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Comcast Isn't Always the Absolute Worst

Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park” and “Back Channel,” and his nonfiction includes “Civility” and “Integrity.”
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Having twice used this space to post stories about Comcast and its customer service problems, I want to be sure to give equal time to situations in which the company does things right. Comcast, described last year by Business Insider as “the lowest-rated company in the lowest-rated industry,” had a good week.

First, the company reached a deal with the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, which had been the lone holdout in the commonwealth against Comcast’s takeover of Charter’s cable video services. Worcester politicians had made noises about not approving the switch, on the grounds that Comcast is “a terrible company.”

But the city turned out to want only a commitment to keep the local call center open, and a promise to continue to facilitate production of local news programming.  Comcast promised both. (The deal depends on the Federal Communications Commission approving the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.)

Second, the company announced that unhappy users of its Xfinity service who wish to return their equipment -- there seem to be a lot of them -- no longer will have to wait on long lines at Comcast customer service outlets. Instead, the disgruntled can drop by any of the 4,400 UPS stores, where employees will box the devices and ship them back to Comcast. (If you plan to give this method a try, the company warns you to keep your receipt.)

Not bad for Consumerist’s 2014 “worst company in America.” And the good news is useful when Comcast is being slammed for a pair of nationwide cable outages this week. The problem, which appears to have affected only users of the company’s X1 set-top boxes, was linked to a problem with a software upgrade.

Of course, similar glitches afflict every most every tech company, most every year. That’s where a poor corporate reputation hurts: When people don’t like you, everything that goes wrong is news.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Stephen L Carter at scarter01@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Christopher Flavelle at cflavelle@bloomberg.net