Wednesday, February 14, 2007

February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

I know I recently posted however I received some rather interesting email's today. It seems recent posts on a Comcast forum tries to explain their position on download caps and network traffic. I've learned something new but before I get to that let me address a statement "Jason1" on the Comcast forum made.

Your first link above discusses a blog entry which is completely one person's opinion and should not be taken as an official Comcast response. So please take caution when reading the info in the article as it is not completely accurate.

Yes this is a blog and NOT a Comcast web site. I do not represent Comcast in any way. We can also agree I am an individual posting my personal opinion of Comcast regarding an issue I believe was handled poorly. I hope to make Comcast aware of the problem along with it's customers and potential customers.

I have documented as best I can the events from day 1 and have presented them in the only way I have available. People deserve to know how things "could" turn out. If there are ANY inaccuracies then I expect Comcast to contact me directly and let me know where I am in error.

I will retract anything I can't prove or haven't documented through this experience. I would also publicly post a sincere apology. I don't wish to "get back at Comcast" as some have suggested as I consider that shallow. As stated at the top of the blog, I intend to get the word out of what happened to me and to encourage wider competition. I believe competition is what makes mega corps take stock of what they are doing wrong compared to their competitors. I hope Jason1 after writing "Re: Comcast has made news world wide - and not for good reasons" or another Comcast rep posts here or emails me to explain where I failed to be accurate. Otherwise I would argue his statement is simply innuendo and should be dismissed. I have done my best but I am not perfect.

If their usage is several times greater than the average Comcast HSI customer, they will be notified of the issue and their service may be terminated if the excessive use continues and service to hundreds of other customers is degraded. This usage may be around around 200-500 GB/month or it may be up to 800 GB/month - the actual amount you download is not what initiates the termination due to excessive downloading so it is not what is focused on.

So then calling someone a bandwidth hog isn't accurate. Interesting. This would explain why they say there isn't an official cap. Downloading up to 800 GB/month is suggested and may be perfectly fine depending where you live. I believe this may be why Jason1 is suggesting my comments are not entirely accurate. Ok. I can accept that. What I don't accept is the harsh manner a HSI account is terminated so quickly after multiple phone calls are made to Comcast CS to try and resolve the issue (see the live chat posted last night). There should be a little more leeway than the "You get a call then you're gone" response as Geovanny from the Abuse department stated.

If a customer is terminated due to excessive downloading, they will generally be given an estimate on how much they downloaded but this amount should not be called the download cap amount.

I'm back to confused now. Despite the confusion over whether Comcast or an ID thief called my wife in December, we reduced our usage (though we had no idea what number we should target) and were terminated the next month despite our reduction. Given an estimate? MRTG and RRDtools give you exact numbers in 5 minute increments. RRDtools will do it faster but industry best practices for monitoring have suggested 5 minute intervals are typical. I'm wondering if this is why they say it's an estimate rather than an actual number.

Yes, the download amount makes a nice easy way to visualize to the customer on a quantity that they used over the month but again, the issue is that the customers connected to a node is exceeding the capacity that node can provide so everyone connected to that node will suffer a bad connection.

My research suggests a node provides service for about 1200 homes. Still it's a crap shoot. A Comcast customer is left guessing how much is too much and risks termination even though they reduced their usage. For example, an Editor for the "Deseret Spectacle" was disconnected in July 2006, called Comcast later that day and had the HSI restored and promised to reduce usage by 50% but was terminated again in August 2006.

They were directed to the Abuse department as their account had been flagged by the CSR's system. The Abuse rep stated "even though you cut your usage in half, it's still too much. You have been terminated for 12 months". The editor posted his experience on their online magazine and moved to DSL (lucky bum). I've found dozens of other's who have been disconnected over the last few months, several here in the Salt Lake Valley. Many were fortunate to have alternatives (such as Verizon's Fios), Utopianet or DSL.

In my opinion, people generally are reasonable and willing to help (well, aren't they?). If Comcast is the ONLY real solution around, would anyone really continue pushing the network and risk termination? I couldn't have been more surprised with how poor this situation was handled. I would expect a better customer service experience.

These bandwidth abuse notifications and terminations are a way of ensuring that one individual is not responsible for degrading the service to hundreds of others.

It sounds like there is no way for a Comcast customer to make an informed choice whether he is adversely impacting Comcast's network or not. Might I suggest Comcast take a portion of their record earnings from 2006 and upgrade their infrastructure to reduce this possibility. I respectfully request my HSI be re-enabled and I will be paying VERY close attention to my usage. It's not like I can't monitor traffic or throttle it. I say that here only because I've been completely unsuccessful in finding someone at Comcast who can do anything to solve the problem. Somehow I doubt this is what Brian Roberts meant when he said Comcast was responding to what consumers want. He should have added "Customer Service" to the list.

So again, the bandwidth abuse notifications/terminations you mention here are not based on the content of what you are downloading.

I don't recall suggesting it was based on content (maybe he is referring to another disconnected customer). After speaking with the Abuse Department, I may have mistakenly understood there was a bandwidth cap. Now I'm thinking the bandwidth I could use when I had HSI is even more of a variable if 200-500 Gigs could be considered “normal”. It sounds like he is saying it depends where you live and how many are connected in your node.

If this is accurate blink twice. Once if I'm still not accurate. Or perhaps Comcast should just do what many HSI providers have turned to and set a cap so we can all be happy. Comcast wouldn't do something like this with Cable TV. If today I have 100 channels and tomorrow I have 30, the next day 40. How do I know I'm getting the service I paid for? After all, it's very difficult to be a good customer when the terms of the agreement keep changing.

I found this petition some time ago. I'd like to suggest people sign up and respectfully send Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast their opinion on the subject. I also found this petition online. If so inclinded please at least read what they have to say. Even though Jason1 is suggesting there is no cap and I'm beginning to think perhaps this really is company policy, my conversations with Geovanny in the Abuse Department suggested there is.

So there you have it. I still don't know what to make of these guys.

Update

In speaking with a buddy working at Qwest, I'm told not to worry, DSL is coming to my area very soon. My wife the other day noticed a DSLAM box going in 2 blocks from our house. Been hearing this for months but maybe it will really happen now. We'll see. If this situation isn't resolved in the next couple weeks I'm dropping the remaining Comcast services and going with Dish or Direct TV plus DSL. I'm ready to deal with top notch customer service after this experience.

14 comments:

keebler said...

"..the actual amount you download is not what initiates the termination due to excessive downloading so it is not what is focused on."

HUH?? Then how in the Hell is a reasonable person able to determine what to limit their usage to? Double speak only a lawyer would comprehend.

"This usage may be around around 200-500 GB/month or it may be up to 800 GB/month"

Talk about a moving target! Again, talk like this astounds me. How can anyone think this is a reasonable explaination for comcasts actions. More moving targets. One month 200Gig is OK, the next month it gets me booted? Insane!!

"If a customer is terminated due to excessive downloading, they will generally be given an estimate on how much they downloaded but this amount should not be called the download cap amount."

In other words, comcast will be happy to take the $40 dollars a month grandma sends them to check her email and view a few pictures of the grandchildren. But let someone actually want to utilize what they are paying for and they get booted. Again, with no rational or defensible explaination. It just boggles my mind.

Back to the All You can eat Buffet. Comcast just loves the 92 pound anorexics who come to nibble on a piece of lettuce, but let the linemen of the Chicago bears show up and they bolt the doors.

All from a company posting record breaking double digit increases in profit. They should prepare now for a mass defection as users get more alternatives. I am gone as soon as I have one.

If comcast expects it's customers to behave in a repectful manner towards others on any particular node, then they need to provide realtime feedback to each customer of network utilization. Or simply throttle the bandwidth of the offender. I for one have never seen this proported 6MBytes download speed anyway.

Being booted for a year is a drastic and uncalled for action. Undefensible in my mind when the user is given no REAL guidance on how to change their behavior and no means to measure it.

u235sentinel said...

Talk about a moving target! Again, talk like this astounds me. How can anyone think this is a reasonable explaination for comcasts actions. More moving targets. One month 200Gig is OK, the next month it gets me booted? Insane!!

Agreed. This is why I'm suggesting Comcast re-evaluate their policy. I have no problem with changing my Internet use to whatever they consider "acceptable use". But to suggest a customer needs to reduce his/her usage without guidance isn't a fair business practice. This is why I've filed with the FTC. I think it's bunk what they are doing to people all over the U.S.

Back to the All You can eat Buffet. Comcast just loves the 92 pound anorexics who come to nibble on a piece of lettuce, but let the linemen of the Chicago bears show up and they bolt the doors.

This is why they discontinued using the term "unlimited use" in their advertisments. I however posted in the blog the link I printed out when we signed up. It's ok to change the terms as it's their service. They can legally do that I believe. But to change it to undisclosed terms?? It boggles the mind.

Being booted for a year is a drastic and uncalled for action. Undefensible in my mind when the user is given no REAL guidance on how to change their behavior and no means to measure it.

Agreed. Now I'm calling news stations and consumer advocacy groups across the nation. If anyone knows of a reporter or a consumer advocacy group I should speak to please post it here. I'll be happy to speak with anyone who is interested in the story.

I've already spoken with a couple of TV journalists and plan on passing this along to newspapers. We have some traction thanks to groups such as "The Consumerist" and Digg!

Thanks for all your support!

Jered said...

As I understand the so called "bandwidth limits" are not true limits.

What happens is the node can have a certian load. If you are a huge hog on your node, but know one else is and the node never gets overloaded then you can be the hog.

Now the amount of bandwidth you can use based on this total useage per node, so if more and more people download more and more, as the world seems to be, then your so called limit will go down.

So it is true they might not beable to tell you limit, but they definitly have a limit. It might not be fixed as Jason1 claims but it is still a limit.

I would suggest that a petition get started against Comcast, to stop overselling their network. This is the true problem. See they will sell you on the HUGE download and Crappy upload, and you can get that, but if everyone is getting that they the system is overloaded for their headend frequency and they need to start reducing load. The best way to do that is kick off the so called "hogs"

People you pay for a speed limit and you should have every right to use every ounce of that speed. This is truly a problem caused by Comcasts inability to upgrade network equipment and take huge profits especially in the upper echelon.

u235sentinel said...

Now the amount of bandwidth you can use based on this total useage per node, so if more and more people download more and more, as the world seems to be, then your so called limit will go down.

Agreed. This is why I'm suggesting Comcast should work with their customers instead of simply disconnecting them.

People you pay for a speed limit and you should have every right to use every ounce of that speed. This is truly a problem caused by Comcasts inability to upgrade network equipment and take huge profits especially in the upper echelon.

After speaking with Jackie of their escalation department, I understood they can't limit the individual. She stated Comcast can throttle the node itself but not the individual customer cable modems.

This flies in the face of what I understood about cable modems. I recall reading stories where people were busted for "uncapping" their cable modem and using the full speed of the node. I guess this is how Comcast solved that problem only to cause another.

PC said...

Glad to hear that you might get DSL soon. I am willing to disconnect my comcast connection as part of a mass boycott if things go in that direction. Fuck comcast !

keebler said...

"I understood they can't limit the individual. She stated Comcast can throttle the node itself but not the individual customer cable modems."

Hmmm, Maybe she should read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOCSIS

"Transfer rate

Most DOCSIS cable modems have caps (restrictions) on upload and download rates. These are set by transferring a configuration file to the modem, via TFTP, when the modem first establishes a connection to the provider's equipment."

or:

http://docsis.sourceforge.net/examples/modem.cfg

"/*
* This is an exmaple configuration file for the DOCSIS configuration file
* encoder. It is not exhaustive. Currently it supports only Integer,
* IP address and String for SNMP settings. Adding more types is quite
* trivial.
*/

Main { /* this is a comment */
DownstreamFrequency 123000000;
UpstreamChannelId 1;
/* this is a comment */
NetworkAccess 1;
ClassOfService {
ClassID 1;
MaxRateDown 512000;
MaxRateUp 64000;
PriorityUp 3 ;
GuaranteedUp 32000;
MaxBurstUp 54314;
PrivacyEnable 1;
}...."

I found many other references on the web discussing the DOCSIS cable modem configuration procedures and the .cfg file while contains the downstream and upstream data rates.
Hmmm.. Looks like the DOCSIS specification allows for bandwidth capping at the user modem.

My comcast modem is an RCA DCM315 which is DOCSIS compliant.

Just more BULLSHIT from comcast.

keebler said...

"Agreed. This is why I'm suggesting Comcast re-evaluate their policy. I have no problem with changing my Internet use to whatever they consider "acceptable use". But to suggest a customer needs to reduce his/her usage without guidance isn't a fair business practice."

Agreed 100%!!

After a bit more poking around on the web..

From CISCO:

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/tech/tk86/tk168/technologies_q_and_a_item09186a0080174789.shtml#qa7

"A. Standard versions of the DOCSIS CPE configurator tool may not support DOCSIS 1.1. Cisco has developed the DOCSIS CPE Configurator tool Version 3.5 that allows the configuration of DOCSIS 1.1 specific features, such as upstream and downstream service flows, upstream and downstream Packet Classification, and PHS."

Unless Comcast uses a single config file for all the modems on any node, then Jackie is misleading you. I can guarantee that if thay can turn off an individual modem, they sure as hell can upload a modified config file to it. I suspect comcast turned off your modem in just that manner.

keebler said...

And one more.. I have never done this nor am I advocating uncapping your own modem. Just the opposite. Why doesn't comcast use a tool at it's disposal to deal with "abusers" in a less dramatic way?

http://www.cable360.net/cableworld/departments/technology/14830.html

"DOCSIS modems are configured using a configuration file. When the modem boots up, it requests an Internet protocol (IP) address and configuration parameters by using the dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP). The DHCP server supplies an IP address, the DOCSIS configuration file name to download, and the IP address of a trivial file transfer protocol (TFTP) server from which to transfer the file. DOCSIS configuration files specify the maximum download and upload bandwidth for a modem. The ability to configure modem bandwidth on individual modems enables the provider to sell and charge for various tiers of service."

Comcast needs to stop treating it's paying customers like idiots..

. said...

Comcast is right on this. If you don't abuse the network, you get to stay a customer....pretty simple.

Bill McGonigle said...

u235sentinal - I just thought I'd let you know I called down to your City Hall and asked them to change the speed limit on your street. They're going to take down the speed limit signs. They'll pull you over and give you a ticket if you're speeding. The actual speed limit is going to depend on lots of factors, time of day, phase of moon, which movie is #1 at the box office, and whether the temperature ends in an odd or even number. They'll rotate through Celsius, Fahrenheit and Kelvin scales each day. But don't worry - just don't go too fast and you'll be fine.

u235sentinel said...

Comcast is right on this. If you don't abuse the network, you get to stay a customer....pretty simple.

Hey (.), I'm ok with that. Now would you qualify that? How much is too much? 40 Gigs? 60 Gigs? 100 Gigs?

Are you aware that other Cable companies qualify their requirements. Check out Cox Communications for example or Xmission (a local ISP).

I agree with your comment however Comcast's guidance is rather sparse.

Chad said...

This is too much. Using you as an example, I have too signed petitions, filed complaints with the links (FTC/BBC) that you have so conveniently added here to the blog and also i am blogging the issues I have had with Comcast too. Good luck to you Frank!

I was disconnected seven, yes seven days after my warning. Ridiculous. You can read about it here. And know that they do not care at all for their customers and no one in Customer Support know what is happening enough to even help people like myself lower their "usage".

Luckily I have the option for DSL. XMission here I come, with anticipation for Utopia!

Bill, who talked about taking down the Speed Limit signs above, has it right. Who is to say what the limit is if there is none posted? Would that not lead to a totalitarian state or total anarchy? People are sheep and tend to need direction, notice, and help. Not to be treated unfairly.

It almost seems like Comcast is to the point that AT&T Cable was when they were bought out by Comcast, crappy service and an uncaring attitude.

silas said...

200Gb per month?!?! Wow. We have a capped 50Gb per month account, my housemate plays World of Warcraft about 6hrs a day and we never come anywhere near that!

I'm from the UK and we used to be with Telewest Cable and had unlimited usage. Or so we thought. Then the speed went through the floor. So we complained, at length, to people who basically lied to us.

So we moved to Zen DSL and have had /me crosses fingers, no problems since.

I am amazed by the somewhat Kafka-esque rules that Comcast were using to kick you from their service, but I'm glad you've finally gotten a service that you can use.

u235sentinel said...

200Gb per month?!?! Wow. We have a capped 50Gb per month account, my housemate plays World of Warcraft about 6hrs a day and we never come anywhere near that!

It's good they are telling you what your limits are. Comcast however won't. Period. You have to guess.

I am amazed by the somewhat Kafka-esque rules that Comcast were using to kick you from their service, but I'm glad you've finally gotten a service that you can use.

I've been watching my usage closely and with normal usage guess what. We're estimating our usage will top out at 30 Gigs this month. I'm running MRTG and vnstat (I may go back to RRDtool later).

Personally I believe Comcast added another 0 when they called. I don't see how we could be using 200 Gigs. It's not possible with our usage and I can prove it now.

Would I go back to Comcast some people say? Heck no. Why would I do that. DSL is just as fast I'm noticing and I don't see any lag in my gaming. I'm content until Utopia arrives.