Is it just Comcast or do all broadband cable ISPs suck?

Yesterday I had my second Internet outage in the less than three months since I switched to Comcast cable broadband as my ISP. The first incident was a little less than two months ago when my IPv6 address changed for no reason and hardware and software connecting me to the Internet failed to handle the situation. In the preceding seven years using AT&T + Sonic.net I had exactly two Internet outages and one of those was because my DSL modem died.

In the middle of watching a film via my AppleTV device I lost connectivity to the Internet. Absolutely nothing worked. I couldn’t resolve host names or ping well known addresses from my Mac Pro server. I had to power-cycle my cable modem (a Netgear CM400 less than three months old) to restore service. I didn’t time it precisely but I allowed at least 15 minutes for the problem to resolve itself in case it was a transient issue before I intervened.

If I’m going to have to manually intervene every month or two to restore connectivity to the Internet I’m going to be one very pissed off Comcast customer. This is not bleeding edge technology. These sorts of problems are not acceptable given the maturity of the technology.

Comcast charges me a $5.99 “convenience fee”

I wrote about the fact that I missed my initial payment because Comcast did not email my bill to the address I gave the installer and who assured me would be used for all emails from Comcast. When I received a phone call from Comcast telling me my account was past due two months after the installation I immediately paid via a credit card.

So imagine my surprise today when I received an email from Comcast telling me my bill would be $5.99 more than I expected because of a “Convenience Fee”. What the fuck is a “convenience fee”? Apparently they expect me to pay 12% more this month for the “convenience” of paying in full for my first two months of service after they fucked up notifying me that my bill was due the first month.

I now understand why Comcast has been rated the most hated company in America. I intend to call Comcast tomorrow and tell them where they can stick that $5.99 “convenience fee”.

P.S., I’ve filed this under “politics” because companies like Comcast do not see enough government regulation of their practices in my opinion.

Update 2015-09-24: I called Comcast customer support this afternoon and asked what a “convenience charge” was. The support rep didn’t answer that question but did say there was a note on my account that there should not be a convenience charge as a result of my prior payment and they would remove it from my current bill. I then noticed on the Comcast web site that the link to pay your bill by calling them had a note saying extra charges might apply. So apparently Comcast adds $5.99 to your bill if you pay via credit card by calling them (or them calling you) but not if you pay via their web site or by sending them a check. Greedy amoral assholes is the nicest thing I can say about the company executives who think up such policies.

My second Comcast Xfinity ISP glitch: They fucked up my billing

When I placed my order for Comcast Xfinity Internet service I deliberately did not provide them with a credit card number. I knew this would cause the Comcast installer to ask for the information needed for Comcast to be paid. I did that because I prefer to pay my utilities from my checking account each month when I receive a bill.

The Comcast installer was great to work with. At the end of the process he asked me for my email address. I gave it to him. A test email was sent and I confirmed receipt of the message. I expected an email within the next month asking for payment. I didn’t receive any such email and due to daily life didn’t think anything of it. Fast forward two months.

Yesterday I received a phone call from someone representing Comcast asking why I haven’t paid my bill. I told them I had not received an electronic bill via email or a paper bill. They told me the bill had been sent to “my_comcast_user_id@comcast.net”. I basically said “WTF? I didn’t even know I had a Comcast email address.” Neither the Comcast web site nor the installer mentioned this email account and that I should check it for my bill. I had reasonably assumed that when the installer asked me for the email address I preferred for all messages from Comcast that things like bills for service rendered would be sent to that address. Silly me.

The Comcast call-center rep accepted payment for the first two months by credit card and said late fees would be waived. They said my email address was corrected and assured me Comcast would not automatically bill my credit card next month.

P.S., The Comcast call-center rep who called me about my delinquent account was very pleasant. I paid the two months of service with a credit card. The call-center representative assured me Comcast would not automatically bill that credit card in the future. If that turns out to be true I’ll be very happy and assume this incident was simply a mistake. If not I’ll do my best to make Comcast sorry they ever had me for a customer. I’m beginning to understand why Comcast is one of the most hated companies in America.

Update 2015-09-01: I logged into my.xfinity.com and clicked the link that took me to web.mail.comcast.net for my account. Comcast has sent me 19 email messages since I contracted with them for Internet connectivity. Since I explicitly told the person who made the physical connection that I wanted all emails to go to my personal domain and he confirmed that would happen I am extremely pissed off.

Holy Shit! I clicked on the Comcast web site “email preferences link”. It shows, as the most important option, having the Comcast email service import, on an ongoing basis, my email from other services such as Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL. Who in their right mind would use Comcast as their primary email address and interface if you already had another email address? You have to be savvy enough to click on the “Fowarding” header much further down which in turn requires clicking another link to “My Account” and jumping through a couple more hoops to establish your well established email address as the one you want Comcast to use when communicating with yourself. I could forgive this if it weren’t for the fact I had this conversation with the person who established the physical connection and they asked for my preferred email address.

My first Comcast ISP glitch: my IPv6 address changed for no reason and required manual intervention

Between 21:00 and 21:30 on 2015-08-17 (UTC-7) my primary server lost its public IPv6 address and my monitoring script started nagging me about the problem. The next morning I rebooted both my public facing router and my primary server. Neither action restored my IPv6 address.

After several more hours I decided to power-cycle my NetGear cable modem. I did not power-cycle or do anything else to my public facing router or primary server. Simply power-cycling my cable modem resulted in a new IPv6 address being assigned. The assigned IPv4 address was unchanged.

My IPv6 network prefix changed from 2601:647:4380:d0::/64 to 2601:647:4380:48::/64. I do not care that my IPv6 address changed. I do care that the change did not automatically propagate to my router and downstream hosts and required manual intervention. It is also obnoxious that my IPv6 address changed but my IPv4 address did not change. If this happens more than twice a year I’m going to be extremely unhappy. Despite my ADSL speed problems with AT&T/Sonic.net that caused me to switch to Comcast I never experienced a problem of this nature with those companies.

Goodbye AT&T + Sonic.net DSL, hello Comcast Xfinity cable broadband

Short version:

I switched from one evil monopoly (AT&T) to another (Comcast). My Internet connection speeds increased by a factor of 75 (1.2 Mbps to 89 Mbps) and the cost dropped 28% ($70 to $50).

2015-07-25: A Sonic.net representative reached out to me to ask if I had contacted them about upgrading my service. So I’ll clarify that I was already paying for the highest speed tier they offer. Which until recently provided me the approximately 5.5 Mbps download speed I was paying for. A speed fast enough for streaming video from services like Netflix. I am reasonably certain the problem was not with the Sonic.net service but rather with the AT&T infrastructure between my residence and Sonic.net (see below for why).

Long Version:

When I moved to Santa Clara, CA seven years ago I didn’t want cable or satellite television. I only wanted high-speed Internet access. So I chose a setup similar to what I had in my previous residence: DSL (digital subscriber line) service from the local telco (AT&T) and Internet connectivity from a local ISP (Sonic.net).

Until roughly six months ago I was satisfied. The download and upload speeds weren’t as high as those advertised by Comcast but were adequate and I valued the competency of Sonic.net. Also, even though AT&T repeatedly tried to cram unwarranted charges onto my bill (e.g., for long distance phone calls) I chose to stay with AT&T + Sonic.net DSL rather than switch to the most hated company in America.

Then my download speeds started to degrade and were highly variable. At first it was just an occasional pause while streaming a video from Netflix or Hulu. Then it became irritating errors and pauses accessing my Google mail. And finally it became obnoxious long pauses every few minutes while trying to stream a video from HBO or Netflix. I didn’t call Sonic.net because I was reasonably certain the problem was with the physical connection from my home to AT&T. Somewhere between my home and Sonic.net a transmission line or connection was deteriorating. I didn’t call AT&T because my past experiences dealing with them on such issues was so frustrating I’d rather get a root canal. And, most importantly, Sonic.net was no longer adding DSL customers. They were focusing on expanding their fiber optic network. Unfortunately that did not appear to include Santa Clara, CA in my lifetime. It was clear to me that existing DSL customers like myself were on life-support.

So I decided to ditch AT&T + Sonic.net. Yesterday the Comcast installer dropped a line to my home. After reconfiguring my router I find that my download speed is approximately 75 times faster and my upload speed is 10 times faster for a monthly cost that is 28% cheaper.

After the change to Comcast I spent several hours streaming videos from Youtube, Netflix, Hulu and HBO and didn’t notice any pauses in playback. Similarly my gmail access has not had any unexpected pauses or error messages. I was willing to live with an occasional pause streaming high-definition video. I was not willing to live with long pauses while doing something as simple as switching from one gmail folder (i.e., tag) to another.

Will Comcast convince me its reputation as the most hated company in America is justified or surprise me with (relatively) trouble-free service for the next year? Time will tell.

2015-07-25: A Sonic.net reached out to me to affirm that they do not hijack customer’s internet connections to deliver web content. So I’ve removed my assertion that Sonic.net had “descended into evil company territory”. Which leaves AT&T as the likely culprit of that obnoxious behavior. I’m reasonably confident that this is not the result of a malware infection because a) I’m browsing using Chrome on Mac OS X and b) I use [Little Snitch](https://www.obdev.at/products/littlesnitch/index.html) to monitor all of my traffic.

Tell your legislators Net Neutrality is important

Do you care whether Comcast, Time-Warner, AT&T or whichever company provides your Internet connection can make it difficult for you to visit the web sites you like rather than the ones which make them more profit? You should. Please take a minute to tell your legislators that they should support net neutrality. If the big ISPs get what they want you may find that some site you enjoy is so slow that it might as well not even exist.

AT&T continues to fuck me without lubricant

Three months ago I wrote about my unhappiness regarding the obscene increase of 70% in my bill in a single year. That resulted in a temporary, as in one month, decrease, in my bill. Yesterday I received my most recent bill which was back to the absurd amount of $31.09; which is greater than it was in September. As before it included more than $3 for long-distance service which I’ve never authorized or used. AT&T is making it really easy for me to decide to switch to Comcast. Yes, I recognize that Comcast is only slightly less evil than the Nazis. However, they’ll give me (in theory) a faster Internet connection than AT&T for the same amount of money. My neighbors are either happy or at least not so unhappy with Comcast that they’re willing to change to another ISP. And AT&T seems to be almost as willing to fuck me without lubricant as Comcast. It’s sort of like the decision to vote for a Democrat or the Republican opponent.