It’s just data

Time Warner Cable’s idea of “service”

It started with two notifications we received via postal mail.  First Time Warner was going to start charging us rent for an outdated cable modem.  Second they were going to drop a number of cable channels, but if I acted now, I could request a digital adapter which would allow me to watch these channels on exactly one TV.

So I did some research and purchased a DOCSIS 3.0 compatible modem that can do IP V6, figuring that would future proof me for a while, and connected it up.  I actually managed to get an IP address assigned, but everything I tried after that was redirected to a site saying that I needed to be “provisioned” and to call a number.  Upon calling that number, I got connected with a person whose sole purpose seemed to be to upsell me to a higher plan.  After I politely but firmly refused, I was transferred and placed on hold for about 30 minutes.  The woman that tried to help me get connected couldn’t get it to work so she transferred me to level 3.  Another 5 minutes later, a gentleman picked up and also had trouble.  It took him about 30 minutes to get it to work — apparently they didn’t give him instructions on how to deal with DOCSIS 3.0 modems despite my picking one of the options on the list they provided to me.  But he was pleasant and apologetic throughout, and eventually did manage to get it working.

The next day I drove 15 minutes to stand in a 20 minute line to do what amounted to a 60 second transaction: here’s a box, here’s a receipt.  Thank you and goodbye.

As to the dropped channels... I dutifully filled out an online form requesting a digital adapter, and got first a confirmation and subsequently a notification that the order was “complete”... where the latter merely indicated that something would be shipping in 3-5 business days, giving me a confirmation number.  That was 18 November.

The box never showed up.

Yesterday, the channels went dark, and I went online.  After using Chrome to override my User Agent so that I could make use of their chat system, I waited over 20 minutes for a representative.  After checking, he said that there was nothing he could do for me, and gave me a number I could call.  I called that number and was told that the wait time would be more than 30 minutes.  As the chat window was still open, I asked if there was anything else I could do.  He said call back late in the evening when the wait times would be less.  I was not happy and closed the chat window.  I was then presented with a survey, in which I responded that the person was not able to solve my problem and that I was not happy.

I tweeted to TWCableHelp and got no response a DM five hours later asking me for my phone number.  Before I went to bed, I sent an email.  When I woke up I got a response indicating that the email had been forwarded to “our regional contacts”, who would be contacting me.  They have not.

I called again, and was told that there would be a 20 to 25 minute wait time.  It was closer to 30.  I was told that another digital adapter had been placed on order.  I asked for a confirmation number, and was told that she didn’t have one.  I asked for an email, and she said that one would be sent within 48 hours.  I was given a case number.  And that was all she could do for me.

At this point, I have nobody I can contact, no tracking number, and no confidence that this time will turn out any different.  And a number of black channels.

This process has turned a fairly complacent Time Warner customer into one that is actively seeking alternatives.  In looking around, I see plenty of promo offers of more service than I have (basic cable and basic internet) for considerably less than I am currently paying.  I am OK with waiting an hour or more for an answer, but I am not OK with having to be on hold for that entire time.  And I’m definitely not OK with renting a separate box per device simply to get access.

So I am beginning my research: starting with looking for alternatives to cable TV.  What I want is a single plan that allows me to watch whatever I want wherever I want.  I am OK with upgrading my devices as long as we are talking about a purchase not a lease.

Any pointers people might leave in comments would be appreciated.


Update: I did find a Twitter Direct Message sent approximately between 2 and 3 a.m. my time asking for my phone number.  I’ve updated my main post with this information.

And... thirty eight minutes after writing all this down, and tweeting a link, I get the following question via twitter:

i see this matter was escalated last night. Have you been contacted on this? ^St

Posted by Sam Ruby at

Now I have an offer for a phone call where “The agent that will call you back will have no addition information”.  Apparently if I sign up for their “Social Dynamx Portal”, I can let them know if their post was helpful.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

What surprises me is that anyone would find this surprising. Having worked for TWC in a previous life (anybody remember RoadRunner?), you could predict this, almost to the syllable, a decade or more ahead of time.

Media companies the world over suffer from what I’ve taken to calling Singapore Syndrome: they believe and act as though the purpose of business is not “to serve a customer”, turning Drucker on his head, but rather that the purpose of a customer was to shovel money into the corporation. (Called the ‘Singapore Syndrome’ after the fact that some 90%+ of the economy is controlled by the same family+cronies that control the Government; with no real competition, the customer/inmate has no recourse, and is very unsubtly reminded of that on a daily basis. There’s also the small matter of a Government that essentially always runs large budget surpluses having one of the largest debt-to-GDP ratios in Asia.)

People have believed, for years, that things are going to get better Any Day Now because, when everything is done over the Internet, competition for “everything” "should" be more intense. What those rosy-spectacled prognosticators fail to fully think through is HOW people connect to the Internet… through evil dinosaurs like TWC.

This isn’t going to change until the corporatist politico-economic model is ripped out by the roots and stomped into smithereens. And, given the media-encouraged apathy to anything approximating real action that the vast majority of people have, I’m not holding my breath.

Posted by Jeff Dickey at

Says a lot for your patience Sam. Darned if I could have waited through that sequence with any equanimity

Posted by Dave Pawson at

I asked for an email, and she said that one would be sent within 48 hours.

No such email was sent.  A tweet later and I got a call from somebody who said she would get back to me.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

Update: much progress, some of it mixed.  End result is as bad as I feared.

First, I never received an email, but a box came in the mail today.  In it was not one but four digital adapters.  According to the package, they were shipped on Thursday.  It is a shame that the person who I talked to on Friday was unaware of this.

I connected one up and called in to active it, and the automated system routed me to technical support.  After a 10 minute wait, I got a person who verified who I was and then noted that there was no record in the system of the adapters.  After telling me that I would not have to start paying for any of these until 2015, he asked for the numbers off of each and activated all four.  He encouraged me to return the ones that I would not be using.

The box then downloaded updates and rebooted.  Once it rebooted I got all of the channels I was expecting and more.  Most were a lot clearer than before.  A few are essentially unwatchable due to freezing, gliches and digital artifacts.  These appear to be less popular channels.  Not sure I’m missing anything important yet.

Then I tried to program the remote to turn on and off the TV I have.  It is an RCA and I tried all of the numbers they provided and none of them work.  I then let it try autoprogram and still nothing.  Having yet another remote which doesn’t do all of the necessary functions was what I was afraid of.  Perhaps I can solve it the other way by finding a universal remote that can control the digital adapter.

I even tried another television in another room.  It is a recently purchased but off-brand (Insignia from Best Buy).  The codes weren’t listed, but I tried Emerson first then autoprogram.  Again, the remote did not work.  So zero for two so far.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

... and now I get an email.  “should arrive within 2 business days”.  It lists the serial numbers of the four digital adapters that I received this morning.

From the message headers:

Date: Sat, 8 Dec 2012 17:35:26 -0500 (EST)

Which means that the message really was sent after I received the boxes.  Unreal.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

I switched from RR to U-Verse for internet the minute I got that same mail you did about paying a monthly fee for an old modem.  So far no complaints about UVerse. They initially said I would have to pay for the modem but then it turned out to be free due to having good credit (or so said the AT&T guy).  Speeds are faster (up and down) than RR for less $.  One thing though... AT&T home uverse has a data limit so I opted for business uverse, which has no limits but its the same price - so figure. 

Normally the service I get from TWC isn’t too bad, but when they decided to charge for the modem AND raised my prices I had had enough.  Knowing that a new customer could get the same things for almost 1/2 what I’m being asked to pay really bugged me and they refused to budge (yes I called and asked), so I decided to walk after more than 15 years.  A loyal customer (who didn’t really want to go) is now gone for no good reason IMO.

Posted by Doug at

Humorously, I got a cold-call today from a woman at Time Warner cable — apparently unaware of these issues — attempting to up-sell me on more services.  Suffice it to say that it was not a lengthy call.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

Hmmm.

My experience was (almost) completely different.

1) Purchased DOCSIS 3.0, IPv6-capable modem from the approved list.
2) Plugged it in, and dialed the 800 number. Answered a few prompts to get through the voice-mail tree.
3) Soothing, automated female voice™ told me it had detected my new cable modem and was sending the command to activate it. The process could take as much as an hour; if I didn’t have internet after an hour, call back and talk to customer service.
4) After an hour, I called back and spoke to a human, this time. Human was surprised that soothing automated female voice™ could claim to be able to activate my cable modem all by itself. I needed to supply the model number and MAC address. “Please stay on the line while I get you connected.”
5) We chatted. Well before 15 minutes were up, he reported that he could see my (Belkin) wireless router; I checked that I could ping the outside world, and we said our goodbyes.

Tomorrow, I drop off the old modem.

Posted by Jacques Distler at

Jacques: it looks like they are making progress debugging their provisioning system.

Overall, I’m satisfied with my internet access, it is the cable TV I am looking to drop.  But for now, new universal remotes have partially ameliorated the changes.

Hopefully in 2013 Apple or Google will improve their TV offerings.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

Sam, Jacques: Would you mind sharing which DOCSIS 3.0 modem you selected and why? I think I’m going to bite the bullet and buy my own as well.

Posted by Bill Higgins at

I chose the Motorola SB6121. I didn’t need one that functioned as a router; just a vanilla DOCSIS 3.0 modem, with functioning IPv6 support ('cuz ya never know...).

The 6121 had the felicitous combination of best reviews and lowest price.

P.S.: returning the modem was similarly uneventful.
1) Took a number
2) Sat down in the waiting area till my number was called.
3) Handed in the modem and was on my way, in about 10 minutes,

Posted by Jacques Distler at

P.S.: Probably unrelated, but the TWC iPad app can now see (and allows me to control) both digital cable boxes in the house.

Unfortunately, the “Rename Device” option doesn’t actually work, so the two cable boxes are identified only by their (unilluminating) MAC addresses.

Posted by Jacques Distler at

I chose the Motorola SB6121

Ditto.  Based apparently on similar reasoning.

Apparently TWC apps can’t “see” Digital Adapters.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

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