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Cable Modem Guide

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: Opinion

Cable Modem Guide

by By Ilene Hoffman, Contributing Editor


Cable modem access has finally reached mass proportions. If you don't have it, you will soon. High speed Internet access is almost required these days to access all the Flash, Shockwave, QuickTime, and other useless crap posted by many web sites. The following notes are meant to help you wade through the cable abyss, so that you are not caught unawares.

1. First, find out which company is the cable tv provider in your town - because that's about your only choice. These companies have a monopoly in any town they cover.

2. IF you happen to be one of the very lucky few who has more than one cable provider - Call their tech support line, or billing, or almost any number associated with the cable company - listen carefully to their hold music. As most of your communication with your cable provider will be waiting on hold you might as well pick a company who plays music you like.

(Recently my ears were assaulted with classical music, REALLY loud classical music from Mediaone, now Roadrunner, now AT & T. When I called RCN though, I was greeted with "Hold on I"m Coming" by the Temptations(?) and "Wait a Minute Mr Postman" by the Beatles - obviously RCN has a better sense of humor! I was expecting Stevie Wonder's Don't You Worry Bout a Thing next.)

3. If you are lucky enough to have more than one cable service provider, when you call, see what their wait time on the phone is - I guarantee you won't need a stop watch for this one. Pick the company that puts you on hold for less hours.

4. Mediaone (AT&T) advertises broad band service - what they really mean is when you buy a head set so you can stay on hold all day and still get something done; they mean buy one with a wide head strap, so you'll be more comfortable, while you wait ... and wait ... and wait...

5. If you ever really need tech support be prepared to be the victim. First, they will tell you, you're on a Macintosh, which of course they support; but then they tell you to hold the left mouse button, and ask if Windows is running. Second, they will blame your OS, doesn't matter what version you're running - its your fault!

6. Once they've established that you're on a Mac, and that the OS is ok, then they'll blame your old version of TCP/IP (which of course is the newest version) or Open Transport - doesn't matter if you've been working fine for 2 years with your set up - its still your fault or better yet, Apple's programmers. Now, the blame is slowing being spread to a whole slew of people!

7. After holding for a hour to get tech support, and rebooting your machines ten times and discovering that its all your fault, and your patience is running thin - you make them CHECK their stuff... and yes, only to find out their service is in fact down, not only in your town; but in the five contiguous towns too. They just hadn't figured that out yet. (See the support call at the end of this rant.)

9. Now, that you're completely frustrated with your cable provider and they have a land lock on your town, you might decide to explore DSL. DSL provides a whole 'nother set of small nightmares - starting with their request you buy their modem. They want you to buy their modem as soon as you order the service, but you can't use that modem until the service is activated - which in the Boston area is a good month wait. So, its hurry up and wait, but pay first.

10. The best thing is once you are connected you will have speedy Internet access ... for about 10 minutes. Due to the phone lines in your area, your speed will be about half what is advertised, so you can expect slightly faster downloads than using that 2400 baud modem you have collecting dust on your floor.

Ah... life in the fast lane...

A Recent Summary of a Support Call I Made

Dial the cable company.

Listen to the message that their options have changed and to choose my option carefully.

Type in my phone number, when requested and press 1.

Listen the message that their options have changed and to choose my option carefully.

Type in my phone number, when requested and press 1.

Listen the message that their options have changed and to choose my option carefully.

Type in my phone number, when requested and press 1.

Hang up.

Dial the cable company.

Listen the message that their options have changed and to choose my option carefully.

Type in my phone number, when requested and press 1.(repeat 3 more times)

Be put on hold.

A half hour later, after being told 15 times "We appreciate your patience, please continue holding, your call is important to us," a person answers the phone, and asks for your phone number.

Support: "What is your problem?"

Me: "My cable modem is not working."

Support: "Is this for your television set?"

Me: "No, I don't have a cable modem on my TV, it's for the Internet."

Support: "What is the problem with your cable modem?"

Me: "My modem is unstable"

Support: "Is is going to fall over? Is it on a desk?"

Me: (holding my breath) "No, my modem lights are blinking,

and unstable."

Support: "What's your modem look like?"

Me: "Well, its this black rectangular box... - look I can't connect to the Net, can I speak with someone else?"

Support: "Oh, you need Internet access support."

Me: wait on hold while Internet access support is

flown in from Paraguay.

Support: "Hello, can I have the phone number you are calling in from?"

Me: Give my phone number, address, social security number, mother's maiden name, and medical history of every dog I've ever owned.

Support: "What seems to be the problem?"

Me: "My modem lights are blinking, and unstable."

Support: "Have you tried accessing our help pages on the Internet?"

Me: (chewing on my keyboard...) "Um, no, I can't get ON the Internet."

Support: "Ok, first unplug the modem."

Me: Scrunch into a tiny little ball, squeeze under the desk and crawl 2 feet in the dark to reach my modem. Unplug modem, and hit my head while returning to the phone.

Support: "Ok, now we must wait." (Note: they have a egg-timer which they use to time the amount of time the modem is disconnected.)

Me: Wait.

Me: Wait. Two or so minutes later...

Support: "Ok, plug it back in."

Me: Repeat contortions listed above.

Support: "Ok, Now what's the modem doing?"

Me: "Blinking."

Support: "Ok, let me check your line. .... Oh, there's definitely a problem, I can't ping your modem."

Me: "Have you tried checking the area to see if the service is down?"

Support: "Oh, we'd know if there was a problem with the service

in your area."

Me: "Might I suggest you double-check?"

Support: "Be right back."...

Support: "Oh, your node in your town is down, there's no

service right now."

Me: DUH.....

Support: "Gee, thanks for calling, I don't know why we didn't know the service was down. We'll send someone out and get the problem taken care of. Usually we know when a service in a town is down."

(Note: this is the fourth time this year their service was out and

they didn't know it.)

Four hours later my modem service was back up.


Any resemblance to any services living or dead is purely coincidental. I only report em as I see em. Your mileage may vary.

Ilene Hoffman is a Contributing Editor at MacTech magazine. Sometimes she just can't take it anymore. She is also the Administrator at Forums and has worked with many community-based web sites. Comments on this article can be mailed to:


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