Comcast van parked in a residential neighborhood answering a consumer call for service

Comcast vans are a frequent neighborhood sight. Nearly as frequent as the number of consumer complaints the company receives about poor service and high prices. Photo: Dave Winer | Flicker CC.

Comcast has a rather sizable disparity between its size and reputation. Its customer service is famously ill regarded, and a recording of a strident phone representative refusing to disconnect a customer’s service was remarkable mainly for how unsurprising it was.

HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” made Comcast the recipient of many pointed jokes, noting that along with Time Warner Cable it came in at the very bottom of a huge survey by the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index. Chief among regular complaints is the inescapability of Comcast. It suffers little to no competition in the many communities it operates within, and frequently convinces customers into big TV, phone, and Internet bundle subscriptions when they might have been happier choosing a la carte services.

The complaint of wanting to pick and choose services is part of a broader, strengthening sentiment about cutting cable subscriptions completely. This has been a challenge for consumers that like television but would rather get it through the internet alone: many shows and almost all live sports broadcasts are cable-exclusive, many internet connections are too meager for certain kinds of web video, and again, many providers push hard for bundled services.

Perhaps in response to both its perceived image and the growing desire for cable-free TV, Comcast has announced a new web-based television service dubbed Stream. Debuting as a beta test in Boston at the end of summer 2015, Stream will function as a downloadable app without the need for additional hardware.

The service will cost $15 per month, presumably in addition to basic Internet subscription fees, and will deliver live streams of TV shows to computers, tablets, and phones. A cloud-based DVR will allow customers to record any content for later without the need for special equipment. Stream will expand to Chicago and Seattle after Boston, and then make a wider debut thereafter.