Sunday morning and had things up and running in less than 30 minutes without touching my modem or TiVo - this guy exuded competence and efficiency. Why couldn't this happen the first time? Like the phone support, the first-line technicians seem to have no clue beyond connecting cables and cycling power on modems. I'm mystified as to why Comcast wants the first point of contact with consumers to be demonstrably and infuriatingly incompetent. They are all pleasant and friendly but utterly useless. This must be a corporate assumption that Comcast customers are idiots...serenity now...
posted by tandemrepeat at 7:58 AM on June 14, 2010

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