It's hard to resist weeping with joy

December 17, 2007|By KEVIN COWHERD

The turf war between Comcast and Verizon FiOS is heating up and it's getting ugly out there on the streets.

A sales guy from Verizon FiOS came to the door the other day.

"Have I got a deal for you," he said.

He handed me a brochure.

On one side, it said: "Bring the Excitement Home."

On the other, it said: "TV + Internet + Phone. $99.99 a month. Plus a free 19-inch HD LCD TV."

There hadn't been much excitement at home lately, so I let him stick around for a minute.

He said that Verizon FiOS was the best, most super-duper TV, Internet and phone bundle of all time.

It will completely change your life, he said, with the fastest cable and greatest all- fiber-optic network and unlimited calling anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.

"And all for just $114 a month," he said.

OK, let me say right now that I am not a numbers guy. That's one of the reasons I got into this business, because if you throw a lot of numbers at me, it's nap time.

But even I could figure out the price had jumped in 10 seconds.

"What happened to Bring the Excitement Home for $99.99?" I asked.

"Well," the guy said, "to get all that excitement, you need converter boxes for your TVs. For three TVs, it would be $114."

He went on to say that the converter boxes would let me access more than 200 digital channels and dozens of high-def channels and 10,000 On-Demand movies.

You'll think you died and went to TV heaven, he said.

I don't want 200 digital channels, I said. That's too much excitement. Besides, I only watch about five channels.

So forget the converter boxes, I said. Let's keep the price at $99.99. And I'll take that free TV.

He shook his head sadly and showed me a Verizon FiOS order sheet.

"See," he said, "there's no box to check that says `Resident does not want converter boxes.' That's why it's $114."

"Is there a box that says: `Resident feels a bait-and-switch and wants you to leave now?'" I asked.

I threw in a couple of shots about how the Verizon trucks had been messing up the neighborhood for weeks, digging holes and burying cable and generally being a pain.

So the Verizon FiOS guy left, and that was pretty much it for any excitement, not to mention a free TV.

A few minutes later, I went out to the mailbox and there was a brochure from Comcast. It said it had some deal for me: its exciting TV-Internet-Phone bundle for just $99 a month.

I figured if Verizon FiOS was throwing in a free TV, Comcast would do the same and maybe even throw in a Christmas turkey or a snappy Comcast windbreaker or something.

But there was no mention of a TV or turkey or windbreaker.

The brochure said what was really exciting about Comcast's TV-Internet-Phone bundle was that it came with just one bill. And this delivered the kind of simplicity my busy life demanded.

That's all I need: another bill that I can't figure out.

I stopped trying to figure out my phone bill years ago, with all the different fees and surcharges. And you need an accounting degree to figure out the rate increase on your BGE bill.

Now Comcast was offering to send another bill I couldn't figure out, this one for three different services.

Yep, that would be some kind of exciting, all right.

Later on, I took the dog for a walk and passed a Comcast truck idling on the side of the road. That's all you see in my neighborhood, Comcast trucks and Verizon trucks whizzing around, checking each other out like nervous gangbangers.

The guy behind the wheel was doing some kind of paperwork.

I tapped on the window. It rolled down.

"I'll tell you what would be really exciting," I said. "Instead of sending customers an all-in-one bill, how about you people stop with the rate increases? Who wants to spend that much money for the stupid cable?"

He said he was just a technician, and that I should call the 800 number to complain.

The window rolled back up.

"Nice talking to you," I said, and the dog and I finished the walk.

So much for bringing home the excitement, or whatever that was.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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