the work and personal site of Jared Alessandroni

Time Warner Cable, NYC

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Looking for Time Warner Cable on Yelp is NSFW – and for good reason. We hate Time Warner not just for what it is – terrible service by terrible people – but for why it is – the simple fact that there is no other option. It’s like having only one restaurant in town, no kitchen, no supermarket, and also the waiters spit on you when you sit down. Of course, that’s just in general. For the past few nights, my experience has been far worse.

The nightmare started as any nightmare with TimeWarner must – my service went down. This time, it was at 10:30 on a Monday night. Of course, there are a lot of items between me and my internet, so it’s worth noting each. Obviously, there’s the computers – but they’re easy to rule out since none of us had internet. Next is the router – an Apple Airport Extreme. I must admit, this is a major point of failure – not just because it’s not 100% reliable (maybe 95%), but also because the implementation of IPV6 is just confusing and often causes issues just because of setting obscurity. Finally, there’s the cable modem itself – an RCA DCM425 (which we are now paying for).

We are used to mediocrity, of course, with Time Warner, so when the internet went down, I assumed it was just momentary. Daughter and I went out for a late-night snack and I was earnestly surprised when everything wasn’t working around 11:30 after a system reset (I keep the whole mess, including the phone system, backup drives, modems and routers etc. on one power strip for this very reason). This was getting serious as I had work to do. So, I made the usual mistake of calling TWC.

One thing that Time Warner should have going for it is a very slick automated technical advisor who not only takes your information, but also has access to their connection database. So, when I called and gave the relevant information, I was able to be told that yes, Time Warner could see I was off-line. This was actually a very helpful idea. I further respect the fact that when you call TWC, you can basically get to a human in two steps – hit 0 and then, when the automated prompter tries to get your information again, you can hit 0 again and be put straight into the queue.

However, things are not that easy. After the automated system told me I was disconnected (thanks, I guess? Isn’t that like the doctor telling you you’re sick?), I was given the usual runaround (automatedly) about restarting and unplugging – all steps I’d already taken. To their credit, they did have the option after each suggestion of saying that you had already done that. Finally, they recommended I speak to their help dispatch.

The first warning sign that this might not end well was when I was told to wait while I waited for the US Help Center. Hearing that a local service is taking you to a National support site is never comforting. The very pleasant lady I spoke with who, yes, once again took my information, once again verified it, and once again started off with restarting and resetting, finally decided that my modem was kaput. This jibed, actually, with what I thought it might be – the poor thing was blinking like crazy and every so often it would click indignantly, as though expressing technological angst.

I could have, she said, set up an appointment in a few days (between the hours of noon and five) set up an appointment for a technician to come and replace the box and check my connection. This seemed ludicrous – I live in a new-construction high-rise in Manhattan – there were no raccoons eating my wires, and the idea (the idea that no internet user but apparently every internet provider shares) that it would be perfectly reasonable to wait three days for my internet to work was just frustrating. Instead, we agreed that I could go into my local Time Warner and switch out the box.

This I did the next day – and as usual, being downtown, it was pleasant. They have a great lobby and a friendly security guard who looked at me knowingly when the lady in front of me (who clearly imagines her cats in various human situations) starts ranting about her cable service. I, however, am happy to be empowered to solve my problem. The lady at the desk (station 10) isn’t quite as nice and seems to be a practitioner of that religion where when you look at someone when you’re speaking to them, you die immediately. But, she gives me the box and I’m out of there in ten minutes.

Taking the box home triumphantly (I used to live in the less bougie part of town, and THEIR TWC office is essentially a prison-intake mixed with the DMV plus the ever-present threat of a crime), thinking, nice, TWC. This was only supported when I plugged the boxed in, watched the little robot light show, and then, with nary a curse, my internet was back and, much as is the Hess Truck, bette than ever.

This was particularly gratifying since the next morning I had a Skype interview that was mission-critical, and even in the interview pre-mail, I had been told the importance of a high-speed connection. I was like, well, it’s a tech job, so… that’s a good thing. Of course, now that I had my internet back, everything would be lovely. All I had to do was spend some time updating my website that evening, and then Skype party in the morning.

So, around 10:00 that night, I’m working on my updated website which I’m starting to send to prospective clients when the internet stops again. This time, though, it doesn’t do a full-stop. For instance, if I load three pages in tabs, one might load, and the other two won’t at all. Or, I’ll hit reload on a dead page and get the title on top. Then nothing. Emails come in every so often, though I can’t reply to them. The internet is basically stopped.

I look at my new cable modem (which I had to rip out of my system since I had, in a fit of happy relief, zip-tied into my network box just hours before). It’s blinking crazy-town again. Everything is wrong! So I restart, fearing that maybe I’d done something wrong and burned this one out, too. Then I go into crazy mode. By 12:30, I’d done everything from changing out EVERY wire (coax, ethernet, power) on every device to putting an ice-pack on the router (by now it was 1:30, I was tired, and it did seem hot). This was, by the way after calling TWC twice to ask them to check on the box, send that little, “Hey, connect to me” message, etc.

Now it’s 2:30. I can’t go to sleep because I can’t wake up to no internet. I have updated my router 100 times because Apple has 100 different configurations for NAT and tunneling and other words that probably mean something to someone who doesn’t have a website to finish touching up and an interview. In the middle of the night, tired and frustrated, you start to enter into what I describe as voodoo thinking. This is where you think, well, maybe if the router was on its side. Maybe if I unplug the modem for more than 1 minute. Maybe if I start with the system unplugged and then go in a different order. But the thing is, these are robust machines that have seemingly worked for years – this thinking is insane.

Finally around 3:00, I am on a very difficult tech chat (this is on my phone, the only only glimmer of internet I have remaining). I’m asking him what I can do to to get the system back by morning. Is there a way I can get the box replaced by 9? That’s when he says, well, it won’t help, since you have an outage in your area.

Wait, what? Ah, when did it start?

Sir, you know you can check the status of outages before contacting us.

So, he directs me to the Time Warner Help site, and tells me to click on Outages.

Cool. No, sorry, I can’t find the link.

So he gives me the link to the help site.

I’m there – I can’t find the link to outages page…

“Just scroll to the bottom and see the link. Click on it.”

But I can’t find it?

Ten minutes of this idiocy. Then, with the compunction and wit of a 9-year-old, he says, as if we’d not just spent ten minutes telling me I was stupid for not seeing the link.

“Sir, our website no longer has such a link. But I can see that there is an outage in your area.”

“So, when did it start.”

“Oh, around 10:30.”

It’s 3:30AM, I have an interview the next morning that I will end up canceling, work that I will not do. I spend the rest of the day half-asleep and flu-ey. I think of the cat-lady ranting about TWC and realize – not that that will be me someday. But rather, that she’s totally right.

 

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