Comcast Follies

This post was published more than a few years ago (on 2006-09-20) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

When we last left our heroes, Comcast's contractor had botched the install, and promised to send someone out Wednesday to fix things.

Wednesday came and went, with a call at the very end of the installation window informing us that the contractor had been involved in an accident, and gone to the hospital. Thankfully, he was expected to be discharged the same day. However, someone else would be taking his place on Thursday.

Thursday, another contractor came, and said that he had just been sent to upgrade our service to DVR boxes, and not to fix the botched coax install. Since he was not allowed to do work that wasn't on his ticket, he arranged to come back Friday with the DVR boxes and fix the cable install, all in one fell swoop.

Friday, he did indeed come back. He extended the coax cable, so the boxes could sit where we wanted them to sit (plus a 6ft. service loop, natch), put component cables on the box upstairs (after I delicately explained that the proper use of component cables was not to connect the green to composite video and the red and blue to the audio)--- but inexplicably only replaced the box downstairs with the requested dual-tuner DVR. The one upstairs seemed to be working in HD with the DVR, and he said that the rest of the service would work properly once it had finished downloading things.

A few hours later, it seemed apparent that the box upstairs was outputting the HD channels down-converted inside a letterboxed standard definition window (as well as having no dual tuner); and the box downstairs still did not have the DVR enabled. Another call to service was made, who tentatively set up a service appointment for Saturday morning, all the while hoping that the signal they re-sent to the box would kick it out of its funk. Alas, it was not to be, and the call for Saturday morning was upheld.

Saturday, a tech came and got on the phone with someone with more technical knowledge at the call center, and got into a diagnostic menu on the box upstairs, allowing him to change the component output of the box from 4x3:480i to 16x9:1080i, and then another box replaced the last one downstairs. It seemed to be in working order, except for the HD channels, which the tech said would come when it finished downloading the guide info.

Of course, the HD channels never did activate, prompting yet another call to customer service. This rep walked me through several tests, including checking for the presence of a dual tuner by pressing the "SWAP" button on the remote (the box upstairs turned out to be gloriously dual-tuner-free), and re-sending the activation signal to the boxes. He said the one downstairs looked okay, but he was utterly perplexed why we weren't getting HD channels on the HD box. He was equally mystified as to why our upstairs box was even a silver-colored HD box at all, since the serial number I read off to him was coming back as one of the black SD boxes.

He suggested that we might come in to their office and swap the boxes out ourselves, to avoid another service tech screw-up (though he backpedaled once I paraphrased him saying "since you said you have such little confidence in your techs..."). But as the hour was fast approaching the time they closed on Saturday (and they aren't open on Sunday), after a bit more testing he determined it would be in everyone's best interest if he sent another tech out on Monday. I informed him I would already be home Tuesday for the FiOS installation, so could we make it Tuesday instead? Great.

On Tuesday, the first thing the tech said when he walks in without knocking is "what sort of problem is it? ...because I see someone's dug up out there and they might have cut the cable---"

I noticed he wasn't carrying any dual-tuner HD-DVR boxes. "That Verizon install has absolutely nothing do to with this problem--- did they not tell you to bring the new box?"

"Yeah, I got 'em in the truck. What exactly is the problem?"

So, I told him about the lack of HD downstairs (or, actually, any of the pay movie channels, no matter the resolution, which had disappeared sometime during the day on Monday), and the not-dual-tuner box upstairs. He checked out the box downstairs, was on the phone for quite a while, and eventually rebooted and left it to download updates while he addressed the box upstairs. He swapped that out for the proper dual-tuner model.

The upstairs one got to the point where the guide info was downloading, so he picked up his papers and asked me to sign. But, with a hands-in-the-air and a "no offense to you, but this is the 5th appointment we've had to get this working properly, and to avoid wasting any more of your and my time, I'm going to test everything to make sure it's working before I sign anything," I went off downstairs to check. Good thing I did, too, because none of the movie channels were working. A call to his people put that in motion, but soon it was obvious that the box upstairs was receiving no HD.

Once again, he was on the phone for quite a while (he seemed to be having trouble getting ahold of knowledgeable people to help him) and he confided that they had somehow screwed up the codes that were supposed to be sent to the boxes, and in fixing one had broken the other. Several minutes and a few restarts later, I checked every feature and pay channel that I could muster, and it seemed that both boxes were finally --- after a week and a half --- working properly.

Of course, over about 5 hours, the Verizon FiOS installer, worked quietly, pretty much kept to himself, and installed my 15/2 pipe to the internet perfectly the first time. Don't think I didn't feel a pinge of regret when he told me they were going to be offering FiOS TV starting at the end of the month.