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August 5, 2010

Cablevision done me wrong
Posted by Avram Grumer at 03:59 PM * 81 comments

We just went through 27 hours of being dicked around by my cable and internet provider, Cablevision aka Optimum Online.

Chris noticed, around 11:30 AM yesterday, that our internet had gone down. Turned out our cable was out, too. So around half past noon, I called Cablevision, and was told that there was an outage in my area, and if it hadn’t been fixed by 4 PM, to call back. So I took a load of laundry out to my local laundromat, and my laptop to the nearby coffee-and-ice-cream-and-wifi shop.

My laundry was done around 5, but when I got home, the problem hadn’t been fixed. So I called again, was told that the outage hadn’t had anything to do with my problem, and that they could have a repair guy over sometime between then and 8 PM.

So I cancelled my plans for that evening, and sat at home reading China Miéville’s The City & The City (which is excellent, by the way) until 8 PM, and then called again. I was told that no repair guy had been assigned, but they could have one there the next day between 11 AM and 2 PM.

Today, a few minutes after 2, just as I was about to call again, the phone rang. It was the service guy, asking for my cross-streets and some details about the problem. He showed up in another 15 minutes or so, and took another 10 or 15 minutes to fix the problem.

Almost exactly one hour after he left, the cable and internet went out again! Just for a couple of minutes — I was in the middle of calling them when it came back on. But at this point, I have no confidence in the reliability of my TV and internet access.

They tell me that they’re crediting me two days’ worth of service on my bill. Which is nice, but I’d be happier if they’d hire more repair staff. I mean, I recognize that one can’t expect big companies to go around hiring people in the middle of a recession with massive unemployment, because that could lead to, I dunno, prosperity or something, but still, some more repair staff would be good. Let’s see if a little negative Google-juice works as a hint.

Update: And then, this afternoon it went out yet again! I waited a few minutes to see if it’d magically switch back on. When it didn’t, I called, and this time somehow magically got through to someone who was able to talk me through a simple fix over the phone. Unplugging, then re-plugging, the cable box did the trick, although it took five or ten minutes for the box to reboot. (We had previously tried turning it off-then-on with the power button, but that hadn’t fixed anything.)

Comments on Cablevision done me wrong:
#1 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 04:15 PM:

"I love modern technology when it works." —my nieghbor

#2 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 04:24 PM:

I also want to mention that at 8 this morning, we got a robocall asking if this morning's appointment was still needed. It was, but I think I would have pressed the button for "yes" in any case, so we could give someone an earful.

#3 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 04:28 PM:

Have you considered time Warner cable? We've had billing issues with them in the past, but their technical service has been top notch-- the only problem they couldn't fix promptly was due to actual wires being futzed with under the street, and even those problems were handled promptly for what they were.

#4 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 05:02 PM:

BSD: Wow, you have a choice of providers? Do you know how rare that is?

#5 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 05:03 PM:

I have Time Warner and it's a nightmare. I live in Los Angeles and they have the cable monopoly for most of the county. I suspect any other cable co would be just as lousy because for most of us living here, there's no competition so they have absolutely no incentive to provide decent customer service, let alone value.

The cable's gone out 4-5 times in the 4 months we've lived here (missed the final world cup game), whereas in the previous place, DirecTV went out no times in 3 years and was $20 less for more channels. Their repair idiots are only available for 3-hour windows during business hours or on Saturday, so if you don't want to take a half-day off, you're stuck with no service until the weekend. They have too many customers and lousy infrastructure and no reason to upgrade.

I'd go broadcast only, but my roommate and I are both "Industry" and have to keep up.

#6 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 05:12 PM:

Ah, cable companies....they are totally made of Suck.

#7 ::: beable ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 06:01 PM:

@5: Do you have an option for satellite-based TV subscriptions where you live? You still have the problem of big, uncaring monolithic companies, but at least it would be a different big, uncaring, monolithic company.

#8 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 06:03 PM:

What makes all these problems anyway? Here in the UK I don't think I've ever experienced outages of cable or suchlike, except once or twice when I didn't get a dial tone for a few minutes. I take it it helps that we are reasonably close together, and there is a chance that competition can do its thing? (Although all the providers seem to converge upon similar prices, I wonder why)

#9 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 06:11 PM:

Jacque (#1): "What we want is things that work. What we get is technology." --the button I just bought (hi, Nancy!)

#10 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 06:16 PM:

I've never had cable and don't see a need to start now.

(We get our DSL from a small local ISP - yes, they still exist in some markets. It's not the fastest in the world, but we could spend more and get faster, and it's nice dealing locally.)

#11 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 06:40 PM:

When I was in the ISP biz and dealing with various types of telecomm companies, I learned to my horror that cable companies aspire enviously to the level of customer service provided by the phone company.

Yes, you read that right - the cablecos look up to the telcos as examples of shining and superior customer service.

#12 ::: AndrDrew ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 07:10 PM:

Having worked tech support for one of those monolithic uncaring companies, I can tell you, the level of information your average tech support worker finds about your problem is "yes/no is there an outage?" With Comcast, at least, I was literally not 'allowed' to send a tech, or take more time to find out more, if there was an 'outage'. This is even if the problem was obviously caused by, say, a lawnmower cutting the cable.

The usual corporate culture and most especially that around 'headset jobs' is made of Fail.

guthrie @ #8: competition can't really do its thing across most of N. America. The giant cable companies trade areas in a giant game of monopoly.

#13 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 07:47 PM:

A good reason not to get your telephone service from your cable company . . .

My apartment complex is wired for Comcast. There's a Verizon (soon to be Frontiernet) FIoS node literally on the curb outside the entrance, but that is as close as it gets.

Fortunately, in 8.5 years I've never had more than a momentary cable TV outage, and I can't recall a cable internet outage. Maybe because the infrastructure in my area is brand-new-ish?

#14 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 08:30 PM:

Stefan, 13: We don't have Optimum phone service, I think for that very reason.

The troubling thing about FiOS is that when Verizon comes to install it, they will pull copper phone cabling out, at least in my recollection. Meaning you have a real hard time switching out to another phone provider, and also, since the fiber optic cable doesn't carry its own power like copper does, you lose phone service in the case of a blackout.

#15 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2010, 09:13 PM:

We specifically will not get phone service thru a cable company for exactly that reason. Although, ironically, in the aftermath of Ike our Internet connection was back up a full week before the landline was (and our cellphone service never went out at all). The more baskets you spread your eggs around in, the better the chance that at least one will work.

#16 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 12:08 AM:

Here's a site that helps keep track of the depredations of mobile phone and cable companies: Stop The Cap.

#17 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 12:14 AM:

We have no landline service, the phone lines in our 1912 built house are noisy and include a radio station, it prevented me from using a fax machine on the phone line when I was being paid to work at home.

We all got cell phones through AT&T, and ditched the house line. It was a good decision.

The only cable provider is Time Warner and they give us Internet and TV goodness. And in our part of Kansas City, MO, they treat all of us Very Well, thank you. Because the city told them they had to.

The effect was so much that Everest didn't expand into our part of town... (dammit()

#18 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 01:56 AM:

Let me guess. The technician fixed the problem by replacing your old— but previously working— cable modem with a new and totally different model.

#19 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 02:52 AM:

We've moved over almost completely to Netflix, and just hook the laptop up to the TV when we want a larger screen. Doesn't help with the more recent stuff, but I can't deal with most of the stuff that shows up on cable anyway -- way too much verbal and physical violence, for me.

I am informed that one can go through hulu and etc. to get access to a fair amount of recent content, but it's on ... what, a one-week lag, typically? I haven't tried to validate that one, so I can't really say.

Might do as an interim fix though.

(I in no way pretend that Internet is somehow free from the same problems -- we switched from one major provider to a different one, when my husband, trying to get our service repaired after a month of being ... "helped," found himself saying "Can you at least tell me if someone will be out here in a week? A month? A year?!" He runs a tech-support small business out of our home; Internet is really NOT optional for us.)

#20 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 04:55 AM:

Isn't "My cable company done me wrong" equivalent to "Water is wet"?

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 07:44 AM:

I do wish our cable company would make Turner Classic Movies available in HiDef too, but then they'd probably have to knock off the 700 Club from its lineup. Not that I'd mind if they did that, but others might feel differently. Meanwhile, while it's neat to be getting those music channels thru the expanded lineup, we seldom tune in to the soundtrack channel. There are only so many times I can stand hearing Maurise Jarre's score for the "raising of the barn" scene from "witness".

#22 ::: Lowell Gilbert ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 08:32 AM:

After twenty years of having generally having cable TV service, with a sample of more than three different providers, I'm still not enthusiastic about trusting them with anything more important than my ability to watch "Mythbusters."

#23 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 09:35 AM:

Just this week, Comcast turned us off for nonpayment, even though we had paid weeks ago and they cashed the check. No courtesy shutoff notice, either. 48 hours to reinsate service they took--claimed they couldn't do it any faster. Customer service representatives were non-native English speakers located in the Phillipines; much frustration trying to figure out what they were saying.

#24 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 10:32 AM:

Periodically I get a rash of phone spam which -- I think -- is intended to induce me to change my phone service over to some kind of wireless provider. But between the noise and static, the dropouts, and the heavy south-Asian accents, it's very difficult for me to understand what they're saying. This does not give me a strong incentive to change from my pretty-good landline to their service.

#25 ::: a chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:03 AM:

At least they credited you something. Our provider has never offered.

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:14 AM:

Lowell Gilbert @ 22... Were I to ditch cable...Besides "MythBusters" and Turner Classic Movies, I'd miss what? "Lie To Me"... "Leverage"... "Eureka"... "Burn Notice"... Not really much, come to think of it.

#27 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:20 AM:

Paula HM #17:

Are you (or anybody else with T/W) suffering a horrendous slowdown of the cable interface after recent downloads of new code? It now takes us literally 20-25 seconds to change channels.

#28 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:21 AM:

Clifton @11

Ah! The horror!!!

Though I must admit, Telus (big phone company that ate up the local ones) finally started taking all the bad press seriously about a year ago, and started to pay attention to a) the complaints about their service and b) the fines they were paying (to the government) to punish them for their unbelievably lousy service. They did phone surveys asking other companies' customers what they liked about the other companies' customer service, then partly remodelled theirs based on that! Still not perfect, but a heck of a lot better!

I suspect, though, that this has something to do with them wanting to offer cable and internet as well, and realizing that what works for a monopoly does not work if one is in competition...

(also, ironically, the company they were aspiring to match was a cable company :P

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:31 AM:

"Over the last thirty years, Virtucon has grown by leaps and bounds. About fifteen years ago, we changed from volatile chemicals to the communication industry. We own cable companies in thirty-eight states."
- Doctor Evil's Number Two explaining what the Evil Organization was up while the boss was in cryosleep.

#30 ::: twif ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:52 AM:

here in central CT i have cox. no real complaints: customer service is what it is. tier 1 of any help desk is rated on how fast they get you off the phone. if it can't be fixed by standard documented procedures, they'll schedule a tech. the actual tech guys are pretty good. prior to them, however, can be a bit bumpy, depending on the tier 1 rep you get. last time i had an issue with my internet it wound up being due to water in the line. however, i did consider that my modem was fried and so called to have them change my registered MAC address so i could swap it out with one of the others i have kicking about. didn't work (cause the problem was the lines), but once the tech came, it turned that the MAC was never switched anyway. way to assist in troubleshooting guys.

otherwise, fairly reliable.

#31 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:53 AM:

j h woodyatt, 18: No, the tech fiddled with something in the back of the building and got things working.

a chris, 25: At least they said they were giving us a credit. No way to be certain till the next bill comes in.

#32 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 12:15 PM:

I work for a large telecom company that used to own a cable company and now owns a cell-phone company. I've always assumed that one reason we bought the cellphone company is that everybody hates their cable company, and once we sold it we needed something else for people to hate us about, because people just don't hate regular phone companies enough any more, and everybody really hates their cellphone company (especially the one we bought.)

Anyway, the economics of cable modem service are partly based on capital costs and real estate, but also largely on the number of technicians you can send out in trucks to fix stuff. In the phone business and electricity business, losing service was potentially life-threatening, and you sent trucks out right away to fix problems. But the cable business was just television, and if there's an ice storm outside and it's dark, the customers don't need their service fixed right away, they can watch videos or read books or even (gasp!) play with their kids or talk to their spouse, and the TV will get fixed in the daytime when the weather's better and we get around to it.

Cable modem service changed all that, especially business cable modem service, because people actually want their internet service fixed Right Now - and the economics of TV service didn't really support the number of trucks and workers to do that, and you couldn't just jack up the price of cable TV service because people would buy satellite or whine to their city council. On the other hand, cell phones changed the other side of it, because if your landline's down, you can use a cellphone.

Another aspect of cable TV service in the US is that the infrastructure was radically inconsistent - it was built town by town, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s, typically by companies serving a couple of towns, and the decision about who got the franchise had a lot more to do with which council member's brother got the street construction contract and how many channels could the city council broadcast their meetings on for free than it did about who had clearer visions of future telecommunications technology. So when the big consolidation companies like Comcast and Time-Warner started buying them up, what they got was an awful mess. They've upgraded it a lot since then, so it's getting more consistent, and they've gotten the FCC to nationalize a lot of the policy-making that used to be done town by town.

#33 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 12:41 PM:

I would maybe watch more things online*, but I've never had a decent enough picture without lots of stuttering. The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers just made me sad because I couldn't see what was happening.

*My mother spent more than a year telling me with every phone call that I could watch TV online, couldn't I? With this flabbergasted tone of voice like she didn't know what she was doing living in the future, where I could watch things online. She really, really wanted me to spend an hour a night watching TV, or maybe she just hadn't noticed that I'm never the one who turns it on (except for Jeopardy).

#34 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 12:48 PM:

Claire@28: Ah, another Western Canucker. I keep getting calls from the T entity, suggesting they have a better deal for my (everything) service than I'm getting now.

"Hello, I'm calling on behalf of Telus..."
"I *will*not*give* that company another dime of my money if I can possibly help it. Do you have anything else to say to me?"
"Sir, we have..."
"Your company has nickel-and-dimed me for piddling amounts of money both on my personal and my business service, and made it as hard as possible to leave, just so they could rollover the month and get that extra payment; plus, from my friends' experience, your service is just as bad as it ever was. I have not seen, and can not imagine seeing anything changing - have a nice day."

Pity - when they were Alberta Government Telephones, they were reasonably good peoples.

As far as outage goes, I've had two in the years I've been in this place - once when the Neighbours From Hell moved in and spliced the cable (1)(3), and once when the next set of renters of that place moved out and took "their" cable junction box (leading to possibly the best fellow tech comment after mucking around testing my connection. (2)).

1 - "there was no power or cable when we arrived, and it should have been. What else could we do but splice in (and break off the power limiter, so they could steal electricity, too)?" They didn't see the need for keys, either, when they could just climb in the balcony window by jumping off my railing. There were worse things...

2 - "I think I've found the problem." "yes?" "Come out here." "See that?" (shining a light on a nice, 3"x5" hole, with three coax cables at the N/E/S junctions of it) "Are you suggesting that cable signals don't travel very far in air?" "Yep."

3 - Although there was traditional tech dispatch fckwttry on that one - the first tech was supposed to arrive "between 5 and 9". I rushed home for 1700 (as I normally work until 1800, this was an issue), and about 2030, I borrowed a neighbour's phone and asked if the tech was, in fact, coming. I was told "he called at 1710, but there was no answer." "Imagine that. Did either you or the tech look at their trouble sheet? I have phone service from you, and *it*isn't*working*." Oh, and when will you arrange to fix this? You can't do it tonight? So when tomorrow morning? To their credit, they made sure I was first on the second tech's dispatch sheet (although they didn't tell me this), and he was there at 0835 for a "between 9 and 12".

#35 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 01:25 PM:

joann @27:

Another T/W customer here -- Is THAT the reason it's taking so long? I changed the batteries in my remote thinking that was the problem, with no improvement.

What I wouldn't give for cable channels to be a la carte -- it would be so nice to deep-six the Golf Channel, QVC, HSN, and others of that ilk. I'd love to get the Smithsonian Channel, but it's on a higher tier and we can't afford it.

#36 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 01:53 PM:

Lori #35:

You didn't get a spandy-new on-screen GUI? The six warning signs of cable un-christmas: the box starts chattering in the middle of the night; lights start flashing; everything your Tivo was trying to record hasn't happened, usually involving a season premiere or finale; all or some of your settings go back to default; interface looks different; it's all slower than sludge.

#37 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 02:01 PM:

re 14: That's also why we don't have FIOS. In the last decade we've been without power for multiple days three times, most recently in the last two weeks. It's particularly insidious because PEPCO's otherwise excellent outage reporting/scheduling is phone-report-based, to the point of their computers on some occasions telling us that our power was out simply because we called them. Verizon really wants to get rid of all that copper and badgers us endlessly about it. Comcast? We had them physically remove the cable.

#38 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 02:12 PM:

We get our landline phone service through Comcast, because my wife hates Verizon with a passion. The other week our phone service went down, but our Internet service, which goes through the same cable modem continued to work. When I attempted to report the outage by calling Comcast from my cell phone, the IVR went through a couple of menus and hung up on me. Repeatedly. I eventually discovered that a) Comcast's "contact us" page on their website is next to useless, and b) Massachusetts has a convenient website for reporting complaints against telecom providers. I wrote a brief complaint saying that outages are bad, but hanging up on people trying to report said outages is inexcusable. Eventually Comcast called us and was extremely apologetic. I don't know what happened behind the scenes, or whether Comcast made any operational changes as a result of our complaint, but it's nice to know that they at least notice when users complain to the regulatory agencies.

#39 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 02:21 PM:

Mycroft W@34 Dang. From my mom's glowing reports, I thought they'd improved. (though somehow my friends' parents always seemed to get significantly better service than we or our friends ever did...) We switched to Shaw as soon as we could. MUCH better customer service than Telus, though still menu hell.

My favourite money grab still remains their habit of billing you for an entire month in advance when you're moving out (because your billing date is on the 25th), then sending your refund to your old address... even if you set up service at your new one with them...

#40 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 03:26 PM:

joann @36:

Nooooo...or at least, not yet. Just an incredible amount of black screen when changing channels. Could they be rolling this out at different times across the country? (I'm in Central Ohio and I remember when T/W's cable was called Qube.)

We upgraded to digital a couple of years ago when our old basic cable box died, and Time Warner said they didn't carry those anymore. So far we've resisted the siren song of the DVR...

#41 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 04:04 PM:

C. Wingate, 37: I forgot the other thing about the copper: Verizon is obliged as a common carrier to carry other phone providers' service on their copper wire. They have no such obligation on the fiber optic cable. That's why it's hard to switch to other companies after FiOS is installed. Thank you for jogging my memory on that detail.

#42 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 05:25 PM:

Long long ago, when we first had broadband internet, we spent a lot of time on the phone with tech support, and we soon learned that the job of "level 1" was to get us to go away, sometimes by telling us the most awful whoppers.

My favorite, ie the worst, was when the level 1 guy told us that our problem was not due to the cable service, but to the fact that we had "too many breakers" between our computer etc and where the current entered the house. We had, of course, the main breaker, the breaker for the dedicated computer-uses circuit, and the surge protector. I was incensed. I told the guy that I didn't know a lot about computers, but I did know a lot about house wiring, and the total voltage drop across those breakers, while real, was trivial compared to what many businesses and college campuses have in their systems. For weeks, I indignantly told my friends about the "tech" who tried to convince me that I was "squeezing the electricity too tight". The real reason was in the paper the next day: they had a server down in our area, an explanation I would have found entirely sufficient.

We soon learned to say, when calling tech support, "I was just talking to level 2, and we got cut off; can you reconnect me?" We had many occasions to use this stratagem.

These days (after many changes) we have service from another provider. I don't even know whether they have "level 1" and "level 2", or whether our old ruse would work. And that's a good thing.

#43 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 05:29 PM:

We're paying for two regular 525-line DVR cable boxes. They keep giving us lemons for one of them. Probably customer returns that they haven't actually tested/fixed. And each exchange involves a 45-minute bus trip each way (long waits) with the box in your backpack (no car). So the current living-room box is an HD box whose DVR doesn't work. Not that we have an HD TV, but that's what they gave us - and it looks externally the same. I could drop down to one DVR, which would save about $1/month (out of the $120 we're paying, just for cable - regular service, DVR box, and HBO, plus taxes, fees, more taxes, more fees, etc.)

My inlaws used to live in a market with competition. First box $10. Each add'l box $2. No DVRs yet, and they didn't bother with HBO. They had 4 TVs and 4 boxes, 20 years ago.

#44 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 05:42 PM:

Chris Quinones writes: "No, the tech fiddled with something in the back of the building and got things working."

Okay, could be slightly less damning, but only just. My guess is they upgraded some field equipment (for what purpose you probably don't want to know) and they either didn't know or didn't bother to check whether your installation needed to be upgraded first.

"Let's just install the new gear. We'll know which subscribers need to be upgraded when they call to complain afterward."

#45 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 08:30 PM:

I just got back from a very nice dinner with Fragano and his wife and Michael I. (Joy Freeman came to the meeting-place and chatted for a while before we left, but she had another commitment that precluded joining us for dinner.)

We talked books and censuses and Latin America and race relations and multilingual puns, among other topics. A good time was had by all.

#46 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 08:31 PM:

(I posted that in the wrong thread. oops.)

#47 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:01 PM:

In the world of telecom/broadband/cable, quality can be so incredibly geographical. For example, when I had Qwest DSL it was a nightmare, but that really was about where I was located relative to a particular central office. Similarly, I hear people say they've had bad experiences with Verizon, but my Verizon cell phone service was great. Mind you, I still canceled it to get a shiny iPhone, and now suffer with much worse audio quality on my calls*.

I've had Comcast cable TV and broadband for several years now, and have been happy with it. I have to power off the cable modem and wireless router occasionally, but that's easy. I don't bother to troubleshoot to see whether it's the modem or the wireless.

*But my iPhone has an app that makes it look and sound just like a Star Trek communicator!

#48 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:21 PM:

We have extremely good service with Time-Warner, but Kansas City has pretty much made sure they treat us well. We live in what is pretty much Real Near what passes for inner city in Kansas City and the city government made a 'treat them with good service or we'll come down on you any any things you want from us.'

They are the only game for us because the nearest DSL node is not very close and our house phone lines are really really bad (we get a radio station on them...when I was working at home I could get faxes but could not send them out with a good fax machine) and would have to be replaced if it were possible to get it. A competing company came into the city but ran out of money before they made it to our area.

But we're pretty happy with TW right now.

#49 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:30 PM:

janetl @ 47: But my iPhone has an app that makes it look and sound just like a Star Trek communicator!

It mysteriously stops working just when a life-threatening situation or similar crisis arises?

#50 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 12:30 AM:

Be careful about using that iPhone app if you're wearing a red shirt...

#51 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 01:08 AM:

I gave up on cable in 1988, when we just got sick of having the picture go to crap every winter, and would have to play games with cable service for 6 months to get them to fix it. Turns out they'd put the head end for our street in an underground conduit, and it wasn't properly waterproofed, but they couldn't be persuaded to fix the problem; they'd just replace the amplifiers when they burned out completely.

When I moved into our current house I pulled the cable out of the cable box, and got a satellite dish for TV reception (can't get off air here; we're right below the transmission tower, and the sidelobes just trash reception on all but one channel). I'm using Qwest DSL for internet connection; they've been reasonably reliable, and usually responsive to trouble calls. Even their level 1 support is in the US (and I can understand a southern accent, so it's not a problem for me), and I've been able to talk to real technical people when I needed to.

It's probably just as well we can't get FIOS here. Likely I'd just find another reason to dislike Verizon if I got it. I'm still burned at the way they tried to charge me for a phone I'd returned to them. And the reason we don't have FIOS is that they are punishing the city of Portland by installing in all the communities around it but not in it. They're mad at us for trying to force them in court to allow other carriers to use their cables.

#52 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 01:10 AM:

We have TWC here, and lose Internet on average once a day. It's always fixed by powercycling the cable modem, luckily. But it's an annoyance.

My husband wants me to call TWC and ask them to troubleshoot, but I would rather powercycle the modem once a day than deal with customer service, who will probably tell me they "don't support Macs" or it must be because we didn't buy our wireless router from them, or something else ridiculous. (It's my name on the account; otherwise he would just call himself.)

By contrast, our cell phone service has been decent, except for the "upgrade fee" they charged us even though we were eligible for upgrade subsidy with a contract renewal. That just galled me. An $80 fee for no reason at all.

#53 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 07:29 AM:

Caroline #52: customer service, who will probably tell me they "don't support Macs" or it must be because we didn't buy our wireless router from them

If you really wanna see a service-droid brainfault, tell them you're running Linux. Never mind if the router is clearly showing "no signal"....

#54 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 09:35 AM:

I was having trouble with the hotel's wireless yesterday and had to tell the tech-support guy I was running Linux (I have an Eeeeeeeee). We muddled through. Actually, he was very helpful and patient with me.

#55 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 09:44 AM:

Hotels are a little different -- unlike the territorial monopolies, their customers can easily go elsewhere (next time, at least).

#57 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 12:15 PM:

Wow, all these ugly cable company stories make me glad I don't have it. I gave up my TV for Lent one year, and decided I liked the result so much that I took out my cable. I have a DSL line for my computer, which piggybacks on my 2nd phone line. So far it has required very little attention, though that could change, of course. (Insert appropriate prayer to the telecomm gods here.) I do not watch TV except when I put a Netflix or other DVD in it. No, I don't get the Olympics as it happens, the latest TV series, Frontline, etc. On election night I'm either glued to my computer, or hanging with friends. I don't find this troubling, though I'm very aware that many other people would not be comfortable with this arrangement.

#58 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 12:24 PM:

Years ago, I had Qwest DSL, and about a third of the time, I'd get up on Monday morning and it would be down. I'd call Qwest, and they'd tell me it was my ISP. I'd call the ISP, and they'd assure me that it was Qwest. I'd call back Qwest, and they'd mumble a bit, and get it restored in a couple of hours.

I always discovered it on a Monday morning, and it happened pretty frequently, though not every Monday. It seemed obvious to me that they often did some kind of maintenance after Sunday night at midnight that caused this, but they never admitted it, and never corrected the problem. It was maddening. I also happened to be on a central office that could only offer the slower DSL, so I switched to cable broadband.

#59 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 03:10 PM:

Lizzy @57 -- I've lived most of my life without TV, and never paid for cable (though I do use the TV to watch DVDs). I don't know where people find the time to watch TV, myself.

#60 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 03:59 PM:

I quit my cable subscription a couple of years ago, when I realized that I was paying ~$50/month so that I could watch about three shows on SciFi (as it still was then) and nothing else, and I haven't missed it a bit. I buy season-sets on DVD when they come out and borrow the occasional movie from the library.

I did finally remember to buy a set-top antenna so that I can watch over-the-air stuff in dire emergency. (If my DSL goes out during the zombie apocalypse, I might want to watch *gasp* network news to see what's going on.)

#61 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 04:15 PM:

I've always felt a little smug when reading about other people's Internet Provider Horror Stories, because I get my service thru Cox, and Cox doesn't have those problems.

*sigh* Too good to last, obviously. We lost our Internet connection a few days ago, called Cox, they couldn't diagnose the problem on the phone, and so a service tech came yesterday afternoon.

"Your modem's gone bad," he finally said. "We can put in a new one for sixty bucks." I said okay, the new modem was installed, and hey!, I was able to connect to the Internet again. Yay, Cox, right?

It was only a few hours after the tech had left, when one of the other people in the household tried to connect on her own computer, that we discovered that our small home network was kaput. Dead. Non-functional. Gone. The only computer that could connect to the Internet was my own.

When I called Cox back about that little surprise, the new customer-service rep I spoke to wasn't as helpful, and certainly didn't offer to send another technician out again. "Cox doesn't do networks," he said, "The problem must be with your computer. You need to find a private technician to fix it the problem."

Or, to rephrase his words a bit more directly, "We trashed your network? Tough shit. Go pay big bucks to someone else to fix the damage we caused."

There's more to the story. (Such as the service technician not bothering to close the side yard gate. Yes, we still have our dog; fortunately Madame Mim has never been a wanderer.) But right now, I'm feeling way too steampunk to write more. (I'm steamed, and I feel like I've been punked.)

Oh, okay, one more bit for the road. That working connection for my computer? That lasted until the next morning. Since then, it's been plugging and unplugging, setting and resetting, booting and rebooting, and running diagnostics repeatedly (and futilely) until I somehow manage to get a working connection. Getting online to be able to write this took nearly an hour, and I have no idea if it was because of anything I actually did, or because of pure random chance and/or the whim of the gods.

#62 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 04:28 PM:

Bruce Arthurs @ 61: My sympathies. Have you done anything to anger the gods? I must have. Ever since I upgraded my Mac Mini to the newest iPhoto in iLife 9, I've had trouble. Of course, iPhoto didn't freeze when I had it at the Apple Store Genius Bar. I've gone through all the steps the tech told me to try, including wiping out all 5 iLife apps with AppCleaner and reinstalling, and it still crashes. Network connectivity is a whole lot nastier than iPhoto issues, of course. Good luck!

#63 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 05:07 PM:

My current local monopoly is Comcast. I may be able to rival anyone on the list for duration of intermittent outages, but suffice it to say that in a year and a half, I've had 5 different cable modems, and even 2 different cables (coax from the pole).
By a remarkable coincidence, I haven't had serious trouble since I addressed a letter personally to the CEO and cc'd the guy in my local city hall who handles the franchise.

#64 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 05:34 PM:

Tom Whitmpre @ 59... I don't know where people find the time to watch TV, myself

In the same place where we find time to read stories. Or to post on Making Light.

#65 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 08:39 PM:

Serge -- I find the time I spend on Making Light and reading much more fun than the time I might spend watching television. YMMV.

#66 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 08:56 PM:

Tom #65: Well, yes. But we're the lucky ones....

#67 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2010, 06:47 AM:

We've not had a TV for about seven years. We watch DVDs on my laptop, placed on the coffee table, while we eat our Friday night pizza. The last time I had TV, I worked out I'd been spending £2 per hour to watch it, since I watched about an hour a week (and the licence fee has gone up since then). I would enjoy some of the wildlife programmes, if I had time to watch them, but I rarely have the time anyway. In our house, television is called books!

Bruce Arthurs @ 61: I know it's basic, but (remembering our experiences) have you have checked that the other computers are trying to connect to/have the correct password for the new modem, not the old one?

#68 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2010, 08:21 AM:

Bruce @ 61

I've had similar experience with Helpdesk drones who have scripts which don't cover a router with NAT, and don't even recognise the possibility.

Oh, and the guy asked for my ISP account password.

Othe occasions, they were not so stupid, but there was a takeover last year. There's a difference between running the helpdesk at minimum cost, and being outright stupid.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2010, 09:42 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 65... Indeed. Me, I like stories, no matter what their medium is. No favorite.

#70 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 12:34 PM:

Oh yay. My cable went out again last night so I missed one of my two "appointment" shows.

At this point I'd be willing to call TW and tell them to fuck off; I've got the internet, DVDs, netflix, and books in both dead tree and e-formats. Why the hell should I pay $80 a month for background noise only to have the garbagey signal drop right before I actually want to view something? My roommate's willing to move out of our perfect apartment in a perfect neighborhood over this - she is unable to keep up with her job without cable/satellite.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 01:14 PM:

nerdycellist @ 70... books in both dead tree and e-formats

Speaking of e-formats, I've been thinking about acquiring an e-reader. Mind you, chicken will sport teeth before I get a Kindle. There's the Nook, which, based on reasearch, seems to be better in some respects, and worse in others. (What's the idea with being unable to read *.doc files?) Any suggestions?

#72 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 01:53 PM:

Serge #71: What's the idea with being unable to read *.doc files?

How to Convert a DOC to PDF

#73 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 02:19 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 72... Thanks. So, would you recommend the Nook? And is there really an advantage to getting the one that has 3G and WiFi instead of just the latter?

#74 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 02:28 PM:

I don't have one myself, but one of the Penny Arcade guys likes it. As for 3G, I don't know if I'd shell out too much extra for that unless there was some magic like making Skype calls on it or running an unlimited wifi hotspot as if it were a full-featured PDA.

At the moment, I'm lusting after the Samsung Vibrant Android-powered smartphone, though, but my e-reading is done with PDFs on my PC.

#75 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 02:50 PM:

Serge -

After absorbing the advice from the Florousphere on the penultimate open thread, I went with a nook, mostly because I will be able to "check out" books from the library. The main difference between the 3G and the WiFi seems to be that you can download books in places that are WiFi-less. I can only imagine the damage I'd do if I could download a book anywhere at anytime. Once the book is downloaded onto your reader it stays there, and wifi/3g are not needed to read.

I just bought the nook this weekend and have enjoyed reading it, although my dead tree "Packing for Mars" is taking precedence over the ebooks I've downloaded - one freebie and two I bought with my birthday gift card. It is not straining my eyes or wrists in the least and I look forward to having more space in my carryon.

Another note - Kindle ebooks are often cheaper (see Amazon's strong-arming pricing policies) but I'd rather pay a little more for my ebooks and not have to jump through hoops to turn unsupported files into Kindle-ready ones. Of course, I'm not forseeing the need to read .doc files, which as you noted, are not supported by the nook.

#76 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 03:14 PM:

Earl Cooley @ 74... Can I have a vibrant gynoid instead, provided it looks like Gabrielle Anwar? As for reading PDFs off my own computer, that machine is almost 7-year-old, a bit on the heavy side, quite the hog on its battery. None of those lead to an ideal situation when you take the bus to work.

nerdycellist @ 75... Thanks. I've got lots of deadtree books to read, but it recently occurred to me that a Nook would be a handy device to store the PDFs of various web-based F/SF publications. By the way, how long can you read off the Nook before its battery runs out?

#77 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 03:36 PM:

"They Say" about 10 days with the wifi off, and 4 days with it on. This doesn't help at all, since I use a little of both. I'm keeping track of how long until I get the 15% warning and I will consider that when I decide whether to risk charging it abroad with some sort of adaptor thingummy, or whether to just buy a back-up battery. (you can replace your own on a nook, provided you have a teeny screwdriver).

#78 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 04:07 PM:

nerdycellist @ 77... Thanks. As for DOC files, they'd come in handy, what with my being married to a writer and me being her first reader. I guess I now know what I'll ask her to give me for my birthday.

#79 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 01:23 PM:

changing channels has become very slow, and the DVR controls have become nearly unresponsive when zipping through HD shows. there's a weird set of delays between button press, the action taken and finally the interface displaying what change just happened.

so you press FF to skip a commercial and it starts going, press FF again to speed up and there's a second or two delay, then it starts speeding up. then another delay and the UI shows that it's FFing at 2x. press it again to get to max FF speed, more delays. what usually happens is you think the remote didn't work, so you press the FF button a few too many times and the box gets to 3x, wraps around to 1x again, then up to 2x, etc.. you never know what you're going to get.

and coming out of FF takes a good 5 seconds to respond. so you miss big chunks of shows while the DVR continues to FF.

this all started after the last upgrade (the one where they rearranged all the channels for no apparent reason)

i hate Time Warner

#80 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 03:14 PM:

cleek #79:

Ah, we were saved from that when we didn't succumb to blandishments and get a T/W dvr, and instead kept investing in Tivos. Which still FF just fine.

#81 ::: twif ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 03:52 PM:

@ serge: i have a nook and i love it. got it before they had wi-fi only, so i do have 3G service. and yes, being able to purchase books whenever i want is extremely dangerous. i find the greatest benefit is for commuting and travel: i have a library in my pocket. i don't have to devote a chunk of my luggage to books. and so on.

i would recommend getting one of the covers though. the side buttons are a bit on the fragile side, particularly if you are not gentle on your stuff (like, for instance, me). but yeah, go for it. it's a great device.

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