Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Comcast Anyone? Just Say No!

I made a mistake years ago when I setup the backup routines on my email and web server. It caught up with me in January. I'm still not back up.

Part of the reason I'm not back up is because of the changes in server OSes in the intervening years. The reason for this post, however, is not to  continue to denigrate myself, because that's just not very helpful, other than introspectively, which I'm doing continuously any way.

The primary reason for this post is to warn those who might read this. It's about anyone who wants to provide services, including email and web pages, to others. Those others can be inside your home, business, or community, or the rest of the world.

What am I warning about? Comcast.

You can read online posts lamenting the horrible experiences people have with Comcast. Now then, from a technical standpoint, my experience has for the most part, not been horrible as far as personal usability has been concerned. My experience has also been positive in the people I've interacted with, except for one silly little girl who couldn't tell the truth, and also couldn't get past the fact that I actually knew what I was  talking about. She ended up putting me on hold to talked to her supervisor, then after a few minutes transferred me to the support number I dialed to get her on the phone. She was a horrible person, not to mention incompetent.

The following technician I spoke with took her name and employee number (Comcast employee numbers are very strange. many times, no numbers at all, just strange characters, like #!* which begs the question, why do they call them "employee numbers") and reported her to her supervisor for hanging up on my and not being helpful in the least.

But after her, things went very nicely. Of course, I believe that's because I recorded my calls, and told each engineer I spoke to  that I had the previous call recorded, if they questioned what I'd been told that might not have made it into my case notes.

I HIGHLY recommend recording your phone calls. For me that was easy because I use Google Voice, and spoke to them on my PC, and recorded my PC session with them, so I also have a video of what I did during the calls, thus cementing both my memory, and the visits to Comcast's sites.

Okay, what is the problem then, if all I needed to do (up to this point) went smoothly, relatively speaking?

My issue with Comcast comes from one major item: They are essentially a government approved monopoly. The rules they have helped draft by graft and buying congressmen has resulted in very little chance for other entities to grow and compete with them. And then their are the government officials themselves who lack the integrity to provide an environment that encourages growth and competition.

Comcast won't work with others to help the customer. They offer a one-size-fits-all solution, and if your use-case doesn't match that size, you are out of luck, and your square pegged shaped entity will be hammered into the round hole, or too bad.

I haven't been specific yet have I? Okay, here are some specifics:

1 - If you want to operate a web server, and also want to be able to view the associated web pages, you are out of luck. And it's a Comcast-specific firmware issue they aren't going to fix. In fact, the equipment they use, or will only be using in the near future (Cisco--another company I really do not like), has issues in and of itself. And there is no workaround because putting the cable modem into bridging mode disables the chance to have a static IP address. Rock and Hard Place? Yes indeed.

2 - Static IP, since that just came up. You pay them ~$20/month for the privilege of letting them grant you a static IP address. If you run a domain, and do not want to operate behind a dynamic DNS service, then you must have a static IP. My previous (and now current again) ISP gave one free with the connection. Since a bank of static IPs is about $0.25/year per IP address, how can they justify charging $19.95/month for one? Well they are Comcast and what they do is ethical because they said it is. Uh... not so much.

3 - Fees. I bought a small business package for $99.99/month. Add to that $19.99/mo for the IP address, plus the discounted phone addition, which is free for a certain period of time, of $29.99, and my costs, because they didn't honor the agreement, came to just under $199/month. Okay, I know that doesn't add up, and frankly I don't care because I turned them off after 2.5 months because #1 above is a deal breaker.

4 - Selling my information to the highest bidder. Yes, I suspect Comcast has sold my information. In any case, I know for certain they have passed out information about me that wasn't out there before. Since opening up a business line with them, I've been inundated with spam letters and phone calls. That deluge of unwanted garbage started within one week of the installation of our new business internet and phone line. I'm glad we didn't ever use the phone line, else I'm convinced we'd have gotten many more calls than before.

One major annoying thing about that is they are calling my cell phone. Every day I get at least one annoying call for "The Business Owner" telling that if I am that person, to press '1' to be connected to "One of our agents" which I never do. They also say "Press N to be removed" which I dutifully do. I'm on the "Do Not Call Registry" which I think someone in the government is selling anyway, then telling everyone, "sometimes the registry is ignored, but we can't do anything about that." which actually means, "Please do not ask us to do what we said we'd do when we lied to you about why we are setting this up."

Don't get me wrong. I think the original plan for those types of things are based in some government official wanting to feel good about himself, thus coming up with another tax payer funded expense that does nothing to help, and a lot to waste money and provide a job for an otherwise unemployable ne'er-do-well. I'm not cynical at all.

Back to Comcast... They can't give me what I need to operate a free-to-users, service-based, no profit at all (costs us money), home-based business because they have programmed their modems to disallow usability at a very basic level, and when you try to set it up to function right, blocks another part of what you logically/obviously need to do business. Catch 22? Between a rock and a hard place? Yes indeed.

The way things are done at Comcast are purposely setup in a way that will require a  business to get a hosting solution, and move away from providing their own email, web, and any other hosting services. For most businesses, that's not an issue, but for a small service business like mine, it's economically unviable. It's a make or break situation. We can't afford to pay some hosting company to provide us email, web pages, or whatever else is the acronym of the day (SaaS, PaaS, etc. -- those stand for Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, and there are several more 'XaaS's I've not included).

XMission, on the other hand, has been spectacular in making this possible. Were it not for them, our services would have never been able to survive the days of dial-up back in the early 1990s.

We owe them a lot, and their people are easy, and competent, and friendly to work with.


Comcast, on the other hand, is like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes you'll get a  great person to work with. By the way, how they treat you largely depends on how you treat them. If you go into a call just waiting for them to try to cheat you, they will, and they'll be mean about it, too. ONe call I recorded started like that. When I told the lady I was recording our call, she said, "Well we record everything too" in a snarky way, but then begin to soften, and before the end of the call, I was able to get her to laugh, which is a goal I have for every service call I make. Also, she quit trying to force me to pay all the phone contract (3 years at a total of ~$500) and thankfully waived that for me. It pays to be nice on the phone. In cold, hard cash. Cash, incidentally, we do not have.

So that's the outside story. There are a bunch of inside things I have left out. On purpose.

And I'm Karl.

Again. Still.

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