[conspire] One service visit, three existing services demolished

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sat Oct 31 21:48:29 PDT 2015

Quick:  What is the most hated company in America?  The answer depends
on whom you ask, and when you ask it.  A few years ago, Goldman Sachs
topped pretty much everyone's list, for example.

Perennially down in the bottom 10, with special demerits for abysmal
customer satisfaction, is Comcast Corporation.

In some of the passages that follow, I'm going to self-censor to avoid
saying unflattering things that I don't want to risk having to defend in
court about specific identified companies and individuals.  However,
you're free to use your imagination.

My mother-in-law Cheryl, who lives with me and Deirdre, has long been
frustrated by occasional slowness and perceived outages with the
household aDSL.  Cheryl is fairly technical.  However, like most
Americans, she is strongly drawn to a model of problem-solving I call
'Complain to the nearest person.'  Even though I've ensured that she is
briefed on how to distinguish packet-routing problems from DNS and browser
problems, and possesses a network diagram and list of relevant IP
addresses, when she perceives a problem accessing Internet services, she
provides zero help and instead complains -- invariably to me, and even
after I point out she's impairing diagnosis rather than helping, that I
am not a trouble-ticketing system, and that she is not my customer to
begin with.  

Our friend Duncan MacKinnon was visiting recently, and Cheryl complained
to him.  Duncan desired to help, and so researched options for Cheryl to
purchase as her own Internet service independent from the household aDSL,
and his recommendation was Comcast Business Internet,
http://business.comcast.com/ .  Cheryl announced that she would be
signing up for this service out of her own pocket, offered to let others
in the household use it, and wanted to ensure that I as homeowner was OK
with this.

I thanked her for asking, reviewed very briefly the extremely bad
experiences the household had with Comcast that lead to our cancelling
cable television service in 2011[1], and gave her my honest assessment
refuse to have anything whatsoever to do with that firm.

I added that I had no objection to her having a business relationship
a cold day in Dubai before I would.  So, she could arrange for them to
do anything she wanted _entirely on her own_, and I had no objection as
long as they didn't break anything.


Friday, I wake up to hear what seemed likely to be the installer Cheryl
had scheduled.  I open my laptop clamshell.  No bandwidth at all --
not just slow packet transmission.  I am reaching to my server and the
outside LAN, but there is nothing moving across the aDSL bridge at all.
And the pessimist in me thinks:  What's the worst the installer would
do, if he's a real screw-up?  Ah, right, he could somehow take down the
whole AT&T landline, which carries both voice traffic and our aDSL packets 
to AT&T's local central office.

I walk to the nearest landline telephone:  no dial tone.  I check
the other landline telephone:  no dial tone.  I walk into the living
room, and say 'Looks like the AT&T landline's totally dead'.  The installer
standing nearby, one Timothy Almacer, installer for Comcast contractor 
O.C. Communications, http://www.occom.com/, immediately goes into full-on
'I didn't do it' mode.

I stress to Almacer that I'm not his customer but I _am_ the sole
owner of this real estate, and that his firm is in trouble with me.

I interrupt his I-didn't-do-it performance piece to get more details:
It turns out that Almacer had decided to run entirely new coax from the
telephone pole to the house.  It also turns out that Deirdre and Cheryl
had no knowledge of this, or any other detail of what Almacer had done,
because they had not supervised his work in any way.  Both of them were 
just passively sitting in their chairs.

Almacer asserts that his firm has no culpability and that it was just a
total coincidence that the AT&T line had worked continuously since at
least the day we moved in, nine years ago, but broke the day he was
pulling cable next to the AT&T line.  Almacer wants me to walk out with
him to the sidewalk, so he could show me that the attachment points of
his vs. the AT&T cable near the telephone pole were more than 10' apart.
(I make no comment, because that fact is utterly irrelevant, and say
merely that I am busy doing root-cause analysis.)

Almacer says he's just spoken to his supervisor, whom he identifies as 'Josh
F.', and gives me this person's telephone number, 916-539-6630.  (He
refuses to give Josh F.'s full name.)  When I reach a pause in 
triaging the problem, I call this person.  Josh F. again refuses to give
his full name, but reiterates Almacer's line that his firm has no
responsibility for the downed landline.  He reiterates that it is a
coincidence, and says 'This happens all the time.'  I say I do not
accept this, and am calling seeking an alternative to suing his firm.
He has nothing useful to add, so I end the call.

I go into the garage with a ladder and a landline telephone, find
and open the AT&T demarcation point box, and identify where two
landlines are connected on the customer side.  I temporarily unplug
both connections' customer-side RJ-11 jacks (so that nothing is
connected on the customer side), and plug the telephone 
into one of the modular jacks.  No dial tone.  This proves that the 
problem is on the AT&T side of the demarc point.

It is now about 11am.  Deirdre uses cellular data service to open a
trouble ticket with AT&T, who promise a repair visit before 8pm.

A second O.C. Communications truck pulls up, and the driver introduces himself
as Josh F.  He repeats his offer to show me how far the two cable
attachment points are from each other near the telephone pole.  I again
make no comment:  The two cables converge as they cross through the
trees and are very close at the garage entry point.  Obviously,
something Almacer did was extremely likely to have taken out the AT&T
landline, probably far away from the telephone pole.  I say to Mr. F.
that, if he wants to do something useful, he could verify with his
lineman buttset telephone (which has alligator clips) my test result at
the AT&T demarc point.  He does so, and pronounces there to be no dial

Mr. F. asks me if I wanted to cancel the Comcast service activation.  I 
repeat that I was not the customer, just the real estate owner, and 
don't give a tinker's damn about the Comcast service activation, 
only about the breakage.  I refer him to Cheryl as his customer.  
He repeats the question to her.  She says no.

First Mr. F. leaves, then Almacer, with me saying I in no way accept the
absurd claim that the AT&T breakage was totally coincidental, but that
it would be imprudent of them to touch any AT&T property, so I see
nothing useful for them to do except get off my land.

Just after Almacer goes out my front door, I notice that he'd left the
cable 'modem' unit for Cheryl's connection in the middle of my living room
underneath one of my chairs, with the AC power connection daisy-chained
off a power strip and the power cable stretched across the living room 
floor, across a walking path.

I open the door and hail the departing Almacer, asking him to
please put the unit somewhere competent like in the corner, not under a
chair as a fire and trip hazard power cord across my living room
floor.  He yells back some excuse about the power strip being the only
convenient access point to power, and suggests I fix it.  Rather than
saying 'Don't you have _any_ pride of workmanship?', as the answer is
obvious, I just turn back inside and moved the unit to the obvious
place in the corner, with its own power feed.

Around 3pm, an AT&T truck arrives.  This guy is good.  He already has
remote diagnostic data from the central office, indicating a short
circuit on the telco side.  I show him to the demarc point, and he
quickly verifies no dial tone.  He traces the cable, finds it to be
damaged, and says he'll run all-new cable, which he does.  1/2 hour later,
we have landline voice telephone and Raw Bandwidth Communications data
back, solid.

I spend the next several hours trimming trees all around the several
overhead cables so that no foliage is near them.  That was a long day.

Roll forward to today.  I turn on the TiVo.  I noticed yesterday evening
that the TiVo was indicating "Searching for signal on: Antenna In.  See
'Messages & Settings' / 'Troubleshooting' for info", but thought nothing
of it.  I check both of the TiVo's tuners:  Both are indicating no
antenna signal.

Back in August 2011, when we terminated with extreme prejudice the
household Comcast account in order to go with over-the-air and Internet
television instead, we paid the best antenna guy in Silicon Valley, AV
Solution Pros of Mountain View, to implement the best solution.  The
proprietor studied the problem, then installed two outside antennas, one
pointing at (IIRC) Mission Peak, Fremont, and the other at Sutro Tower
in San Francisco.  Signals from both antennas go from the roof to coax 
cable, then under the house to the office where the television and TiVo 
boxes are.

I guess the breaking of that service at the time Comcast's subcontractor
O.C. Communications visited was just coincidence.  Certainly, Timothy
Almacer would not have, say, incompetently disconnected the antenna's
coax cable to steal it for his cable-Internet run, right?  (_And_ severing 
the AT&T landline?)  I mean, it would be cynical to even think that.

So, I guess _three_ services spontaneously broke during the Comcast / O.C.
Communications installation visit.  Totally coincidental.

I'll bet it 'happens all the time.'

We are likely at this point to avoid having any other Comcast or O.C.
Communications personnel cross my property line.  I am likely to pay
good money to have AV Solution Pros come back and repair the damage,
and Deirdre has e-mailed him with that request.

I wouldn't want O.C. Communications to visit, and, say, my house burn
down.  I'm sure it'd be totally coincidental if that did, though, and
it's possible that that happens all the time.


[1] http://deirdre.net/getting-rid-of-cable/

More information about the conspire mailing list