Raise your hand if you want the Cable Guy in charge of your home security. Any cable guy – we’ll let you choose. There’s Larry the Cable Guy – he’s the reliable sort, right? Or Jim Carrey’s Cable Guy – surely he’s safe? Or, back to reality, let’s just talk about your experiences with your own cable provider. How do they score on reliability and customer service?
All joking aside, we’re finding it difficult to get behind the cable companies’ home security offers. We understand why they’re doing it – customer attrition is a serious issue in that industry, and they want to offer value-added services that keep their customers locked in. Once you get their home security system installed, you’re a lot less likely to drop your cable service, because you’d lose your security investment.
Xfinity, offered by Comcast, is perhaps the best known of the cable/internet bundled deals, which now includes a home security offer. In order to get their home security, you must contract for their internet services and you can’t cancel. The home security package includes options for some popular new features, such as wireless equipment, remote access, video cameras and home automation. However, Xfinity is priced higher than most competing home security services with the same features, and they lock you in with a 3-year contract. The alarm system installation costs hundreds of dollars. They also tack on an extra $5 every month for a warranty (warranties are free from most security companies).
Xfinity’s biggest flaw, however, aside from the long-time issues with customer service, is that their home security service connects to the monitoring center via the internet.
“Internet” and “Reliable” – in the Same Sentence?
Someone’s breaking into your house, and your safety depends on your internet connection? Should you reboot your modem real quick before the intruder knocks the door down? Or maybe you should call your cable company’s Customer Service. Does their automated call screening system now include, “Press 9 if a burglary is in progress”?
An alarm system needs to be monitored round-the-clock, by highly-trained staff, prepared to handle any emergency. Responsiveness is critical. There must be a reliable connection between the home and the monitoring center, because if it fails, no one sends help. Traditionally alarm systems have connected using your home phone line. The cable guys, of course, use their internet connection. Neither is acceptable, in our opinion. They simply aren’t reliable. Although a phone landline (if we still have such a thing) doesn’t fail as often as the internet does, it is still vulnerable to power outages, storms, and most especially, the burglars themselves. Burglars have learned to cut the lines and cables, assuming that will disable your alarm system.
A cellular connection is the only reliable way for your home security system to reach the monitoring center. We suspect that the cable providers might actually know this, because they offer “cellular back-up.” So… they acknowledge that they need back-up… That tells you something, doesn’t it?
Home Security vs. Home Automation
The concept of a “smart” home, with integrated, automated services is quickly gaining popularity. Many home security companies successfully integrate home automation features with their highly interactive alarm systems. The remote access and customization capabilities are already built into the alarm system, so adding automated lighting, door locks or climate control is an easy, natural progression.
But is the reverse true? If you’re good at home automation, does that automatically mean you have what it takes to keep a home and family safe? Industry experts concur that if you want both home security and home automation, it’s best to start with a company that focuses on safe home security, and then add automation features. A company that focuses on home automation – or cable services – may not have the staff, expertise and infrastructure to secure your home.
Bad Reviews, Bad Customer Service
Customers seem to agree, too. The reviews we’ve read for Xfinity and other cable-provider home security systems are not encouraging. Customers repeatedly report problems with installation, equipment, functionality, monitoring and billing (go figure). Comments we’ve read include quotes like:
- “have had nothing but problems”
- “total waste of time trying to get stuff resolved”
- “if you cancel, they’ll try to charge you anyway”
- “hidden charges”
- “the customer service is ridiculous”
If you randomly asked people on the street to name a company with lousy customer service, how many would name their cable company? The industry is notorious, and Xfinity home security customer reviews cite the same old problems we’ve all experienced with cable. Unfortunately for consumers, many cable providers have monopolies in their region, and thus customers simply don’t have options, and don’t benefit from healthy industry competition.
The home security industry, however, does give us options. We recommend you research online to find a company with true alarm system expertise. Find one with safe cellular monitoring, easy wireless equipment and no installation fees. If you like the video camera and home automation options, search for those features as well. Home security has made significant technological advances in recent years, since innovative companies with 100% wireless systems and great mobile apps came on the scene, forcing the traditional, established providers to up their game. You don’t have to put up with stodgy old equipment drilled into your walls anymore. And you sure don’t have to trust the security of your home to the cable guy.