Has Comcast found an effective way to keep us from bugging them?

** Update September 23, 2014 ***

The conspiratorial side of my brain wants me to point out:

1) The Outage notifications on Comcast’s site ceased immediately after this blog post

2) My service has been.. spotty ever since, including a complete outage that lasted around an hour the following night….

Where my Download / Upload speeds were consistently 50/10, now I’m thrilled if my download is in the 20’s.

Just ran another check and can see that I’m sitting at 23.2/10.4.

Just saying’ . Not that the only available option of our local duopoly would *ever* stoop to vindictiveness… would they?

** End Update **

 

I had a recent dealing with Comcast that had me logging on to their site pretty much every day for almost two weeks at the end of August/beginning of September.

Something that started to bubble up in my consciousness was how many outages they were reporting in my area, none of which seemed to be affecting me.

I decided it would be an interesting exercise to, for one week, log into my account periodically throughout the day whenever I was working on my computer (which I do quite a bit) and check my status.

Of greatest interest to me was the fact that not once in all the times I logged in was there ever NOT an outage in my area.

I will concede that there was at least one day where I was impacted by some issue so these notifications are not 100% bogus. But the continuous nature of the notifications has me thinking what a great way this would be to keep folks from calling in if they *did* have a complaint. After all how often do you log into your Comcast account anyway? I know I certainly wouldn’t (haven’t) noticed the notifications during my monthly visit to capture my billing statement.

Below are the details of when I logged in and what the current outage situation was. You tell me – am I just having a spate of issues or is Comcast saving money by reducing customer service call volume?

Date and Time Outage Notification
9/10/14 9:41 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 1 AM tomorrow.
9/11/14 10:00 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 12 PM today.
9/11/14 1:02 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 4 PM today.
9/11/14 4:36 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 8 PM today.
9/11/14 7:25 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 12 AM tomorrow.
9/12/14 7:52 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 11 AM today.
9/12/14 1:56 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 3PM today.
9/12/14 6:50 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 11 PM today.
9/13/14 10:46 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 2 PM today.
9/13/14 6:28 PM An outage has been reported. We’re working to fully restore service as soon as possible.
9/14/14 12:15 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 2 AM today.
9/14/14 11:51 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 1 PM today.
9/14/14 1:12 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 5 PM today.
9/14/14 4:33 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 9 PM today.
9/14/14 11:27 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 1 AM tomorrow.
9/15/14 7:56 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 12 PM today.
9/15/14 7:07 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 8 PM today.
9/15/14 8:13 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 12 AM tomorrow.
9/16/14 7:41 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 11 AM today.
9/17/14 7:55 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 10 AM today.
9/17/14 12:02 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 2 PM today.
9/17/14 6:13 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 10 PM today.

 

Posted under Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on September 17, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Issue concerning access to Netflix (and other bothers) resolved

Shortly before I received my notice from Comcast regarding their data capping scheme, I began experiencing intermittent issues accessing Netflix via my Apple TV and my iDevices… I naturally assumed it was Comcast doing something to filter and otherwise mess with a prime competitor to their own web services.

But after digging into it further I found that I could access Netflix just fine from my Mac computer. I could also access HULU from my Apple TV but Netflix was still a bust and so was trying to access anything through the Trailers app.

Resetting the Apple TV via a restart or unplugging it resulted in it taking an incredible amount of time for it to bring up the apps. You basically stare at the default “Computers” and “System” apps and nothing else for … I’m not sure how long – but definitely over a half hour where it should take mere moments for them to populate.

Other pieces of the constellation of symptoms soon started manifesting (or at least being recognized), I was having occasional glitches when using my web browser (Safari mostly these days) where a URL would populate in the address field and the progress bar would advance about a quarter of the way across the  field and pause. Often just clicking on the field and hitting enter would get it to reload properly.

It turns out that there must be something going awry with OpenDNS. I went to my router and removed the OpenDNS IPs and restarted the router and allowed my provider to populate them and *poof* it appears all my symptoms have disappeared.

Of course the proof will be if the issues stay gone as to whether this is a permanent solution or just something that’s masking another issue that I have yet to stumble upon. But I wanted to post this in case there are any other folks with resolution issues who use OpenDNS.

This doesn’t guarantee that Comcast isn’t somehow messing with OpenDNS, but that’s probably a stretch. As much as I distrust Comcast I’m not sure how much benefit they would have in controlling their customer’s DNS resolution capabilities. And I’m still ticked that they are doing the metering thing so … anything is possible.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on November 18, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Netflix and other issues since Comcast decided it needs to cap my data usage

Immediately on the heels of Comcast notifying me that they want to cap my access we began experiencing issues accessing Netflix. We absolutely could not get it to work on Thursday and I couldn’t get it through Apple TV on Friday (although I was able to get it on another i-device and mirror it over to the Apple TV).

All yesterday and today I’ve been having odd issues where websites are delaying in loading or loading part way and then quitting on me. It doesn’t matter which computer is being used.

Comcast has actually been *over* delivering for the past few months with download and upload speeds just slightly greater than promised. I had thought that they had finally figured out how to make their customers happy or at least not feeling ripped off with every interaction.

Now all of a sudden I see that they realized the error of their ways. I suppose they were drifting away from the bottom of the customer service ratings and decided they needed to implement new strategies to get back down there?

Posted under Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on November 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Looks like Comcast has begun introducing data caps

I just received this email this morning. My plan was formerly unfettered. I note the spin placed on the data cap they are introducing.

I expect that if you choose to use their streaming service you’ll find the cap doesn’t apply to that data?

When I check my current usage, it tells me that “Note:enforcement of the 250GB data consumption threshold is currently suspended”

Which is it? 250 GB or 300GB?

 

Comcast Service Announcement

Important information regarding your XFINITY® service.


Dear XFINITY Internet Customer:

At Comcast, we recognize that our customers use the Internet for different reasons and have unique data needs. Starting December 1, 2013, Comcast will trial a new monthly data plan in this area, which will increase the amount of data included in your XFINITY Internet Service to 300 GB and provide more choice and flexibility.

What this means for You

The vast majority of XFINITY customers use far less than 300 GB of data in a month. Based upon your recent usage history, it appears this new data plan will have no impact upon you, and you won’t need to do anything, or change your Internet usage. If you are not sure about your monthly data usage, please refer to the Track and Manage Your Usage section below.

We want our customers to use the Internet for everything they want and your service will not be limited to 300 GB. While we believe that 300 GB is more than enough to meet the Internet usage needs of most customers, Comcast will automatically add blocks of 50 GB to your account for an additional $10, should you exceed the 300 GB included in your plan in a month.

In order for our customers to get accustomed to this new data plan, we are implementing a three-month courtesy program. That means you will not be billed for the first three times you exceed 300 GB included in the data plan during a 12 month period. Should your usage exceed 300 GB a fourth time during any 12-month period, an additional 50 GB will automatically be allocated to your account and you will be billed $10 for that data and each additional 50 GB of data in excess of 300 GB during that month and any subsequent months your usage exceeds 300 GB.

Please note that this is a consumer trial. Comcast may modify or discontinue this trial at any time. However, we will notify you in advance of any such change.

For more information on all our data usage plans, please visit www.xfinity.com/datausageplan/expansion

Track and Manage Your Usage

Comcast provides you with several tools to easily track and manage your data plan:

 

 

  • Data Usage Calculator – Estimate your data usage with this tool available atwww.xfinity.com/datacalculator. Simply enter information on how often and how much you typically use the Internet, and the calculator will estimate your monthly data usage.

 

 

  • In-Browser Notices and Emails – We will send you a courtesy “in-browser” notice and an email letting you know how much of the data included in your monthly plan you are using.

If you have any additional questions about the new data usage plan, please visitwww.xfinity.com/datausageplan/expansion

Thank you for being an XFINITY Internet Customer.

Sincerely,

Comcast

Posted under Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on November 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

Got a new Nexus 7 Tablet for work

I’m amazed that my new user experience with it has been night and day vs with my iPad or iPhone. Absolutely nowhere near as intuitive. And this after owning an HTC EVO for two years (jailbroken, using both HTC android and cyanogen mod). I’m no newbie to these things and I found the layout on the Nexus 7 gave me pause.

Maybe it’s a different paradigm? I have to imagine that the interface’s panels are meant to be somewhat Windows 8’ish and I haven’t even thought of touching that OS yet… Still learning the nuances of OS X…

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on February 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm

High CPU with iTunes 10.7 – Resolved… Sort Of

** Updated 12/2/2012 **

Just upgraded to iTunes 11.0.0.163 and the issue has not improved at all. I reenabled my Wi-Fi sync and it seemed to take a while longer before the AppleMobileDeviceHelper.exe started consuming CPU like crazy (about 5-6 hours) but consume it did. Also the iPhone and iPad completely don’t see the server so Wi-Fi sync is still broken. I’ve disabled that mode of syncing again. I suppose it will have to be an iTunes 12 fix?

** End Update **

So, it turns out that disabling sync over Wi-Fi eliminates the high CPU consumption issues with both the AppleMobileDeviceHelper.exe and ATH.exe

This is relatively painless to do since the Wi-Fi sync stopped working with the 10.7 iTunes update on the Windows 7 (64 bit) release anyway.

I’ll leave this disabled until the next iTunes update. It’s a shame because the Wi-Fi sync is a pretty slick feature.

To disable, just plug your iDevice into your computer and, in iTunes on the Summary page, uncheck the “Sync with this computer over Wi-Fi” checkbox and click apply

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on November 19, 2012 at 9:01 am

Just got my new iPhone 5

Switching from HTC EVO to iPhone 5 on Sprint.

The phone arrived today, I must admit to being pleasantly surprised, I really didn’t expect to see it until next week some time. I had only ordered it two days ago.

I have to admit to having become somewhat of an Apple fanboy ever since I started using an iPad 2 for work.

The HTC EVO was an OK phone but suffered from a couple of issues:

1) always chronically short of internal RAM with no way to increase it

I don’t have a great number of apps on my phone and I don’t really game at all so I was annoyed that I NEVER had enough room on my HTC phone. I was always using Titanium backup to back up stuff to my SD card and then remove it from active memory. Everything that could be put on the SD card WAS on that card and still I never had more than 60 MB free in RAM which was right on the cusp where it would start complaining to me whenever it was performing updates.

2) The Android required a lot of thought just to use it sensibly:

A proper backup requires rooting the phone and then installing Titanium Backup (best solution IMHO)

No default Tasks application

I always found it challenging to set the notifications reliably <– although this is probably just me

3) The Android was sluggish… all the time.

Say what you want about Apple products, they do know how to make the user experience a pleasing one. Even brand new, with nothing on it my HTC EVO would lag – just a bit – with every swipe. The iPhone almost starts moving before your finger hits the screen. It’s just that responsive. Now my iPad has had its share of crashes and mini freezes – most notably when using the web browser, but my android seemed to spend it’s life with a page half on and half off the screen as it paused doing who knows what.

In the beginning I wanted the Android because it was infinitely customizable (see Tasker if you don’t know how to take full advantage of your android) and it integrated VERY well with Google’s tools – gmail, contacts, maps – all of which I use heavily and – I admit it – I was somewhat of an Apple bigot figuring that only uninformed n00bs would overspend on such boutique gadgets. Ah well, you change with time…

But in the end I finally decided I wanted a device that had been well thought out and could be tweaked *enough* to keep me satisfied but not so much that it would be a fight to do what I wanted with it. My phone has 32  GB available to me so it is unlikely that I’ll manage to consume all that within its lifetime. I have a 4 year old 120 GB iPod classic that serves all my remote music needs so I don’t really need to store a lot of that space consuming stuff on the iPhone – I’ve never really wanted to expend precious cell phone power on listening to music anyway.

 

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on November 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm