Comcast outages anger thousands across US [telecom]

by Jackie Wattles

Comcast service outages sent social media ablaze with complaints from areas all across the country.

The TV and Internet provider's customer service account, @comcastcares, was responding to an onslaught of unhappy customers on Monday.

"[G]et more employees and offer same day help when there's a problem. It's 2016, we aren't sending snail mail for help," one Twitter user wrote.

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Reply to
Bill Horne
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With the numerous Comcast and Verizon outages, plus their difficulty in promptly resolving them, we really need to return to sensible government regulation. In some quarters, regulation is a dirty word, but the present system simply isn't working. It's just like the early

20th century, when the telecom industry was out of control. Regulation separated out Western Union from AT&T and allowed the independent telephone companies inter-connection rights and protection from being swallowed up. The telephone network thrived under regulation.

We need:

. Better security of the network so that the origin of illegal phone solicitors are identified. This includes spammers of text messages to wireless phones and those who illegally mask caller-ID information.

. Adequate resources to prosecute illegal activity, including prompt suspension of service to illegal users.

. Better reliability and problem resolution of traditional landlines and basic cable customers.

. Better accessibility to qualified service representatives to handle service changes and complaints. Consumers shouldn't have to play games with ridiculous non-working voice recognition systems or call center clerks who lack the authority and skills to actually resolve problems.

. Honest, clear pricing of all services, including clear explanation of any usage (voice or data) limits. When there are usage limits, consumers must be able to ascertain their consumption between billing cycles. Pricing games where a very high list price is quoted, but then a big discount price is offered to all should be eliminated.

. Competent, properly screened and trained service personnel who make field visits. Avoid the use of sub-contractors except in emergencies.

. Adequate competent personnel in central offices and network data distribution centers to monitor functionality and respond to problems.

. Local service centers staffed with competent personnel where consumers can come in for assistance with their cell phones or cable boxes, or get other technical assistance.

Reply to

In my opinion...

I don't think it would require "heaps of people sitting around" to maintain greater reliability, just better monitoring centers, and a bit more redundancy. Also, there are routine maintenance needs that staff could work on and be reassigned to deal with an emergency. Often critical employees are on-call in case of rare emergency. There is also the issue of strengthening the infrastructure to prevent outages in the first place.

Would it bankrupt Verizon to provide eight hour batteries instead of four-hour to its FIOS installations, so customers can keep phone service during power outages?

AFAIK, Comcast did not disclose the specific cause of the outage. Since it is a public service with monopoly or near monopoly status, I think more information should be available to the public. ("Sunshine being the best disinfectant".)

In the case of the old Bell System, they did manage to generally provide a high reliability of service, even in electro-mechanical days.

In the case of Verizon's many long term outages, it wasn't an issue of having standby staff, but rather the company's refusal to fix a problem. For example, a neighborhood in Philadelphia lost landline service. Verizon claimed it couldn't get a permit to dig up the street for repairs, which was nonsense. As recent posts here illustrated, Verizon responded to problems by merely sending town officials a nasty letter. That behavior and disrespect should not be tolerated.

Aggressive cost cutting was a factor in the old Bell Systems service troubles in New York City in the 1970s.

The Philadelphia Electric Company got flack for a slow response time storm damage repair. Part of the criticism was that they had ceased pruning back trees near suburban power lines, allowing broken trees to more likely take down a power line, which happened in the last storm. The public said it was willing to pay more for better service reliability. Rates went up only slightly, certainly not "3 or 4 times", and tree trimming was resumed. In the last major storm, there were very few outages.

Unfortunately, part of the lack of reliability has come from very aggressive cost cutting by the carriers. Both Verizon and Comcast have closed local facilities in favor of centralized centers, which aren't as responsive to local needs. (CSX railroad had problems due to centralizing all of its far flung operations to Jacksonville). Verizon seeks to eliminate all remaining Bell System legacy personnel, which is probably a bad idea given their talent and experience.

I had regular dealings with my local cable company prior to Comcast buying it up. There's a world of difference between what they provided and what Comcast provided. Despite officially low inflation and the improvements of technology, Comcast requires rate increases every year.

The Philadelphia Inquirer routinely reports that Comcast has record profits. I dare say some of that money could be used to improve service reliability.

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As we know, there have been reports of widespread customer dissatisfaction. I can't speak for others, but personally I buy only what I absolutely have to (monopoly or oligopoly offering) from these carriers. Unfortunately, for me, my choices are between Verizon and Comcast.

Reply to

Since the privatization of the powerco in Nova Scotia, that kind (tree pruning) of maintainance has vanished or been limited to brief and localized episodes of poorly executed trimming. The *norm* for Nova Scotia is stormy weather: gusts, gales, blizzards, wet snow, torrential rain. So now rural communities can anticipate that *any* weather more violent than showers, stiff breeze or light flurries will cause outages.

The obvious inference is that it's cheaper to deploy a small number of repair crews when commonplace weather (or, of course, a real storm) has bent a tree branch or or dropped a tree on a line than to deploy trimming crews routinely in good weather.

That "externalizes the internal diseconomy" of maintainance to the users in the form of lost heat, light, water (rural, y'know; water has to be pumped), refigeration or cooking, crashed computers and/or the expense of installing and operating gen sets at each household.

I would further infer thereby that telecom companies would use the same reasoning, mutatis mutandem, about whatever maintainance they find to be an "internal diseconomy".

Reply to
Mike Spencer

The above message was talking about having enough Customer Service Reps to handle the huge increase in support calls during an outage, not the technicians who monitor and fix the service.

Reply to
Barry Margolin

During an outage, there is still a critical role for Customer Service Reps. The utility needs to get all reports of problems in order to properly identify hard hit areas and to deploy resources appropriately. Note that during major outages utilities make use of sub-contractors, and they, being unfamiliar with an area and not under direct management control might report an area fixed when it is not (which I have observed), and consumer complaints can serve as a check on that.

In addition, during an extended outage, consumers may not have any means of communication. If power or telecom lines are out, there's a good chance a consumer's internet is out as well. Customer service reps who have access to the latest repair status and plans can give specific estimates for recovery for a particular community, which will allow people to make plans accordingly. That is, if the outage is expected to continue for several more days in certain sections, consumers need to know this so that can find alternate lodging or food. The general TV/radio broadcast news reports are for an entire large region serving millions of people, and people need to know far more specific information.

I used to think extended outages (in excess of 48 hours) were a very rare thing. That is no longer true. Some consumers living in their old single house might be able to afford backup power supplies. But a 'full house' system is very expensive, and not everybody lives in their own house--this isn't an option for apartment dwellers, renters, or those folks of modest means.

Reply to

If your (non-cell) phone is down, probably your internet access is down as well. In my neighborhood, when the lights go out, the DSL goes out too, because Centurylink doesn't bother to have backup power for the DSLAMs. So my (VoIP) phone goes down, though a "real" landline probably wouldn't if there aren't wires down.

The same goes for Comcast and people who get both their Internet and phone from them.

The technical personnel aren't the ones dealing with the public, so it won't free any of them up. Unless you get service from Fred & Joe's Telephone Company.

Reply to
Dave Garland

The customer service reps should be able to give an approximate time for when service (whatever utility) will be restored, so that the customers can make plans accordingly. Leaving the house to go to an hotel or elsewhere is difficult and cumbersome, and only to be done when absolutely necessary, so customers need accurate information. In addition, there are people with medical issues whose batteries may run low in an extended outage, and they need guidance.

To be honest, I take exception to the above statement. Having suffered through a week long power outage in cold weather without heat, with difficulty getting food, and with little information, I don't agree with the above characterization of "pointless needs". For the elderly, sick, and families with young children, it was a dangerous situation. Some people suffered needlessly--if they knew the power would be out for a solid week, they would've made other plans early on.

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