I'm going to talk about two tech problems I'm having. Some is just venting, but there's an honest problem here, one that I think is important. Earlier in life, I worked in customer service. I loved the job though I understand why most people hate it. I like fixing things, which is probably why I like gadgets.
I've detailed my ongoing problems with Comcast for a while now and once again, it's back. Here's a quick summary:
1. For a couple years, everything worked. There were occasional outages, but that's ok. Part of the deal.
2. Comcast "upgraded" their network. Something happened here.
3. My recently added phone service (VOIP) stopped working. Just stopped.
3a. Comcast was set to come out and fix it. They call ahead. Instead of calling my cell, they call the broken phone number. When no one answered, they cancelled the service call.
3b. They do this AGAIN. I'm now two weeks without phone service and even with my cell plan, I'm nearly a hundred bucks over.
3c. They get a technician out who can't fix the problem. They schedule a senior technician, who'll be there in a week.
3d. The senior tech can't fix the problem either, so we dump the phone service and go back to landline.
3e. It takes two weeks for Comcast to release the number, according to SBC. Comcast denies this. Finally, I'm more or less back to normal, but now my wireless router doesn't work.
3f. The modem, designed for VOIP, doesn't like my router now that I don't have VOIP. Suuuure.
4. Here's the fun one: they send a tech to swap the modem. Not only doesn't he bring a modem, he's never seen a Mac. I literally have to explain twice that it's not a PC and doesn't run Windows. "What version of Windows are you running?" he asks again. I had him leave.
4a. Another tech comes out, this one with a clue. He realizes what the problem is, swaps out the modem, and calls in to activate it. HIS tech support screams at him over Nextel and I can hear them cursing. Three hours of his hard work gets something easy done and things work again.
5. Two fine weeks pass. All works. Wireless is good. Zap. Bad weather in Indy makes me think lightning struck, knocking out the modem and router. Both refuse to power up. Oddly, my TV and Mac, both on the same cable, are fine.
5a. Comcast offers to let me install the new modem myself. Fine. I can do that. I pick it up and install according to instructions. Nothing.
5b. I call for help, the guy talks me through it and says he'll call me back rather than leaving me on hold to activate it. Cool.
5c. Not cool. He never calls back. Three hours later, I call. No activation. No ticket. No nothing. A woman does the activation. Nothing. An hour later, she forces me to reboot for the fifth time and take the new router out of line. It works at what amounts to dial up speed - "98% packet loss" - but only without the router, meaning no wireless, no connected Tivo. (And yes, the router worked. Tivo found it with no prob, as did my iBook.)
5d. Another tech visit - my eighth, I think, this year - comes NEXT MONDAY. Luckily, I'll be moving soon, out of the service area. It's almost enough to make me switch to DSL, even for just a month, in hopes that it would simply work.
On the other hand, I'm also dealing with a problem getting files I downloaded to play in my DVD player. It's supposed to play DIVX files and I made sure these were DIVX files. I even paid for the DIVX software to make sure. They don't. Now, downloading TV shows off the net isn't something I expect customer support for. When it doesn't work, I look for info and hope that it does, but otherwise, I'll just watch on the iBook and I'm better off than I would be just missing this show.
The difference here is in the expectations that are set. Cable TV - especially when they offer phone service - is stepping into the territory of utility. I pay the bill and it should just work. Just work. I don't care about incompatibilities, protocols, or upgrades. I pay the bill and want it to work. If my power goes off and I can't get a service call for a week, there's going to be hell to pay. There are laws in place to prevent this type of thing from occurring. For cable TV, once a luxury and now near ubiquitous, they need to understand that there are options. I could buy a Dish, order DSL, or go to only cell service for my phone. My DVD player and downloaded files are pure luxury, a lagniappe that I hope works, but I'm no worse off if they don't.
If you can't be a utility, don't. I'm not the one that set the expectation.