Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Comcast: "No Internet--Your Modem Battery is Degraded"

Sometimes, I wonder if customer service people sit around making up complete BS answers to customer service questions just to see what we, the customers, will actually say. I can imagine some bean counter saying to the customer service folks “Hey, we’re going to have a contest! We’re going to come up with ‘31 Top Idiot Answers to Use in Place of Admitting Cable Outage’—one for each day of the month! In February, we’ll have 4 answers to use on day 28 to make up for not having day 29, 30, and 31, unless it’s leap year, of course.”  The winner probably got a free mocha latte frappucino chai spice coffee with a cherry on top from Starbucks. 

Well, today, I had an outage, and I got Top Idiot Answer 29.  

So there I was, happily gaming with Trusty Friends Evshell, Robert Oakley, Jureth, and Crist in The Old Republic beta. Around 11:30 pm, just 90 minutes shy of when the servers would go down, my internet sputtered and went out.  My poor Jedi Consular is probably lying dead in the middle of a bunch of pirates at the moment, because it’s Internet Law that you must lag out in the middle of a. a mob of enemies or b. a Boss Fight. Losing an internet connection is not allowed in any rest zones, and is Right Out in cantinas. 

When Skype and Firefox decided not to work, I looked over at my modem. Sure enough, the link light was blinking, indicating that the modem was not receiving a signal from Comcast.  I had learned this tidbit of info the other day when my internet went down and another customer service agent said service was out in the area and that it would be restored Soon ™.  I thought about going to bed, but the siren call of TOR was begging me to come back to the game, so I called customer service again. My call apparently was routed to Eastern Europe, where I spoke with a gentleman with an accent that indicated he was from somewhere in the vicinity of Outer East Bhadislavia. He was quite nice, but the poor guy had trouble understanding my Midwestern accent, and I had to enunciate ‘I’m calling from my cell phone’ several times before he realized I wasn’t ‘calling from (my Comcast cable) telephone’.  After sending signals to my modem, he gave me the verdict: 

“Your battery is degraded and it is affecting your internet signal.”  

Now, it might have been midnight, and I might be female. I suspect he thought both were in his favor and that I would actually believe Top Idiot Answer 29.  I’m sure he didn’t realize I’ve had three years of physics and, shockingly (no pun intended), know the difference between a resistor and a capacitor in a circuit diagram. However, I thought I’d start with the obvious and see what that got me: “Please explain to me how the battery can be affecting the signal when I have the modem plugged into the outlet and my telephone is working fine.” He replied, “It can affect either your telephone or your internet, and it affected your internet.”  

Now, last I knew, batteries don’t send signals out anywhere, unless you happen to be someone whose tinfoil hat regularly beams to the Mother Ship. This is also a backup battery—it doesn’t do anything except sit there until it’s needed when the electricity goes off.  As long as it completes the circuit, whatever it's connected to is not going to do a damned thing.

Then, I asked him why Comcast would design such a ridiculous thing. He answered that he didn't know, either.  Apparently, this followup question was not included in the script of Top Idiot Answer 29.

After determining this guy was reading from the Holy Writ of Comcast Bullshit Excuses to Give Customers and that my problem was not going to get resolved, I got the address of the local Comcast office so that I could exchange my modem and 'degraded battery' in the morning.  I also  tried taking the battery out to see if that would help matters. Not a signal in the world. At this point, it was 1 am, and the siren call of sleep drew me to bed.

So, this morning, I sat down to continue working on my blog. What did I see? Working internet! Without any battery in the modem whatsoever! Clearly the ‘degraded battery signal’ answer was a complete and utter lie. I'm shocked, truly shocked.

You know, Comcast, if the internet service is down because of damaged wires, I can understand that.  After all, my region got hit with some two nasty storms and an earthquake a couple months ago. I’m not na├»ve enough to think you’ve given me new equipment, either. I’m sure it’s been in someone else’s house before it entered mine. You might even have cleaned it before bringing it to mine, too, but I never assume these things. In any case, the modem might not be working quite right, too. 
If you had just been honest with me, Comcast, I would have actually been rather understanding of the situation. Now, I’ve lost respect for your staff and you for lying to me to cover your butt because you had an outage and didn’t want to admit it.

Update: I spoke with another Comcast customer service agent this morning.  He couldn't understand the excuse given to me either, and after more testing decided there was possibly a problem with the line going into the house. So, he scheduled a technician to come out tomorrow morning.

Update 2: A technician came on time and replaced the line going from the pole to the house. He confirmed that the line was bad and that was what was causing the problem. He was just as confused about the first guy's 'degraded battery' reasoning as I was. He also took the time to hook up the cable box in our living room, which we had disconnected the day before to move furniture around to a better configuration. It might not have been a big deal to him, but I appreciated the extra touch. The internet has not gone out since his visit.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Welcome to the XBox Live FIFA Hacking Club!

As you may know, our Geeky Family recently moved from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania.  This involved many Geeky things, not the least of which was making sure we got internet set up as soon as possible. I even thought about bribing the Comcast installation guy with massive amounts of chocolate and/or pizza if it meant he'd come to my house sooner. The only problem is that I haven't found THE pizza place in our new town yet.  Significantly more tests to the city's pizza parlors, of course, are required to make a final judgment.

Anyhow, with no internet, I naturally had no XBox Live. I couldn't find the 360s that had been packed safely away in moving boxes anyway. Yes, this was a tremendous blow to my Geek Points. I plead guilty. Setting up the computers and the kitchen (in that order) came first.

I had read about XBL hackings happening thanks to some Ars Technica articles.  I have a gamer tag in my signature on Lotus Fleet. Imagine my surprise when I was commenting on some Star Trek post, and then noticed that FIFA 12 had showed up in my sig pic.  I had not bought FIFA12.  The only 'football' in the world is what the Chicago Bears play.  Nonetheless, my gamertag showed I'd made the purchase, and now even had several achievements for a game that interests me only slightly more than golf. With the 360s still packed away. I knew right then my account was hacked.

The first thing I did was call XBL's customer support. A very delightful lady named Kathleen helped me out, making sure the account was canceled and that my credit card was removed from the profile so the hackers couldn't use it. Whatever Microsoft is paying her, it's not enough.  She's outstanding at customer service.  Kudos to her!  I also called the bank and canceled the credit card, and then changed both my XBL and my hotmail passwords. I had some strong passwords, but apparently not strong enough.

There is some discussion on whether this is linked to EA or not.  I'm not sure on that one.  My EA master account isn't the same name and certainly does not have the same password. From what I'm reading about the sheer number of hackings, I suspect that Microsoft got hacked themselves, or hackers have found a security hole somewhere. In any case, both MS and EA are being very, very quiet about this.

I've managed to finally locate one of my 360s, so tomorrow will be the adventure in contacting XBL customer support again. I hope Kathleen is there tomorrow.

Edit: I had to find both Xboxes and get the console numbers off both. Xbox confirmed that I'd been hacked--no surprise there. They also told me it would take about 3 weeks to fully investigate the hackings before they could restore my account. It did take about 18 or so days before I was able to restore the account. All my points got refunded to me, and MS gave me an extra month of XBL to cover the lost time. Restoring the account, once I received the email instructions, was very easy.

Microsoft and EA: I'm seeing a lot more reports of this on Twitter and Facebook. You have a big security problem. Please fix it before more of us suffer hackings. 
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