Internet Cable TV Experiences

Something I was waiting to do before I posted this was to go through all of the installation with Comcast, but I am afraid I won’t get to that point with everything that has happened. Most people would not be a customer of theirs at this point. But, I will be putting down these experiences anyway. My experiences which may or may not be typical, indicate you don’t want to use either AT&T or Comcast for TV/Internet/Voice services.

Let us start with AT&T. After talking with them and setting up an installation that took over six months to arrange, the reason it took so long was ignored and they did this the quickest and dirtiest way they could. I feel sorry for those people who just have it installed. What was this reason? I already had a home with wired phone, cable, and Internet network. I needed the service box at the place where all these services in the past arrived in the home, and did not want them to just drill a hole in the wall and set up one place bypassing everything already installed and in one place. This took six months to get something from AT&T to guaranty to me that this wouldn’t happen. At the time I ordered the services when I started, there was a $400 gift card when subscribing. When the second to the last call to AT&T was made, that was down to $300. Less than a week later, when the subscription was placed, it was now at $100. This never came to me after the 3 months of service as indicated. I will address this issue more in a little bit. Once installed, the tech arrived and sure enough, the quick hole in the wall and one place set up. No phone service in the house, and it was expected that all Internet service would be “wireless” through their router. Great. What about everything else in my house? I had one “wireless” phone, and one “wireless” TV installed. I called and asked what happened? They sent another person and yet again, this wasn’t correct either (he told my wife that everything was working and nothing needed to be done). Fortunately, my wife called me and told me before the person left, and I called them who relayed this information to his boss and then told the tech to do it the right way. So, he finally did, but with a terrible attitude. Go figure. He also cannibalized one of the phone lines by stringing cat 6 line, and then for whatever reason couldn’t figure why the keystones he had wouldn’t work. So, to this day, his “replaced” keystones still hang outside the phone jack box but I will remove his cat 6 line to a network box when I put in the cable TV this time.

Well, everything was put in and then they didn’t have any guides or manuals – think how confusing this setup can be to someone who is blind. My wife is blind, and she was shown how to do things and go places, but for a blind person, AT&T is not the right service. She has never used the AT&T service even with the additional time. I will give AT&T cudo’s for taking the time to do this.

What about the actual service? If you have more than two TVs and one person using the wireless, the throughput on their router just can’t handle this. You will get “spitting” TV and internet on the wireless. I put in a high end gigabit router with WAPs (a business class installation of equipment) only to find it still happened. I will also say that frequently, the data speed from AT&T is around 500-800 Kb/s (clearly not the 18Mb/s that is sold and not guaranteed). I suspect this is because their Internet is shared and oversold because the worst times are around 3-5 PM, and then again 7-9PM (prime times).

Unfortunately for their service, it was too little and too late.  I have had their service for 2 years, and can say whole heartedly, this is worthless. If you want a lot of channels, it is great. But, if you are an internet user, most of us are, or phone user, this isn’t the service for you. You can do better elsewhere.

I need to address the lack of the gift card, and how that was handled. From my point of view, this was “bait and switch” and then not delivered. When the State of Indiana got involved, they basically said “They are going to credit your account for $100, and we will consider this case closed”.  So, for companies like AT&T, in the State of Indiana, they accept the bait and switch. Heck, if you are a company, the State really loves you if you have more than a million in income and defends you from pretty much anything the do. That is just how it is, and by living here, I have to accept this. That means it was a $100 credit, and that was it. In other states, this may or may not be the case so if this happens to you, check with a qualified lawyer in your state as I am not one and what I put here isn’t legal advice.

So, after two years, my bill went up a huge amount that I didn’t want to pay including the “unlimited” data service was capped at 1 TB of data (and if I didn’t have TV, then it would be capped at 100 MB of data), and figured I would try Comcast’s Xfiniti service. This has been a lot of failures from Comcast’s end. Most people probably wouldn’t do business with the number of problems that I have encountered. I try to be patient and wanted to see this through. I will probably update this post once I do have working Comcast service.

Comcast’s experience starts with calling on the phone from one of the “mailers” they send and stating you can earn a $200 gift card with a qualifying triple play package and then lists it must have voice, data, and cable services. So, after going through this with the person on the phone, who did a great job, I was told a price for a set number of services, and then told that I didn’t qualify for the gift card (even though the mailed flyer said I did). Ok, arguing with the person is pointless, so I accepted the price and set up a time for them to install my services. This was fairly quick, about 4 days. This is good, confirmed the price, and thought we would be on Comcast by the end of the week. This didn’t happen.

I received an email welcoming me to Comcast’s Xfiniti services and listed everything I had ordered. As I looked through the list, there were three additional $10 services that I was told were included in the package. As a matter of fact, even the Internet site indicates they were… but for some reason the amount was changed and additional charges charged. When I called back about this, I was blanket told that the these are the charges and there was nothing that can be done. Either I want the service at the “new” price they set, or I didn’t want the service. I told them I didn’t want the service. I was transferred to a “retention” operator who then spent a half hour telling me to “give him a chance” to make good on this, and nothing more. Talk about a waste of time. I told him to cancel my service or tell me what he wants to say because I was going to hang up otherwise and consider my services cancelled. He came up with a new price for all the same services and it was $20 higher than the one in the email. I informed him of this and said that there would be a complaint to the appropriate people about this changing of prices.

I should also mention that Comcast advertises that they are here for you 24/7, and they have you covered. Well, when this email came through and the next day after 8 AM, they didn’t. Going through their painful maze of a phone system is horrible. Then, if you get through to anyone (and so far, always the wrong person), nothing transfers through to them. So, if you need to get someone on the phone, don’t expect to find anyone there. I was also told by one of their representatives that I needed to install on my phone their “App” so that I can do everything possible with my account. I am sorry, no. I am not going to put someone’s app on my phone just because they want me to install it. Isn’t it my phone? What if I didn’t have a phone? Every company wants THEIR app on your phone. Even AT&T.  I don’t know about you, but does anyone have a phone with unlimited space and something that secures it 100%? I know I don’t have unlimited space, and phones are notoriously insecure. This is why I don’t put apps like this on my phone. Yes, you will hear how secure “their” app is, but it comes down to your phone and that a cell phone isn’t secure.  Heck, what assurances do you have that installing their app won’t compromise your phone or won’t install software to spy on who you are? You don’t. Worse, what business is it of theirs to know where you go, what files are on your phone, and who you associate?  It isn’t.

So, walking through Walmart to get something quickly needed, I run into some guy who works for Comcast as a contractor through a different company. Well, I asked him what is going on and he said that is just Comcast. So, he looked at what I ordered, and told me that the email confirming the order is $30 too high. Go figure. So he gives me a contract in writing what is included and it even includes the $200 gift card, and I sign on the dotted line with the guarantee that this will be the right price and if it changes, to call him so he can take this up with his boss. The confirmation was for the right price, and we are back in business. I also agreed to a “self install kit” instead of installation, so I saved myself $60 for that service and I would know this was installed correctly. No repeat of my previous problems.

The equipment gets here and I go through it all, and guess what is missing? The one component that I need – the gateway and wireless adapter. Great. Just what I needed, they can’t appear to ship the needed equipment. I call and manage to get through to someone who then forwards me to another queue for the right person. I talk with them and since I am such a valued customer they will ship it to me priority and without any shipping fees… but I will see it in 4 days. Remember, this is THEIR fault it didn’t get here, but the person made it seem like it was my fault but I am such a VIP that they will bend over backwards to make me satisfied. I felt like I needed a shower because it was so overdone.  I made a mistake and never confirmed if this was 4 business days or 4 calendar days. So, I waited 4 business days and asked where it was. The person said that I received and even signed for it… Nope, it turns out that was the initial shipment. So, no order and no equipment. Well, I must not be that valued customer. The new person apologized just like the last one and then said that I had a “payment center” 11 miles away and could give me the part in 15 minutes. So I said I would pick that part up there. He did the paperwork, and said it was ready to be picked and even offered to email me step by step driving instructions there. I knew where it was, approximately, and declined the instructions.

So how much time have I spent until now? About 9.5 hours. I haven’t even started the installation. The next morning, I receive a call stating that AT&T has refused to process the phone number change and it will take them a couple of weeks to get AT&T to release the phone number. This is really bizarre as AT&T processed this change two weeks ago, sent me revised billing. Great, I am stuck with yet another delay… so no phone service even if I get the system up and running for another 2 weeks.

I finally get to the “payment center” and am faced with 8 people lined up out the door trying to return or get equipment fixed. Or, there is a cheap tablet of some kind that you sign in on. Ok, I try signing in on the tablet. It doesn’t work. The touch screen dowsn’t work and the little that it does work, it doesn’t do what it is instructed to do. I indicate this to the gal at the other line and I am told to get at the end of the line in order to get help. That is the only solution. No one else seems to care. So, on to the end of the line. That took about 20-30 minutes. So, I am now signed in. Great! This should be 15 minutes. So, I wait, and wait, and wait. After an hour after being signed in, I get up and walk around because their list has me as their next person. Low and behold, the next person is called and it isn’t me. I talk to the person who didn’t call me and ask to talk to a manager – I am then told I needed to sign in for the manager prior to them closing (this is already 20 minutes after they closed their front doors.) So, I go to the person at the front who signed me in, and I was told that they closed, and I can’t be changed or added to see a manager. I asked how long it would be before I would get to talk to someone, and I was told it would be another hour as there are now at least 7 people in front of me.  She graciously told me that there is no way for the list to change, after indicating my concerns. I then asked if 2.5 hours is a reasonable amount of time for them to service customers, but she declined to answer other than saying they are understaffed and have been since the beginning of the year. So, now, I am this VIP customer who they think nothing of his time and that their under staffing their location means I should give them a break? Nope. I ask for a manager’s number or email who is not at this location. I am handed the Assistant Manager (who is on duty with no phone numbers other than the 800 number to the phone tree from hell.) Apparently, someone who works there is a manager who doesn’t work at that address, but I could point to her right over there. I said thank you, and left. We are up to 16 hours including travel time there and back. Still no service, no part, and I’m upset yet again.

As soon as I get home, I call the 800 number and talk to a representative, who is overwhelmed with what is going on and puts me on hold to “talk with her supervisor” and wants her supervisor to take care of this call because it is a disaster. Another hour burned on this call and getting no where. She tells me that her supervisor will call me back within 15 minutes. OK, yet another call I won’t get. After 8 minutes, my phone rings and the manager is on the phone. He restates the problem from what the previous person who I talked with at the 800 number (it was wrong, and I corrected him), and then complains that I should have talked to him BEFORE this. Great! My fault yet again as the customer. I must not be that VIP customer that I was led to believe. He does something I haven’t seen from ANYONE at Comcast yet – he takes the problem on as his own, schedules someone to drop off the equipment to me in the morning (it is after hours, I am not going to tell him to have someone drop one off after hours), and even offers to have the person dropping off the equipment to check the cable into the house and make sure it is OK for this service as it has been a few years since I had there service (2003). He then indicates he will call me around 12:30 to make sure that all this has been done, the device dropped off, and that I am on the road to having service. This is customer service, and what should have been done from the start. Amazingly, this call only lasted about 25 minutes… 1.5 hours more. So, at this point, I am at 17.5 hours of my time. Still no service, but it looks hopeful. As you can see, if you can’t take their constant blaming you, the customer, and changing prices, and really poor customer service, they might be for you. As I don’t have a working service after 17.5 hours of my time, I have to say it is unacceptable.


I will update this post later once Comcast is up and running. I also hope if either AT&T or Comcast representatives read this, they will garner ways they can improve their respective services for the problems I have encountered. And, unlike them, I am giving them this advice for free even if they aren’t a VIP in my mind.

Update 26 March 2017: Still no Internet, phone, or cable from Comcast. I ended up spending an hour (I was told 10-15 minutes) on Friday waiting yet again for someone at the service center. They finally provided the equipment I needed. At this point, I am waiting on activation.




Online Friendliness

Time for another post. Actually, it has been time for quite some time. There has been lots going on.

Today’s post is about friendliness while being online as a moderator or administrator. Imagine joining a group, reading the rules, posting a question because something isn’t clear, then being publicly ridiculed for doing the wrong thing and told to read the “rules” because you didn’t follow them when posting questions. You state you are offended by their actions as moderators and make recommendations to keep this from happening again. One of those recommendations is to put something in the rules about what they said to “read the rules” (it isn’t there). After another interaction with the moderators, they stated that the group was too big to be polite and that the group was very difficult to manage with the few people who have volunteered to do this. An insinuation that you can’t read the rules occurs (yet no rule is ever stated), and again harsh feelings are being stated. Something that was a small misunderstanding has now become a big problem.

Some suggestions that would be helpful to anyone who is a moderator or administrator to any computer related group to keep this from happening:

1) Be friendly and courteous. Use “please” and other request type words.  Phrase things in an educational manner, and not a rebuke. If someone is asking something trying to do the right thing, don’t cut their head off – especially not publicly.

2) If you are able, try to make the effort to make the comment in a private message. This is two fold. First, it shows respect much the same way a boss corrects and employee behind a closed door. Second, it shows respect for the individual in that you have taken time to be personable (just remember to keep the message friendly and courteous).

3) Don’t assume there is an intended meaning to anything, even if you have rules. List them out appropriately and be clear. If a section is for something specific, make sure it is in the rules you have listed. Don’t ever assume.

4) Don’t ever think that since you are a moderator or admin that you are above the common member or that it grants you any rights to be mean or rude. While it is your responsibility to administrate the group, there is no excuse for poor management. If there aren’t enough people administrating, welcome to the real world and do the best you can. Remember to be friendly, helpful, and cheerful in dealing with everyone. If you can’t, then you shouldn’t be a moderator or admin. Being a moderator or an admin doesn’t give you the right to insult or treat people poorly.

5) If you “point to the rules”, cite the rule in question. Don’t just point and tell people to read the rules. The likelihood is that the person won’t know what you are saying, and whatever it is you are pointing to isn’t clear. Imagine a police officer giving you a ticket and saying “read the driving manual”. That is what you are doing when you tell people to “read the rules”. This also avoids the insinuation that the person can’t read, won’t read, and can’t understand the language, and many other things. Finally, if you state the rule that applies, you can be assured that the rule in question is actually there – if you just say “read the rules”, there is no possible way for someone to walk away wondering what you are saying if that rule isn’t even there. How embarrassing can that be?

6) If people respond honestly in a private message without abusive language, they honestly want to help the situation. Take the time to try and understand what they are saying. They aren’t trying to attack you.

7) When people don’t follow the rules, it is because something isn’t clear and isn’t communicated. Don’t blame the member unless it is solidly the member’s fault (usually through repeated misunderstandings). These “disconnects” occur because of failing to be clear and concise, they aren’t listed, or there is an assumption made that shouldn’t be. Make sure it isn’t something like this before you go off on the member and try to defend yourself.

8) Defending your actions as a moderator or administrator, for what ever reason, is the wrong course of action. Stay with facts and rules. If you defend your actions, all you will do is bury yourself in things that shouldn’t have been said. If you feel the need to defend your actions, be sorry for and apologize for what happened and move on. Nothing further needs to be said.


The problem with digital rights management and digital services

Something that was brought to my attention from a friend who lives in another country was a problem that her friend had with Amazon and their licensed material for the Kindle. The argument for buying one is that you can purchase content cheaper and have it always available for reading virtually, and there is plenty of room to hold some of the books if you are in a place you don’t have a wi-fi connection. While this sounds all good, there is a little problem with this: who sets the rules of who can do what?

The agreement you must agree to be bound states that Amazon can do what ever it wants for any reason it wants – you are only licensing (renting) the content, not buying it. Amazon doesn’t owe you an explanation or reason for why they do anything or change this agreement. They can change this license at their discretion. They can terminate this agreement at any time without any penalty or cost to Amazon. This is key in understanding the problem. They basically have become the be all end all party without any responsibility. They aren’t the only ones as Apple and other digital rights based venders have similar agreements, so don’t think this is specifically picking on Amazon. If you read some of the “Cloud Computing” agreements, they also can terminate service with or without cause for any reason they want. This is a problem with digital rights and digital services.

If you haven’t heard, an IT worker in Norway had her Kindle wiped by Amazon for alleged copyright violations or pirating with a “linked account”. All attempts to resolve this with Amazon has only been received with something to the effect of the account was closed and all future attempts to open an account will be met with the same response. Basically, they thought this person was a crook, and took everything away from her. When the person protested and wanted to know what was going on, she was blocked for the rest of her life from any content ever. This is all documented on Martin Bekkelund’s blog if you want to see the fine details. Amazon has not responded to me on requests about this, so I can’t confirm if these are indeed the facts of what has happened or if it really has occurred.

In this specific issue, the problem stems from which publisher has the rights in a specific geographic area for the sale of that content. For instance, a publisher here in the US may have the US English rights, but they do not have the European English rights to sell their content in Europe. If another company has paid for those rights, then the US company is effectively stealing. It is a similar reason that DVDs are locked by geographic location, or that you get a message on YouTube or Pandora that the content isn’t licensed for your geographic area. By living and using her Kindle in Norway where supposedly no agreement exists, Amazon basically wiped her Kindle to keep from running afoul of their agreements with the various publishers. This wasn’t the consumer’s fault per se but rather a squabble that is ongoing in the publishing industry as a whole. I have to say that Amazon’s customer support team handled this very poorly, even if it was within their right to do so. What you need to take away from this incident is that we have no rights when DRM is involved, and we never have.

If true, this is a case of the problem with DRM and where companies using it exert more control than what they are legally entitled without any recourse for their actions. DRM was invented to control distribution of content such as movies, songs, software, and digital books. Does DRM give companies the right to do whatever they want to systems without a way to resolve and educate the end users when they make mistakes? Sould there be a way to get a specific reason and ways to resolve this short of destroying and irrevocably wiping something like a Kindle? What if this was a mistake?

The point here being that “wiping” or “terminating” service with or without cause is something that is very dangerous. I think that Amazon has shown why there needs to be better regulation on digital content and why someone needs a level head to establish these rules. Once the rules are established that allow reasons and resolutions to occur, I think that DRM and digital services will be a better option. In the mean time, you are at the mercy of your service provider and their whims.