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Archive for May 2006

Access Woes

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I think it’s over. To all of you who’ve wondered what happened, suffice to say that my internet access for the past two weeks has been spotty at best. However, I think that my cable provider has finally licked the thing – but we’ll see.

For those more interested (and especially for those of you who might have cable internet service), read on.

I’ve not sure if the non-North American readers have ‘cable’ internet, so I’ll briefly explain. In the US (and Canada IIRC), there are three basic ways for residential consumers to get internet access: dialup (56K), DSL (128K – 768K), and cable (1.5 Mbps+), this last coming through one’s TV service provider and typically being the fastest of the three. Indeed, I usually have download speeds approaching 3 Mbps.

I’ve had this service for nearly two years now without a hitch. Then two weeks ago – on Wednesday – the signal became intermittent. I know a bit about how networks operate, and I’ve managed to troubleshoot most of my own problems for some time. So I tinkered a bit but no dice. Over that first 48 hours I would estimate that I had about 6 hours of access. Being wireless, I also grabbed some bandwidth from one, and eventually two neighbors, but those connections were slow, and didn’t always work. Might be distance, or it might be – shudder – dialup.

I first called the cable company – Comcast – on Thursday and set up an appointment for Friday (all day – who knew when they’d come?) with a backup for Monday. They missed both appointments. By this time, my access was out for the count, and only one neighbor was occasionally available. If I knew whose bandwidth I had borrowed, I would give him some pointers on improving his network. Anyway, I called Comcast and wondered where their service techs were. They claimed the appointments had been “cancelled” but they knew not by whom or why. Well, it certainly wasn’t me! By this time I was fairly sure that the issue was either their line or the cable modem itself. So we made another appointment for the 3-5 window on Thursday.

Thursday came and went. No cable guy.

At this point, I was openly asking them if they actually had any service techs to send out. I also began to hear that magical phrase “Comcast is sorry for any inconvience” (hereafter CISFAI) which I would hear at every turn with them from this moment on. We made another appointment for Saturday 1-3.

Nothing. I had called about 1:30 to confirm the appointment, but after 3pm passed, I called again. At this time, I was informed that the appointment had been cancelled at 1:03 nearly a half hour before I called and received confirmation that the appointment was on. The guy CISFAIed me, but I told him I needed a tech out today and that was that. He gave me another window of 4-7 that same day.

Truly annoyed at this point, but beginning to see the humor in the whole thing, I waited. When 7pm came and went, I was openly laughing as the alternative was to start hurling breakable objects. Five appointments had been missed. Somewhere along the line, they had waved the fee for the month which was decent of them considering they weren’t providing service and didn’t seem overly concerned about doing so in the future. In no mood to cook, we ordered in Chinese, and shortly after its arrival, the doorbell rang. It was not one but two cable guys. At 8:30. I didn’t care – they were here.

So they went to work. They looked at the modem. They hooked up some testing device. They decided it was the splitter (the device which separates the data and video streams from the cable line), replaced it, confirmed the internet was live, and left. They both gave me a CISFAI.

Three hours later, the cable went out again.

Late on Sunday, I called Comcast again. For various reasons, I was not able to face this task until later in the day, and given how it turned out, I must say it was for the best. I mean, for total farcical value. Not that I knew that right away.

The woman I spoke with had an accent – not all that unusual, and at first I thought nothing of it. It seemed she had the ability to remotely check my cable modem – something not a single person had mentioned thus far. This she proceeded to do three times before sagely informing me that “the modem isn’t connecting.” Really? Gee, thanks for clueing me in there. She suggested that the modem be replaced, which was also something I knew. What I did not know was where the local Comcast service centers were. (At this point, I figured it was more efficient to go get the damn thing myself rather than wait five more appointments for a live body to show up.)

She gave me the closest choice – Brookline. Now those of you from Massachusetts might be familiar enough with Boston to know that the closest choice is rarely the best choice here in the Hub. In fact, from where I live, Brookline is a 5 minute flight by bird, 40+ minute drive by car. I then asked her where she was. An innocent enough question I thought, as most people are aware that calling centers can be located anywhere. For all I knew, she was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. But she hedged, mumbled something about “international” and then moved on. India! I realized, finally placing the hint of an accent.

Eventually, she gave me two more options, Medford being the easiest to get to. I thanked her, and she gave me a CISFAI.

So the next day – Monday – I called the Medford office and was treated to a recorded voice telling me that the number was not in service. Uh oh. There was a brief window in the neighbor’s bandwidth and I managed to discover that the Medford office had closed, but there was one in East Boston – unknown in India – which is a 15 minute drive from me. Great, I thought. However, the silliness of a woman halfway across the planet being able to ping my modem but not being up to date on office locations she was giving out amused me greatly. There are limitations to outsourcing after all.

Armed with the knowledge that I just had to pick up the modem, off I went. I’d never been to this part of East Boston before, but it was a main drag so no sweat. I arrived, parked, went in, and there was no line. Things were looking up! Until the woman at the window told me that their computer was down – company-wide – and she couldn’t give me a modem without being able to “check it out.” I stared at her in disbelief. Comcast was nefarious – they would stoop to any means to prevent me from regaining access. Even to the point of shutting down their network. I gave the woman an abbreviated version of the woe, she gave me a CISFAI. I left.

When I got home, I called for another appointment. Tuesday from 1-3 they gave me. I said sure. The guy showed up. At 2pm. I wanted to pinch him to see if he was actually there. He listened to the problem, hooked up some testing device, and then said, “It isn’t the modem.” Oh, I thought, they’re diabolical. He had to go out the fire escape (I live on the fourth floor), into the back well to check the lines. Did I mention it rained really hard that day? When he came back up, he told me that the signal was – you ready for this? Too strong. Not weak. Strong. The modem couldn’t process it because it was being overwhelmed (it should be at 8db but was at 16db – some of you might know better what that means than I). He threw some more technobabble at me about what another tech guy would need to do the next day – not involving me, thankfully – and that should do the trick. Well, this is that day. I’ve had uninterrupted access since he did whatever he did. Threatened the modem for all I know.

Oh, and he threw me a CISFAI as he left.

Written by martinipundit

May 10, 2006 at 9:22 am

Posted in Technology

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Access Issues

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My apologies for going on silent running. Comcast, my alleged cable provider, has been ‘providing’ very spotty internet access this past week and even failed to make a service appointment they scheduled. Not sure when things will be back to normal …

Written by martinipundit

May 1, 2006 at 7:56 am

Posted in Technology

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