Squirrels 1, Comcast 0: Comcast Would Rather Let You Cancel Than Investigate Damage

Reader Rex knows that it’s likely squirrels chewed into his cable because it’s happened before, but Comcast doesn’t seem to care. They’d rather keep sending technicians to swap out his modem. Over. And Over. And Over. Rex writes:

I’ve told them either they are throttling the bandwidth for my neighborhood or it’s a problem on the pole going to my house. They had found a problem there previously; apparently it looked like squirrels chewed through the box and severed components. Squirrels are apparently bad-asses when it comes to taking down infrastructures.

We suppose Comcast could have kept Rex as a customer if they’d bothered to just take a look at his potential squirrel damage. Comcast even promised that they would. They didn’t. Now Rex has Speakeasy. Sadly, when we told him that they’d just been purchased by Best Buy he said a word that nice ladies don’t type on the internet.

Rex writes:

I had problems with Comcast High Speed internet over the period of years using their service. It was the only option for me at the time to use them to get broadband internet in my neighborhood because DSL wasn’t available. Over the course of many years using their services, I would get a series of outages. It took them MONTHS to solve this problem until finally it was resolved.

Fast forward to December of last year and the outage issues started all over again. Usually it would be a modem or connection issue (you would see lights blinking on the modem that shouldn’t be), but that wasn’t the case. The modem was connected and I was just getting a shoddy throughput for my bandwidth. Whether it was low speeds or no response from websites at all, it wasn’t working properly. I should also add I bought into Comcast’s 8mb down/768k up package, so I thought peak hours wouldn’t be an issue.

Over the course of the last three months, I have been on the phones and had people from Comcast at the house 3-4 times at least. Every time is the same problem. When it was on the phones it was “We can contact your modem fine and everything looks good here.” If it looked good on my end I wouldn’t have called you for the 5th time. And the same with technicians at the house (whom by the way, they outsource now) “Everything looks good, I don’t see a problem with the lines, or the modem. Let me switch out your modem anyway though.”

I’ve told them either they are throttling the bandwidth for my neighborhood or it’s a problem on the pole going to my house. They had found a problem there previously; apparently it looked like squirrels chewed through the box and severed components. Squirrels are apparently bad-asses when it comes to taking down infrastructures. At any rate, I told the technicians it’s either one way or the other. Not once have I seen them even investigate the telephone pole to check the box or line. The last technician at the house said “I’ll have my manager look into this.” They went so far as to tell me that their manager would come look at the pole. And we never heard a follow-up.

Finally I gave up on them and bought Speakeasy DSL’s plan for 6mb down and 768k up at more than I originally paid for Comcast. Is it a loss? I really don’t think so when I constantly had people either on the phone or in my face scratching their heads because the problem wasn’t escalated. They lost an internet customer. At least with Speakeasy, I’ve heard their support has won awards and if I run into another problem they might know what to do.

We often hear this sort of thing from Comcast subscribers, unless you have a simple problem…you’re out of luck. A problem that involves wildlife? Forget about it.—MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: are you my rik?)

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  1. Yankees368 says:

    Everytime I hear a horror story about Comcast or Time Warner, it makes me happy that Cablevision’s only saving grace is their customer service. On several occasions, techs have been out either the SAME DAY, or at least the next day (including weekends). I had a problem with our cable modem and weak signal on some of our boxes, and the cablevision tech replaced my splitters with new, good ones. Not only that, but they replaced all the wiring between the pole and our house, without me asking.

  2. heller01 says:

    I remember my senior year of college a squirrel managed to take out power for the entire campus. He decided that the transformer seemed like a nice warm place to take a nap and ended up as a fried squirrel. For the following two weeks the school’s news outlets claimed we were under attack from suicide bomber squirrels.

    As far as comcast is concerned, very little surprises me any more when it comes to their customer service. I know that customer service departments of major businesses often have a script and a list of options to follow, but the inability to deviate from that script when it’s obvious that the script is not helping is almost unforgivable as a customer and at the very least extremely discouraging. Looking at having to get cable for the first time here in another few months (I’ve relied on my schools’ provisions up to this point) I know one thing: if my options are only TWC or Comcast, I’m getting a dish.

  3. weave says:

    I had the same sort of thing happen. Signal quality would get weaker over time, splitters replaced, cable modem replaced, they’d tweak something, it’d work for a bit, then die again. Finally my cable modem couldn’t get any sort of upstream. I disconnected it from inside the house and plugged it in outside where it comes to the house, it worked, but still had a strong upstream power rating. If I put a splitter in outside it failed (3db loss).

    I called them out again and this time finally got a decent tech who went up on the pole and saw the squirrel damage and replaced something up there and it’s been fine since.

  4. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    I can relate to the OP’s problems. When I lived in my apartment, my internet service with Time Warner (recently changed to Time Warner due to jockeying) quit working after 3 months of service. My digital cable also went out. I called Time Warner, waited on hold for over half an hour and was told it would be 2 weeks before someone would come out and make repairs. I told them I would cancel my service if repairs were not made this week (called on a Monday). They told me that was impossible. I put in a cancel order, and was told that a technician would be out to cut off my service in the next 24 hours. I asked why the technician couldn’t fix my problem in 24 hours, but could cut the service off. She said that maintenance and cutoffs are handled by two different departments. Seems hard to believe that a company could be that oblivious.

    –Chris

  5. kgazette says:

    A squirrel once crawled into a transformer on a power line in my town. He was electrified, then cooked in there, and shut down power to the whole town.

    It was awesome!

  6. Bryan Price says:

    I just happened to be outside when I saw that a fairly new cable was installed. I had painted the trim of the house, and it was unpainted cable!

    Then I remembered that after I painted the house, THEN I hired somebody to take some trees out, and they pulled the cable off the house (and completely out of the connection on the pole). Having previously having issues of up to a week to have somebody come out to check a problem that was obviously theirs. Two hours later, I was hooked back up by them

  7. Brnin8r says:

    Project Mayhem: Squirrel Edition.

  8. Mike_ says:

    Is it just me, or does this guy’s email make little to no sense? From this end, it looks like he speaks English as a second language. Either that, or I have imbibed one too many tasty beverages this evening. (I’ll check back tomorrow to find out for sure.)

  9. faust1200 says:

    At what point do you lose sympathy and say “Duh!!!! It’s Comcast!!!!!”

  10. OwenCatherwood says:
  11. scottso says:

    I had an amazingly similar problem when I lived in Arlington, VA. After about a month of no action from Comcast, I wrote to my county representative, who sits on the body that grants Comcast its charter in Arlington. Within a few days, a Comcast VP called me to personally arrange for repairs and a credit on my account. The magic of leveraging public servants!

  12. Scuba Steve says:

    After suffering countless techs come to my house do to line problems (oh, we need to go back to the office to fix it) and countless phone calls to reps (oh, we’ll send a tech out to fix it) I can honestly say that Comcast is the worst Company in America, that actually has customers that it interacts with. A B2B company like Haliburton or RIAA shouldn’t even be in the same category as a company that takes great pleasure in actually screwing the people who give it money, as opposed to getting paid to screw over other people.

  13. dscosson says:

    Not to say that I am privy to the whole story here — but chances are that if the technical reps at the cable company see the customer’s modem as online, with acceptable signal power and noise levels, that the customer’s issues are not the result of cable problems, but PC issues such as viruses, spyware, et al. I speak from experience; I deal with this *all the time*.

  14. FLConsumer says:

    I’ve had numerous issues with trying to get Comcrap service techs to come out. The worst was when they had a port on a 10/100 switch going bad in their headend. Try to get Comcrap tech support to understand THAT problem. They checked my modem countless times, insisted everything was fine. Checked signal levels, again, said everything was fine. Of course it’s fine, that’s not where the problem was! BUT, since they saw the modem, everything must be working, they refused to send a tech. So I learned to disconnect everything before calling tech support. THEN they’d send techs.

  15. Havok154 says:

    I can’t wait until FIOS comes into my area. Comcast will definatly be losing a customer at that point. In fact, almost everyone I know will be ditching Comcast ASAP since they are horrible in every respect.

    They still feel they are the only game in town and always will be and project that attitude in every aspect of their company.

  16. Stepehn Colbert says:

    they probably simply wont tell you that there is absolutely nothing they can and or will do for you. I dont think they can actually touch those poles, thats the township, which they should have contacted.

  17. OnceWasCool says:

    Cable companies are loosing the war. Just drive around, tons of people with Dish Network or Direct TV dishes. Cable can’t compete!

  18. TKWarrior says:

    Figured I’d add my Comcast nightmare to the list:

    Almost a year ago, I was promoted to a new job position near Philadelphia and got a new apartment down the road from my office. It wasn’t until I got approved for the apartment that I found Verizon didn’t have DSL service there yet. So I called Comcast and got setup with there 3 for 33 plan before they started advertising it (I actually got a better digital package so it was 33 internet, 33 phone, 66 TV).

    First, the morons in there customer service centers can’t seem to understand first grade math. It took FOUR MONTHS to convince them that 33+33+66 does not = $250. I so wish I could have recorded the service call when I walked a rep through this 5 times, him agreeing what I should be paying for each service, but still argued that my bill should still be 250/ month. They finally fixed the billing and credited back whatever was overpaid, but did nothing else in compensating the countless hours of frustration in dealing with their stupidity.

    Then after a major storm hit, our TV signal would randomly scramble the top couple inches of the screen no matter what channel or service we were watching on either of our TVs. I was told a few times on the phone that their techs were making repairs and to just ‘sit tight’. But after a couple months this was still happening.

    I tried replacing the HD-DVR box twice before I noticed just watching basic service from the cable had the same effect. Try convincing a tech it’s not the box because of that nugget of info. Then the techs said it must be the cabling in the apartment – replaced, no change. I even hooked my equipment to a power line conditioner with no luck. They eventually had their supervisor come out with whatever gizmo (looked like an oscilloscope) to test the line and confirm the lines in the apartment weren’t the problem.

    That was the last I saw of any techs.

    My neighbors also told me of countless calls about the issue, with just being told whatever line to get them off the phone. I eventually moved to a bigger unit since my GF and I moved in together. The issue was affecting people in that building, too.

    I got word Monday that DSL is finally available here. I’m turning in my Comcast equipment this week.

  19. nequam says:

    I once lived in an apartment building where a heavy storm ripped the cable from the building, so that it lay across the heavily-traveled sidewalk, hanging from the pole. I called Comcast to alert them. (Not only was the cable/hi-speed out, but it was also a safety hazard to have cable strewn across the sidewalk). I was told I would have to wait for the next available appointment and would have to be home to let the technician into my apartment!?! I spent about 10 minutes trying to explain that the problem was fairly obvious (30 fucking feet of cable dangling from the pole onto passersby) and did not require access to my apartment, before giving up — they continued to insist I make an appointment. I said fine, made an appointment during the week (knowing I wouldn’t be home) the cable was re-attached within a couple of days. My point (if there is one beyond merely wanting to bitch about Comcast) is that there are maybe 5 problems they are equiped to deal with (e.g., faulty modem). If your problem is something else — even something painfully obvious — they don’t know how to handle it.

  20. virgilstar says:

    Time Warner Cable is no better…
    We don’t personally have cable, but the poles run along in between the back yards. I come home one day to find the back lawn all pitted and full of ladder-marks, and a huge (40ft) chunk of cable just sitting on the ground. Apparently they’d been changing out the cable and just thought it was OK to trespass in my back yard while doing it, and not clean up their mess. I got on the phone and basically told them to get someone out there within the hour (this was at 6pm) to apologize and clean up the mess, or I would call the police and cite them for illegal entry onto my property. That did the trick – they were still in the neighborhood and were at the front door within a few minutes.

    And don’t get me started on squirrels! Damn things will eat anything that isn’t made of aircraft grade titanium. Flashing, gutters, roof shingles, cables, poles, trees, you name it.

  21. logicology says:

    I’m almost embarrased to say this. But when I was about 15 I watched my dad go outside with hedge clippers and cut the cable wire right in half because Comcast refused to believe that squirrels had been chewing the wires, which was causing issues through our whole neighborhood.

    Needless to say, Comcast came almost immediately to fix the problem.

  22. Buran says:

    The OP gripes about bad service… and buys from BEST BUY!?!?

  23. LAGirl says:

    Comcast is run by a bunch of imbeciles.

    i used their cable, DSL and phone service at my old place. it was cheap and i never had any problems. when i bought my house, i was happy with them, so i decided to transfer their services to the new house.

    as soon as i closed escrow, i called to set up an appointment. my boyfriend was here when the tech came out. the Comcast equipment that he needed to access was behind a locked gate. of course he didn’t have a key to access it. they set up another appointment for a specialist to come out. this guy came out and same thing – he didn’t have the key to access their equipment. i called and asked who would have the key? no one knew. i thought how could they have their equipment in an area that they couldn’t access?? didn’t make any sense.

    apparently, the locked gate was city property. so i started calling different city agencies to find out who could give Comcast access. each person i talked to said if Comcast equipment was in that area, then Comcast should have the key.

    i called Comcast again and talked to a supervisor. i told them i’d talked to the city and the city said if it was Comcast equipment, then they should be able to access it. they sent one more guy out who said who would be willing to climb over our back wall and the locked gate, but we have a lot of ivy in the back. he said we’d need to cut it down first.

    we finally gave up and called DirecTV and SBC for phone + DSL. best decision we made.

  24. crayonshinobi says:

    Sigh…I’d love to have FIOS in my neighborhood, but my stubborn politicians demand that the telcos provide access to the entire community, not just redline and offer it to the most lucrative parts of the neighborhood. The end result? No FIOS. (I say this half jestingly, as I appreciate the politicians’ efforts, despite the unrealistic idealism.)

    Also, this sounds like a great premise for that old British comedy “Trigger happy TV.” A guy in a squirrel suit goes from yard to yard, severing cable connections…

  25. Esquire99 says:

    I used to work for a cable operator (not Comcast) and half of the problems that occur in troubleshooting a problem are caused by an inept customer on the other end. Many times it’s a guy who knows a few computer buzzwords or thinks he knows more than the tech support rep does, and won’t listen to reason. When we can see the signal levels of your modem, and know what they actually mean, the fact that your internet is slow is usually on your end. Occasionally, it will be the operators fault, but typically if the signals look fine, its an issue with the PC (or in most cases, the Router they are using that they don’t want to tell you is there). Conversations typically go like this “My internet is slow…ROAR!” “Ok sir, well, I see the signal levels to and from your modem are well within spec, and we’re not having any network wide issues, so lets take a look at your setup there. Do you have a router?” “ROAR! The issue is not with my awesome, expensive equipment. The problem is with your service! Your server must be down.” “Well sir, as I said, everything looks good from here. Again, do you have a router or is it just a single PC plugged directly into the modem?” “I don’t have a router, my computer is brand new and cost $1,000,000″. “Ok sir, can you go to the Control Panel and tell me what the IP address of your computer is” “It’s 192.xxx.xxx.xxx, why aren’t you fixing the broken shit on your end?” “192.xxx.xxx.xxx eh? And you say its plugged directly into the modem?” “No, it’s wireless, I told you it was brand new.” “Wireless? So you have a router?” “No, I only have a modem” “Ok, what does your modem say?” “Linksys Wireless Router” “Ok, what is that plugged into?” “You know, I work in IT, I know how all this stuff works” “Ok sir, what is the Linksys box plugged into?” “It says “Motorola Surfboard” “Ok, thats your cable modem” “Yes, I know thats my modem, don’t talk to me like I’m stupid” “Ok, well lets try resetting that Linksys wireless router” “I told you, i don’t have a router” “Sir, the Linksys box is a router” “No, thats my wireless” “*sigh*, OK sir, lets reset the “wireless”. When this doesn’t speed things up, and we bypass the router and things are fast as lighting, they typically claim we are blocking their router, or we broke it.
    And to the poster who claimed that the cable company “illegally” trespassed onto their property, you’re wrong. They have legal right to the easement, and can use the necessary means to get to it. They are, however, responsible for putting it back in a reasonable condition upon completion of their work. But you calling the police because they “trespassed” would get you nowhere. Learn a little bit about property law if you’re going to own real estate.

  26. tz says:

    You aren’t out of luck, but they don’t get the idea that it isn’t the modem until after the 6th or 7th swap.

    I had 300′ from pole to where it went into my house, but the cable itself was working. Worse, it went into a 100% reliable linux computer being used as a firewall/router/cache. Of course they demanded to see internet explorer fail.

    After replacing every bit of cable for several hundred feet, they started on the boxes.

    Interestingly, I was able to correleate packet loss with ambient temprature – I couldn’t use it during the day, but could in the evening.

    It turned out to be an intermitten power supply. It took 3 months. They would send a tech early morning (before it heated up), or very late (after it started cooling. But eventually they escalated it to people who really knew what was going on.

  27. nequam says:

    @bradg33: “learn a little bit about property law” … leaving their shit there (40 ft chunk of cable) is a trespass despite the easement. But you are right that setting up ladders to reach and work on the cables probably is not.

    And what the fuck does your post (about customer error) have to do with squirrels destroying the equipment and the cable co.’s failure to investigate? Sounds like you have an axe to grind. How long did it take you to type your post?