Comcast appointment #whoknows

I had another Comcast tech appointment today. See last weekend TiVo called me to work on the problem with the Comcast Cable card and the “flashing” that was occurring on about 25 channels. I talked with them for a while and then they conferenced in Comcast Phone support. The first thing out of Comcast’s “mouth” was “We need to have a tech come out and look at the lines in your house”. I was pissed, I spent the weekend before that with one of their tech’s who basically did absolutely nothing besides changes the ends in the house and replace the cable card. Neither of which fixed the “flashing” problems. So the phone guy, said he couldn’t do anything until a tech came out and did a in detail inspection of the lines. Haha what a freaking joke. So I had them schedule the appointment for 10AM today, preparing to waste the whole day on waiting for them to show up.

Like normal, 10AM came and past, around 11:15AM I get a call from a Comcast 866 number. It was one of their people calling to say that they ran out of cable cards in the area, and the warehouse was closed, and if I wanted it replaced I would have to schedule it during the week when the warehouse was open. I told them that I couldn’t and replacing it wasn’t going to fix the problem. I then explained what was going on and that the only real reason the tech was supposed to come out was to meter the equipment. She then said “Well the tech is running behind and won’t be there till after 12PM, is some one going to be there then?” I said I would and she hung up.

About 12:30 or so the Comcast guy showed up. Basically said “I know there is a problem with the cable card’s and I can’t fix it.” We then talked for a while about what the problem was and he said that there has been people calling in reporting it, but not one really took it seriously until Milan Puskar called in. It seems he had 15 TiVo’s at his place and ALL of them were doing the exact same thing as everyone else who had been calling in. That is when they finally started looking in to it. Go figure it takes a millionaire to get Comcast off of their ass to start looking in to the problem. The tech said that it is happening all over Morgantown and Fairmont from what he can tell, and every one is having the problems on the same channels.

He basically said there was nothing he could do except for pass it up to the supervisor for handling.

Here is a video I made of what it is doing. It is called “Flashing” by some of the Comcast phone people. I call it “Cable not working”. The funny thing when the tech left, was he said he hated working on cable cards because they don’t work. I was like hmm then make the channels unencrypted and you wouldn’t have this problem.

Since Comcast has not publicly admitted to what the problem is any place that I can find, here is something that I got from some one at comcast:

Only encrypted programs would be affected.  More specifically, only programs associated with segments that are part of more than twelve packages would be affected.  This is because the ECMs required to carry the entitlement IDs for up to twelve packages will fit into a single MPEG packet.  If more than twelve entitlement IDs are required, however, two MPEG packets are needed to fully encapsulate the ECMs. Not all two-packet ECM programs are affected by this problem.

The customer impact is further narrowed by the fact that only devices that specifically check the payload flag of the adaptation_control for ECM packets will be affected.  At present, and based on customer reports, this seems to be only TiVo devices.

Basically, there is an issue with decryption.  This will cause tiling, missing channels and not authorized errors.

Comcast, TiVO and Frontier Communications

I have been a Comcast customer for a while now, and have not really had problems with their service until recently. It has all started with the switch to the “full digital” cable system. I had problems with their dta’s (here and here). Now I am having problems with their Billing department and cable card “services”.  Back in June I decided to get a TiVO to be an “hd tuner” for the bedroom HDTV. This is when the fiasco with their cable card started. I was told by Comcast reps online that the Cable Card was free, since it would be the first one on the account. This was awesome, till I got the bill and found out they were charging me for it. I talked to them again, and they removed the charge.

Well in November when I got the 2 dta’s, something happened and they started charging me $6.99 a month for the cable card, that was supposed to be free. So I contacted Comcast, and they said “sorry” and took the charge off. Well December rolled around and the charge was back. Since then I have been having a fight with Comcast over false advertising and the failure to properly document their prices in public view. It has gone back and forth about 11 times. Just recently they sent me the Morgantown Price sheet, which is not available any where online that I could find, so here it is Rate Card Morgantown. What they fail to tell you is that if you have ANY of their cable boxes (hd, sd, hd/dvr) you can NOT get a cable card for free, contrary to what I was told in June which lead to the decision to buy the TiVO. So now I am stuck paying $3.00 a month for a cable card. Which means my cable bill is now even more expensive than it was before. I am going to file an FCC complaint over all of this as well, to say that the order of “devices” dictates the price of the service is pure bull shit.

Then while I am bitching to them about the prices, it appears that either something changed on the TiVO side or the Comcast side and I started having problems with about 24 digital channels. When I would tune to say  BBC America, it would be normal for a couple of seconds and then freeze for a couple seconds, then be normal, ad nauseam. So I spent a couple of hours on a friday night clicking through all 250+ channels that I get. Out of them I found out which ones had the problems. I then went and mapped every channel to the QAM / RF channel it was allotted. And guess what they were all around the same general area. What is weird, was BBC America was one that I was having problems with, then all of the sudden they turned off The Weather Channel on the analog side, BBC America started working and The Weather Channel started having problems. For those interested, here is the list that I and some other people are having problems with:

I ended up calling Comcast to come out and replace the cable card, because I thought that was the problem. Well the guy showed up, and was not exactly the friendliest person I have met from Comcast. He seemed like it was a “stupid call”. So he started looking around and I showed him what was happening with the TiVO. He then said he would be back. When he came back in the house, he had some new cable and some tools. He proceeded to cut every end off of every cable in my bedroom and pull out all the cable and replace it with his “new” cable. Well that did not work. So he asked where the cable came in to the house. I took him to where every cable home run’s back to. He got so confused that I had to explain what was going on. It then seemed like he was pissed for some reason. Once again pulled out the snips and cut every end off of every cable and the put new ones on. Still didn’t fix the problem. So I asked if he had brought a cable card to replace the one in the TiVO. He hadn’t brought one. He left and went back to the local office and picked up a card and came out and replaced it. Well the channels are still messed up. So he said it had to be  the TiVO’s problem because the Comcast boxes “were working fine” and took off.

So now I was like hmm, this freaking sucks as I know the finger pointing game is going to start, but I got on TiVO’s chat and started talking to them. They had me reboot the TiVO a couple of times, but that did not fix any of the problems. He suggested that I call their phone support as they would have some better things to have me try. I did and they had me read off some signal levels and look at the “RS Uncorrected” and “RS Corrected” counters. He did not like the numbers on there and basicly said that it was a Comcast problem and the signal was dirty coming in to the house. But he also said he was going to go talk to some one else and call me back in an hour. An hour went by and he did call me back. This time he said he talked to some supervisors and they would like to replace my TiVO because they thought one of the tuners may be bad in it. He told me he would ship me a new TiVO since mine was only a few months old and that they would leave my current one active until I made the swap so that I could get all the shows off of my current one and on to the new one. I thought that is good, at least they aren’t like Comcast and just replace it and you lose everything.

Well today, I got stuck at home because of 3/4 inch of ice all of the driveway, and UPS showed up with the “new” TiVO. To my surprise it wasn’t new, it was a refurb. Not only that there were no cables in the box, so I could not power it on and the current one on at the same time to copy any thing over. This made me extremely pissed. Not only had they lied to me (the tech guy stressed more than once that he was going to make sure I got a new TiVO and not a refurb) but now I couldn’t even test it.

Well here is where the power of Social networking comes to help. One little bitch, and with in a couple of minutes some one from TiVO is asking for details. Then about 3 hours later, I got a call from the Executive relations people. He said he was sorry for the confusion and would be sending me a cable pack to get the current refurb one running. He also said that if the refurb that was sent did not work, he would send me a brand new one.

Fast forward about 40 minutes, and I was talking to Justin and found out that he is having problems on his TiVO with the exact same channels that I am. So now it is definitely a Comcast or TiVO problem and not a problem with my box, unless his which is a different model also developed the same problems at the same time.  Needless to say, I called the TiVo guy back and left a message that I think there is a bigger problem than just my box.

So you are probably thinking by now, if you have read this far, what the hell does this post have to do with Frontier Communications? Well not really anything, other than something weird happened last night and they are a “service provider” in the area, not that I am a client. I have not had a land line phone in the house since about October 2007 when I canceled the Verizon line in favor of using Packet 8 VOIP, which I have been using since June of 2004. Well I had left the phone in the kitchen hooked up to the old “Verizon” line even though it was dead. Don’t know why, just did. Well while I was putting memory in my laptop last night, the kitchen phone started ringing. It took me a minute to figure out what it was, because I hadn’t heard that phone ring in probably 4 years. I went in and picked it up and there was some one on the other side asking for some one who obviously doesn’t live here. After saying “sorry wrong number”, I hung up and then picked the phone up again. Freaking weird to hear a dial tone on it. So I called my self and my other phones rang. Now I had the phone number of this new “phantom” line. This was pretty weird. So I disconnected the phone from the line, as I didn’t want to hear it ring again if I had some one elses phone mapped to my house.

Once again a little Social networking and with in a few minutes I had a contact at Frontier Communications who was asking for information. I gave her the details and told her that the dial tone is a “weird” dial tone type. Needless to say I have not heard back from her yet, but last time I checked, the dial tone still exists, so I bet they are trying to figure out where the “wires” got crossed.  Some friends suggested I make some overseas calls, and some 900 number calls, or act like I am the people they are calling. But the weird part is the phone has not ringed at all today. So maybe they just assigned a phone to my house and the number is not assigned to any one and the other night was just a fluke?

All in all, I hope TiVO and Comcast get their system/signals worked out as it sucks to be paying such a high price for a service and not be able to use it completely.

TiVo and comcast part 2

Finally getting around to writing about the second appointment with Comcast last friday afternoon. This time the Comcast dude called me at about 10 minutes after 2pm to say he was on his way. (Yeah!) So he shows up (real comcast person and not a contractor this time). He also brought 3 cable cards with him, thanks to @comcaststeve for making sure that note was made and for Jason (the comcast tech) for also bringing extra.

The first thing we did was check the current one that was put in almost a week prior. Yup, still not activated. So we pulled it and put a “new” one in. Jason called the Comcast office and they “sent the signal” well we waited and chatted for a about 30 minutes, and it never got the signal. So another call back and this time a different person. He seemed to think he was “better” than the last person and that the last person didn’t know what they were doing. Well this guy didn’t either, as the signal he sent to the card was the “kill one” which basically inactivated the card. But we did not know this until another 30 minutes past and we called in again because no signal had been received.

So they had us put in the another card and they sent the signal again. Still no go, so they put the final card in. I am not entirely sure what they did on their side, but the card finally said it was activated (the woman on the phone kept talking to some other techs in the back about what to send to it to make it ‘work’.) Well it finally started “working” and I could finally get all the channels I pay for, (which is basically everything) so Jason left and I finally have full HD cable in the bed room. All told there were 4 cable cards used, 2 onsite techs, probably 6 phone techs and 2 online techs that worked on getting my new TiVo working.

TiVo and Comcast

My adventure started a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to have all the HD channels that I get be viewable in my bedroom on the HDTV there. So I started by asking Comcast how much it would be to get a HD Receiver for the bedroom. To my surprise they wanted over $14 a month for a RECEIVER! I was like screw that. So as time went on I keep looking at the TiVo Premiere since it does HD, and has 2 tuners in it. Well 2 weeks ago, I bought one. I then contacted Comcast about getting the cable card for it. Lets just say since then it has been pure hell.

First I went to their web site, yup no info on how much they cost, etc. So I opened a chat session with them and they told me it was free (government mandate) and that I could go pick one up at the local Comcast office. I asked if they had any in stock so I could make sure I got on, and they told me I had to call the local office to see. Ok, so the next day I went to call the local office, surprise, the local number is “disconnected” and tells you to call the 800 number..

So I call the 800 number, they then proceed to tell me that I can’t pick one up, and they are not free ($3 a month) and it also will cost me $16 to have them come put the card in the TiVo. Holy shit what a different story. So on my way home one night I stop by the local office to ask yet a third person. She tells me that I can’t pick it up, they have to come install it and now it is $25 for some one to come install it. Damn can we say they don’t have a single answer they give every one. So now I am pretty well pissed at them. I go home and get back on the chat (so I can log it all to later send back to comcast as a complaint). The sales person I talk to this time tells me yeah the card is free and I can go to the local office to pick it up. When I tell them that I tried to do that and they told me I couldn’t he all of the sudden changed his story. So I asked about the whole install fee thing and he said he could waive that and give me the card for free. I said ok, but I need it installed on the weekend because I am not wasting 8 hours waiting for some one to come to my house during the week.

The online tech scheduled my appointment for 12 ~ 4 PM today. I received automated calls from Comcast on Thursday and today around 11AM verifying that I would be here and available. Well around 3:50PM I get a call from Comcast saying “our tech is running really late (no shit sherlock) and won’t be there till 5:30PM. We will give you a $20 credit because we missed our window. Do you still want him to come?” To which I replied yeah… So 5:30 rolls around, no tech. About 5:40 he shows up and he brings the card in side. We plug it in and he calls Comcast in Pittsburgh to activate it. Well 15 ~20 minutes pass, no “hit”.. 1 hour passes no luck.. So he calls back and they tell him either the card is bad or it is just taking a while. So he leaves at 7:40PM… (Yes almost 8 hours waiting on this install).

I then run out to the market for a while and come home, and try to see if it got the signal, no such luck. After a quick shower I sit down and fire up the good old Comcast chat and sit on “hold” for 20 minutes. Finally “Roel” comes in and here is the transcript:

Me > Cable card not working in TiVo
Roel > Hello Me_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Roel. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Me_ > ok
Roel > I see here that you have a concern or problem with your cable card, I understand the trouble that this has caused you and I want you to know how sorry I am for the inconvenience.
Roel > As your service representative today, I want you to know that your satisfaction is of my topmost priority and I assure you that we can resolve this issue together on this chat, Me.
Roel > To ensure the integrity of your account information, kindly provide me your 14 to 16 digits Account Number and the Last 4 digits of your Social Security Number.
Roel > Thank you for that information.
Roel > Let me check that here on my end.
Roel > By the way, while waiting for your account to pull up, I will share you a feature of Comcast that you can truly benefit. Are you aware of the customer self-help on
Roel > has an extensive series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that cover all of our products. Customers do not have to sign in to access the FAQs. Quick steps to do it…Open a web browser window and go to On the home page, the navigation menus are on the left side of the window and click on Customers then Help and Support.
Roel > I will be resolving this issue for you today, can you give me 2-3 minutes to work on this?
Me_ > yeah, self help is of no use..
Roel > Thank you for waiting.
Roel > May I ask if your Cable Card SN is this :XXXXXXXX ?
Me_ > let me check
Me_ > yes that is correct XXXXXXXX
Roel > That is okay.
Roel > May I ask what trouble shooting have you done so far?
Me_ > the card was “installed” today . the tech called the “activation” center and they supposedly sent a couple of hits to it. That was about 4:30 hours ago, it still has not activated. I have rebooted the tivo and it still has not received the activation signal
Me_ > key verification says “success” but provisioning says none, and auth state says disabled
Me_ > the card was also removed and re-inserted by the tech when he was here.
Roel > I see, thank you for confirming.
Roel > At this time, I am going to send a notice to our higher department since normally this should be done within 45 minutes, but the thing is the maximum time to wait for this when it is fully activated during the first installation would be less than 24 hours.
Roel > So I really do hope that you still have the patience to have it completely done for the process of installing.
Roel > Need not to worry, I am going to make a follow up on this so that you won’t have to wait for that long.
Me_ > yeah, just none of the numbers are changing like the person who the tech talked to on the phone.
Roel > I see, I’m sorry to know that and need not to worry about this anymore.
Roel > I am making sure that your cable card will be activated less than 24 hours.
Roel > What I am hoping for is that you will still have the patience for that.
Me_ > yeah.. already wasted 9 hours today waiting, guess a couple more isn’t going to hurt.
Roel > I am glad I was able to assist you by sending a notice to our higher department for the follow up of your activation process..
Roel > It has been my pleasure serving you today and I truly appreciate your understanding and cooperation.
Roel > Do you have other concerns for me today?  I will be glad to assist you further.
Me_ > no that is all.
Roel > It is with gratitude to have you on this chat and I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given us today to resolve your cable card activation process concern.  Enjoy the rest of your day and take care.
Roel > Do you want to watch full TV shows and movies online? Go to Thank you for choosing Comcast as your cable TV provider and have a great day! Comcast appreciates your business and values you as a customer. Our goal is to provide you with excellent service. If you need further assistance, you can chat with one of our Customer Support Specialists 24 hour a day, 7 days a week at To close this chat, please click the end session button at the top of your chat window.
Roel > Analyst has closed chat and left the room

Based on the above, absolutely nothing of use occurred.. Half the stuff he said didn’t even make sense.. And nothing has been fixed with the cable card.. So I guess I will wait some more time and see if it does activate..

Now here are some things that piss me off about Comcast today.

1. The tech’s don’t have spare cable cards with them. Why the hell would you not let your techs carry spare cards. This is like not having a spare wheel in your car. So now if this “activation” does not work I have to waste another 8 hours waiting on a tech to bring a card that may or may not work. (My friend took 3 techs coming out to get his done.)

2. You don’t have any transparency in anything you do. None of  your people give the same answer as the others.

3. You are greatly understaffed in the Morgantown area. When the techs show up almost 2 hours late… get a clue.

4. Your tech’s used my phone to make long distance calls to Pittsburgh and Massachusetts . (over 43 minutes of them) You going to pay me for that?