Time Warner Sends 12 Techs To Home, But "High Speed" Cable Remains A Fantasy

Thomas writes in to ask why Time Warner needs to send 12 different technicians to his home to get his Roadrunner speed up to the 10 mbits/sec that they promise in their advertising, as opposed to the 2.5 mbits/sec that he averages. He tallied up some of the more interesting facts from his recent experiences.

I’ve been using TimeWarner’s road runner service for a few months. The bill is for a speed of 10 mbits/sec, but their tech people confessed that their server is unable to deliver more that 8 mbits/sec in the area; marketing is stretching their capabilities by 20% !
They sent 12 people to my house, all but one totally incompetent.
Here’s the story in numbers:

  Advertised speed
Real speed in dry weather
Real speed during rain
Average speed
Computers tried
Modems tried
Cables laid out
Technicians dispatched
Time on the phone
1 to 7 mbps
<1 mbps
2.5 mbps
1 original + 3 new sets
>15 hours

Here are some of the gems coming from their tech people:

  • Can you sign up my work sheet? My friend is waiting for me to go to lunch
  • to have high speed, you need a fixed IP
  • 3mbps is fast enough!
  • why don’t you sign up for a slower service? That way you will pay for what you have right now
  • I removed the old cable, but I don’t have the right drill to put the new one so I cannot finish today
  • this is a free world, there are other internet providers. If we haven’t managed to fix it so far, it will continue
  • I see the problem, it is the splitter! (a new splitter later) I have no idea why it doesn’t work
  • Do you know a website to check the speed?
  • it’s the router causing the problem! (I show the router is not plugged in) I have to call my supervisor to see if he knows
  • It doesn’t rain anymore, so your internet will be fine!
  • Why do you have a router if you don’t use wireless?
  • the wireless signal is slower, that’s why it’s slow (no it’s not slower and I don’t even use it)

“Time Warner is sorry” [Sibylle and Thomas]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. whanghpo says:

    there has to be another server for this guy….he put up with this crap too long

  2. Very stupid employees… Those questions and they still have jobs? I wonder who Time Warner hires now… Wifi can only be slower if there’s interference or if the connection is far from the access point.

    I’d blame the fault on the coaxial cable somewhere outside of the OP’s house, which is at the fault of their installation… Then again, maybe they did check it.

  3. Skellbasher says:

    It is such a pet peeve of mine when people refer to their ‘server’ having problems when talking about broadband.

    As much as TW is at fault here for not providing what was advertised, I’d have downgraded service after about 4 or 5 visits. Unless you’re getting credits, you’s not helping yourself much.

  4. uberbucket says:

    When in doubt, blame the router. Classic.

  5. mmcnary says:

    Remember the infamous words of Scott Adams. “Cable companies are staffed by people who couldn’t get jobs with the telephone company.”

  6. Techno Viking says:

    I have an idea on how to help you. Go and buy your own cable modem with DOCSIS 2 Certified. I have a Motorola SB5120 a black modem. Then go online and read everything on TCP Optimizer and get that application. It’s all legal. You will need to adjust the TTL (Time to Live) and TCP Receive Window and this is what allows your computer to get better speeds. Info comes through a small opening this is why it’s slow on your PC. After adjusting the TCP Window, more channels will be open so to speak. Think of it is a river. The wider the location where water is flowing, the more water will pass. Same principle with your cable. Return their modem and get your own and read on TCP Optimizer and net-max half-open connections as well.

  7. thrlsekr says:

    Had the same problem with Bellsouth (AT&T) DSL back in ’02 and ’03! Went through a revolving door of technicians and almost a 40 hr work week on the phone.

    The result: after escalating the problem they sent a “Line Technician” and found because my development was built back in 1970 the distribution panel on the pole was so old that when it rained it leaked into the panel and over time the corrosion that had built up was causing the problem. Because of the cost associated with replacing the panel it was deemed NOT cost effective for them to replace the panel. To resolve the problem the “Line Supervisor” ordered the “Line Technician” to run a direct line to the hub for the neighborhood to my house and the problem was solved!

  8. zibby says:

    Ah, yes. The classic Time Warner refrain: It’s the router causing the problem! It never fails.

  9. heavylee-again says:

    Don’t most high-speed Internet advertisements say Up To 10MBps?

  10. Unless you have dedicated access (T1, DS1, DS3, etc.) you will never get the advertised speed, even on a good day. Even with dedicated access you have network overhead so you will never actually get what you pay for either.

  11. uberbucket says:

    Yeah, in that case i will pay Up To this much of my bill.


  12. oobe says:

    @heavylee-again: Yes, and TWC strictly abides by that. They do have a gray area however and if you are under that gray area they will send out a technician. In this guys case, hes way below the gray area. If he was getting between 8 and 10 I’m sure they’d tell him to piss off.

  13. viqas says:

    wow 10 mbits, here they lowered the speed down to 5mbit, if i were to pay more i get 8 mbit.

  14. @heavylee-again: No, they say up to10 MBPS.

    I had problems at least that bad, which is why I now have Verizon DSL, which gives me 3 MBPS that has been fairly reliable for over a year. When we had Time/Warner, three flakes of snow would be enough to knock out cable service for the whole county. I would guess I had service perhaps 50 percent of the time between November and April. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. What would really piss me off was that it would always go out after 8 PM right before a long holiday weekend (like Thanksgiving), and you and I and tens of thousands of other people would be SOL until the following Monday.

  15. Dammit! I was trying to use FONT tags in that last message. The point was, the words “up to” would be in teeny tiny little print.

  16. trillium says:

    Similar problem w/ Comcast.
    After way to many complaints (I was loosing broadband whenever the temperature exceeded 80 degrees) and finally breaking down and calling corporate some nice little tech that lives right down the street came out. After 4 weeks, countless hours, 5 techs, the removal of a splitter that broke my DishTV satellite feed, the replacement of various portions of cable, and being told they couldn’t find the problem, in less then 1 hr he found that line conditioners installed in at least three different locations in my developement were either installed incorrectly or were faulty.

    30 min later they are replaced, and wow – what do you know. My little green light (modem) is back on.

  17. ilikemoney says:

    Hmm… odd, I’m with TW, and I just tested my speed at 10 mps. I’ve tested it during mid-day and I’ve gotten about 6 mps. Maybe I’m the exception?

  18. coan_net says:

    @heavylee-again: That is exactly what I was going to say.

    I have similar service, but it is for UP TO 10 mbits/sec

  19. Oryx says:

    I’ve worked as a Line Technician/Telecom. Lineman for both Charter and Comcast, here’s some advice OP:

    Assuming your service techs did their job (and they usually don’t…yours sound especially ignorant), every piece of cable (and splitters, etc.) from the pole/ped (box in your yard) to your modem should have been replaced. Your modem should also be on a direct line with no splits or splices. (For best performance, and to minimize problems in an optimized situation. Every home is different though)

    Anyway, assuming all that was done, and if you are still having problems, you need to get a System/Line. Tech to look at your area. You may be having contention issues in your area (highly common. Basically, your area needs more fiber). Ask what your node’s utilization is. Also, have your return checked for levels and noise/ingress. Have them verify your forward levels and noise as well. There’s a myriad of things in the system that could be causing you issues that the service techs don’t even know about. Odds are, if your issue is system related, someone else near you is having similar problems. Talk to your neighbors.

    Of course, I’m assuming you’re in contact with a supervisor as coporate/callcenters have no idea what any of this is.

  20. Maulleigh says:

    You can’t see me, but I’m tearing out my hair.

    Is this something than can be licensed? We license nail salons. Can techs go through some training program?

    I dunno.

  21. FLConsumer says:

    @超外人: You got it. I’m thinking it’s probably a corroded downtap or connector as well. Probably is between the house & the pole or house & pedestal. The corrosion is affecting both the front & reverse channels. The real key here is problems encountered when it rains. BIG tip-off, but obviously TW doesn’t get it considering they’ve tried different modems.

  22. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @Big Flicker: I’ve had 6 Mbps AT&T DSL at my current residence since August and I can consistently download between around 700 kBps. Even at the old place in a different city, line problems aside (they had to replace something on the street), I was getting what was advertised.

  23. jonnyobrien says:

    Usually it’s the plant that is the problem. It’s probably been years since anyone balanced the taps from the node to the house. Reason? It’s time consuming and the plants ops guys would rather sit around waiting for a pole to fall than do regular maintenence.

  24. quail says:

    In related news, about 8 years ago some friends of mine in Maryland switched from cable to satellite tv. Their signal over cable was so lousy that they could barely watch many of their channels. Cable company sent out a tech to figure things out and discovered that the copper wire infrastructure for the whole neighborhood was bad. Cable company then told my friends that they and the rest of the neighborhood would need to pony up $20,000+ to fix the problem. Instead the cable company lost most of it’s customers in that community to aerial antennas and satellite. (Hmm, isn’t that the idea of capitalism? You earn a profit that you can then tap into to upgrade and compete with others?)

  25. valarmorghulis says:

    There is something I wanted to make sure this discussion was aware of. 10Mbps is not the same as 10MBps.

    10 Mbps is “Ten Megabits per second,” whereas 10MBps is “Ten Megabytes per second.” The destinction is that there are 8 bits to the byte, making 10 MBps equal to 80 Mbps. I assure you that, unless you live in Tokyo, you are getting nowhere near 2 MBps, let alone 10.

  26. ttpmx says:

    Yes, residential cable connections are almost always “best effort” to my knowledge. If you read the little novel of a TOS manual that they give you when you sign up for service, you’ll see that bandwidth isn’t guaranteed to be the upper limit at all. When you pay exponentially more for a T1 or greater, you’re really paying for guaranteed bandwidth and uptime.

    That said, there’s no reason why you should be seeing that kind of performance degradation, and believe me I know how you feel. At my previous residence I spent the better part of six months troubleshooting a similar issue with the Comcastards. I spoke to countless “technicians” who would have been better suited washing my Jeep. I gave up when I asked one woman to ping my modem, to which she said “OK”; after giving her a minute, I asked what sort of latency she was seeing and she started reading off my IP address!

    It actually took moving across town to get a solid connection that didn’t drop 30% of my packets for hours or days at a time with no rhyme or reason.

  27. Oryx says:

    *sigh* In home service techs….lazy, lazy, lazy. As has been said above, something is wrong with your cable. Most likely it is the line running from the pole/ped (box in your yard) to your house. I’ve worked as a System Tech/Telecom. Lineman for Charter, Comcast, and Cox and I’ll tell you right away that about 80% of speed issues are related to bad cabling either from the pole/ped to the house or in the home.

    Have a them check your forward and reverse levels and noise/ingress. Also, make sure every piece of cable from the pole/ped. to your modem has been replaced. Optimally, there should be no splices or splits in the line feeding your modem.

    Tell the supervisor you want your node checked for contention issues and return path issues just to be safe. Ask them what the utilization is at peak hours as well. Even if they fix the issues at your home, it’s entirely possible your area just doesn’t have enough fiber.

  28. bohemian says:

    We had a similar issue with our current service provider (Knology). We had to pull speed tests ourselves and tell them the results before they would admit there was a problem at all.

    They probably downgrade connection speed as a policy hoping most customers are too stupid to even notice or know how to tell.

  29. itsbetteronamac says:

    I think that everyone is clearly forgetting something very significant here… the 10mbps is not guaranteed. You paying for UP TO 10mbps, not a guaranteed constant 10mbps.

    Furthermore, high-speed cable internet is the least consistent when it comes to speed, as “end of line” performance is drastically affected by other users in the area.

    If you are actually wanting an assured 10mbps, I would reccomend looking towards fiber or DSL, as their connection speeds are a little more consistent. It should be noted thought that none of these speeds are guaranteed, and that anyone should be happy with 90% of the claimed top speed.

  30. ttpmx says:

    @itsbetteronamac: Right you are. ;)

  31. raleel says:

    @FLConsumer: I’m in agreement. If it’s dropping that much in rain, that means something is exposed to the rain. If they don’t have a wireless connection in the link anywhere, then it’s a cable that’s exposing the conducting bits. Connector, slice in the cable, etc. That should be a huge tipoff to go over the thing with a fine toothed comb looking for a break or a bad/loose connector.

  32. Classic incompetent technicians. Reminds me of when I would call Comcast when the boxes would stop working….

    Note, this occurred after my being very agitated after a 1 hour hold by Comcast and switched through about 3 or 4 other CSRs.

    CSR: “Hold The Power Button on the Set Top Box to Reset It”
    Me: “I’ve Already Done That”
    CSR: (Stated in a commanding voice) “But I want you to do it on the phone with me right now”
    Me: “So even though I did it prior to this conversation, you want me to do it now”
    CSR: “Yes, Sir”
    Me: “So by me being on the phone with you, what I’ve done 5 or so times before that failed to work, will now magically work because I’m on the phone with you…”

    I’m sure you can see where that conversation went. I ended up getting the box replaced… of course after Techs missed 2 appointments.

  33. ManiacDan says:

    First, to the OP: 8 to 10 is a 25% increase, not 20.

    Also, I used to be one of those people that would scoff at the “blame the router” approach, until I got an airport extreme that malfunctioned and throttled my upload bandwidth to 300k while leaving a 4m download speed. Now if the router isn’t even plugged IN, then that could be a problem.

  34. Blueskylaw says:

    They promise you the world and the only problem they have is people who know what they are talking about and call them out on their s**t.

  35. chrisfromnl says:

    When we had DSL installed 8-9 years ago, they put in a large phone jack that the internet had to be plugged into, which I assume must also be some sort of filter. Recently my internet stopped working so I called in to tech support, and I was told it was because I did not have filters on all my phones.
    I let the tech know that it has worked fine for the past 8-9 years, and he told me that I was “Lucky” that it has worked so far. He than wanted to book an appointment for a technician to come in and put a filter on every phone in the house. I told him I would call back and get someone who could help me, and I did, and he discovered what the problem was, which was that my password had been reset apparently.
    I also told him to let the previous technician know that I did not need the filters he was trying to push.

  36. As a former RF tech in the field there can be numerous things causing this problem. Water getting into the taps will often cause slower browsing and MER/BER errors on digital QAMs, even when the tap dries out the residue left behind by a cycle of flooding and evaporation will leave a customer with lingering problems. It CAN also be a routing issue locally, before I joined my cable company I endured a 4 month period where I got insane levels of packet loss and other issues due to a bad card/blade on the CMTS server my modem locked into. I wanted to pull my hair out, my levels were great, my modem never went offline, but gaming was impossible and no one seemed to get it.

    I am amazed that we can eek as much out of POTS and Hybrid Fiber-Coax systems! When everything is in place it DOES work though. So be persistent, firm and always ask for credit when service is not up to par, just do NOT be a jerk about it.

  37. @chrisfromnl: When Verizon hooked me up, I had a filter on every phone. That worked OK for awhile, then things went south. I had a tech come out and what he did was move the connection for the phone line I was using for DSL from the main junction box to the main line so that it’s no longer split four or five ways before reaching my modem. Long story made short, the DSL line no longer competes with all the other phone jacks in my house, and I no longer needed the filters. I haven’t had a bit of trouble since.

    Come to think of it, I suspect that if I used that same line for dialup service, I might actually get something closer to 56K than I did when I decided I must have broadband. That’s nice to know.

  38. Corydon says:

    @Techno Viking: I have an idea on how to help you. Go and buy your own cable modem with DOCSIS 2 Certified.

    This may be good general advice, but in this case the fact that the service degrades radically when it rains is the clue to the first problem.

    As others have pointed out, this either means you have some very old coax somewhere that is allowing water to leak through the insulation or (more likely) there’s an old connector somewhere that’s not watertight any more.

    The second part of the problem is that the most you get in dry weather is about 7 Mbps. This could be caused by a number of things: too many people on the node (likely considering that service ranges radically from 1-7 Mbps through the day), or an older plant in the area that can’t handle the faster speeds (also likely in view of the water problem).

    The third part of the problem is that your frontline CSRs generally can’t get line techs out to check out things in the neighborhood directly. All they can do is send tech after tech to your home. Those techs are supposed to do the escalations to a line tech but they may be discouraged from escalating things by their management, with the result that nothing ever gets done and the company loses thousands on unnecessary truck rolls.

    There are a couple ways of solving this problem: you can try calling in to the regular number and asking the rep if there’s any kind of chronic problem procedure. A good CSR will be proactive and will automatically do this when they see the history on the account, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. You are, however, still at the mercy of the local office and if they don’t want to bother with the escalation (and many of them are like this), then this won’t work.

    The other alternative is all the stuff they talk about on the site here. EECBs, etc. No doubt publishing this story will have an effect. Corporate escalations often have a lot more power to prod recalcitrant local offices into action.

  39. toddkravos says:

    I moved from COX to TWC service areas recently back in February.

    It took 3 attempts to install and once it was finally installed, average downstream is 2-4MB while the up stream is totally borked. I’m lucky if I get 384kb.
    I typically get 180 to 280 up stream.

  40. Snowblind says:

    @Papa Midnight:

    Quite frankly, you were being an ass.

    If they need to check off the little checky boxes to help you, then let them check them off.

    Second, if they have decent diagonsis software they can watch the link come up and see if it does anything unusual.

    Third, it give them the opportunity to notice some dummy set something wrong and they can fix it. But rebooting the router masks the change and when it comes up… fixed!

    That last one is slimey, granted, but I have Cisco Engineers here at work that do that all the time. I report dropping packets and get a call saying “I did not see anything”… and yet the connection resets and the packet issue goes away.

    Lastly… sometimes you are wrong. Like the time I called the Help Desk because my PC was not booting.

    “Check the floppy drive”

    “Oh crap. I owe you donuts.”

  41. Chameleon8474 says:

    I work in a tech support office for about 60 ISP’s. On ALL of our telco’s the only packages that are guaranteed are the 1.5mbps package. If you were to get a 3mbps package and were pulling 1.73mbps there is nothing we can do. We will send it to the engineers if you have packet loss of anything greater than 2%. The reason we have to do the same trouble shooting steps you have already done is because A) we get incompetent people that done even know how to right click (thats the truth ) and B) if we dont do All the troubleshooting steps we can, the engineers will just send it right back to us and tell us to troubleshoot it. We are only trying to get it resolved as fast as possible when we do All the troubleshooting. Our policy is that if it gets sent up to engineers, they Will call you back within 1 business day, even if only to tell you they are working on it. Since I am not an engineer, I have no clue how long it actually takes to do anything though.

  42. Conrad says:

    If you are using a cable splitter for the line to the modem (it may be hidden in the wall) this can be a problem that their techs don’t pick up.comcast kept telling me they didn’t know why my signal wasn’t working, but eventually someone got the bright idea to physically look at the cable in the wall. (It took about a week to figure out, and we didn’t have to pay for previous service checks)

  43. wiley14 says:

    I had a similar problem earlier this month. Go to the TWC site for your area. Then, search for “regional executives” or such. You should get a list of all the division execs so you can launch an EECB. Sometimes the list doesn’t have the actual email addresses anymore, so you might need to go look at Google’s cached copy of the page.

    It actually works, I fired one off about 1:30am and the next morning at 10am, they called me. By 3pm the same day, I had a senior technician come out and fix all my problems. Dude even gave me his cell phone number and told me to call if I ever had any problems in the future.

    It’s sad that you have to do this, but it sure does light a fire under some @$$es. :-)

  44. G-16 says:

    Sounds like a great time with TW. There are a lot of things that went wrong it seems. I work in the cable industry and there are a lot of questions that I have about this issue but I am not here to try and fix the problem only the kind folks at TW can do that. I know I would be looking for another service provider after this issue or getting free months of service.

  45. ThomasD3 says:

    I am the OP. I understand that the service is *up to* 10Mbps, but when I get an average of 2.5Mbps, I might as well subscribe to their 3Mbps service.

    I live in an area that used to be serviced by Adelphia. Several of the Level 3 guys told me that Time Warner can not deliver more than 8Mbps (8190Kbps actually) to residences in Adelphia areas. I called billing to ask about this as, if everything was perfect, they could only deliver 80% of what they bill me for. I got pretty much the same level of service as their other departments.

    I am considering going to small claims court over this to get the difference reimbursed over the duration of the contract, or ideally I should find the other Santa Monica residents that have the same problem first and we go all together.

  46. kilrathi says:

    I had a similar situation with COX cable. Our service would disconnect for a few minutes at a time about 5-10 times an hour. The very first thing they tried to blame was the router.

    Having a degree in Computer Science, I attempted to explain to the CSR that the router most likely is not causing the modem to drop, as it happens when it’s plugged into the router, directly into the computer, or not plugged into anything at all.

    I ended up having to call back just to get a CSR that wasn’t completely untrained. The 2nd CSR I got actually laughed and joked with me about the 1st CSR after I explained my 1st call.

    3 tech appointments later, 1 missed appointment, and 1 incompetent technician, I finally got a technician who was willing to look for a problem *outside* of our house. He followed the cable to the junction box for our neighborhood and discovered that it needed to be replaced.

    It took Cox a week to do so, but they finally replaced the box and our problem was solved. The worst part of the whole experience was that if I didn’t have even a basic understanding of the internet (read: The average Cox customer), I might have just run out and bought a new router.

    Moral of the story? I hate calling in to any telephone based support center, anywhere, ever. Even if the transaction goes well, I still feel as if a little part of me is dying.

  47. Brine says:

    I had Qwest DSL and after my connection repeatedly cut out, a technician came out and told me I was only receiving half the speed I was paying for. Basically I was too far from the main office and that he could lower my max speed to about half of what I was supposed to get in order to stabilize the signal.
    “Will I get a price reduction?”
    “Then absolutely not.”

  48. linoth says:

    Worked for a VoIP company in upstate New York. Right in Time Warner country. I’m familiar with their tricks.

    – So long as you get 1 mbps down, you will fight tooth and nail to get help.
    – Most of their technicians rely on the troubleshooting guides they were given so that they can appear to know what they’re doing. They’re hired because they’re willing to climb a ladder and drill holes in walls. Many field techs aren’t compitent internet techs.
    – Time Warner does use custom routing for some speed test websites out there. If they recommend the testing site, don’t rely on it. They’re giving unfair results from it.
    – At least for a time, possibly still, I know that TWCNY downgraded their network to DOCSIS 1.1. This was due to the Adelphia merger.

    Now, in their favor… it’s the internet. So long as you’re on Time Warner’s network, they can do something. As soon as you leave their control, then your speed will be what it will be. I’d be satisfied with 7 mbps, personally. Also, remember bits and bytes. 7 megaBYTES is almost 10 megaBITS. Additionally, rain wrecks merry old hell on copper in the (now) wet ground. There’s not an awful lot they can do about that.

  49. TheMeatball says:

    There’s no way Time Warner is truly ‘promising’ 10Mbps. It’s not possible to guarantee bandwidth.

    What if the server you are accessing is hosted on a 56k modem? You’ll never get 10Mbps and Time Warner isn’t to blame. Download speeds and whatnot don’t just depend on your connection. They have to travel through a dozen routers and hit someone else’s server.

    That said, you should be getting better numbers, but the sad truth is probably just that your area is oversubscribed(or overused).

  50. darundal says:

    I used to have Comcast, until Time Warner bought them out in my area. There were a number of calls to Comcast about a net connection that could be described as “intermittent” at best. Several techs were sent out (this was continual) from the time that I began using their service to the time that they were bought out, and there was always a different reason given by the tech for our issues. When my service switched to Time Warner, the net connection suddenly became stable.

  51. war59312 says:

    Took TWC 3+ years to fix my connection and cable! Was getting 128Kbps and down 95% of the time. No competition here in Columbia, SC, so they had NO reason to fix it. 3+ years later the FCC + BBB forced them to fix it. :) Bastards, I hate TWC!

  52. vox67 says:

    @linoth: “Also, remember bits and bytes. 7 megaBYTES is almost 10 megaBITS.”

    1 BYTE = 8 BITS
    7MB/sec = 56Mb/sec

    You fail at math.

  53. vox67 says:

    @linoth: “Also, remember bits and bytes. 7 megaBYTES is almost 10 megaBITS.”

    1 Byte = 8 bits
    7MB/sec = 56Mb/sec

    Unless you meant something like “mega-BITS-O-FUN!!11!1” you officially fail at math.

    Please tell me what VoIP company you worked for so I can never do business with them.

  54. Kendra says:

    Call their tech line, pretend to be one of the guys that wired your house.

    State that they need a uniformed guy, install new cable from the switch, check the switch, and install a signal repeater inside to boost signal.

    Problem solved (and that’s how I solved mine with Time Warner).