Dear PoPville – Alternatives to Comcast?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

Dear PoPville,

Moving this week and looking at setting up the switch in cable in our new place. The English basement in the house we’re moving to is only registered a single family house (Landlords would have to petition city council to change it). So Comcast cannot create a separate account within a single family house. So, in order for us to get cable, landlords would have to say they want the basement wired and then we’d add it to their account.

That’s not greatest solution because our bill becomes their business and we can’t change it on a whim. Any alternatives to Comcast in DC that anyone would recommend?

51 Comment

  • T

    Verizon FIOS, Verizon DSL, RCN, DirectTV, Dish.

    • Depending on where OP lives in DC, only Dish may be available. Where I live in Mt Pleasant, for example, Verizon FIOS, RCN and Cox are not available. And if you landlord isn’t keen on installing a dish, then you are left with no option but Comcast for cable. Of course, Comcast doesn’t know that, so once I year, I call them telling them of rates offered by other providers to get a lower rate on my bill. It’s worked well so far.

  • First of all…

    The only reason it isn’t legally on the rolls as a seperate unit is because it isn’t registered and have its legal c of o, which in my mind is fine. 99.999% of all english basements are fine places and serve a valuable purpose. Imagine what rents in this town would be if the tens of thousands currently living in off books basement apartments had to compete with regular rentals?

    Assuming you knew that, or didn’t care that your apt doesn’t have a c of o, the landlords don’t petition the council, they go to DCRA like everyone else and go through the cumbersome (at best), or outright heinous and ungodly expensive (typical) process of getting their basement a c of o.

    Now to your main question.
    The same rules apply to all cable/dish/internet providers. If you want sole control and access to your cable, you are going to have to get your own place that isn’t in someones non-c of o basement.

  • RCN is excellent all around. FiOS offers great services, but the customer service is as bad as Comcast’s.

  • This happened to me — just contact corporate

  • There’s a WiMAX service called Clear; my landlords swear by it.

    • I have Clear currently, but it’s been worse than Comcast, if that’s possible. I’m planning to cancel it soon.

    • Same here. Have had Clear for over a year and the data speeds vary between almost acceptable and dismal. Reluctantly going back to the crooks at Comcast this week.

  • Instead of cable, you could get Netflix streaming and use rabbit ears to get the network stations. The digital signal is quite good. This is what I do, and I give myself a self-congratulatory pat on the back every time someone complains about how awful Comcast is.

  • we ditched cable about 6 months ago and got a Roku. Between Hulu Plus, Netflix, and a digital antenna (for the networks), we get everything we’re interested in seeing.

    • This is exactly what I do. TV antenna, netflix, a blu-ray player, & roku. Cutting the cable was the best decision I ever made.

  • Question: I’m currently paying $150/month for a Comcast voice/internet/cable bundle. We use the phone and internet a lot but never watch TV. However, because of the way Comcast does bundles it won’t save me any money to get rid of it. Can anyone recommend a cheaper alternative with another company? The phone cannot go through the internet because it’s needed for the security system, so Vonage and Magic Jack type things are out of the question. We do Netflix streaming so we’d need relatively fast internet. I’d appreciate any suggestions!

    • Does your security system have a wireless (i.e. no home phone required) option? My security system only charges an additional $5 per month for this convenience which is cheaper than maintaining a home line that I never use. Security calls are routed to my cell phone. Might be something worth looking into and then you can nix the bundled package.

      • No, it doesn’t unless I want to pay to have an entirely new system installed. As I recall that was pretty pricey.

        • Also, I like having a landline. Our house is tall and narrow, and if your cell phone is on a different level than you are you can’t hear ringing at all. I don’t like having to carry mine around with me throughout the house so the landline is nice to have. Plus it allows us to have the smallest cell phone plan possible which saves us money.

    • Call Comcast and try again. Their lack of pricing transparency is infuriating, but I pay $75 a month total for internet and phone only. And they just jacked my internet speed way up since fios came to our neighborhood.

      • Does your phone service include long distance?

      • I did just speak with a very aggressive man two days ago and he insisted I would be paying nearly the same price for just internet and phone. He kept reiterating that I could return my HD box to save a whopping $9.99 a month “if I’m really telling the truth about not needing TV”.

  • I don’t really understand the problem – “our bill becomes their business” – unless you’re watching lots of porno or something?

    They wire the basement and you basically get free cable – sounds like a good arrangement. Also, how much is there really to change in Comcast service? It’s only if you want to pay extra for HBO & premium channels right? So if you want those, offer to pay the difference.

    And if you want movies that you don’t want to show up on the bill, do Netflix streaming. I think you’d still come out ahead.

  • get a Clear Spot on a 15 day trial. If you get good signal it’s perfect internet and you can do netflix, hulu, etc. (And then get rabbit ears to watch the olympics.) And it’s $50/month. And you can put it in your pocket and take it to the park/train/coffee shop.

    It works great for me–I get Netflix streaming in HD. But my friend 2 blocks away got no signal in her appartment.

    But, of course, it’s not cable and you basically can’t watch sports, which is a critical downside.

  • All you need to do is get a splitter and run a line from from your landlord’s hookup to your tv. I did it when I lived in an English basement.

  • I don’t understand this issue, because I lived in an unregistered English basement and we had no problem getting our own cable internet service (didn’t get TV, but did need comcast) separate from our landlord’s. The C of O is strictly a law and tax issue related to how legal it is to rent the place–my understanding is, Comcast has no particular reason to care. As long as it’s a legal residence it’s legal for someone to live in it (ie related to you and not paying rent) and you don’t necessarily need a c of o, you only need that to rent it and get money for it. Maybe I’m wrong, but that was the case in our house. We just signed up for comcast and put “basement” in address line 2.

    • Agreed. The CofO is totally separate from Comcast/Verizon/etc.

      “lots” of folks have “basement” or “2nd floor” or whatever as part of their comcast address. I happen to see that sort of thing every once in a while at a friends house.

      you just need someone else at Comcast to deal with.

  • It doesn’t help for cable TV, but if you need Internet service and you’re on Capitol Hill or in certain parts of Adams Morgan, you can use DC Access. They’re a local business and great to deal with. Affordable, too.

    I second the idea of using an antenna + Netflix and/or Hulu Plus if you don’t require (“require”) a sports package. I actually got bizarrely good antenna signal when I lived in an English basement.

  • We have DirectTV and absolutely love it. We hated RCN and Comcast.

  • pennyworth

    roku, xbox live, ilemi, rojadirecta – cable is for people over 30

    • Exactly. Because people under 30 no longer have the attention span to sit through an entire live sporting event on TV.

  • I have a basement apartment with a CofO and it still was a pain to get Comcast to set up the separate account, but they finally did. I agree with whoever said you just need to keep calling until you get someone who knows what they’re doing. I called a few times and finally had someone who was able to do it for me.

  • Just for the record, it’s not a given that the OP’s landlords wouldn’t have to petition the city council to change to a 2 family unit. Large parts of the city are not zoned for two family.

  • I guess it depends where you are. I’m in Woodley Park and my building has RCN, but I don’t think its available at a friend in the neighborhood’s building. But overall, minus just a few “big company headaches,” I’ve been pretty happy for the 3 years I’ve had it.

  • I have the same situation living in and English basement. My landlord has the basement wired for Comcast and we just use his account. So the only thing we pay for is the rental of the DVR box, which is CHEAP considering how overpriced Comcast is. It’s a good arrangement for us, I don’t have a problem with “my bill being my landlord’s business”, but then again I’m not ordering OnDemand porn…

  • For all you “Cable Cutters”, where are you getting good streaming quality Internet for your Roku/Netflick? Verizon DSL, Clear 4G, or ????

    • More importantly, how are you watching the Nats games?!!!!!

      • You don’t need to own a boat, you just need a friend who does. Be social, bring the booze and visit a friend. Or go to a bar.

    • Exactly, I don’t have TV service but I have to go with Comcast internet unless I want some sort of slow terrible unreliable wireless or Verizon DSL that is slower than me 3g cell phone.

      If you are lucky enough to be in an area where RCN or FiOS or some local ISP works you are just stuck with Comcast, like I am in Petworth.

    • I have verizon dsl and stream everything (no cable) on my roku player, and I never have any problems

  • thebear

    Do like the others have suggested: OTA, Hulu/Netflilx/Roku/Blu-Ray. I was being ripped-off royally by Comcast: $150 for TV+HBO+Showtime (not even HD). They absolutely refused to let me switch to a bundle to get a better deal, or even cancel the premium channels “because you have an original District Cablevision account and those were frozen by federal regulation as part of the acquisition from AT&T.” WTF? They wouldn’t even figure out how to cancel my service altogether! Sent them a certified letter finally in 2009 telling them that since I had requested for 3 months at that point that they cancel my service and they are either unable or unwilling to do so, I have no further obligation or intention of paying anymore bills from them, and they are to come and remove the converter. I still have the damn box sitting here collecting dust. They did try sending me to collection but they had to back down after I sent the collection agency the documentation about trying to cancel.

    Every now and then I do miss seeing certain programs when they air, but I have adapted. When FiOS finally gets to my building, I *might* consider it, if only to get better speed than DSL (and it remains uncapped).

  • whoa, weird.. I have my comcast box on the exact same wire shelf from Home Depot. Mr. T in DC snuck in my house a took a picture?

  • It would be very easy to put a splitter on one of the upstairs connections and drill a hole and run it down to the basement.

    You could then add an extra box to the account and just throw the landlord some cash.

    • And if you’re willing to do without the channels in Comcast’s digital-only range (I think channels number 100 and up), you wouldn’t even need a cable box.

  • To the cable cutters, DC Access also does antenna installations.
    Its not that expensive, better than an indoor antenna, services all TVs in the house, and lasts a long long time. If you rent, see if landlord will split part of the cost. I have a roof antenna and love it.

  • Landlord only has to go to Comcast and ask for an additional line(s) to be “opened”. I had to do this for my house that has an English Basement. A single family home in DC can have up to 4 different access lines to Comcast cable. Comcast calls them A, B, C, and D lines. The landlord does not have to open the additional lines in their name or anyone’s name. Landlord only has to authorize Comcast to open it. It is not an account, it is just an opening of the lines to allow for separate accounts to run to the same home. Landlord has to physically go to Comcast and fill out a single piece of paper. It is free. Surprisingly it was easy to do and I did not get the run around from Comcast. I don’t know about the other cable companies.

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