Hasan Minhaj just released his latest episode of the Patriot Act, “Why Your Internet Sucks” where he discusses telecom companies in the US and how they take advantage of their customers.
In the US, we're beholden to whichever telecom companies are present in the area and Comcast, Verizon, Google, etc. essentially have monopolies in certain rural areas because no competing telecom company will take over. In 2017, the FCC under Ajit Pai voted to repeal Net Neutrality in the United States making Americans vulnerable to telecom companies altering the flow of information.
While living in Belgium I had similar experiences. Belgium is divided into two regions, Flanders and Wallonia. The Flemish side has one of the faster telecom companies called Telnet, but unfortunately I am left with the only two options in Wallonia, where I lived, Proximus and Voo. Both have awful reputations, but Voo was slightly cheaper and faster when I had searched their websites. However, since Proximus was originally a state-run telecom service called Belgacom, it means that they have access to the majority of the internet lines throughout Belgium.
When I asked the leasing office which telecom company was compatible with my house, they said that either Voo or Proximus should work. So I called Voo to setup a time to install my internet for the following week. The following conversation is indicative of the kind of customer service you receive in Belgium:
Voo: "Please press 3 for English."
Me: *Presses 3*
Voo: "Bonjour! I speak no English."
Eventually I arranged for a visit for a few days later and I was told that in order to install internet, they would need to tear underneath my neighbor’s house. My landlord told us that I should go with Proximus (I wish they had told me that to begin with).
While I was able to schedule an appointment with Voo for the following week (despite the initial language barrier), Proximus couldn't schedule me for over an entire month. I was already using their mobile service using a friend's residential address (because anti-terrorism laws require an address when registering a SIM card). However, Belgian walls are so thick that I couldn't get signal through the walls. I literally sat in my car for an hour or so each day for about a month in order to make phone calls and send emails. After a month, there was confusion about the initial installation dates, but they did eventually install the internet. Yet, for another month or so after they continued to pester me saying they stopped by to install the internet (they already had installed it by this point!).
It's a bird, it's a plane, never mind it's just Proximus...
Proximus has overcharged me on numerous occasions by accident. They have cut off my internet by accident. They have misinformed me about promotional offers. And each time I try to contact support, it would take hours trying to even figure out who to contact. At least with Comcast, it's straight forward who you can contact. With Proximus, the chat support was non-existent. They had Facebook support, but at some point without informing customers, they changed it to a bot that only spoke Dutch and French and never responded to specific questions. Their email support was incredibly slow. And their phone support, while the best, was also hit or miss. I would typically have to call in about 3-times per month just to correct mistakes on my bills.
Back in the USA
So, while I'm not psyched to be having Comcast with it's terrible reputation in the US, I might have shed a few tears of joy now that I can finish off the rest of Numa Numa without buffering on 144p (okay, that last one may have been a slight exaggeration).