Huge Telcos Ruin Everything and Keep Us Stuck in the Past

By @zachfeldman
Written on May 22, 2016

An Odyssey in Cable/Internet Installation in NYC

Is there a way out of this extremely vexing problem? In New York and many other states, you typically have 1, maybe 2 if you’re lucky ways to connect to the internet when you move into a new place. I moved into my new apartment 3 weeks ago and 2 weeks before that signed up for Verizon FiOS, knowing that it has the fastest up and down speeds for the money in my area.

Verizon Can’t Do Anything Right Now

Verizon is on strike right now, of course I’m in support of the workers’ cause, but this led to various problems when signing up for new service. First, I wanted to configure my modem to act as a modem for my existing router, so I wouldn’t have to do the dance of disconnecting the 15 devices that I have connected to my router. I got on a chat support session and was connected with a clear “strikebreaker” from India or somewhere that was not the states. The gentlemen frankly had no idea what he was talking about. He kept saying he was calling various departments to sort out the problem.

When I failed in asking this poorly trained gentlemen this fairly technical question, which I could be understanding about since it’s not a Level 1 tech support kind of question, I simple asked him if I could reschedule my installation appoointment. What seemed like a fairly trivial task took the man over 30 minutes for him to say, “I can’t help you with that”. At the end of 35-50 minutes on chat support, I wasn’t able to resolve anything. I held my breath, hoping the strike would end and I might be able to cut my losses and get service installed.

On a phone call with another rep, I was able to get my installation appointment rescheduled for a week and a half after the call. Great, I thought, only to receive an e-mail a day before the appointment apologizing for the cancellation of it. Seething, the next day I got a call from Verizon to formally reschedule my appointment. When the rep couldn’t guarantee that even my rescheduled appointment would happen, I simple told her to get me to the person who could cancel my service and did so.

A New Chapter: Optimum

Or should I say, “a chapter from the past”. Optimum was the cable provider at my last abode and I had a decent history with them. But I was sick of the same old speeds which is why I’d tried to switch to Verizon.

With no other options because this is the thrust of my whole article, that there are no options, I called Optimum and reluctantly signed up to have them move my service to my new apartment.

The nice installation lady came on the first day and everything seemed to go smoothly. The internet and cable worked when she left. Me, being the fool I am, unplugged the modem to hide it better inside of my entertainment unit. When I plugged it back in, having changed nothing beyond moving it to a different shelf, my internet was out.

The Second Optimum Technician

The second technician showed up and proceeded to turn the modem off and on again, then try connecting the cable Coaxial connection to the modem. None of these things worked so, as expected, the tech replaced the modem. Boom, internet was back. This one was fast.

The Third Optimum Technician

I was a fairly happy camper, browsing memes and watching plenty of Netflix, when I noticed that my advertised 110MBPS download speed connection was a bit slow. I tried speedtest.net, which reported 100mbps, then fast.com and Verizon’s speed tester, which both reported a slow 35-60 mbps. Seems like those stories about speedtest.net taking ISP hush money to say speeds are faster than they are may have some truth to it.

Upset at being charged money for service I was not getting, I called up Optimum. I mentioned that I’d already had a few techs come out and was upset at the slow speeds. The person on the other end claimed it probably had something to do with my newly installed modem that was a day old. They insisted that a tech come out and take a look at it.

Ok, sure, I’ll bite, and waste another 3 hours of my life waiting for someone to come “fix” the issue. Someone showed up on Sunday, calling me an hour and a half before my “window” saying they were “in the neighborhood” and asking if I was home. I hoofed it over from my girlfriend’s apartment and the technician got there an hour before my window was supposed to start, which I guess to some people could be viewed as a positive, but then what’s the point of “windows”.

The tech showed up and we immediately got into it, I told him the speed was slow. He got off into some rave about how “if you connect your own router to the modem, it cuts the speed by half”. More importantly, he told me that I needed to have a device with an ethernet connection in order to test the speed with ethernet. When I told him none of my devices have an ethernet connection, something a lot of modern computers don’t have, he became incredulous. He also told me that techs aren’t even equipped with a tool to test connection speed with internet themselves and, “what do you expect me to do, carry a computer around with an ethernet connection”? Yes in fact, I do expect my cable technician to have a device capable of testing internet speed at a point of origin with them.

TL;DR;

  • Using any router other than the Optimum router would cut my speed by “at least half” according to him. He couldn’t explain why or how.
  • The 110Mbps service required a special router, which he didn’t even have with him today, even though I’d called in because my speed was slow and I had the 110Mbps service. All he had was one of their “standard routers” but, “he’d be happy to try that to see if it made a difference”
  • Going along with it, I let him install the “standard router”. Using my router, speeds were about 50-60Mbps. Using his router, the one provided by Optimum, speeds were 25-35 Mbps. Seems as if Optimum throttles on their very own equipment, so why would I want to use it anyway?
  • When we came to this realization, I asked if he could go get one of these “special” routers that would be appropriate for my speed type. He refused and said that would be impossible to do and that a supervisor would have to do it for me.
  • When I asked why he didn’t come with the router for high speed or that his supervisor didn’t come instead of him, he was evasive. He seemed to think it was almost funny that I thought a supervisor would be able to make it out today on a Sunday, like it was ludicrous to think one would waste their time helping out a customer on a Sunday.
  • Which begs the question - why did they do a Sunday service appointment knowing that they wouldn’t be able to help me out anyway?

I am pissed at a lot of things. I know that this isn’t as bad as world hunger, or starvation, or whatever else is bad in the world (and those are all very bad things that are far more important than this).

However, why should it be this hard to get reliable, truthful internet service in the good ol’ US of A? Why are internet technicians so poorly trained? Why are we left with 2 or maybe 3 if we’re lucky options on Internet Service Providers, all of which don’t give their employees enough training to deal with anything more complicated than crimping wires and reading diagnostic displays? I know I can’t be the only person in New York City whose time and internet productivity has been wasted because of this poor service. These all seem like simple fixes with the right trained people and equipment. Will anything change though while one big company is on strike so the other has no incentive to be better anyway?

If anyone has a solution for my rage or any thoughts, feel free to duke it out in the comments or get in contact.





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