Monday, October 25, 2010

Cable Modem Replacement

I started my day today like any other day. Except that Karen and I are now getting up at 5:30 (or in my case on eastern time work days, breaking at 5:30) to exercise. The work day started out well. Was getting through things and then the cable connection went down. It does this from time to time. I call the status line to see if there are outages for Waikiki. None reported. A couple minutes later and service comes back for other people in the building. Shortly after that, TV service is back at home. But our Internet and business phone systems are still down.

Some backstory... our cable service is through Oceanic Time Warner. I don't really recommend them, but then again if you want cable in Hawaii, there really isn't another choice. The Internet service is mediocre, a far cry for excellent providers like Virgin broadband, and the channel selection on TV is mediocre. The prices are not terrible, but they get you with equipment rental fees. You do not have a choice to not rent equipment, it's mandatory to receive the service. They itemize it so they can advertise low monthly rates. We have had Oceanic service since we moved here and as of now, we are on our 3rd modem.

I call Oceanic back and explained that our Internet and phone connections are still out. They ask me to do typical things like restarting the computer, phones, etc. Nothing works. They remotely check the modem and decide that it's faulty. They ask me to bring it in to a service center for a replacement.

I wait for a long time to get the replacement. The supposedly broken device is a modern looking piece of consumer electronics. Something designed to be out of the way and minimal. It was manufactured in November of 2009. I hand it over to Oceanic and await my replacement. They bring out the world's oldest cable modem and hand it to me.

From something like this:

To something close to this:

I ask if they have something smaller. No. But they gladly tell me I can come back later and replace it for something else. Not wanting to spend more time here, I head home and hook it up.

The Internet connection works for a few minutes, then stops. I reboot my router so it can renew the lease or whatever. Doesn't work. In fact, all the lights on the cable modem go off. Just for fun, I try the phone. No dial tone. OK, reboot the modem. Lights come back on. I try rebooting the router again and notice all the lights go off again. Hmmm, I think I see what's going on.

I Google the model number of my cable modem via my phone and find that it's generally a hated model that's pretty stupid and can't deal with loss of power on the Ethernet port. So if you cycle the power on a router by unplugging it and plugging it back in, you'll have to reboot the cable modem too. To test this out, I disconnected the router from the cable modem, powered both down, then powered up the router, plugged it in to the cable modem, then powered it up. All the lights were active on the cable modem, but I had no working Internet connection. I ssh'ed in to the router and did a soft reboot. It renewed the lease and the cable modem didn't shut down, I am guessing because the Ethernet line had power the whole time.

OK, so the Internet connection is mostly working. I go to check the phone and still no dial tone. I power down the phone and power it back up. Similar fashion to how I treated the router. The best I've been able to get is occassional dial tones for a few seconds. You press the speakerphone button and nothing happens. Minutes later you get a dial tone for a few seconds and then it's off.

I have called Oceanic and explained the behavior of the new device. They ran some remote tests and noted that it seems pretty slow. I pointed out that the modem is from the paleolithic era and quite possibly the world's oldest cable modem. Try to think of it as a computer from that time period.

They are unable to resolve the phone issue so they ask me to bring the modem in for another equipment swap. I say I'm not too thrilled with that resolution and could I just buy a cable modem online and have them register it? No. In fact, so very much no. They seem downright offended that I even asked them to entertain the idea. You MUST rent equipment from them. You think you have better equipment? You don't know our system! It's a special division! Cable drives on the left here! Blah blah blah. All lies, but this is hardly a discussion that will get me anywhere. I just thought it might be faster with regards to getting service restored.

They offer to send a technician out to repair the modem or replace it. OK, fine. Come early tomorrow. Oh, tomorrow is full. How about later in the week? No, see, I work from home and also I'm paying for this service so how about you fix it faster? They tell me the best they can do is put me on standby for a technician to come by tomorrow between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM. Given the history of Oceanic visits, they usually come well after 4:30 PM, if at all. Having no other options, I agreed, so tomorrow will be yet another waste.

I am hoping that at least the Internet connection holds up for tomorrow. I can use my cell phone, but I must have an Internet connection.

This is a typical gripe of any utility company. It's just frustrating since we all rely on utilities because, well, they are supposed to be useful. I wish they would not end each phone call with "Thank you for choosing Oceanic Time Warner!" because it's not really a choice other than not being a customer. I didn't choose them because they were the best cable provider in town or for their award winning customer service. It's like the electric company or the water company thanking you for being a customer. Patronizing.

My options in Hawaii for Internet service are extremely limited. And given that we are moving in less than a year, I really have no desire to change things. However, I do rely on the cable connection for work, so that could be a catalyst for a short term change. Annoying.


Anonymous said...

Thats kind of hilarious, a developer who maintains the splack port of the Slackware linux project getting told he cant use his own equipment on a rented line. Fear not Dave I bet the cable company are probably scared that if you plugged in a newer modern modem you would probably outage all of Hawaii.

dcantrell said...

It is amusing, but fortunately I am done with the cable company.

Also, I am not the person who maintains the splack project. I did the official port of Slackware Linux to SPARC when I worked there, but I have not been involved with Slackware since early 2001.

I work for Red Hat now, which means I work on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora Linux.

Timothy said...

And no matter where you leave I am sure they all miss your work. I know Free Bytes was never the same without the Linux guys around.

An old thanks from an old project that almost no one remembers any more. But I do :-)

Timothy said...

It'd be great if you had a next door neighbor with a different Internet option with a different company.

Then maybe you guys (if you could trust each other) could throw a load balancer up that would give you an extra boost when everything was working and "a backup plan" when one of them decided to not work for the day.