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Have you ever tried to call Comcast to cancel your Xfinity phone, cable television or internet service? It is nearly impossible to do over the phone. Comcast will reroute your call to a retention representative whose job is to not take no for an answer.

However, when Comcast wants to cancel customer service on Carroll County residents, it cuts the cord with little or no notice.

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This Saturday, Comcast will close its only service center in Carroll. Located behind the Westminster Walmart on Clifton Boulevard, the service center allows Comcast customers to stop in to pay bills, change or update service, rent or return equipment, and interact with a live human being. Unfortunately, once Comcast locks the Westminster service center’s doors on Oct. 19, it plans to pull Carroll County from its channel lineup.

It should come as no surprise that word of Comcast’s departure did not get out until the end of this summer. Upon hearing the news, the Carroll Cable Regulatory Commission (CCRC) and the Board of County Commissioners decided without hesitation to reach out to Comcast representatives to intervene. Although both parties are still working with Comcast to come up with a solution, it appears that the cable giant has made up its mind.

Fear not — Comcast has already come up with some creative ways for Carroll County residents to get around needing the Westminster service center. For those who still want to pay their bill in person, customers can now visit any Western Union location, and pay the associated costs for using that service. Customers who need to return equipment have been advised to stop at one of Carroll’s three UPS locations and wait patiently as new equipment comes in the mail. For locals who still want to visit a physical Comcast service center to speak with a real employee, they have been encouraged to make a light 30- to 90-minute round trip (depending on where you live in Carroll) to visit the service centers in Owings Mills or Frederick.

Obviously, customers are also being told to use the Xfinity smartphone app and online services as well. As convenient as this sounds, the reality is that a good number of the service center’s customers are older and less likely to be familiar or comfortable with using a computer or smartphone to pay a bill or chat via instant message with a customer service representative.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said it best when he recently told me, “Today’s customer service has taken on a whole new meaning. No longer is the emphasis placed on personal face-to-face interaction.” He added, “Today’s world is all about digital strategy which translates to the need to make more money.”

CCRC member and Taneytown city Councilman Daniel Haines also expressed concerns over Comcast’s argument that they can continue to provide the same level of service without offering a brick and mortar location. “It is all just hollow platitudes chalked up to, ‘We’re expanding our electronic customer service options to the point that we can close our physical service location,’ ” he said. “They’ve got such an iron grip on the area that they don’t really think it’s worth spending the chump change necessary to run a local service center.”

With Comcast as the default provider for cable television in our county, disgruntled customers are left with very few options. Verizon, one of the largest television providers in the U.S., still does not offer their Verizon Fios fiber-optic television or internet service in Carroll County. Although DIRECTV and DISH provide satellite television in Carroll, they do not offer internet in our area, which is a major inconvenience for those who like to bundle their TV and internet. While Comcast might not hold a monopoly over Carroll, it certainly is the only major player in town.

This development is not only awful for Comcast customers, but for the employees of Carroll’s service center as well. Joshua Bokee, Comcast’s director of government and regulatory affairs, told the CCRC that current Westminster employees “have the opportunity to apply for positions, and that’s all I can say." With job security like that, I might quit my job and send my resume over to Comcast today! “I find that incredibly careless, just like the decision to close as a whole. Comcast doesn’t care about Carroll County — bottom line,” Haines said.

When Comcast was asked why they were deciding to close our local service center, Bokee said the decision was made after a “careful review” and left it at that. Longtime customers of Comcast and its predecessors, Adelphia and Prestige Cable, deserve better. Carroll County may be at the mercy of Comcast, but that does not mean that we deserve an abrupt cancellation.

In the 1980s, MTV, a channel dedicated to showing music videos, ran a campaign to motivate viewers to contact their cable providers and demand that they carry the new channel by exclaiming, “I want my MTV!” Comcast customers in Carroll need to demand, “I want my Westminster service center!”

Christopher Tomlinson writes from Hampstead. Reach him at CCTtomlinson@gmail.com.

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