A Philosopher's Blog


Posted in Technology by Michael LaBossiere on March 27, 2011
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Like all Americans, I live in a cable company’s monopoly zone: I can have any cable provider I want, provided that it is Comcast. True, I do have some alternatives: I can go with a dish option for TV and I can go with DSL or try to get by with 3G wireless. However, I have “chosen” to go with Comcast.

In general, the service is adequate. However, I have run into some problems recently. I’ll present these and tell you how to solve them, in case you are also a Comcast customer.

The first problem I had was that my On-Demand would not work. I would try to pick a show and I would receive a message informing me that an SRM-8 error had occurred and that I needed to call 1-800-COMCAST.

If you get this problem, here are the steps to take. Try them in order, one might work and thus make the other steps necessary.

  • Check to make sure your cable is securely “screwed in” to the box.
  • Unplug the cable box and remove the cable cable. Reconnect and try again.
  • Call 1-800-COMCAST. Use the automated menu to get a refresh signal.
  • If the refresh fails, stay on the line. A service rep will have you unplug the box and then they will force a “reset” of the box. That should do it.
I had to go all the way to the last step (the next step would be having a tech visit) and the problem was resolved by a very courteous service rep.

My second problem was a massive slowdown of my internet connection. Videos stuttered and stopped, Netflix was unusable, web pages loaded at dial up speeds and Warfcraft was unplayable. I used http://www.speedtest.net/ (another option is  http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/) to confirm my suspicions: while Comcast claims 15 mbps download speeds, I was getting 4 or less. At one point I was getting .5 mbps.

I called Comcast and tried the automated refresh, which could not be completed. After being on hold for a while, I got to speak with a friendly service representative.  I was asked question after question to confirm my identity (phone number, name on the account, home address, Mac number on the modem, and modem serial number). Presumably people who are not customers must call Comcast often. The service rep tried a refresh and I had tried the usual steps of unplugging the modem from the cable and the power to allow it to reset. None of this worked.

The service rep said that the next available time for a tech to come out was in seven days. I refrained from asking if they could reduce my bill for those seven days. She did say that if it was treated as the service being out, someone could be out the next day. By next day she meant sometime during the day, between morning and 5:00 pm. That was, obviously enough, not an option. Since I am a lazy educator, I do not have to teach on Fridays, so I asked if a technician might wander by on that day. She agreed to that.

The tech called and then showed up around 1:00 on Friday. He determined that the signal was weak and we went to look at where the cable entered the house. The main splitter had been replaced about 10 years ago, but was still in good shape. However, it split the cable signal four ways, so he changed the set up so the cable was split with one going to the modem and the other to the TV lines. This seems to have solved the problem and my speed went up to an average of 20 mbps. The tech was friendly, courteous and competent.

If you get this problem, here are the steps to take. Try them in order, one might work and thus make the other steps necessary.

  • Check your modem’s cables: the cable cable, the ethernet cable, and the power cable. If you have a router, check those cables.
  • Unplug the modem and remove the cables. If you have a router, turn it off and  then turn it on again. Wait a bit, reconnect and try again.
  • Reboot your computer (or try another computer).
  • Call 1-800-COMCAST. Use the automated menu to get a refresh signal sent to your modem.
  • If the refresh fails, stay on the line. A service rep will have you unplug the box and then they will force a “reset” of the box. That should do it.

While I do understand that Comcast wants to save money by employing a minimal number of technicians and that they no doubt are very busy handling problems, given what people have to lay out for cable per month, it does not seem unreasonable to expect slightly faster service and the ability to provide a more precise schedule of arrival for techs. After all, not everyone is a lazy professor who can take off a day to wait for a tech to arrive.

I am looking forward to the day when wireless broadband becomes a reality in the area. Presumably this will be less problematic than cable (or maybe not) and, if Comcast does not own it, the increased competition will step up the service.

I generally find Comcast adequate and they seem to have improved in recent years as more alternatives (dish and DSL) have become available. The service reps I have worked with have all been very pleasant, competent, courteous and helpful, which makes me think well of Comcast in this regard.

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One Response

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  1. FRE said, on March 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    You were lucky.

    About 1.5 years ago, I fired Comcast, which had been providing telephone, Internet, and cable TV service. All three would go down at the same time several times a week. Every time I called their service department, I had to waste time listing to advertising for things which were of no interest to me before being finally connected to a service representative. The first time they wanted to send someone to the house, it was OK; the technician determined that the problem was with Comcast; there was noise on the cable coming into the house. The problem went away for a while and, when it returned, I again called Comcast. That happened innumerable times and each time, they wanted to send someone to the house even though every time it had nothing to do with what was in my house and it meant that I was required to be at home in case the technician showed up on time. I even connected a TV set to the cable where it came into the house and there was not a usable signal there, thereby proving that the problem was not in my house, but when I ‘phoned Comcast, there representative would not accept that as proof. I think they are required to follow a script even when it makes no sense, and they have no access to records of previous service calls.

    Comcast was unable to determine the source of the noise on the cable and said that they’d keep trying. When I asked to be connected to a different cable, I was told that there was only one cable. I am sufficiently technically astute to know that there are ways to determine the source of noise, but apparently they lacked either the diagnostic equipment or will to use it. So, after about a month of chronically unreliable service, I fired them, at considerable cost.

    The telephone company charged me to connect me to their line. Because of the way my security system works, I had to pay the security company more than $100 to have wires re-routed. I had to buy a roof-top antenna and pay another company to instal it. However, the roof-top antenna provides perfect digital reception on several channels whereas I would have had to pay Comcast extra for digital. All told, the shift from Comcast cost me almost $300!! And Comcast has the unmitigated gall to continue to mail me advertisements for their “service.”

    As it happens, I own a few shares of Comcast, but I would not recommend them.

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