Comcast Plays Ping Pong With My Poor Dad

Jordan coaxed his dad into ordering Comcast’s broadband service and buying his own cable modem in order to save on rental fees. The two moves combined to give them plenty of father-son bonding time through the endless hell that Comcast’s customer service can be.

In a futile effort to get Comcast to activate the modem’s MAC address, Jordan and his dad were referred back and forth from one department to another, told over the phone they’d have to take care of the activation in person at a Comcast store and at the Comcast store they’d have to take care of it over the phone.

Jordan writes:

I guided him through the signup procedure for Comcast internet, and I made sure to prevent him from renting a cable modem from Comcast (since it only takes 6 months for the renting to cost more than buying a modem).

At the end of the signup procedure, there is a step where you do an online chat with a Comcast representative. At that point, I expected to provide the online rep the MAC address of the cable modem I bought my father and conclude the signup procedure. Instead, she told me that the only way to activate service was to either buy a self installation software package or pick one up from the local Comcast store. I was flummoxed, since I did not understand why they would not let me register the cable modem at that point. But I played ball, and sent my father to acquire the self installation package (he opted to buy it for $15 dollars rather than brave a trip to the dreaded Comcast store).

Ok, software arrives, and I offer to help him set it up. I plug in the modem run the software, and, (drum roll) no dice. So I do a bit of poking around. The modem actually pulls an IP address, and forwards all dns requests to a comcast portal that provides a download link for the software he ended up buying. I try that version, no dice again. It seems apparent that the missing piece of the puzzle is that Comcast needs the MAC address of the modem.

My father calls Comcast, reads the error message from the software, and the rep decides the cable modem must be bad. This is preposterous–the modem was able to pull and ip and download software from comcast’s new sign-up portal. I do not get to plead for a more thoughtful diagnosis, since she forcefully forwards him to billing to purchase another modem.

So then I do an online chat with a Comcast rep, tell her the story to date, and she immediately picks up on the fact that since we were supplying our own modem, Comcast would need the MAC address (I didn’t even get a chance to prompt her). Ok, so of course I offer her the MAC address — but no, she tells me that my father must bring the cable modem to the local Comcast store to register the MAC address. She claims that while she used to have the capacity to register MAC addresses, Comcast changed there system.

Ok, so I send my father to the Comcast store with his cable modem in hand. Surprise surprise, the reps in the store tell him that they can’t do anything for him, and that he is just supposed to call up Comcast and have them register the MAC address with a telephone rep.

So he comes home, tail between his legs, and does what he was told to do. The rep on the phone tells him she has no idea how to register a MAC address. He pleads with the rep to send out a technician to handle the situation. The rep doesn’t want to do it, because she says a technician can’t register a MAC address either. He reasons to her that maybe a technician could convince a phone rep of a method for registering a cable modem. She finds that idea compelling, so now a technician has been dispatched to my father’s house, and will hopefully arrive on Friday and register his cable modem.

If you’ve ever tried to help your parents upgrade their technology or save money, only to lead them into terrors neither of you anticipated, share your pain in the comments.


Edit Your Comment

  1. AraCBR says:

    I have had good luck before getting through to the right people at Comcast. Just looked up their executive customer service email id from their Twitter page and sent a pleasant and detailed email explaining my difficulties and seeking their help. Someone called me back the same day and took care of my issue for me. I was very happy with the way it was dealt with.

    • 451.6 says:

      When dealing with Comcast, I’ve had great luck using Twitter and Livejournal. I complained about the cost of installation and the cost of the service using both forums and someone DMed me right away to offer a discount. After that, whenever I tweeted about a problem, someone contacted me right away. Unfortunately, anyone (like my parents) who isn’t tech-savvy has to do things the hard way. I think they reserve all their competent people for their internet response teams.

  2. RDSwords says:


    If you are willing to submit to an infinite amount of runaround without deciding to walk away, then Comcast has no reason to improve their customer service. If it doesn’t affect their bottom line, then it doesn’t matter whether they are difficult to deal with.

    • devwar says:

      My options where I live are Comcast, and a local service called Fairpoint. Comcast may be bad, but Fairpoint is terrible, not to mention it is DSL paired with Sattelite TV.

    • JMILLER says:

      Well simple for you to say, but I NEED cable modem speeds for my job. DSL is too far away and dial up is out of the question. Maybe you have competition in your area, but not everyone does. I would love to dump my gas and electric company too, but I live in Michigan, and no heat in January will likely kill my animals.
      By the way, I am not a fan of Comcast in anyway, but who are you to tell anybody what they should and should not do with their own money? Some people are willing to put up with poor CS for items they want. You don’t get to make that decision with MY money.

      • RDSwords says:

        If you complain to the world on Consumerist about your consumer woes, then it is implicit that people will respond with their take on the situation. So that is who I am to tell people what to do with their money.

    • Raekwon says:

      Comcast is the only option where I live. What do I do then? I have to have Internet for work and I also want to have it for play. When there is no competition there is no incentive for any company to improve.

      • dg says:

        I had comcast, then comcast commercial. All sucked from a service standpoint (service would go down at random, they’d claim it was up, I’d trace it to their head end and they’d say “oh yeah…how’d that happen?”)

        I got sick of the games, I called Speakeasy (dot) net and ended up putting in a T1 line. Does it cost me? Yeah, OUT-THE-YING-YANG it costs me. But I don’t have ANY problems, and I have a 4-hr SLA.

        Disclaimer: I run a business and my T1 is an integral part, so it pays for itself.

        But T1’s you can do with what you please (pretty much), so put in some captive wireless AP’s, and resell to the neighbors who are pissed at Comcrap’s Craptastic Service…

        • JohnnyP says:

          Yea but a T1 line will quickly get over used. Keep in mind that a T1 is only 1.5 up and down where as (Im not 100% sure) with Comcast you can probably get something like 15 down at least 2 up for less than half of the T1 price.

          • Conformist138 says:

            15mb or 15kb? My experience with Comcast has it actually being comparatively closer to the latter.

  3. devwar says:

    I purchased a modem when I got my new apartment in April, and despite never renting a modem from Comcast, was charged for renting a modem from Comcast. Called Customer Service (they were actually useful) and was told since billing is done a month out, it would be refunded next bill.

    On the next bill, they refunded the rental charge from the point I made the call on, but not before that point, took another call to sort it out (thankfully have had good costumer service experiences so far).

  4. TechnicallySpeaking says:

    @ComcastCares will take care of this issue in mere moments. Frank’s gone, but the staff is still awfully useful.

    • Big Mama Pain says:


    • Raekwon says:

      So far for me that’s only been half true. The comcastcares staff have been awful. They have yet to resolve anything for me and I always just end up back on the phones talking to service reps in Canada.

      • Twonkey says:

        That’s been my experience too. It only seems like they’re interested in helping if you make your complaint known in a public space. If you contact them directly, they’re about as ineffectual as regular Comcast CSR.

      • Twonkey says:

        That’s been my experience too. It only seems like they’re interested in helping if you make your complaint known in a public space. If you contact them directly, they’re about as ineffectual as regular Comcast CSR.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Where’s Bonnie? PTO day? They usually chime in quick on these.

  5. Sword_Chucks says:

    Well, at least comcast isnt accusing you of living in an illegal apartment like they have done with me!
    Oh well, Clear was more than happy to take my money and provide me service, though Comcast is a Clear Investor…

    “Shut up and take my money!”

  6. tacitus59 says:

    Sigh … granted its expensive, but in someways renting a cablemodem is better. I have had my cable modem go out every 1-2 years and it simplies issues with dealing with comcast, plus they have upgraded me to a new modem at least twice.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      I thought that renting the modem from the get-go would prevent any finger pointing and hassle. I was wrong. They accused me of putting equipment on my line inside the box they have at the street. You see, my subdivision has underground cable connected to each home. They charged me $49 x 4 truck rolls when they initially installed my modem. It could not possibly have been one of the other techs who tried to install their modem, it had to be me. Where would I get a “line attenuator” and why would I break into their box and install such a thing. I _did_ notice that the guy who accused me, kept trying to use the wrong type of connector for the cable. Of course that didn’t work and after a half hour of frustration I pointed it out to him. He didn’t like that.

  7. dogbowl says:

    I just went through this same process about a month ago.

    After a 2 hour phone call/ hand-off/ “Your call is very important to us” session, I finally got someone who was able to provision my MAC address and bring my modem out of the “firewalled garden”.

    And then phase 2 starts. Got my first bill and there was a charge for cable-modem rental.

    Call, complain and get that removed.

    And then here comes my 2nd bill, guess what – cable modem rental fee is back on it.

    So even though Comcast IT can automatically determine if the MAC address belongs to one of their modems or not (and then block it); Comcast phone support can verify that your modem does in fact belong to you, they will still go ahead charge the rental fee.

    Watch your bill closely. Their tactics go way beyond incompetence and can only be explained by fraudulence.

  8. jeffbone says: will get you a response fairly quickly. You’ll have to register for a DSLReports userid.

  9. epb says:

    For those without Twitter, you can e-mail them at I’ve had to use it a couple times when I’ve run into problems that the normal CSRs couldn’t help with.

  10. tweeder82o says:

    sounds like a racketeering scam where they give you hell for not renting from them. that is a federal crime, son.

  11. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    I’ve just gone through the ping-pong process when I upgraded to “business class”. The difference between the “business” and “residential” classes is like night and day. When I upgraded, “residential” started charging me for TV and telephone as well as data, none of which I have. The modem I had was changed for a much larger box by the tech who upgraded me. “Residential didn’t send me their new bill until almost two months later. So here’s my comparison so far:

    5 truck rolls to install the cablemodem (charging me $49 X 4 because they accuse me of sabotage)
    Long wait times with Indian music so loud it’s harsh
    Must repeat process many times (i.e. wait 30 min on hold and then start over with the next guy)
    Heavy Indian accent
    No concept of how things work (read from script)
    The bill has a variety of fees and charges to do with phone service, TV service, etc. you don’t use.
    16Mb/3Mb (you get approx 50% of advertised)

    1 truck roll, no extra charges or accusations of tampering with the underground cable.
    Less than a minute wait time
    First person fixes the problem
    Speaks English
    First question was “What is the MAC address?”
    The bill comes with two line items, High Speed Internet, Optional Static IP Addresses
    22Mb/5Mb (I got ~150% of advertised each way)

    It’s like two separate companies.

  12. elephantattack says:

    Bah haha… As an ex-comcast phone tech I know exactly what’s going on.

    I knew how to register a Mac address, It’s pretty simple. Heck, when I left, they were implementing software that made it even easier. The problem is, most of those techs are lazy.

    WHY they said that bull about needing some software package is beyond me. If you get to a point where you don’t know what to do, roll a truck.

  13. iMinnesotan says:

    When Comcast took over Time Warner’s territory in the Twin Cities one of their first assignments was to apparently foobar my Internet access. I was without Internet for two weeks while I hounded them daily for an update on the issue, which eventually was escalated to their highest level of tech ninjas. I finally got a lower level tech who was actually technically competent enough to authorize their own friggin modem. Meanwhile, the city of Minnetonka, Minnesota has a record on file of this mess.

  14. sheriadoc says:

    I suggest trying as well. I emailed it once and they were quite prompt.

    I had Comcast for a while, then switched to U-verse which doesn’t give you the option of using your own modem. Hell, they barely make it possible to use your own wireless router. (The Gateway thing is so obnoxious looking I hide it behind the TV.) There are always pros and cons unfortunately.

  15. XTREME TOW says:

    I wonder:
    Are Comcast Employees graduates of the “Cox Cable School of Customer Service”/
    Can you say “DEJA VU!” boy’s and girl’s?
    Sure! I knew you could!

  16. backinpgh says:

    This has happened to us before as well. I’ve always owned a modem without any problems with the modem itself. But once ours wasn’t working for some reason and we had a person on the phone tell us it simply must be broken. We bought another one and it still wasn’t working…turned out it was just a MAC address problem. Another time we were told after moving that we simply had to have a tech come out and “install” our internet and cable since it had to be cut on “on the pole.” That was a load of crap…we had a full signal from the day we moved in; we called and had the person put the MAC address in and we were up and running. You basically have to keep calling people until someone who knows what they are talking about answers.

    But to review, you CAN use your own mode, you do NOT need their “self installation” bloatware, you CAN activate your service over the phone.

  17. ronbo97 says:

    Somewhere around the second paragraph, Jordan should have said the Magic Words: I’D LIKE TO SPEAK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR.

    This did wonders to resolve the problem I was having with Comcast.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      When I had residential service, they couldn’t transfer me to a supervisor because their supervisor is not on the same continent. They had to email him.

  18. ronbo97 says:

    Somewhere around the second paragraph, Jordan should have said the Magic Words: I’D LIKE TO SPEAK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR.

    This did wonders to resolve the problem I was having with Comcast.

  19. Bryan Price says:

    Well, for starters, I rent my modem. But you can save money by buying you say!

    I pay $60/year for a modem that typically craps out after a years time (if not more), due to lightning strikes. So if I pay $75 for a new one, I’m already $15 ahead this way.

    I’ve been caught in the perfect store with Comcast myself. Internet started falling over. Tech comes over, replaces wire that’s ancient, and things work until the TV cable guy comes out to rewire the TV outlets (which with the digital switchover have been very twitchy). He screws the modem wiring by using one splitter for everything, modem and outlets, which isn’t what Comcast actually specs, on splitter from the pole to the modem, and THEN to the rest of the TVs. Too bad the other two techs that followed didn’t catch it. I also switched out modems in the meantime, which one tech then changed with another one.

    Then two techs came out and fixed my wiring issues, including a new tap at the pole. Worked for about a day, then it’s in the crapper again. I get the original tech out (who now has tickets for for two other (at least) homes less than a block away from me with troubles. The tap gets replaced again (lightning strike, yep, that’s why I rent!), and the fiber nodes around the neighborhood all get changed out. It’s not been 36 hours, and nary a hiccup.

    It wouldn’t have been so bad if my wife didn’t work from home into a computer in NJ. And her work laptop had a broken screen, so it wasn’t like she could just pack up easily to a free wifi spot either. Her replacement laptop came in today. :) Had to, she’s leaving the country in six days now.

    So talk about a Comcastic experience….

    I’ve got free HBO for three months AND a $20 credit.

  20. Krang Krabowski says:

    Wow, This a very easy process and can be done over the phone. First hand on this one, you just need to talk to internet support.

  21. christoj8799 says:

    Comcast’s system is such that if you get new Internet with them, they either have to send out a tech or you have to buy a self-install kit regardless of whether or not you use its contents. This was explained to me as part of my new account setup, and confirmed when I set it up for some friends as well. Doesn’t make sense and is a useless waste of resources, but that’s how they do it.

    Did you ask for technical support when you called? I’ve had zero problems on more than one occasion just saying “I need to provision my modem.”

  22. hsg says:

    I am Jordan’s dad a/k/a ping-pong-able 60 year old.

    The epilogue: technician arrives, on time, and with a disposition i desperately needed….he had been in this drama so many times he was incapable of getting edgy. alas, it was a futile effort in the end but a well fought battle; just nobody home at broken comcast. monopolies provide lousy products and services; it always been that way, and always will be.

    we made some progress along the way, though fleeting…modem gets registered…doesn’t work….no, then it does work…no, then the rep moves to “provision”(?) the modem….ah, doesn’t work again…and never works again. many conversations by the technican with three separate comcast reps….his comcast-issued mobile device fails numerous times, dropping calls with the reps…has to be rebooted twice….eventually, after almost two hours, we finally hit the end of the road…it just wasn’t going to happen. what did happen though is that the rep– howard–registered and left with me one of the modems from his truck, gave me his cell number and the cell number for his supervisor, told me he was going to get to the bottom of why my modem could not be made to work and call me next week when he figured it out (amazingly, i believe him).

    so, perhaps not an epilogue….just a we’ll see. conclusion thus far: even the worst company in the world can have one decent employee

  23. EcPercy says:

    Geez… after reading the story I am frustrated. It screams one word to me. CANCEL

  24. ltsupervisor says:

    I’m a municipal official in the process of approving a new franchise contract with Comcast. My advice: CONTACT YOUR MUNICIPALITY IN WRITING, cc’ing Comcast. Our new contract has very specific customer service provisions in it (your municipality’s might not, but there’s no telling). If we have a pattern of poor service, there are specific monetary penalties involved. Many of these contracts are standardized, so it’s likely those provisions are in there. Your licensing authority can lean on them to shape up.

  25. Cetan says:

    If Comcast wasn’t the only Broadband ISP in Northern Utah, I would go elsewhere. We have “Mobile 3G” providers, as well as Qwest, but they only provide low-tier DSL, and AT&T, who only provides *DIAL-UP*.

    It sucks, but having no internet is worse.