Friday, June 25, 2010

Advice Wanted

Interested in serving on the CCAC of Montgomery County, MD? There's an opening and you have until July 9 to apply.

If you're not familiar with the Cable and Communications Advisory Committee, it advises the County Executive and Council on cable and telecommunications issues. This includes cable TV franchises, PEGs, and maybe even internet thermostats (sigh).

If you are selected, your first task can be to get the committee's online records up-to-date. Their records haven't been updated for three months.

Here is a link to the current members of the committee. Mmm, perhaps I should say last known members, since that page is likely out-of-date as well.

In theory anyway, these are your representatives. Feel free to contact them to ask what their experience serving on the committee is like. Or ask them about communication-related issues of concern to you. Oh, you can't figure out how to contact them? Their names aren't linked to an email address? There's no phone number? How about that! (Your second task: Make the members more accessible to the citizens who they are supposed to represent!)

PS: I couldn't get the web page (above) for the PEGs to respond either. It is the correct link though. One more thing for you to look into.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pepco Ignores

Since my earlier post about Pepco's Energy Wise program, many people have emailed me with stories similar to mine. The only difference is that some are even worse.

Here are some of the additional complaints:
  • Thermostats not working, even from the front panel.
  • Thermostats not installed correctly.
  • Thermostats making frequent clicking noises.
  • Full manuals for thermostats unavailable.

  • That's apart from my earlier complaints:
    • Installers shortened wires unnecessarily.
    • Installers used wrong tools.
    • Installers showed up late.
    • Website control is unavailable.
    • Website requires another browser.
    • Thermostat needs an additional router port.

    • After repeated calls to Pepco, I was able to speak to the manager of the thermostat installations, Craig Snedeker. If this name is not familiar to you, you may like to read some of my posts about Comcast. Here's an excerpt from Comcast Blasts Holes In Itself in 2004:
      Comcast GM Craig Snedeker was brought in last year [2003] to fix all the problems in MC MD, yet there is little evidence of him doing so. Complaint levels are higher than ever (3x last year's!) and communication between the county and Comcast appears to be broken, much like the "walled garden" in which Comcast placed my cable modem a few weeks back for no reason at all.

      Comcast is a powerful company with real strengths. Yet they appear to be throwing it all away. The blame-Verizon strategy isn't working. Comcast had a huge advantage as the de facto monopoly in MC. But if they keep running their system into the ground, it's hard to imagine why customers will continue to put up with their abusive service.
      Craig resigned in 2005, at which time I wrote another post. An excerpt:
      The most senior official in charge of Comcast in Montgomery County has resigned. After only 2 years on the job, General Manager and VP Craig Snedeker resigned for "personal" reasons according to company spokesman Jim Gorden in this week's Gazette.

      Why Am I Not Surprised

      Snedeker arrived on the heels of the disasterous period 2 years ago when performance was so bad that the county flexed its muscle by establishing cable modem regulations and further extending regulations for all customers (both HSI and TV) with the creation of the Cable Compliance Commission. This had to have been a huge wakeup call to Comcast Corporate. God forbid, other franchises should follow MC's lead.

      So Comcast dumped the GM at the time (Sue Reinhold) and brought in GM-extraordinaire Snedeker. What did he do? Well, a few things did improve such as adding redundant hardware in places. But as far as I could tell, customer service was a non-priority while the company aimed at higher-margin products, specifically, the high-end video products such as digital TV and HDTV. Apart from that emphasis on higher profit, Snedeker spent time rubbing elbows with politicos and continuing Comcast's tradition of corporate largesse to pacify community groups - but what about the customers? You guessed it - plenty of customers have continued to be unhappy with Comcast service.

      Complaint levels filed with county regulators are now higher than we've ever seen. Part of this is no doubt due to Verizon installers inadvertently cutting Comcast lines. But, as I personally testified at a county hearing last month, many complaints could not possibly be the cause of Verizon. Comcast must shoulder the blame. I don't know if Comcast has been cutting costs on training or squeezing out money elsewhere, but quality seems to be disappearing as well. And with that go the customers.
      Back to the Present

      I'm not blaming Pepco's problems solely on Craig here. Clearly Pepco has plenty of blame to spread around. Yet no one I spoke to at Pepco seemed to think their behavior was a problem. And although each representative was happy to give me their supervisor's name and number, none of the representatives was willing to take any action personally.

      I can thank Craig for one thing. He gave me the person at Pepco to whom he reports. He said Avolon Joseph is in charge of the project. A search on the web turned up her title as Manager of Strategic Planning & Initiatives.

      So I called Avalon and left a message with my phone number and email address. Perhaps she was on vacation so I waited a few days. And a few days more. After a week and half, I called again. This time I reached her in person:

      Me: Can I ask you some questions about Energy Wise program?
      Avolon: Yes but I'm in a meeting right now. Can I call you right back?
      Me: Yes.
      Avolon: Ok.
      Me: Bye.
      Avolon: Bye.

      If you're expecting more, you'll be disappointed. I waited for the rest of the day. The rest of the week. And the following week.

      At this point, I feel totally frustrated. I've already filed a complaint with the MD Public Service Commission. No word back from them either. I attached the earlier blog post to it. I'm thinking that I'll attach this one to an additional complaint.

      In addition, I gave Craig the URL to the blog so he could read it himself. Doubtless he won't be pleased but perhaps he will take some action.

      As for Avolon: You may choose not to return my calls but you are making for very unhappy customers. And just like any service provider, we will look for all possible ways to avoid dealing with bad ones. I've already switched my electricity generation and transmission services to a competitor. And I encourage others to switch, to file complaints with the MD PSC, and to testify at hearings involving Pepco services. You leave customers no other choice.