Posts Tagged ‘Qwest

18
Feb
11

Hidden Comcast/Xfinity data restrictions

Let me just quote this to start, it’s from a hidden Comcast FAQ  related to a data usage cap that was not disclosed during any part of the service order/contract process:

What will happen if I exceed 250 GB of data usage in a month?

The vast majority – more than 99% – of our customers will not be impacted by a 250 GB monthly data usage threshold. If you exceed more than 250 GB, you may receive a call from the Customer Security Assurance (“CSA”) team to notify you of excessive use. At that time, we will tell you exactly how much data you used. When we call you, we try to help you identify the source of excessive use and ask you to moderate your usage, which the vast majority of our customers do voluntarily. If you exceed 250 GB again within six months of the first contact, your service will be subject to termination and you will not be eligible for either residential or commercial internet service for twelve (12) months. We know from experience that most customers curb their usage after our first call. If your account is terminated, after the twelve (12) month period expires, you may resume service by subscribing to a service plan appropriate to your needs.

The back story

I recently switched to Comcast because Qwest had been unable to provide the level of service that I’ve been paying for; typically delivering around 1.5Mbps rather than the advertised 7Mbps. At peak times Qwest performance would drop to near dial-up speeds, and at best we would clock close to 5Mbps around 3am with no one else using bandwidth in the neighborhood. We’ve been streaming a lot of movies on the Xbox recently, and this requires a fairly steady data rate for uninterrupted playback. Qwest just hasn’t been able to keep up. Picture quality is dynamically adjusted by the Netflix Xbox application to attempt to account for bandwith issues, but even with the picture at low quality there are still times where we can’t maintain a playable stream at all.

So when a Comcast rep knocked on the door offering higher speeds for roughly the same price, we decided to give it a shot. After a few hiccups (they wouldn’t drill through stucco, so we had to have a separate contractor put in the jack) we got Comcast internet yesterday. This morning, a graph appeared in my Customer Central page that wasn’t there last night. The graph shows my total data usage out of  a max of 250GB, already at 6GB used. It’s been a little over half a day’s worth of use. My math says we’ll be over the threshold about 21 days into a 30 day cycle. So then what happens? Like I said at the top, I had to do a little digging to find the answer.

Let’s take it point by point:

  • “The vast majority – more than 99% – of our customers will not be impacted by a 250 GB monthly data usage threshold.”
    • Decodes to: If you exceed this limit, you’re an oddity. The problem is You the customer, not Us. Granted, my internet usage is heavy, but higher than 99% of all Comcast internet users? Even those that purchase the top tier speed package?
  • “If you exceed more than 250 GB, you may receive a call from the Customer Security Assurance (“CSA”) team to notify you of excessive use. At that time, we will tell you exactly how much data you used.”
    • Decodes to: We have a special department to meter, micromanage and badger you about your internet usage. I haven’t dealt with this kind of heavy handed bandwidth management since the days of the local ISP operating out of a small office with a T3.
  • “When we call you, we try to help you identify the source of excessive use and ask you to moderate your usage, which the vast majority of our customers do voluntarily.”
    • Here’s where it starts to get nasty. Comcast is now judging my internet usage and applying the term “excessive” and then hinting around at a threat: “We can do this the easy way or the hard way, buddy.”
  • “If you exceed 250 GB again within six months of the first contact, your service will be subject to termination and you will not be eligible for either residential or commercial internet service for twelve (12) months.”
    • Ah-HAH! The threat at last. Decodes to: If you don’t stop using the product which you are paying a heavy monthly fee to use, we will kick you off the internet for a year.
  • “We know from experience that most customers curb their usage after our first call.”
    • Decodes to: We are very proud of the fact that most customers are sufficiently intimidated by our threat that they stop using the product that we’re billing them for.

I find this interesting. Comcast is unable to provide the level of bandwidth that they’ve contracted for, so they avoid embarrassment by pushing the blame back onto their customers. In the modern era, 250GB of data is a lot of data, but certainly not the unreachable limit that they make it sound like. We watch by far less streaming programming than the average family watches TV, but we prefer the option of being able to choose when/what we watch. There’s nothing really “excessive” about it. It’s a feature that is offered on all standard game/entertainment consoles, and even smart phones and iPads.

So right now the plan is to watch our usage for the first month, and if necessary invoke the 30-day service guarantee. But I’d much rather have the best of both worlds, the unlimited usage we had with Qwest, and the speed that we’re getting with Comcast. I don’t fancy the idea of having to closely watch our data usage. This should be transparent to the end user, especially when you’ve contracted for the top tier of residential bandwidth.

15
Dec
09

Update on Qwest issue with HD streams via Xbox/Netflix

I had written previously about an issue I was having where I could not view HD movies through Netflix on the Xbox. Any time I initiated an HD stream, the internet in my whole house would disconnect. I did a bit of troubleshooting, and some Googling and found that it was most likely a Qwest issue with the router.  I contacted Qwest after being prompted to do so by one of their customer service people who crawls the internet looking for disgruntled customers. Within 24 hours I was contacted by a live person on the phone. A few days, and a few speed tests later I had a new modem and the HD stream problem was fixed.

I had also been having another annoying problem where my bandwidth was nowhere near the capacity that I was paying for. Nearly dial-up on a 7Mbps connection. This issue was not resolved by the new router. Again, I contacted Qwest and had a live technician on the phone the next morning. He ran some tests on his end and found that there was a problem at the central office that was sending a ton of errors down to my modem so that it was unable to sync at the appropriate speed. He moved me to a different switch and the problem is now solved.

I just wanted to post an update because I did a fair amount of bitching about Qwest in my initial blog post, and Qwest support really did a great job of handling my issues and winning back my loyalty as a customer. I work in the support field, so I know that providing this level of support is a lot easier said than done. And Qwest, if you’re still paying attention, don’t offshore your support. You’ve got great staff and they deserve to keep their jobs.

08
Sep
09

Qwest + XBox Live + Netflix + HD Streaming = FAIL

Qwest DSL has been shutting off my internet every time I initiate an HD steam in Netflix via XBox live.

Steps to reproduce:

  1. Turn on XBox and log into XBox Live
  2. Launch Netflix via XBox Live
  3. Select an HD movie for streaming, eg. Superman II (Kneel before Zod!)
  4. At this point Netflix determines your optimal speed. (Presented in HD! FTW!)
  5. Error message comes up saying that it cannot play the movie. (OK…)
  6. At this point, every computer in the house loses internet access!!! (WTF?!?!? Points STRONGLY toward Qwest, not XBox Live or Netflix.)
  7. A few minutes later, internet access comes back.
  8. Any time you repeat the process, all internet access in the home is lost after selecting an HD movie for streaming.
  9. After repeating this several times, internet access WILL NOT come back on. Manual restart of router is required to restore internet access.

Qwest has some goddamn explaining to do.