My Latest Comcast Saga

Last Wednesday I had lunch with Mike and Tori at the Garlic Knot. On the way home I listened to a bit of the Rockies’ first game of their doubleheader with Pittsburgh on the radio, so when I made it home I naturally wanted to watch the game on television. Unfortunately, many of my channels, including Root Sports, were unavailable. I was viewing blank screens with a TiVo-generated dialog box with the following text: “Searching for signal on the cable channel.” Several of my local high-definition channels (but not all) were displaying the issue as well as a few of my “premium” channels. Those that I cared about were Root Sports and NBC Sports Network where live sporting events were occurring later in the day that I planned to watch. Rebooting the TiVo and re-seating the CableCard had no effect.
What follows here is a detailed log of the events that have transpired so far in my attempt to receive technical support from Comcast to resolve the issue.

Wednesday 25 April 2012:
Back home from lunch attempting to tune channel 665 (Root Sports Rocky Mountain). “Searching for signal on this cable channel” displayed in TiVo dialog graphic, screen is black – no audio or video. Attempted to tune other channels, including local channels. 651, 652, and 654 are okay, 653, 656, 657, 658, 659 are not tunable. Also 665 and 689 (NBC Sports Network) are not tunable. Attempted to reboot the TiVo device, no effect. Pulled the CableCard out and re-seated it, no effect either.

My Comcast Sage

I called Comcast support to report the issue. The first representative I spoke with told me that Comcast did not support CableCard devices, and he said it in such a way that there was no question about what he meant. I started to remind him that the FCC requires cable operators to support the devices but he did not seem to want to hear it. I asked him to transfer me to somebody who understood CableCards and he was hesitant, then obliged but during the transfer process my call was disconnected.

I called back and got a female representative who had a similar stance regarding CableCards. No amount of pleading or reasoning would make her change her mind. Other than sending a “hit” to the CableCard she was unwilling to do anything else. When I asked to be transferred to anyone with more knowledge of CableCards she refused and said she could not transfer me. Stunned, I then asked to be escalated to a supervisor since I was very frustrated about my support experience. At first the supervisor “David” gave me the same line of non-support I had been receiving all along. I pleaded with him to have somebody with CableCard experience look into the issue and call me back. After more than 45 minutes on the call he agreed to have somebody call me back, even if it was himself.

Around 3 PM “David” called back and asked a few questions specifically about signal strength. This was what I had been begging to talk to them about since the TiVo includes several diagnostics screens with displays of signal strength and signal-to-noise ratio values. “David” also was able to remotely login to my cable modem and see that the signal strength was not optimal for High-Speed Internet at the same time I was experiencing the television channel issues. The supervisor also said there were some “incorrect codes” on my account and said he fixed the codes, but that did not have any effect. With this evidence he decided to dispatch a technician the next day to check into the issue further. I asked “David” if this just meant the tech would show up without any knowledge of CableCards and would simply swap the card out and hope it magically fixed the issue. I was assured somebody with the appropriate skills and training would be dispatched and was assigned a technician service appointment for Thursday between 1 and 3 PM.

Thursday 26 April 2012
The tech arrived after 2 PM and visually inspected the coax drop from the alley pole to the outside of my house and informed me it needed to be replaced. The technician had not been briefed on the issue I was experiencing nor had he been informed that it was a CableCard issue, so he did not even have a spare CableCard to swap in. He mentioned that whomever had installed the cable drop originally had not done a good job, but he went silent when I told him that Comcast had installed it less than five years ago. The tech also replaced the splitter on the line — I have two lines to outlets in my house that feed the cable modem and the TiVo. The technician visually observed the channel/signal issue occurring and put his meter on the line at the outside of the house and at the outlet. His meter indicated the overall signal strength was “very good” and when we tuned to a channel that was receivable the TiVo’s CableCard diagnostics indicated the same strong signal levels. However, when we tuned to a channel that was not being received with the message “Searching for signal..” the diagnostics indicated there was zero signal available.

In the end, after retrieving a new-to-me CableCard and swapping it out in the TiVo, the same issue was observed, on the same channels. The technician admitted that he had no other troubleshooting he could perform and said he would assign the issue to a line tech. He did not indicate when that would happen or if I would even know they were “looking” at my line.

Friday 27 April 2012
The “lost channel” issue again appeared between 9:30 AM and 5-6 PM. I did not call Comcast as my work schedule did not allow the time to spend on the issue and I had been told the issue had been escalated to the line technicians.

Saturday 28 April 2012
The “lost channel” issue again appeared between 9:30 AM and 5-6 PM. I was unable to tune the same channels. I had errands and yardwork to perform so I did not call Comcast, and I suspected they would not be able or willing to resolve the issue over the weekend.

Sunday 29 April 2012
The “lost channel” issue again appeared between 9:30 AM and 5-6 PM. I did not notice it at first as I took the dogs up to the mountains to hike with a friend. When we returned, around 3:30 PM, we had been listening to the Rockies’ baseball game on the radio and wanted to continue watching it on television, again on Root Sports Rocky Mountain, channel 665. As on the previous days, I was unable to tune the CableCard to 665 or the other same channels that had been “disappearing.” We watched the end of the game on the low definition Root Sports channel (26).

Monday 30 April 2012
I watched the local late morning news on channel 20 (657) from 7-8 am. I left the TV/TiVo on that channel as I worked in the bedroom, and at 9:30 the volume suddenly cut out. I looked at the screen and saw that the “Searching for signal…” message was being displayed again. I also verified that the same other “missing” channels had not changed — consistently missing. I called Comcast Support again. I received an automated message that said “due to unusually high call volume there would be a delay in talking with a representative.” I was offered to receive an automated call-back when a rep was available without loosing my “place in line,” so I opted for the call-back. Once I recorded my name and agreed to the call-back, I hung up. Approximately 15 seconds after I hung up the phone rang and and automated voice told me this was Comcast calling me back as I had requested and repeated my recorded name. When I confirmed that I wanted to be connected to a representative the call was disconnected.

I re-dialed the Comcast Support number and spoke to a pleasant woman named Gloria. Because there were very few notes on my account indicating what had already occurred in attempting to resolve my issue, I had to repeat the entire story to her again. I nicely asked that somebody with specific knowledge of CableCards assist me in resolving the issue. Gloria put me on hold and called around for about twenty minutes before returning and informing me that a “supervisor” with knowledge of CableCards would be dispatched to my house today between 1 and 3 PM. I again verified that the person arriving during at that time would have the skills to assist me since it would seem like a waste of my time (and Comcast’s) to assign a person who had no training with CableCards. Gloria agreed.

She also informed me that I had been charged $50 for the technician visit the previous Thursday even though he admitted when he left that he did not know why I was having the issue or when it would be resolved. I politely informed Gloria that being charged for this issue in the first place was frustrating and that since the issue was unresolved and no progress or ETA for resolution had been made it was a bit insulting to me. Gloria agreed to remove the charge from my bill. I do not recall if she said she would be crediting my account for the days since Thursday when the issue had occurred.

At approximately noon I received an automated call from Comcast to confirm the appointment from 1-3 PM.

At 13:24 I received a direct call from a cell phone. The caller indicated he was a Comcast technician named Rusty. He asked what issue I was experiencing — he had not been informed or briefed about my technical issues although I had specifically asked that the person coming on-site know the history of the issue. Although he did not indicate so, his line of questioning made me feel that not only did he not know anything specific about my issue, he did not know CableCards beyond the “insert into host device and call the office to pair it” steps. He also was certain that swapping out the TiVo for a Comcast DVR or set-top box was a necessary step to troubleshoot the issue, and while I agreed that it would help troubleshoot the issue that it could not be a permanent solution. At this point he felt that as long as he showed a Comcast set-top box would work that their hands would be clean and nothing further would be done. I disagreed with Rusty but never told him not to come for the scheduled appointment or not to try a Comcast set-top box. We ended our call.

Concerned about the lack of knowledge of CableCards and my issue specifically, I called Comcast back and expressed my concern and frustration. I told them that sending yet another tech out here who was only capable of plugging in a new card or a different box and calling “the office” was a waste of everyone’s time. The rep I spoke to agreed and promised to find somebody in the organization who could help me and would call me back.

In the meantime, Rusty had apparently called his supervisor as I received a call from Josh who said he was told I would not allow a Comcast DVR or set-top box to be plugged in to troubleshoot my issue. I informed him that I said no such thing and that I had agreed to using a Comcast box to attempt to find the root cause of my problems. I also let him know that I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of knowledge transfer occurring within Comcast. We spoke for a while and I AGAIN explained everything that had transpired since Wednesday including the technician appointment on Thursday. After I implored him to have somebody on the “back-end” look into my account and verify that based on my description of the intermittent nature of the outage that they might be able to see an issue, Josh agreed. He also told me that sending a technician at this point would not be a prudent action. He promised to call me back with more information.

At 14:17 Josh called back and told me that he had talked to “somebody with access to my account” who told him that the rate codes were all wrong and that was definitely the problem. These are the same codes that the supervisor David claimed he fixed on my account the previous Wednesday. Josh informed me that I was not subscribed to the correct channel packages and that to correct it I would have to pay an additional $10 per month. I first asked him what package their system says I was subscribed to, as I know that I was subscribed to the Digital Preferred Plus package with HBO and Starz channels. Until last Wednesday I was receiving those channels, and then beginning between 9:30 AM and 6 PM I could not tune *some* of them. My common sense does not allow me to believe that local channels and some Digital Preferred channels would be unavailable during those hours due to a mis-coded account. Why Root Sports and not Altitude Sports? Why NBC Sports Network but not Science or Discovery? Because he is not “an account person” Josh promised me (again after considerable pleading on my part) to have somebody more knowledgeable look into my account and call me back to verify my subscription and billing details. At this point my issue is still unresolved and I have no ETA for additional assistance from Comcast.

16:08 received callback from Gloria with whom I originally spoke on Monday. She was shocked and embarrassed (her words) when I updated her on the lack of progress and the details listed above. She promised that she would personally find a supervisor to review the channel codes on my account and also find somebody within the Comcast organization who is capable of resolving my issue. I also reiterated my frustration of having to repeat the entire story of what issue I am experiencing and the work history to every single person with whom I have spoken.

At 16:27 I received a call from a person at Comcast named Tracy who told me she had been involved at the request of Chris/Kris. Since I had not talked to anyone by that name I was unsure if she was involved by Josh or Gloria. Tracy said she was involved to help troubleshoot the billing/codes issues somebody decided I was having. Once I explained (again!) the entire story she put me on hold to touch base with some people she said had “a lot” of CableCard expertise. While I was on hold Gloria called back so I merged the two lines on my phone — I did not want to lose the call with Tracy but I needed to talk to Gloria as well. Eventually it turned out that Gloria and Tracy knew each other. Gloria had been informed there was an issue with my account and that “some process” was running around 9:30 that was de-activating certain channels and it was not until 5-6 PM that those deactivations were recycled. This sounded like nonsense to me and I told her so after I asked the obvious (to me) questions such as: Is this a new process that just started Wednesday, and if so, who owns it? Why would some channels from my packages be deactivated and not others? Tracy said some of the technical people she queried said it sounded like an issue in the line beyond the drop, possibly in the local neighborhood amplifier equipment. She still was trying to tell me it had something to do with excessive heat, however, which does not fit the evidence so far. I suggested it could be a malfunctioning amplifier, although that doesn’t properly explain the consistent time of the beginning of the outages. Regardless, I was asked to wait another day while she attempted to get some high-level personnel working on the issue to determine the root cause.

The outage today lasted much later: I could not tune 665 Root Sports until almost 10 PM, then after about10-15 minutes it disappeared again. Even unaffected channels displayed signal drop-out and pixillation issues. At this time (23:04) I cannot tune 653 KUSA (NBC) as well as the other channels.

Tuesday 1 May 2012
When I went to bed last night 665 and 653 were eventually available, but this was after midnight. This morning I could still receive the channels while I watched the 7-9 AM news on 657, but exactly at 9 AM the signal disappeared.

17:05 Called Tracy (the last rep I spoke to yesterday) to enquire into status of issue. I was told that she had “escalated” the issue to a “manager” and who was “working on it.” Meanwhile, I will not be able to watch the Rockies’ game tonight or the playoff hockey game because those channels are not coming in, again. Lots of promises so far from Comcast with zero results.

20:15 I just sat down to watch what limited program choices I have at the moment and noted a movie on Starz that sounded interesting. I attempted to tune in since this channel has been working all along and was greeted with a message saying the channel was not authorized and that I needed to call my provider to add it. Add the channel I’m already paying for. I checked all of the HBO channels and was greeted with the same message. So not only did Comcast not resolve my original issue today, one of the five? ten? people who’ve “fixed” the coding on my account have REMOVED MY PREMIUM CHANNELS. Additionally, every time I change to a channel I’m still receiving the CableCard diagnostic screen appears, requiring me to dismiss it. It’s no fun to channel surf at this point.

Wednesday 2 May 2012
Channels apparently cut out sometime after 9 AM. At 3 PM I tried to watch some programming but was unable. Shortly after 3 PM I lost all of the channels and the cable modem disconnected. I assumed somebody from Comcast was working on my issue but when I checked the alley there was not a tech working on the line. The cable and modem came back on within 30 minutes, but I had already called Tracy to see if she had an update for me since I had really heard nothing for almost two days. She’s again told me that the issue had been escalated and that the manager had promised an update by the “end of business” today (Wednesday) but did not promise a resolution by that time. I was a little frustrated that considering the time and effort I have invested in resolving the issue no one had called to update me on the status.

The “missing” channels continued to work Wednesday afternoon and evening after the outage, but I still cannot tune any of the premium channels for which I pay. I also noticed there were a lot of occurrences of what I can only describe as CableCard “hits” which trigger a diagnostic screen on the TiVo. The timing of these hits appeared to be random and likely were not associated with active troubleshooting by Comcast — one occurred at nearly midnight while watching The Late Late Show on CBS.

Thursday 3 May 2012
Had a call on my cell phone at 8:30 while I was doing some dishes. The voicemail indicated it was Josh from Comcast, the same one I spoke to a few days ago. Allegedly this entire time he’s been checking on my account and told me everything looks good from the account side so it must be an issue inside my house. He wants to schedule an appointment to check it out, even though this is contrary to what Tracy has been telling me for a couple of days. I’m very close to telling Comcast that if they cannot even agree on what the problem is or where, how can I expect them to fix it?

16:32 No status update from Tracy as was promised and no return call from my message earlier today. I called the general Comcast support line and asked the young lady (Kim) if she could help me get an update on the status of my repair. As usual, I was told there were not status notes in my account but she did call Tracy directly. It appears that Tracy was refusing to call me back although I had specifically asked for a status update. Kim told me she was informed by Tracy that the matter had been escalated back to Josh and Eric (Tech Manager – West Denver). Tracy appears to want nothing more to do with the issue and I am personally offended and insulted that she lied to me for three days about taking care of the issue and wanting to help me out. This seems to be normal Comcast behavior.

I called Josh back and (surprise!) got his voice mail. I left a message telling him to call me back to explain why a new service appointment was required in light of what I had been told for the past three days. I also called Eric the Tech manager and left a message as well. So far, no one has called me back and my premium channels are still “not authorized.”

Oh, I called Denver 311 and asked who within the city manages complaints about the Comcast cable franchise in the city. The operator told me “nobody.” She had no info about who to contact, and in fact had some references that said to call Comcast directly — been there, done that. The 311 operator finally found a reference to cable compliance complaints that are to be sent to Denver TV 8 (Public Access) and a phone number. I amy try to call them tomorrow if I do not hear from Josh or Eric.

I’ve been trying to keep this log of the issues unbiased and unemotional but I’m finding it more and more difficult as I encounter more and more Comcast employees who don’t know anything or are unwilling to do something to help me. At 5 PM I’m calling it a completed day, which means my issue will be into its tenth day.

Stay classy, Comcast.

Friday 04 May 2012
As of noon today I had not heard from anyone at Comcast. I did call Josh again and left another message indicating I had received his message yesterday morning and was awaiting his return call soon. My previously “missing” channels have been coming in continuously since the big outage Wednesday afternoon, but my premium channels still all say “Not authorized.” I’ve received a few “hits” that cause the CableCard and TiVo to display the CableCard diagnostic screen. These hits appear to happen randomly and can be cleared without impacting reception of any channels.

13:19 Josh called me back. He gave me a similar speech to Tracy’s on Tuesday where he promised me that he would do everything he could to resolve my issues but asked me to please be patient while he tried to diagnose the problem. Apparently he is going to come out on Sunday and attach some sort of monitor to the signal coming out of the line at the pole to attempt to determine if the signal issues occur there or only inside my house. I informed him — since no one from Comcast had contacted me since Tuesday — that my “missing” channels have been coming in since Wednesday afternoon. I also informed him of the premium channel issues and he said he would “call it in” but three hours later I still have no premium channels.

Sunday there was no sign of Josh doing any monitoring in the alley at the pole and I did not hear from him. I could not watch any of the HBO Sunday night programs due to the issue tuning my premium channels. Yes, I was steamed.

On Monday I had to go to Colorado Springs but I did not receive any phone calls from Comcast with an update to the situation.

Tuesday morning Josh called to remind me that he and another technician were coming to my house between 10 AM and noon. The other technician arrived around 10:45 and had not really been briefed on the situation. I explained as well as I could the current status (including that apparently whatever caused the outage the previous Wednesday had resolved the original issue). This tech actually was familiar with CableCard issues and called in to work with somebody on my account while he checked levels and status on the laptop he brought with him. Within ten minutes he had discovered that somebody had changed rate codes on my account at some point and had assigned codes that only apply to Comcast set-top boxes, not cards in third-party devices. These codes essentially caused an incompatibility that resulted in a lack of authorization on my premium channels. Now all of the channels I pay for are coming in as expected.

The tech also did something NO ONE ELSE AT COMCAST had been able to do: he logged into the work order system and found that the previous Wednesday at the time I had reported a complete service outage that a line technician had been dispatched to the house across the alley from mine with a report of missing channels in the lineup, including all that I had reported. The line tech had diagnosed “line damage” to the main trunk line in the alley and replaced it.

Thanks Comcast for hiring so many people who couldn’t be bothered to performa a simple search that would have answered all my questions. Instead, your “support professionals” managed to waste two weeks of my time, lie to me and avoid my phone calls, and screw up my account so I was missing additional channels.

So far, no problems with cable TV or my internet connection have been encountered. I have yet to see what kind of dispensation I will receive from Comcast billing due to the lack of service I was getting and the trouble I had getting anyone to fix the issue.

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