Well, I'm annoyed. That pretty much sums it up. If you're on OldTownHome.com and are reading this post, there's a good chance you're annoyed too, primarily at the slower than a tortoise speed (or lack thereof) of this website. You see, we're having Internet issues. Or more specifically, Internet speed and packet loss issues.

If you'll recall about a month ago I mentioned the wires, wires, everywhere and how we ultimately needed to do some work to make our Internet connection better. We're signed up for 27 Mbps / 7 Mbps business service with our local provider, but we've been seeing fairly slow upload speeds and moderate to significant packet loss. This equates to this website running very slowly, since we host in a very DIY fashion. 

We had hoped having our provider replace the drop from the tap on the pole to our house would help alleviate the issues we were seeing, but the new wire seemed to be doing little to boost the quality of connection. In fact, I feel like it has kept getting worse.

I called them last week to get a tech back out to the house, as it seemed our cable modem was starting to experience a fair amount of packet loss and signal issues. They gave us the good old, "Oh yeah, this modem is really old, that's probably the root cause of this." I didn't buy the excuse, but it's part of the "variable elimination" process of establishing the primary issue with the connection.

I'm not sure you're aware of how tech troubleshooting works, but as a software developer and having lived the life of a network admin, let me give you a little insight into the mindset of most tech people. I've learned this over the years and strive to "not be that guy."  The following is the basic undertone of any given conversation.

Standard tech support conversation:  

Tech Guy: Oh hi noob that doesn't understand the technology you're using, what seems to be the problem?

Customer: Well, I've been noticing that some data bits were flexing improperly through the collectimizer while I was downloading the latest payload. 

(The fact is, it doesn't matter what you say, if you know what you're talking about, or if you're completely without knowledge on the subject, the tech person is just listening for a few key words from your explanation, hoping to tell you that the issue you're having is somehow your own fault, primarily because you are stupid.)

Tech Guy: Ok, let me take a look here. Yeah, it's probably an issue with you and how you've set this up. There's no way it could possibly be something wrong with the massive system we own but I have basically no overall knowledge of, instead, I'm going to blame it on something that is not my responsibility so I have less work to do overall.

Customer: But I went through all of these steps and eliminated all of these variables, perhaps you could look again? 

Tech Guy: Ok, fine. I'll throw you a bone and replace the thing that requires the least amount of effort on my end, hope it works out, and I'll try to leave as quickly as possible before really checking that my work has made any real impact.

This shows the sad state of technology today. Those in the know somehow feel it qualifies them as the illuminati, and their knowledge now trumps all others' knowledge.

Anyhow, back to my experience. 

The tech showed up for his appointment a little early on Friday and started the process to swap the modem. I made the comment about how great their business service is and how they're always on time. Little did I know that this innocent compliment would be the bane of my weekend. The tech on Friday swapped out modem after modem, three in total, trying to get them to work properly. 

Now, I'm not a cable expert, but I'm thinking it's not the modem that's the issue? Perhaps it's actually something on the line, something in the configuration, something that is not a quick and easy fix? 

They completed the modem swap on Friday, and the tech left as speeds were momentarily improved. I suggested that a previous tech recommended changing the tap from the pole out front to the pole at the back of our house, and he said "Well, if you're direct connected to the tap, it doesn't matter, so that won't do a thing." That raised a red flag in my eyes because cable is most definitely dependent on the number of people connected to the tap and using it at once. 

Shortly after the tech left on Friday I noticed continued degradation of quality. I called them back on Saturday to let them know of the continued issues and they scheduled me for an appointment on Sunday morning, from 8:00am-10:00am. This would work perfectly. I'd be able to be home, wouldn't need to take time off of work to deal with this issue, and would hopefully be one of the first appointments on Sunday, so no need to worry about waiting around all day.

On Sunday morning I woke up early, got everything ready, and awaited the support arrival.

8:00am...8:30am...9:15am...10:00am...10:15am... no tech. I call again to see when I should expect the elusive technology hero and am told I'll receive a call by 10:55am with an ETA.

10:45am...10:55am...11:10am... still nothing. I call again and this time I'm told "We've already escalated this once, so I'm going to do it again. You should hear back from regional dispatch in an hour, but if you don't hear back in an hour, they're probably not coming. I mean, we've exhausted our abilities on this end." This is exactly what I was told on the phone. I was floored.

An hour later, no tech, no call, no nothing. I later tweeted to customer support and heard back. They wanted my account number so I sent it along, as well as my contact phone. By this point it was already late afternoon. I was encouraged when I received a message back on Twitter letting me know that they were looking into it and would get back in touch with me. However, my high hopes were soon dashed when I didn't hear back, either by phone or by twitter, for the remainder of the night.

I decided to take matters into my own hands, continuing to eliminate possible variables in our install. I ran a new wire from the box outside directly to our cable modem, no splits or old cable issues to worry about. 

Then I directly connected to the cable modem from my laptop to eliminate any possible internal network issues. Sadly, same issue. We're signed up for a 27 Mbps / 7 Mbps service, but we were seeing more of a 24 / 0.52 split with significant packet loss.  

My frustration at the situation continued throughout the night. The laptop connection to the Internet struggled along with pages loading at a simply excruciating rate, each second of delay compounding my overall frustration with the entire situation. I tried to put it behind me and started this week as a new day. On the bus, on the way into work, I didn't even think about the issues I had. Out of the blue, I received a phone call on my cell phone. When I answered the annoyed voice on the other end of the line said: 

Caller: "Good morning. I'm (insert caller's name). I wanted to let you know there's a tech standing outside of your door right now..." 

Me: "I don't have an appointment today."

Caller: "Sure you do."

Me: "I had an appointment yesterday from 8:00am-10:00am, but that was missed without a call. I also called twice for an ETA yesterday, both of those calls were not returned. I do not have an appointment today, so I'm not going to be there. I also do not have availability until Wednesday, which is when I'd like you to schedule me an 8:00am appointment. Thank you."

Caller: "Ok...(pause)...ok, I'll put you down for 8:00am-12:00pm on Wednesday."

Me: "Make it 8:00am-10:00am please."

Caller: "Ok...(long pause)...ok, I've made that change."

Me: "Thank you, have a good day."

The saga continues. We'll see where this one goes. In the meantime, please accept our sincere apologies for the excrutiatingly slow load time. We promise we're working on it.

6/19/2013 Update:

After a few more calls we had a tech look into our connection and it seems some adjustments were made and we're back in the game of high speed internet. I can't tell you how relieved I am. Here's our latest speed test.

I'll have to keep my eye on it in the evenings and on weekends. There's a good chance the real issue is actually congestion on the node we connect to, but only time will tell.

Comments 17

Comments

Josh Shaffer
6/17/2013 at 1:35 PM
That sucks. Who is the provider?
Alex
6/17/2013
They shall remain nameless (but they are our only option, so...)
Margo Heegeman
6/17/2013 at 3:40 PM
Multiply this scenario by three when you are "bundled" and computer, tv and phone are not behaving.
Will
6/17/2013 at 4:17 PM
I have had that same conversation with Comcast! And my connection still stinks. Even with my new modem. Just as you said, they don't know what is wrong, but they know it's my problem.
Alex
6/17/2013
Maybe some day they'll realize I know better. :-)
Old Town Home
6/17/2013 at 7:05 PM
Oh, don't worry, we know the bundled issues. :-)
Monique
6/17/2013 at 8:19 PM
I know exactly how you feel. I have given up ever getting my phone line fix by the phone company. I had linebacker service, paid extra for it and the phone company still couldn't find out why I had line static.

I even placed service calls when I could barely hear the customer support team so they would know I wasn't making it up. After three years I cancelled the linebacker service and use my cell most of the time.

Sadly, the days of great customer service are scarcer than hens' teeth.

Hope you are able to get a resolution soon. I didn't have any trouble viewing your site so maybe the problem has been solved?
Alex
6/19/2013
I don't know what's worse, having the problem in front of them and they can't fix it, or having them come out just to say "Works fine for me, don't see an issue."
Rachel
6/18/2013 at 5:15 AM
That sucks. I hope it gets fixed for you soon - or that at least they start paying some real attention! I didn't have any issues loading the site, so take comfort in that, at least.
Alex
6/19/2013
Something got their attention, we're up and running at full speed again. Glad it wasn't too bad for you and your experience.
Jan
6/18/2013 at 7:59 AM
One of said-nameless-provider's cables came down last fall during Hurricane Sandy, and they still haven't put it back up (although at the time, the dude said they'd be back). It's lying across the property line at the back of our yard ... in the lawnmower danger zone. I've tweeted and emailed them--they didn't even seem aware that the line has been lying on the ground for the last 9 months. We aren't Bombast customers, which may explain the delay ... so while we all wait, here's a little humor: www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2011/08/07/
Alex
6/19/2013
If it's tough to get a response for customers, I can see how hard it might be for non customers. We had a similar issue with the phone provider when a cable came down. We just ended up wrapping it up and setting it by the pole.

Also, good comic. :-)
Brendan
6/18/2013 at 1:30 PM
You have a platform via this blog. You make recommendations about home improvement to a large audience (or maybe just a dozen of us). Tell your provider it would be a shame to talk about your bad service on your blog.
Alex
6/19/2013
Exactly, would be a shame to allow my negative experience to reach the dozens of daily viewers. :-)

They made some change to my modem this morning (after several calls) and we're getting the speed we expect. We'll see if it goes along without issue, hopefully we're in the clear now.
Karin K
6/18/2013 at 4:58 PM
I think there should be a VERY PUBLIC shaming website to humiliate these companies into action. They are so bad, they almost make you want to cry. Sorry you're having troubles....
Alex
6/19/2013
Hah, so true. Well, they've fixed our issue, so I'm happy now...until the next issue. :-)
JC
6/24/2013 at 10:11 PM
I've also been having issues lately with my shitty internet service provider, bogus hidden fees, and poor performance. I just recently upgraded my plan to save money, since they were screwing me big time, and your post about the tech guys is spot-on.

I keep getting randomly disconnected every few weeks (sometimes for just a few seconds, sometimes several minutes) and one of the tech guys told me that I should be completely shutting down the modem for 5-10 minutes a week and restarting it. Yeah, as if I have time to do that (which involves crawling around on the floor). I haven't had many issues for the past 2 years until recently, and I never powered down the modem. Idiots.

This post also prompted me to check my internet speed, and although I'm not actually sure what I'm paying for, and what speeds I should be getting, it came in at a lousy 5.15 download / 0.70 upload. I think they'll be getting another call from me pretty soon (the 4th or 5th in just a few months).
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