Respectful Insolence

Hooked into the Matrix again!

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I’m baaack.

Well, thanks to free WiFi at Panera’s, I was never really truly away. Thanks to Comcast, I was away longer than usual. In any case, although between waiting for Internet access, running errands, and doing some snowblowing last night, I didn’t have time to do the usual epic substantive posts that I’m known (and either loved or hated) for. That’s unfortunate, because it figures that when I go three or four days without any Internet access other than that I can manage to find by having lunch or getting coffee at a place with free WiFi, lots of things that I would have liked to have blog about pop up. I’ll try to get to some of them over the next few days, but I can’t forget that I have to find something for Your Friday Dose of Woo in two days, and–egads!–the Skeptics’ Circle is due to land at Bug Girl’s Blog. (You have submitted something to her, haven’t you?)

In the meantime, while you’re anxiously waiting for the spigot of Respectfully (and not-so-Respectfully) Insolent verbiage about medicine, “alternative” medicine, and skepticism to be turned back on for real later today or tomorrow morning, I’ll give you a brief update. I’ve changed my opinion of Comcast somewhat. Basically, I’ve downgraded my hatred to sort of neutral “wait and see” attitude. Here’s why.

After the debacle of Monday, described in my rant composed right afterward and posted at Panera’s that afternoon, I tried to get through to a real human being at Comcast to bitch about the utter lameness of the installers. As you may recall, the excuse for not doing my cable, Internet, and telephone hookup was that they were “out of remotes.” Now, it was obvious that these guys were not the sharpest knives in the drawer, the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree, or whatever other metaphor for stupid you want to use, because when I told them I was going to call Comcast to complain they shrugged their shoulders and said that I should go ahead.

Frustrated with the phone experience, I decided to try the online feedback link on the Comcast website. I sent an e-mail complaint, and, believe it or not, someone got back to me within a couple of hours. Sadly, I was not aware of this until much later–mainly because I still had no Internet access. However, the e-mail stated that they’d reduce my installation charge (whoopee!) and looked for my feedback.

However, action did seem to occur. At 9:30 AM sharp (the window promised us was 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM), a Comcast truck pulled up to our house. Unlike the previous two clowns who came to my house (whom I dubbed “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumber), this installer was professional and gave the air of knowing what he was doing in exactly the opposite of the way that Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumber did not. He was also considerate, putting on shoe covers as he came into the house and taking them off before leaving. After he ran a cable to the house, he was soon joined by another installer in another Comcast truck. The two went to work. Because the house had not been wired for Comcast before, it was a fresh installation. It took them a couple of hours to get the job done, but when it was done we had cable TV, Internet, and telephone. So far so good.

Out of curiosity, I asked the guy about the installers from the previous day and their excuse that they had run out of remote controls. He looked at me with a look as though I had lost my mind, shook his head, and said incredulously, “They told you what?” He then went on to explain to me that those installers didn’t work for Comcast but rather were independent contractors, complaining that he was tired of cleaning up their messes, as they had pulled crap like this before. Indeed, he told me that they had recently bailed on a job for one customer, who could not be home again for two weeks to have an installation done. He even asked for a copy of the work order that I had had to sign to reschedule my installation.

Finally, last night, I was trying to get my Airport Extreme wireless router to work with the Comcast cable modem. It was driving me crazy; I couldn’t get it to work. For some reason, the Airport just couldn’t get an IP address via DHCP, even though my computer managed to do it just fine when I ran the Ethernet cable straight to it. (The time wasted doing this is another reason why the insolent verbiage about substantive topics hasn’t flowed today.) After some fruitless searching of the web and the Comcast site, reluctantly and with great dread, I decided to give tech support a call. Shockingly, it didn’t take too long to get through to a human being. (Word to Comcast and every other company that uses them, though: I really, really, really hate those electronic voices that ask you to say answers to questions into the phone and then navigate through various menu options; I hate them with a cold, vicious passion, and they’re guaranteed to put me in a truly horrible mood before I finally do get a human being on the line. I’m sure I’m not alone, and that can’t be good for the morale of your employees.)

In any case, the woman on the other end was cheery (borderline too cheery). She did, however, rapidly take me through the reset procedure for the modem, and soon the Airport router was working fine. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised after all the annoyances before.

Then, when I finally got around to catching up on my e-mail last night, what should I find in my mailbox but an e-mail (to Orac) from a Comcast employee named Mark Casem (I don’t know what his level is), who had seen my blog post and wanted to contact me. I don’t know if this means Casem is a fan of the blog (unlikely) or as part of his job does Technorati and Google blog searches looking for negative mentions of Comcast by bloggers. Either way, I’ll respond (with a link to this post, of course!) and see what comes of it.

Overall, I guess Comcast has mostly redeemed itself. Although a bit more in the way of cash off of the installation fee and/or perhaps a couple of free months would have been nice, at least the company got someone out immediately the next day to fix the problem, and its tech support was decent in tests (N=1). I have to wonder if it’s because there is another option in my area that I had briefly looked at and in fact had wondered if I had made a mistake in not choosing. Indeed, Monday night, so steamed was I at the utter lameness of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumber, I called this other option to see if I could arrange for installation of a similar combination of services. The company was more than happy to get me hooked up within a day or two. True, it did not offer the six month “teaser” low price that Comcast did, but otherwise the prices were similar for similar packages, and there was no installation fee. The problem was, it would have necessitated a different phone number, and my wife and I had already given out the phone number that Comcast was going to give us to a number of important people (like at our jobs). The other problem was that, due to some FCC regulation, we couldn’t have that phone number for a week. We had already been without a phone for a while, and another week would have been bad. So, although I came this close to telling Comcast to take a hike, in the end, I gave it another chance.

Of course, if Comcast turns out to be as bad as many of the comments in my previous post suggest, it is reassuring to know that I do have another choice. Believe me, if six or twelve months from now I’m unhappy with Comcast as I was on Monday, I will switch. Competition is a wonderful thing; it’s only unfortunate that for cable TV there are only two choices in my neck of the woods. On the other hand, I’m fortunate that there are even two; in most places, there’s just one monopoly chosen by the local government.

Comments

  1. #1 Calli Arcale
    February 13, 2008

    I have Comcast, and they’ve generally been good to us. The only other options in our area would be satellite, so they effectively have a monopoly here.

    Now, as far as Comcast and net neutrality, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish. But I won’t get into that now. As far as installation, promptness of service when reporting outages, and so forth, I’ve had a good experience with them. They even fixed our line for free when the stupid siding guys decided that asking us what to do would be too difficult and instead snipped the cable and sided over it.

  2. #2 Godless Geek
    February 13, 2008

    She did, however, rapidly take me through the reset procedure for the modem, and soon the Airport router was working fine.

    I used to work in a cable internet department. All the access controls for a DOCSIS network is handled by the customer equipment. Every aspect of the speed and device limiting is handled by your cable modem. Device limiting in particular is a bit unusual in that the modem essentially remembers what device was first connected to it won’t let any other device transmit through it (unless the device limit is set higher). The idea is that if multiple devices are connected through a switch, it’s only going to let one of them work. Resetting the modem makes it forget the device so that it then can remember the next device connected. Sounds like the computer was connected first, so it wouldn’t let the router transmit until a reset.

  3. #3 Nomen Nescio
    February 13, 2008

    Word to Comcast and every other company that uses them, though: I really, really, really hate those electronic voices that ask you to say answers to questions into the phone and then navigate through various menu options

    my pet peeve is automated phone trees that ask you to key in, or otherwise select, information of some sort about your situation — which then never gets passed on to the actual human you finally reach, who has to start out by asking you to repeat that information.

    automated phone trees of any sort tend to be nothing but obstacles put between you and the people set to answer the phones, in the hopes of discouraging you enough to give up and go away. in fact, just about the only time i’ve ever run into a genuinely useful phone tree, i was calling a government agency of all things…

  4. #4 Pineyman
    February 13, 2008

    The gethuman.com website (no www) provides a way to navigate past all the automated support trees. Comcast is listed.

  5. #5 robert estrada
    February 13, 2008

    I have had the same expreience of inept installers followed by the “pro from dover” to fix the screw up, in Florida, New Mexico and California. I guess it is a systemic problem with them. Do you thind an anti viral would help them?

  6. #6 ozzy
    February 13, 2008

    Comcast is the worst when it comes to installation. I think the fact that they rely on contractors to do start jobs is their whole problem. My family and I recently moved into a brand new house that came with a home network (video and data/phone jacks) installed that originated from a single network box. The main cable line was fed into the box and the signal was distributed , via the appropriated splitter, to the various video jacks. Well this guy told me that he had never seen these before (they are pretty standard in new construction nowadays) and that it was wrong and would not work. So he proceeded to unhook all of the distribution lines and connect them to the main cable feed via a series of 3.5 MHz splitters. He then “tested” the jacks and left without activating our cable boxes and checking to see if the HD stations worked. He also said he didn’t have time to hook up the TVs that were not going to use cable boxes. Well I had to activate the boxes and low and behold the HD stations did not work because the signal was too low. So I went back and reconnected the feed and distribution cables to the network box and lo and behold everything worked great. I called and complained and all they would do was give me a credit for 1/2 of the installation fee. About a week later, I got a call from a customer service survey company about my experience with the installation. When I told them I would rate the installation a 1 on a 1 to 10 (highest) scale I was told, “Yeah, we hear a lot of that.”
    Well, we happily switched to the alternative telecom company a few weeks later and the tech who installed our service actually sat down with me and went through the options on the DVR/cable service/internet that were included in our package. It was like I was in cable company bizzaro world.

  7. #7 Laser Potato
    February 13, 2008

    Come back to “The Twoof Hurts” thread. Cooler STILL dosen’t beleive fire fueled by jet fuel can melt/distort/weaken steel, EVEN AFTER BEING REPEATEDLY SHOWN PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE of structural steel being weakened and melted by a TRASH FIRE SET BY HOBOS.

  8. #8 Davis
    February 13, 2008

    My first experience with Comcast in Seattle was absolutely horrid. They were completely unreliable: roughly once a week the internet would either go out for an entire night, or slow down so much as to be unusable. When I finally moved out of that house and canceled, I had weird issues with billing (that took multiple calls to resolve). It drove me to switch to Speakeasy DSL, which was significantly more expensive.

    A little over a year ago I moved again, and DSL was unavailable at the new place (it was too far from the nearest hub). I grudgingly went back to Comcast. This time around, they’ve been incredibly fast (I frequently get download speeds of 400 kB/s or more), and just as reliable as Speakeasy was. Perhaps the competition in the area actually forced them to improve.

  9. #9 sirhcton
    February 13, 2008

    Just be careful that Comcast does not decide that you really do not need the full bandwidth you are paying for. They will control it all for you (cue in the lead in for the original “Outer Limits”).

    http://tinyurl.com/26tpuv

  10. #10 Jo
    February 13, 2008

    I have been a comcast subscriber for several years now, and have generally had good service. When there have been problems, comcast has taken care of them efficiently and quickly (and only rarely have the problems actually been problems with service!). The one downside, and something their marketing people might want to think about, is that I get bombarded with advertising asking me to tie all of my communications up with them — as though I don’t realize by now that comcast can offer me phone service in addition to the cable and high-speed internet I already have. What makes it more irritating is that they are offering new people a far lower price than what I pay. Do I get nothing for loyalty? Guess so.

    Still- if there were another possibility in the area, I would probably change over if it meant a $10 per month or more reduction in my bill. (which is $55-ish per month for basic cable and high-speed internet).

    cheers-
    Eric

  11. #11 genewitch
    February 13, 2008

    Ugh i have my own horror stories of cable internet from out here in BFE louisiana. There’s no competition, so literally the only thing that got them moving was a threat to the FCC and the BBB. We shot off two very detailed accounts of goings on out here to both those entities, and sure enough, 2 days before the deadline all our problems were solved. They had a lightning strike take out some equipment near my area, which affected me (they were powercycling a DHCP server for some reason) which broke my connection for 3 freakin days. I use suddenlink, and my woes can be read in full at: Cable.customer service nightmare
    Just thinking about it makes my blood boil.

  12. #12 genewitch
    February 13, 2008

    HAHA! comcast is in trouble with the FCC… and they like the word “reasonable”:
    Reasonable Traffic shaping and forging by comcast

    heh. i had to laugh. comcast is such a joke.

  13. #13 Abel Pharmboy
    February 13, 2008

    Although a bit more in the way of cash off of the installation fee and/or perhaps a couple of free months would have been nice. . .

    Paging Mark Casem. . .

  14. #14 dave
    February 14, 2008

    If “operator” doesn’t get the voice recognition system to give you a human, “customer complaints” almost certainly will, very quickly.
    (I really did want to talk to complaints the time I discovered that, but I’ll be extremely tempted to use it again next time I have to deal with a voice-recognition phone menu system.)

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