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Call the Cable Guy. Again.

In a recent national survey on customer satisfaction conducted by the University of Michigan, Comcast was tied for last among cable, satellite and television providers and was last in fixed-line telephone service.

Verizon scored barely above Comcast in satisfying phone and Internet customers, according to the survey.

Moyer said the solution to a service problem was sometimes difficult to determine -- a faulty Internet connection could be caused by anything from weather-worn cable lines to outdated community nodes that act as the central access point for dozens of homes in the neighborhood, she said.

That was the company's response to Charles Gati's complaint of persistent connection and quality problems with the television, Internet and phone "triple play" service he's had for the past two years. The Johns Hopkins University professor often works from his Dupont Circle townhouse and relies on the Internet for research and writing papers.

Since he signed up for the services, he's had eight visits by technicians. His neighbors have complained about similar problems, he said, and one technician said the neighborhood node hasn't been upgraded in years and is overburdened by the number of new customers in the area, who are doing far more on the network than they did when Comcast was providing only cable television.

"Don't advertise something you can't deliver. That's the heart of the problem here," said Gati, who said he was switching carriers.

Public advocacy groups such as Free Press have argued in filings with the Federal Communications Commission that Comcast should spend more money to upgrade its technology by expanding its neighborhood shared capacity -- the part of its networks used by more than one household. On the shared network, too much use at a given time can slow or degrade service.

The company said it suffers from congestion and slower Internet service when too many people in the same neighborhood are using the Web. Or when one user directly transfers large Internet files such as video clips to other users. Comcast has delayed the exchange of large files to alleviate congestion, a practice that has sparked additional criticism that the company is acting as a gatekeeper of Internet content.

The company wouldn't specify how much investment has been put into upgrading technology on the shared neighborhood network. Tony G. Werner, the chief technology officer, said the company doubled capacity at 10,000 of its 115,000 nodes in the past year through a technique called splitting nodes.

Yet Comcast will need to ramp up such improvements if it wants to stay ahead of the technological demands that are bound to strain its networks in the future, said Phil Doriot, a program director for the consulting firm CFI Group. Internet bandwidth has doubled every two years and is expected to continue to increase as video becomes more common on the Web.

"That puts more snow on the snowball that's already heading downhill," Doriot said.

Bayes, a membership specialist for the National Rifle Association, said his problem began before the first service agent came to his home. The new-home specialist should have been able to tell Bayes there was no service to his new home from the first call, he said. None of the many other service representatives caught that error for weeks.

Comcast installed a line from the neighborhood hub to his home almost six weeks after his first call.

"We went above and beyond for him," Moyer said.

But that wasn't enough for Bayes. Last week, he switched providers.


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