Comcast support– undoing the damage (3/3)

The next day two technicians showed up and this time the blogger was in attendance to witness the damage from previous day. Technician #1 was the same person who tried to fix the problem earlier and made no progress after several hours, leaving behind a completely disabled network and a tangle of cables, including a new heavy, 5-piece component + AV cable as a souvenir. (There was already a component cable around but apparently he brought in a brand new one when at some point he could not get any image on the screen at all.) Technician #2 was the more senior employee and he was the only one working on the systes this time while his colleague went to check the connections outside. Observations from this round:

  • After the initial visit, the network was down. In particular the standard-issue Linksys WRT-54GS wireless router appeared bricked.
  • The technician claimed that Comcast does not touch customer-owned equipment and therefore the malfunction of the router could not have been as a result of their trouble-shooting. This was in direct contradiction of what was observed the previous day, when technician #1 repeatedly power-cycled routers to get the network back up. The wireless router was still unresponsive when they left. Quick check afterwards showed that they had the power adapters mixed up. Easy enough, considering both were Linksys devices with compatible connectors. Cable modem still ran fine on the higher-amperage from the router’s power source but not the other way around.
  • He first attempted to isolate the problem by “hard-wiring” to the cable modem, which worked fine on his laptop. But a different laptop running Vista refused to cooperate with the ritual of powering on/off the routers in a specific sequence.
  • UAC once again got in the way: when the technician attempted to coax the laptop into getting an IP address from the cable modem, he was stumped. His standard trick of running “ipconfig /renew” returned an access denied error message. No problem– this blogger helped out by launching an elevated command prompt as admin where work could be done again. (If this experience is representative, Vista is still not very popular on customer systems or Comcast has not bothered to update their trouble-shooting diagnostics.)
  • Comcast uses an unaffiliated, third-party websites for speed tests, to measure effective bandwidth available to the customer. The technician suggested Googling for “bandwidth test” and following several links from there including the Speakeasy page. None of them were particularly conclusive: on a 10MB/s line one of them returned almost twice that speed. (A telco giving customers more bandwidth than they are paying for?)
  • Eventually the speed-tests revealed that downstream bandwidth is within spec but there were problems in upstream bandwidth. Since the problem originated in the fiber running to the area, nothing could be done here other than placing a call to the service center to check on the lines.
  • He also discovered that the DVR was defective– this was the replacement DVR provided in exchange for the original equipment Comcast dropped off, which also did not function correctly.

After three attempts we finally had a functioning network. The experience added another chapter to the “inept telco-monopoly indifferent to customer experience” image. A few days afterwards news reports surfaced that Comcast had been downgrading  BitTorrent traffic. Finally this was one explanation: it’s hard to focus on customer problems when you are too busy interfering with their service.


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