More Cable Woes

I don't think I mentioned it, but last August, right after I took the bar exam, I moved out of my law school apartment in Lesser Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City and (shudder) moved back in with my mother in Greater Key Midwestern Swing State City, because I didn't have a job. I still don't have a job, but I do have an interview this week, so that might change.

When I was in Lesser Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City Just 20 Minutes South of Greater Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City, I had AT&T's U-Verse product, which delivered internet and television over a copper pair. It's almost exactly like DSL, except instead of running copper to the CO (and limiting bandwidth by distance), it runs copper to a very nearby junction box (called a Video Ready Access Device or VRAD) and fiber from the VRAD to the CO. This lets them offer much more bandwidth so they can send TV signals along with it. It was a wonderful service with competitive pricing. I never had problems with it. (I had switched to them after my earlier travails with Roadrunner through Time Warner Cable.)

I had to give up the U-Verse when I moved out. Now I'm in an older neighborhood--the house was built in the 20s--that doesn't have U-Verse service yet, so we're stuck with cable. And guess who the local franchisee is? Time Warner Cable. I've been fighting with them to improve our service ever since. Last night was particularly bad, and in frustration I tweeted:
[quotetweet tweetid=13832976538] This morning, I got this response:

[quotetweet tweetid=13853062678] I then sent this email, which describes all the difficulties I've been having with the service here:

Dear Time Warner Cable Peopleguys, BH, via @TWCableHelp on Twitter, asked me to send you tracerts concerning the packet loss problem I have been having since August 2009 and haven't been able to resolve. My tweet last night @TWCableHelp's response this morning I have attached three files. The first, [omitted] is a PingPlotter Pro dataset containing full tracert data from me to Google since 4/21/10 (excluding some small gaps when the software wasn't running). It contains ping times for each hop, packet loss, and jitter. You can display it and explore it using PingPlotter Pro. If you don't have PingPlotter Pro, you can download a free 30 day trial at www.pingplotter.com. I recommend this, as it will give you the best picture of what is going on here on our end of things. The other two are screen captures from PingPlotter showing the data. The first, [omitted], shows the current* state of the route above and the last seven days on the graph (the red humps indicate packet loss over the route). (Here, "current" means "average of the route data from 10:37:57am to 10:40:12am EDT this morning," which is when I took the screenshot.) The second, [omitted] is another screenshot, this time showing data from last night (10:12:57pm EDT). As you can see, utterly unacceptable levels of packet loss. Here are the symptoms: In the evenings, we experience problems with our internet service AND our television service. On the TV side of things, HD channels will block up, audio will drop out, and the screen will go blank. (Since the guide upgrade a few months ago these have happened more frequently, and the blank screens have been replaced with a "please wait" message.) This happens unpredictably and usually on higher-numbered HD channels only. Usually there are no problems with non-HD channels or local HD channels. The guide is extremely sluggish in the evening, and changing channels can take up to 45 seconds in some cases. On the internet side of things, the internet is useless between about 9pm and midnight for anything other than loading simple web pages (very, very slowly). We cannot do anything more intensive than that. Downloading email is a chore. Videos on YouTube, Hulu, &c, will not load. Most distressing, I get disconnected from World of Warcraft, which I am usually only able to play in the evenings due to work, and then cannot play for long due to the high packet loss. (World of Warcraft is not a high-bandwidth application. It relies on data being reliably and quickly delivered between server and client, not on cramming large amounts of data down the pipe at once. Latency, as you can see from the dataset, is relatively low, though it does spike during peak hours along with the packet loss. The unreliability of packet delivery to the game server is what causes disconnects resulting in nonplayability. We require better reliability of packet delivery, not more bandwidth or lower latency.) Speed tests (run at Speedtest.net) typically indicate much slower speeds during the late evening hours. Here is what we have tried to do about it: The problems started up last August (August 2009). We had a technician out who replaced the drop from the pole to the house. That mitigated, but did not resolve, the problems. They were manageable until the beginning of 2010, when they became much worse. In the past few months we have had technicians out on at least 5 separate occasions. They have verified that there is no problem inside our house, or with the drop from the house to the pole. (I have stopped dealing with the national support desk because they are completely unhelpful. I have been dealing directly with the local maintenance office for the past month. I will not call national support desk ever again unless it is to close the account. I can only tolerate being told to power-cycle my modem so many times.) On the last tech visit (which came with two technicians, instead of the usual one), we were told that the problem is area-wide and caused by saturation of our node's bandwidth, probably caused by all the college kids halfway across town, who are, inexplicably, on the same node. They looked at the graphs and could see the node bandwidth capping out at night. They said they would look into moving us to another node, or making a hardware upgrade somewhere, but I haven't heard anything from them since, and my calls are now going unreturned. Here is what we want, thought we were paying for, and have discovered we are not getting: Reliable delivery of packets at all hours. Watchable prime time HD programming. I expect you will need our account information to look up our service history and see what can be done. I won't give that out in an email, so you will need to phone me. My cell phone number is [omitted] (the account is not associated with that number). You can call me any time. If by chance I do not pick up, leave a message and I will call you back within an hour. I will expect your call within 24 hours. Before you call, please make sure you have actually read this email and looked at the attachments - I do not enjoy retelling the story to every single person I speak with about this issue. And I do not enjoy being asked to power-cycle my modem or router or restart my computer. The problem is coming from outside the house. Yours, Qwertz Greater Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City

I got a call back in just a few hours. Let's see what happens.

Tom G Varik