Fast high-speed access for NYC internet professionals

I’m home watching a sick kid and waiting for Time Warner Cable to come make a third attempt to install a cable modem. If you’re good at math, that means Time Warner Cable, the market leader in my city, has twice failed to install the correct cable modem in my home.

Because the web never sleeps, even web professionals who work in an office need reliable high-speed access when they are at home. Speakeasy provided that service via DSL in our old apartment (our previous DSL provider having been wiped out, literally, on September 11, 2001), but, as documented in old posts on this site, it took two months of comedic mishap for Speakeasy to get our home DSL working. And after Best Buy bought Speakeasy, it became harder and harder to contact the company’s technical support people to resolve service problems—of which there were more and more. By the time we moved out of our old apartment in December, 2007, frequent gapping and blackouts made our 6Mb Speakeasy DSL service more frustrating than pleasant to use.

The monopoly wins the bid

So when we moved to the new apartment, we decided to immediately install cable modem access as a baseline, and then secure reliable DSL access for redundancy. Time Warner Cable had set up a deal with our new building, and no cable competitor was available to service our location (you read that right), so the Time Warner got the gig. They came quickly and the system worked immediately. The digital HD cable fails once a week, probably due to excessive line splitting, but that’s another story, and we don’t watch much TV, so it doesn’t bug us, and it isn’t germane here.

Unwilling to repeat the failures and miscommunications that marked our Speakeasy DSL installation, I went ahead and had Time Warner Cable set up the wireless network. It costs extra every month, and Time Warner’s combination modem/wireless/Ethernet hub isn’t as good as the Apple Airport devices I own, but it makes more sense to pay for a system that’s guaranteed to work than to waste billable hours debugging a network.

Due to the thickness of our walls, the wireless network never reached our bedroom, but otherwise everything was hunky-dory. Within a few days of moving in, we had reliable, wireless, high-speed internet access. Until Time Warner told us otherwise.

The notice

Last spring we received a form letter from Time Warner stating that they’d installed the wrong modem, and that we were not getting the service we’d paid for. Apparently this was true for all customers who chose the service. Some of our money was refunded, and we were advised to schedule a service appointment or come to the 23rd Street office for a free replacement modem.

I went to the 23rd Street office, took a number, and within about fifteen minutes I was sitting in front of a representative. I showed him the form letter and requested the new modem.

He asked me for my old modem.

I said I hadn’t brought it, and pointed out that I hadn’t been instructed to bring it.

We both reread the form letter.

“It’s implied,” the rep said.

“Implied?” I said.

“Sure,” he said. “If we’re going to give you a new modem, of course we’ll want your old modem.”

I guess it was implied. But it wasn’t stated. And when you charge an installation fee, a hardware fee, and a monthly service fee, and then give people the wrong modem, you probably shouldn’t rely on inference in your customer support copy. To avoid compounding your customer’s frustration, you should probably be absolutely explicit.

I didn’t say these things to the rep, because he didn’t write or approve the copy or send the wrong modem to all those homes. I left empty-handed and continued to use the modem we had. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. Whatever the poorly written form letter had to say about it, as a customer, I didn’t have a problem with the modem.

A visit from a professional

As summer ended, Time Warner Cable sent me a new form letter. This time I was told, rather darkly, that if I failed to replace my modem, I definitely would not get the service I was paying for. Indeed, my service level would somehow be lowered, although it appeared that I would continue being billed a premium price.

So I called Time Warner, arranged a service visit, and spent the day working at home.

Around the middle of the service window, a Time Warner Cable authorized technician showed up with a regular DSL modem (not a wireless modem).

“You have wireless?” he asked in amazement.

“Yes,” I said. “Doesn’t it say that on your service ticket?”

“Hey, I’m just a consultant. I don’t work for Time Warner Cable,” he helpfully informed me.

“So are you going to get a wireless router from your truck?” I offered after a pause.

“I don’t have those,” he said.

We looked at each other for a while, and then he said, “Besides, you don’t need to replace your modem. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

“Come again?”

“There’s nothing wrong with your modem. You don’t need to replace it,” he said.

Then he called someone to inform them that he hadn’t swapped modems.

Then he asked me to sign a form.

“What am I signing?” I asked. “That you didn’t do anything?” I said it more politely than it reads.

“You’re signing that I was here,” he said. So I did.

That evening, as I was bathing my daughter, Time Warner Cable called to ask if I was satisfied with the experience.

I said frankly I was confused why I’d had to stay home all afternoon for a service visit on a modem that didn’t need to be replaced.

The nice lady said she would talk to her supervisor and run some tests.

I was on hold about five minutes, during which my daughter found various ways of getting water out of the tub and onto me.

The nice lady came back on and said, “I’m sorry, sir, but we just ran tests, and you do have the wrong modem. We’ll need to send someone out.”

So here I am, two weeks later, waiting for a technician to come try again. Will this one bring the right hardware? The suspense is awesome.

Although New York is a leading creator of websites and digital content, the town’s home and office internet connectivity lag behind that of practically every other U.S. city. Two factors account for it:

  1. An aging infrastructure. It’s hard to deliver best internet services over a billion miles of fraying, overstretched, jerry-rigged copper line.
  2. Monopoly. How hard would you try if you had no real competitors?

In future installments, I’ll discuss our adventures securing high-speed access to our studios at Happy Cog New York, and discuss the pros and cons of Verizon home DSL.

[Update: Don’t miss the denoument.]

[tags]timewarner, timewarnercable, speakeasy, Verizon, DSL, cablemodem, internet, access, highspeed, high-speed, roadrunner, turbo[/tags]

46 thoughts on “Fast high-speed access for NYC internet professionals”

  1. Fear not oh wise Zeldman. Up here in Toronto we have the EXACT same problems. Rogers has a total monopoly on cable. And not only do they provide as poor service that you’ve described in this post, they also will automatically upgrade your service and bill you for things you didn’t ask for unless you opt-out of them. Amazing that these companies get away with this sort of thing.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Stories like that make me angry because I’ve had precisely the same kind of experience with Charter Cable in SC.

    Very frustrating that we pay these companies a premium for such incompetence.

  3. I was going to ask why you wouldn’t have a DSL account for redundancy, (more to the point, I thought it in my head) and then saw you are already working on it. I have a multi-wan device I setup for my office which was suggested by a wireless provider here in Boston. One traditional copper based T1, one wireless line of site to the Prudential building T1, and a Comcast business cable account (roughly 20-25 MB/s) I set the copper t1 to be our pipe for web server and our FTP, clients will use this to pull files. The Cable is for the office to download from, super fast, so fast youtube and MP3 downloads are no longer an issue at all. And then the wireless T1 acts as failover for both. So if anything goes down, the multiwan kicks over to a backup. Since its been installed, the office has not been offline, and my talented group of peeps couldn’t be happier.

  4. Wow, I feel your pains. We have Qwest DSL, or Comcast Cable here, and they are exactly the same in experience. They give little to no instruction on what problems they are having or why. Their “technicians” are nothing more than cable pulling jocks, who really have no idea what it is they are installing or how it is supposed to work.

    It makes me sick to my stomache when I think about the way the communications companies are run in this state (I’m from UT) and now yours. New York of all places should have better than Cable and DSL, you should be rocking Fiber everywhere.

    I can understand why you don’t though, because the city is old, and because NY wouldn’t stand having an entire street ripped up in the name of having fiber installed.

    I wish you luck in getting good internet access.

  5. Jeffrey, I really feel for you, man. Over years of reading your blog, you clearly have experienced some of the worst that customer experience has to offer.

    I live the in the wide open spaces of the midwest. We may not have many of the opportunities for a web professional that you have in NYC, but we do have fat, reliable 12Mb cable connections for $29/mo. ;)

  6. Thankfully, I don’t have run-ins that often with Time Warner…though, when we first moved our cable box did shut off once an hour and required a reboot. I have very little expectations for any cable service provider.

  7. If your budget can justify it, try TowerStream wireless internet. It’s the real deal for internet professionals.

  8. ahh same issue here in the DC metro. Comcast has monopolized nearly the entire market. That was until RCN came into the picture. IMO they had better customer service and pricing, factually they had a faster internet service speed. But wait, in October 2007 we moved as well and guess who doesn’t serve our new home, RCN. Now I’m on Comcast, my cable box fails 3 times a month, customer service is terrible, and I’ve cut my Internet connection speed by 40%. Oh yes, and I’m paying about $20 more!

    Good luck.

  9. This isn’t shocking to me. When I moved to Brooklyn a little over two years ago, dealing with Time Warner was a huge fiasco. We got every story possible while trying to get cable TV and internet hooked up. Over the course of two months, we heard everything from “yeah, it’ll get hooked up for sure this time” to “your building isn’t wired for cable” to finally “it looks like mice chewed through the cables in the building.” Looking for cheese, no doubt.

    In the end we had no idea whether the building really was wired or not. After two months, we eventually ended up getting Dish Network (yeah, our building really had 20 satellite dishes on the roof for all of the apartments) and Verizon DSL. Dish is nice for TV, and I think it was quite a bit cheaper than Time Warner would have been, but the Verizon DSL was absolutely awful. We had constant service problems and it was just slow— maybe twice the speed of dialup. Yeah, it was that bad. Oh, and did I mention that we were directly across the street from a big, ugly Verizon building?

  10. Clearly, the problem is not limited to New York.

    I was going to ask why you wouldn’t have a DSL account for redundancy, (more to the point, I thought it in my head) and then saw you are already working on it.

    Not just working on it, I have it. Like the cable modem, it works fairly reliably. Between the two high-speed consumer systems, our home is perpetually wired.

    The problem with Time Warner isn’t internet access, it’s service. We’ve had virtually uninterrupted high-speed internet access since the modem was installed (although it never remotely approaches the advertised speed; perhaps that’s why they want to replace the hardware). The issue is poor communication and inept service.

    I was skeptical about Verizon DSL, but (aside from a location-related 3Mb speed cap) it has worked fine—or did once a Verizon tech had talked me through the incomprehensible self-install UI, which includes such joys as black “link” text on a black background, with a white notice telling you to “wait” for the link text. (Since you can’t see the black text against the black background, you wait forever. Ultimately you call tech support. Every person who installs the product has the same experience. I call that usability testing on a grand scale. You’d think that they’d fix it, given that the design fails for every customer who tries it. But Verizon DSL is also a near-monopoly, and the outsourced tech support labor is apparently cheaper than redesigning to make the link color visible.)

    There are other issues with Verizon DSL—when you have a problem, they reset the system, wiping your MAC address and passwords, but they don’t tell you that. They tell you the system is working. Since the system doesn’t work (because they’ve wiped the MAC address and passwords), you again end up on the phone with tech support. Again, failures of imagination, failure of design, failure to learn from repeated customer support problems, failure to update messaging so customers would know what was actually going on (and wouldn’t necessarily need to phone tech support). But once you get past all that, the actual delivery of internet access has been pretty good so far. Your mileage may vary.

  11. Not totally surprising you’re having problems with Time Warner, as indeed they are lacking in almost every aspect of customer service, but I must say I’m a little surprised that you are leaving them in charge of so much of your setup.

    Clearly, they’ve dropped the ball, multiple times. I know you stated how you’d rather pay the little extra for their craptastic rented equipment and sub-par customer support, but doesn’t there become a time when it’s worth it just to set it up yourself?

    When I got my Time Warner setup (I also live in Manhattan), I only had them hook up the cable modem so it worked through wires. As soon as they left, I added my wireless router to the mix, added WPA security (a total of 5 minutes), and haven’t had a problem since. The people they get at Time Warner to take care of such IT tasks are wholly incompetent and leave you with the mess that you’re facing. Sounds like way more of a headache than trying to hook up a router would be.

    I wish you luck with getting this matter settled. I’m surprised your building is enforcing a ‘Time Warner only’ rule, as NYC does have alternate cable internet options (those annoying Optimum Online commercials come to mind). Hopefully once FIOS gets here (plzplzplz) you’ll have some better options.

  12. As a long-time victimcustomer of TWC, I can almost guarantee the “upgraded” modem’s new “features” allows them to more easily monitor/meter your service – the new service feature in our parts is that we went from unlimited downloads to something like 6gb a month, overages are plenty expensive. If your modem works fine and they keep saying it’s the wrong one… caveat surfer.

  13. You are not alone. Comcast has the same ineptness and monopoly in many other areas, like my own in Kansas City. However, I’m surprised that you’re willing to spend the extra cash rather than buy a few Airport Expresses and just put one in every room. I’d think that that would be money well spent to increase the connectivity in your abode.

  14. Allen said:

    I can almost guarantee the “upgraded” modem’s new “features” allows them to more easily monitor/meter your service – the new service feature in our parts is that we went from unlimited downloads to something like 6gb a month, overages are plenty expensive.

    That could be why they’re incompetently inconveniencing me over and over—because they’re trying to install a system that can charge me more for the same service in the way you suggest. Yike.

    I mostly work in my studio (outside the home) and I use the internet for work (not for downloading DivX versions of movies) so I don’t think they’ll be able to squeeze me much, if that is indeed the purpose of all this Three Stoogesness.

    I also don’t think the monopolies delivering most of America’s internet service will be able to make bandwidth-based surcharges stick, at least not under a new president, although I never underestimate the ability of corporate lobbyists to sell rotten ideas to the U.S. congress.

  15. So true about NYC’s ‘net access being behind so much of the rest of the country. My former employer in Soho had a hell of a time getting ‘net access to the office, ended up with multiple (expensive) T1s from Verizon which frequently failed upstream, requiring many ineffectual visits from Verizon technicians…

  16. Scott, our office has multiple Speakeasy lines rated at 6Mb that somehow end up delivering speeds of 32KB/sec (and lower) for arid stretches, pretty much every day of the week. The company that wired the office says Speakeasy is at fault; Speakeasy blames the third party. Testing takes forever and is inconclusive. If Speakeasy is at fault, it’s not clear who in New York would deliver DSL more reliably.

    Once or twice I’ve had to leave the office and work from home, using the consumer DSL Verizon delivers to my apartment, which is faster and more reliable than what’s in the office (even though it’s half the speed Speakeasy originally delivered to my old apartment). So what service should an internet professional choose? It often feels like “none of them.”

  17. Why do you put up with that? You live in New York! You’re a New Yorker! This isn’t some hippy enclave, hit somebody! Yell at the counter until someone comes out to calm you down, that’s the only way to get any thing you want here, it’s a form of communication. Letting it go and not saying anything is tantamount to “Yes, I’m happy with everything you’ve served me.” Bark a little, you might get what you need.

  18. Hrumph…I am not a fan of TWC. They truly get under my skin and your question rings very true…Monopoly? How hard would you work to resolve, etc….? Excellent point. And the answers are obvious…not very…

  19. …it took two months of comedic mishap…

    Jeffrey, I think it’s time you rewrote this site’s tagline. Wouldn’t “web design news, info & comedic mishap since 1995″ be more accurate?

  20. The service technician from Time Warner Cable just left.

    He did not replace my modem.

    My modem does not need to be replaced.

    He apologized.

    He said “This happens all the time. I have to do this every day.”

    What happens all the time is that Time Warner sends out a form letter to its “turbo” customers telling them they need to upgrade their hardware. But there is no “turbo” hardware to upgrade to. “Turbo” is a speed, not a modem.

    So all customers who pay extra for “turbo” service get notified that they need to swap their modem, and either wait in for technicians who don’t swap (because there’s no need and nothing to swap to) or go to the local office (where they don’t get a new modem because there isn’t one).

    I asked the technician what I should tell the customer service representative who will phone me in an hour to ask whether I was satisfied with the service. After all, if I tell the truth, they’ll schedule another appointment for another “modem swap.”

    The Time Warner Cable technician told me to lie. He told me to say the service was good.

  21. FWIW, CableVision (AKA Optimum) is very good in the area where I live. They have absolutely the BEST help desk I have ever dealt with.

    However, they’re the only cable company in town and often act like it. :(

    On monopolies … those are political, and as long as we keep electing liberal governments that want to take care of our every need, we’ll get loads more of the same. Just wait until you try to live under Obama’s health care plan. It will make the cable service shine. Want more monopolies? Vote Democratic.

  22. “Wherever you’re coming from…wherever you want to go…Time Warner will take you there.” Sound familiar? What TWC needs is better copywriting to make you feel warm and fuzzy about their ghastly customer service.

  23. What TWC needs is better copywriting to make you feel warm and fuzzy about their ghastly customer service.

    Ah, memories. (During the Mesozoic Era, Steve and I collaborated on an ad campaign for Time Warner Cable.)

    The technician who came to my apartment today was awesome. He knew what was wrong and he told me the truth. He also gave me the correct answer to feed the customer service follow-up rep so the company will stop telling me to stay home and wait for an “upgraded” modem that doesn’t exist.

  24. @Bob Easton, that makes no sense. Republicans drove deregulation. Don’t confuse facts with whatever ironic statement magically appears between your ears after smoking way too much bad street meth, or however you acquire such unaccountably bizarre thoughts. Not to be rude, sir, but that is a tragically prime example of cognitive dissonance if ever there was one.

    Vote liberal, so we can legally eat babies FTW.

    BTW, if anyone can explain to me how to get 3mbps AT&T/Yahoo/SBC Global (somehow they’re [not?] the same here in Dayton?) service to deliver better-than-dialup speeds, the blow job’s on me, and it will be TERRIFIC.

  25. I’ve had RoadRunner Turbo from TWC for nearly 18 months now, and it has been extremely fast and as reliable as gravity (only one 2-hr outage since, and it wasn’t their fault). But I wholeheartedly agree that their customer service is the definition of incompetence.

    I had the deluxe TV package for a while with all the movie channels and the DVR. After 3 months of me figuring out how to use everything, they changed the entire menu system. Certain buttons on the remote control performed different functions, all of a sudden. Of course that enraged me because I just learned everything. So I told them to shove it, and that I wanted to switch to a basic cable plan. They told me I was responsible for returning the DVR and remote to one of their locations, or I would be billed for the hardware. It was like a kick to the nuts. They ruined my TV, I paid them money for it, and now I was expected to go out of my way to return junk that I didn’t even install. So I called them up again and said I was having problems with the modem and requested that a technician come out. When he arrived at my door (an hour late), I handed him the DVR and remote control and said have a nice day. And now we understand each other.

    Good luck!

  26. Josh Stodola, rock and roll. We have their recordable HD cable package. Once a week the TV freezes and needs to be rebooted, a process that takes 15 minutes. This usually happens when I’m trying to quiet a crying toddler by turning on her favorite show. It doesn’t always freeze. Sometimes the screen is simply littered with random MPG artifacts and the audio turns into digital gibberish. Once, the screen went pink. There was audio for every channel, but no video — just pink.

    I’ve brought the box in for replacement once. The new box is no better. A friend who worked in cable while in college says they split the line one too many times, with the result that the service will always be terrible.

    The “fix” is to request service using certain code words that will cause the operator who answers the call to initiate a service operation that would actually solve the problem. (If you don’t use those code words, they’ll send a guy to your apartment who won’t fix the problem.)

    Unfortunately the solution to the problem is to staple fresh cable to the walls, ruining the aesthetics of the home. It was done in my old apartment, and it made the place resemble a Jamaican recording studio from the 1960s. I’d rather reboot the box once a week than turn a cable guy loose on these walls. So.

    By the way, before I discovered that I could reboot the box myself, I made eleven service calls to Time Warner Cable during the first three weeks we had the service. Suggestions from TWC technical support operators included “Don’t change channels too fast, because it’s like opening too many windows on your computer, you know what I’m saying?”

  27. That’s another thing about TWC that is ridiculous. They don’t give a crap about how you want your place to look. The genius who did the initial installation of my modem used two 3-way splitters in a row and left about 20 feet of unnecessary cable attached in between them. Very glamorous. As if I was setting up a ridiculous surveillance system in my 2-bedroom apartment. I asked him what the hell he was doing. “We gotta do this to tone down the signal, dude” he says. I didn’t like the sound of that. Or the look. It was almost expected though, given the greasiness of his hair. Everything worked, though.

    Have faith; there is such a thing as a good cable technician. I don’t recall his name, but he came (on time) and cleaned it all up for me about a month later. And he insisted the part about toning down the signal was rubbish. I could’ve drank a beer with this man. He’s hard to find, but I know he’s out there somewhere.

  28. In the last 2 years I have lived in Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill and in each house it took 3+ months to get internet. In the first house the problem was the line from the house to the street (our phone service was crappy too). Eventually we ended up with DSL that was barely faster than dialup.

    In the second house we spent 2 months getting the runaround from both Time Warner and Verizon… apparently our street was some black hole of connectivity (initially we were told our apartment did not exist!). We finally ended up with WB cable…

    Anyway we went through hours and hours on the phone in a frustrating runarounds. In both situations it was by connecting to a person who wanted to cut through the red tape and go around a few bureaucratic obstacles

  29. I opted for Earthlink Cable Internet via Time Warner. TW did the install and the installer stole a 4th gen ipod I was setting up for my wife. I didn’t notice it was gone for a few days….no wonder he was in a hurry to leave. Only needed one modem install though

  30. And I thought I had it bad out here in Brooklyn. We deal with the Cablevision cartel out here, and a week before moving into our apartment, I chatted with a friendly lady who helped me schedule the installation for the beginning of September. After a couple of failed installations, we were informed that there was no cable line running to the apartment building.

    Three weeks passed with various promises to install and call, and each time more failures and no calls at all. Turns out customer service representatives can’t call outside the area, despite my not having anything but a cell phone.

    Verizon doesn’t serve my part of the neighborhood, or else I would have done what so many others seem to do: put a satellite dish on the roof and get DSL.

    Each time a technician would come out, they would bring the wrong things. I have a TiVo (to not have to deal with the atrocious cable box software); the technician would have a cable box (or, inexplicably, the wrong kind of CableCARD). They ran the line; the outside box still wasn’t hooked up.

    Finally, the situation was resolved, until I found out the pre-pay I had done at the original chat in August wasn’t actually done. And after checking my bills, it was true. It turns out the prepay only lowers the first month’s bill. And when the customer service representative wanted to know if I need any other help, I explained the last month and a half.

    To that, she responded, “There’s nothing I can do but forward on your complaint. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

    In other words, I’m glad I’m not alone.

  31. wow. that’s even worse then it is in Romania.

    that had been the story around here 2 years ago. and still is with some providers (eg former national Telephone company)

    but cable (in major cities only) takes usually 1-2 days to install. and you can have Optic Fibre in most places

  32. I live in Atlanta… My last apartment had fiber optic DSL service (BellSouth’s err… now our magnificent overlords “The New AT&T” proving ground for their latest infrastructure). Their technician came out to install DSL and connected to some kind of router at the street in their equipment that runs the connection as Ethernet over a second phone line to your place (no DSL splitters or DSL modem necessary, just plug your router in and you’re online).

    He then came inside to install an Ethernet jack to replace the phone jack in the wall. He tried to convince us that he could only install the Ethernet at the phone jack in our hall closet. Of course, there was no phone jack in the closet.

    About 20 minutes of looking around in the empty closet later, he came to a realization (“there is no spoon”) and he decided to install an Ethernet jack in our home office (where we originally asked him to)! I guess he didn’t want to have get under our desk to work on it (completely uncluttered actually, I neatly arrange and tie off all cables with those plastic zip ties to take my setup to a new level of OCD goodness).

    Jeffrey, your posting about the NYC technicians makes mine seem like a Nobel Laureate. We’ve since moved into our first house and I opted for a self-installation kit. It wasn’t the fancy fiber optic infrastructure but we were up and running in 5 minutes and have no downtime so far two years later (knock on wood).

  33. Jeremy said:

    @Bob Easton, that makes no sense. Republicans drove deregulation. Don’t confuse facts with whatever ironic statement magically appears between your ears after smoking way too much bad street meth, or however you acquire such unaccountably bizarre thoughts. Not to be rude, sir, but that is a tragically prime example of cognitive dissonance if ever there was one.

    If Republicans really had deregulated the cable industry, there would be more competition. The current franchise system would have been opened up to allow more than one provider for a geographical area. If Jeremy had done some research, he would have found the current Cable franchise rules documented in a1996 “Cable Act” passed by a Democrat congress while a Democrat FCC commissioner was in charge. Those franchise rules still stand, allowing the political assignment of monopolies.

    The one thing Jeremy has right is how to behave as many liberals do. When hearing something he doesn’t agree with, the typical liberal’s response is to attack the speaker.

  34. it is important that you get the full name of everyone you have to deal with, and announce them publicly when you write these posts. Reason doesn’t work with monopolies, but public shaming might.

  35. Time Warner Cable has confiscated so many hours of my young life already that I fear what the final tally will eventually be. Their solution to every problem is run some tests, let me get my supervisor, supervisor runs some tests, we’ll have to send out a technician.

    I had one phone answerer actually tell me that he unplugs and reboots his cable box every Sunday night before he goes to bed so that it will have the entire night to reset itself and claimed the boxes are like desktop computers. If my MacBook or G5 need to reboot overnight once a week, I’d throw it out the window and go get a new computer.

    I have absolutely nothing good to say about TWC, not about their hardware, their service, not even their support staff.

    On top of that their never ending rate hikes, and diminishing quality of service is intolerable. I just wish we had alternative options in NYC. I can’t believe we have to put up with this.

  36. Here in Houston we used to have Time Warner Cable, which I was generally apathetic to. Then TWC was replaced by Comcast as they pulled out of our market area. The year that followed was punctuated by a series of rather sneaky price hikes and a steady decline of service quality, eventually ending up with me referring to the company as ‘Rapecast’ and furiously researching my limited alternatives. Enter AT&T U-Verse. I now get more channels with an extra receiver and a built-in wireless modem (even the cable boxes have cat-5 sockets) for nearly $50 less than the service I got from Rapecast, AND I just got a $200 check in the mail for signing up for the service on their website. The gentleman who installed the service was very knowledgeable and polite and the customer service to date has been stellar. To further underscore my pleasure with the service, when Hurricane IKE hit and vast chunks of the city lost not only power but cable service to boot, our U-Verse was rocking it while all around us Comcast customers were internet and TV-less, and in fact told that it might be CHRISTMAS before they got their service back. Needless to say, I have a lot of neighbors who switched to U-Verse….

  37. Jeffrey,

    If you think that’s bad, try the same experience in Bushwick. Two visits for the cable modem, three for the cable box, and it STILL doesn’t work. Had a tech out for a sixth visit to replace our cable box, and the guy stood there for five minutes, flipped around the channels, and told us that everything was fine, even though a) about half the time, when the box switches between the HD and regular def feed, it just turns off and b) the DVR will frequently miss programs we have set to record, or sometimes record programs arbitrarily.

    When I asked the tech why this was happening, and why switching out the box wouldn’t help, he told me that there’s a software bug in the boxes they use “in Brooklyn” (suggesting that rich Manhattanites get the goods while we get stuck with the junk) and that he himself has the same problems with his box.

    Insult to injury, we too were charged for services we didn’t order, and during peak usage the cable modem slows to a crawl and once in a while our HD feed drops out. It’s totally unacceptable service, but, predictably, Time Warner rolls deep in my area, and it doesn’t look like my building will be getting FIOS any time soon. But I agree with one of the previous commenters — if you can get FIOS, you probably should switch. Good luck man, this city can be hell for work-from-home tech folks.

  38. Hahaha. So last year I move to Brooklyn (I’m a transplant from Iowa) and I call up Time Warner so I can get internet hooked up. The first guy comes out and tells me that he needs to run a new line from the box on our apartment building (there was a line hanging off my building that looked like a coax cable but he said he tested it and it didn’t work). The problem is that the box is my neighbor’s backyard (same building, we share a backyard and it’s divided down the center by a fence) and so he has to come back out again when the neighbor is home to get permission.

    Two weeks later a different guy comes out, gets into my neighbor’s backyard to access the box and after 10 minutes says he can’t split the line because it’s not the right box. Instead he has to run a new line from a box that is on a pole in someone else’s yard (in a different back yard). He says he can’t go over there without their permission either so he leaves and tells me to call customer service and they’ll get it fixed.

    THREE WEEKS LATER (five weeks total of no internet) a third guy comes out, goes into my backyard after hearing my first two horror stories, sees that same dangling cable the first guy said didn’t work hanging off my building and says “that’s the line.” He drills some holes, installs some metal brackets, drills another hole into my wall and snakes the cable through from the outside and 20 minutes later I have internet.

    At least this incompetence isn’t just relegated to the Brooklyn area — I guess I can take some solace in that.

  39. FWIW I had the same deal with the freezing, the pixelation and rebooting. I bought a ~$30 powered cable signal amplifier from Radio Shack or Fry’s or somewhere like that, hooked it up inline at the point where the cable enters the house, and the problems went away almost completely. So that might be worth a try. In an apartment you could probably just put it between the cable outlet and the box.

    TWC box instability was the cause of a good story though. I had allowed my son (3 or 4 at the time) to queue up something from one of the child-based “OnDemand” channels, only to hear an annoyed shout of “Dad! The TV crashed!”. I knew exactly what he meant though.

  40. Just for anyone who happens to come across this later, doing a Google search like I did…

    First things first, when moving, find out who services your building. Don’t automatically call TWC or Cablevision or Verizon, because they’ll come and they’ll be stupid and waste a month and a half of your life before discovering that “there’s no cable running to your building”), which is usually a lie – there’s cable, but it’s not theirs.

    1-800-OK-CABLE (TWC and Cablevision). Verizon Residential Internet.

    They all take forever to come, so try and schedule them as far in advance of your actual move-in date as possible, so you can get them in your new apartment as quickly as possible. Calling a month in advance, or the day after you sign your new lease, is generally a good idea.

    Cablevision’s Queens and Brooklyn infrastructure is superior to Time Warner’s. It’s part of their Long Island network, which is actually some of the best fiber in the country. Manhattan suffers with copper, in comparison. Both have relatively mediocre techs, overall, and you need to watch them like a hawk before they completely disfigure your apartment! Don’t accept any BS excuses; make them do it right.

    Note that they all expect you to return your cable box by yourself when you move out. They will not schedule a pick up unless you get creative, like Josh Stodola above.

  41. Time Warner Cable has confiscated so many hours of my young life already that I fear what the final tally will eventually be. Their solution to every problem is run some tests, let me get my supervisor, supervisor runs some tests, we’ll have to send out a technician.

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