Saturday, January 10, 2015

Comcast Is An Abomination, Part Three: Stealth Outages

For the most part, our Comcast Internet connection has been remarkably stable over the 10 years we've had it. The service is fast, and there's never any excessive latency on the connection ... when it works. Every once in a while it goes down, and when it does, it's usually down the better part of the day while they fix or replace whatever they are working on, while we sit by and wait for them to fix it, knowing that calling their office would be fruitless.

With a connection as good as we've had all these years, it's perfectly acceptable that it goes down for routine maintenance, or a piece of equipment fails. Stuff happens, right?

But there's a problem: Whenever the Internet does go down, Comcast gives no warning and will not admit there is even a problem. It was down most of the day yesterday. I could see on my DD-WRT enabled router that Comcast was having issues on their end. I could also see the modem losing sync and sitting there with the US (upstream) light flashing, trying to sync.

So, I did what many customers would do: I went on my Android phone and installed the XFinity "My Account" app, which can show you outages in your area, among other things. If you've been following my rants against Comcast, you'll know what their app said. Basically it said good news, there's no outage in my area and the problem is on my end.

The app offered to troubleshoot my connection. Because it claimed the problem was on my end, it gave me all sorts of useless tips to try to get my connection to work, none of which made any reference to a cable modem that wouldn't sync, which ironically is required to connect to the Interwebs.

Did I call their customer service? Every time I have what I deem a routine outage, customer service's computers show no outages, and proceed to walk me through the script of rebooting, etc., usually until I say something like "does it matter if my computer is powered on if my modem does not have sync?" which is beyond the 1st tier and has to be escalated until the problem resolves itself. At that point a tier 2 tech usually calls me to tell me congratulations, everything is working fine. Thanks.

I got to thinking, this must be on purpose. If I were manager of one of the offices, would I tell my corporate overlords that we screwed up and half our office is down? All the local subscribers pissed off? Not at all. So they do the "right thing" and claim everything is fine, and let their customer service call center in a different location spent hours on the phone walking people through problems that are not theirs.

Having spent decades in corporate America, there's the prevailing attitude that customers are stupid, that "buyers are liars." Kids toys are made purposely low quality, because the company knows that the parent will blame the child for a broken toy just as likely as not. And companies like Comcast will put their own technical issues on you if they can.

There's another reason these outages are "stealth outages." If they admitted that the reason your Internet was down for a whole day was THEIR problem, they might be on the hook for having to offer you a free day of credit if you call to complain. If I called to complain today about yesterday's full-day outage, I guarantee they would be telling me that their system shows that there was no outage in my area, and that the problem was on my end, and where would be the fun in that?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Comcast Is An Abomination, Part Two: "Our high prices are your fault"

There's a long tradition of trying to curry sympathy by demonizing the victim. It often works for the worst kind people, so it's honestly not surprising to hear first hand about Comcast using the tactics of a serial rapist to blame high prices on the consumer.

This happened recently to a family member. She was being overcharged for her service, which was a legitimate issue. But before Comcast corrected the billing errors after numerous phone calls similar to my experience, they claimed to her that the ever-increasing cost of her service had to do with consumers demanding a la carte service.

Yep, Comcast actually told her that it was her fault as a consumer that prices were so high. Basically that they were the good guys trying to keep prices low by bundling all the crap channels nobody wants to see together. But no, the uneducated consumers complained about those channels being bundled, and now Comcast can't keep the prices low and it's on you, the consumer. That's the gist of what they told her.

I'm sure it wouldn't have anything to do with their lobbying efforts to thwart competition or "our billions in profit aren't enough" mentality of the mega-corporation it is. Just like a cancer cell, a giant corporation must keep growing. It must keep generating more and more profit to meet the shareholder's expectations and add a few pennies to their stock value.

Capitalism says that if you don't like a company, then don't do business with it. But in this case, the company I don't want to do business with has the only high speed Internet available in my area and uses its billions of dollars to keep it that way. These days Internet is just as important as electricity or running water. For me as a technologist, there's no choice.

It's bad enough that Comcast almost seems intent on a) generating lots of billing errors and b) making sure that all billing errors are in their favor and c) making sure you can't leave. But most of the time they are smug about being the supreme assholes they are. As an uninterrupted customer of more than 10 years, I have not seen a single instance where they didn't take every single opportunity to be douche bags, with the latest being "Our supervisor claimed he tried to call you several times and you never answered, and we believe him over you, sorry, so now you'll have to wait to talk to one because you're wasting our time." spiel they gave her a couple weeks ago. Shameful.

Comcast is an abomination. Oh, and since we went to just Internet, they are now spam calling us with recordings telling us how awesome our lives would be if we upgraded.