Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but sometimes it felt like Comcast stole my vacation, at least. This is also the story of my absence from this blog over the last week or so.
I save up most of my vacation time all year so I can use it for the week leading up to and following Christmas. This year, that meant taking off starting on 12/19. So on 12/17-18 I was trying to get everything ready for my extended absence from work. I have the luxury of being able to work from home frequently, which requires constant internet access. I also use Vonage as my main phone provider, so I count on the internet for all my communication.
Obviously, interruptions in internet service are a problem for me. As such, I monitor my connection and notice when things are going wrong. My service has been degraded for months – but only sporadically, and not severely. I tested all the hardware in my house and could only come up with the modem or something external as the problem. As it was a sporadic problem, and tended to correct itself within minutes, however, I let it go until I had time to deal with it properly. As you may expect, the problem got worse lately. I would have dropped calls and very long data delays, eventually culminating in complete connection loss. A week before my vacation began I finally got a replacement modem. Everything went back to normal with no noticeable problems for the next 6 days. Then I suddenly got extremely poor reception on my phone, and within a few hours my modem began to constantly auto-restart, resulting in no connection time. At that point, all my calls (work and personal) were being routed through my high-per-minute cost emergency cell phone and I was rarely able to remotely connect to my work network to get my email and send files. On my last two days of work for the year, with meetings I needed to call into (at least one of which I missed getting to on time because my wife had the cell phone) and lots of last minute file transfers to accomplish, this was a bad situation.
I had Comcast technicians come out to the house. The (very nice, and helpful) guy spent an hour plus checking things out, and determined the problem was outside the house. He suspected a problem with the buried line into my house and put a temporary line in until he could get a crew to come out and fix the problem. At first everything looked great, but then the modem started re-starting again, and it was obvious the problem was still there. His fix did let me connect to work long enough, though, to finish most of my work responsibility, so that was nice.
Then we got hit with a snowstorm that kept me inside on day one of the vacation. Perfect for online Christmas shopping (which was my plan this year). But wait! I can’t connect to the internet. No joy there. Comcast can’t make it out to fix things until the next day. Grr. Less joy.
Sunday… still no fix, no call back from Comcast. I call in. “I’m sorry sir, I’ll have the local office call me with an update and I’ll call you back when I hear. It will definitely be before I leave tonight.” No word. I call in again late that night. A new appointment is set for Monday.
Monday… today I can actually make it through the snow to the stores, but I have to wait for Comcast to show. The guy shows up (at the very tail end of the 4 hour window), and straightens a cable outside and resets the modem. He leaves saying he fixed the problem and I go out for a little shopping (way behind now). A few hours later, it’s obvious the problem is not fixed. I call Comcast again. Again, they say they’ll get back to me and don’t. Late that night I set another appointment for the next day.
Tuesday… 3 days before Christmas… again, I sit home waiting for Comcast to show up, this time 45 minutes before the end of the 4 hour window. The guy does a lot of the exact same testing the other two guys did. Then he calls his supervisor and they realize they can’t ping any of the 12 modems in my neighborhood connected to an “active” point. This is when I start to realize just how much of my time these guys have wasted, but I figure I’ve at least gotten them to the source of the problem and they can fix it, so I can keep in contact with my wife (who hasn’t been taking the cell phone shopping with her so I can use it to talk to Comcast) and coordinate presents with the rest of my family and actually leave the house to get some serious shopping done. They have somebody do some work on the pole. They report back that they’ve fixed the problem. Less than 3 hours later it’s obvious it still isn’t fixed. I call Comcast again. To their credit, they give me a credit on my bill, now that I’ve had 5 days of demonstrably dead service. Not enough of a credit, but it’s something. They say they’ll send out a supervisor this time since there have been so many repeat visits.
Wednesday… 2 days before Christmas, and my last decent shopping opportunity… once again, I wait for Comcast while shopping time slips by. This time it’s only a little over 2 hours into the 4 hour window when they show. This guy is a piece of work. He obviously knows nothing about the history of this case except that my modem keeps resetting. He keeps telling me how good he is at his job while saying how this problem has him stumped, and continually interrupts me as I try to tell him the history of the case. When I try to tell him that the problem is at the pole, and they worked on it yesterday he says “no, that can’t be it, or we’d have gotten lots of calls. That must have been an unrelated problem.” As I said, obviously no knowledge of the history of the case. After 5 minutes, he says he can’t figure it out and needs to go back to his office for his Christmas luncheon, where he’ll see his supervisor and the first guy who worked on the case. I said I thought he was the supervisor, because that’s who I was told would be coming, and he told me how he hates central dispatch. He said he’s going to give me a call after he get together with his colleagues to “think outside the box” because thinking inside the box obviously isn’t working.
Yeah. Okay. Whatever.
At least two hours later he calls and says he met with his supervisor and found out the problem is at the pole and it affects 12 other houses, too. He tells this to me with the sound of success in his voice that he’s telling me something I don’t already know. When I said I knew and already told him that, he kind of ignored it and said the maintenance crew had the ticket. I told him I knew that, too, and that they’d already been out here the previous day and told me they fixed the problem – which apparently he didn’t know! And that tells me that either his supervisor didn’t know, or didn’t tell him! He said he’d put a note on the ticket. I pressed for an estimate of when they’d be out and he said “within 24 hours.”
I couldn’t afford to spend any more time fighting Comcast before Christmas, so I let it go at that point and spent the 23rd and 24th without internet (and thus without phone – or more accurately, and vastly increased cell phone bill). Then I traveled on the 25th and 26th.
Now I’m home again, late on the 26th. The internet is still out. Tomorrow I start my quest for internet access once again. The time for polite interaction has passed. I will not put up with this lack of support any longer. I have 5 days left of my vacation, and I don’t want to spend it chasing down Comcast, but will spend every waking minute doing it if I have to. If it’s not fixed by Monday afternoon I’m considering driving down to the service office to talk to them in person.
Here’s the thing I just can’t understand. This should be an extremely easy problem to at least verify whether it’s fixed or not. They know the symptoms. They’ve got all the equipment they need. All they have to do is set up a monitor on a schedule. Try to ping one of the affected modems every few hours for one day. If it drops, it’s not fixed. Get some butts out to the pole and do something else. Don’t wait for me to call again. Finish the task you were given. AND communicate within your department! I shouldn’t have to explain the stupid case to 5 different people in person, and 5 other people on the phone at the central hub. Read the damn notes, and write accurate new ones.
I’m also considering charging Comcast for my cell phone usage for the last 8 days. I don’t know what that bill looks like yet, but it’s likely to be three times higher than my normal bill. This has already cost me significant personal time, work time, a bit of credibility at work, the ability to order a few things online I was considering getting my wife for Christmas, and money.
I’m not a happy camper.