The amazing power of Comcast

A week ago or so I received a robo call from Comcast/Xfinity saying that my current cable modem as too old and it will not support the speed improvements that they were doing with their network. But I was eligible for a free upgrade and I had to reply to some mail that I was going to receive or go to some website for more information.

When you receive a message implying that my internet could be faster, of course I complied and requested a new cable modem. And that cable modem arrived yesterday.

Before I installed it, I decided to do a speed check and then compare with the speed of the new modem. Surprise: nothing changed! I still have 30Mbps down and 6Mbps up after installing the new modem (which, by the way, is about double the size of the old one). So, besides the size, what is new? A couple of “Trojan Horse” things:

  1. Support for their phone service: if I decide to use the Xfinity phone service, I don’t need a new box, they just need to activate it and I connect a phone to the back of it and I’m good to go.
  2. Expansion of their “free” WiFi system: basically everybody that has their router receive the ability to have an “xfinitywifi” network. I actually don’t care too much about it. I do believe that they could have gotten the technology right and create an isolated network that does not use the same IP that I have and will not affect my bandwidth much. My concern with it is:
    1. It adds even more WiFi networks around me – see the list below
    2. It’s not trivial to turn it off. I can’t even turn off the WiFi that comes with it to use internally. I already have WiFi at home and I spent a lot of time having to expand my network to put the WiFi in a place that the whole house is able to work, and that’s not anywhere close to where the cable modem is.

Thanks, Comcast…

Back from vacation and being sick…

And I’m here not really to talk about neither. At least not yet. I’ll talk about my vacation when I finish uploading the pictures. It’s actually been quite challenging right now because of internet access issues, which is my first topic of the day:

Some of the ways Comcast does things are just annoying! This weekend I was annoyed that my internet was quite slow, so I started analyzing it. I found out that I was getting 5-50% packet loss intermittently. So I contacted Comcast through their online chat (I decided that calling people being sick was not a good idea). The guy on the other side was very patient and stayed with me for over one hour, handling the fact that sometimes the messages that I wrote to him would take 5 minutes for him to receive because of my network problems. But the only thing that he did was reboot my modem 5 times and ask me to wait a minute and run a speed test being sure that this time it would fix it. When I mentioned that it didn’t, he would just say “Oh!” and do it again. When I told him that maybe we needed a different plan he gave me two options:

  1. He could request for a technician to come to my house and it would cost me $30-$40
  2. I could just keep rebooting my modem and it might fix itself at some point

What kind of options were those??? Anyway, I got a little annoyed with them and then he explained that it was possible that the technician wasn’t going to charge anything, but he couldn’t ensure it. I asked for the technician anyway. And then when you get to the local people everything gets much better. I ended the conversation with the guy online at 2:30 pm on Sunday and they scheduled the technician to be here between 4 and 6pm that same day! The technician arrived at about 5 pm and was here until 6:15ish, identifying that the problem was on the street and was actually affecting everybody. He was actually surprised that I had been the only person that complained about it.

Then this early afternoon another Comcast guy came to try to fix it and identified that the problem was actually even bigger and they would need to cut access to everybody on my subsection (over 600 people), so they were going to do that at 4 AM on Wednesday). He again said he was surprised that we were the only ones complaining about it. Maybe people just don’t have any expectations of QoS when talking about the internet? Well, it’s actually always really hard to put the blame on anybody specifically when your internet is slow, so maybe people are just used to it?

Anyway, let’s see how it goes!

The other thing I wanted to share is my sadness about the state of OnLive… If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this article on ReadWriteWeb was a good one that I found about it:

OnLive Gaming Service Reboots after Dumping Stock Options, Employees, and Investors

The most interesting number there is that they had 8K servers and only 1.6K current users. Yes, that could be a problem to get to profitability! But actually their technology is not too far from it. If I remember it correctly from reading about it a few years ago, they need a GPU per user, so it’s possible that in order to get the game launch speed that they show, they do need to have more servers than users. Maybe 1/5 ratio might be a little too extreme, but I don’t know what their optimal really is.

Anyway, I really like OnLive. It was a great service, and I played many good games through it. But I also had a lot of frustrating experiences with it, mostly because of issues like I talked in the beginning of this post: once your internet hiccups, there goes your good experience with OnLive… And that can happen more often than we even realize sometimes!