Sunday, February 11, 2007

Quarterly Review

As I mentioned earlier, the county's MFP committee was scheduled to review the performance of the cable franchises.

I was unable to attend so I plowed through the packet - 42 pages of the same stuff as usual. I already mentioned in my all-too-verbose report (Rubberstamp This) from last week that Comcast was being fined. Some new statistics were mentioned but in the interest of brevity, I'll merely mention that Comcast failed to turn in all the 4th quarter data so no one can even tell whether or not they're in compliance. However Comcast finally did turn in data (late!) for the 3rd quarter showing it was out of compliance in all customer service areas. Most notable is the requirement to repair within 24 hours - Comcast was below the 95% level required by the franchise.

RCN turned in its 4th quarter data on time and was in compliance. It received a warning for being out of compliance in the 3rd quarter. (In contrast, Comcast has been out of compliance long enough to start being assessed fines. See my earlier report for more detail.)

Some positive news: Complaints about Comcast to the Cable Office were down 44% in the 4th quarter with, ahem, only 282 complaints. In contrast RCN's complaint level nearly doubled in the 4th quarter. Of course, the absolute figures are significant - Comcast had 282 complaints, RCN 16. The largest number of Comcast complaints were service-related. RCN billing-related.


In the 4th quarter, county inspectors reported 2298 construction violations in the Comcast cable plant. (Construction violations include such things as improper grounding, missing guy wires, missing pedestal covers, and exposed temporary underground cables in rights-of-way. Note that the entire plant is not inspected in each quarter.) At the end of the year, 1447 remained unfixed. That's an astounding 63%.

RCN: 526 construction violations. For the entire year, 2114 remain unfixed. If Comcast was astounding at 63% remaining unfixed for the year, RCN is super-astounding at 87%. Congratulations you two!

I'll Stick With Analog, Thank You

Earlier, I mocked a Comcast representative for suggesting that pixelation problems in the digital channels were not easily solvable. People are still complaining about these. And although the complaint levels have gone down, the county's outside consultant, Columbia Telecommunications Corp, says that this so-called tiling remains an ongoing problem. CTC asserts that these complaints are issues in the local wiring and have recommended that Comcast replace customer drops as each is converted from analog to digital. If problems remain, CTC recommends Comcast send technicians that are trained to diagnose and fix such problems.

Bottom line: The problems are diagnosable. Are fixable. (But here's the rub...) With trained technicians.

Oh, and if you don't complain, don't expect your problems to clear up.


Anonymous said...

Not sure this went through. if it did, I apologize for the double post.

Regarding the pixelization issue on comcast:

Let me first say that y'all should take it with a very large grain of salt, but I think it sounds like Comcast is having bandwidth issues. Perhaps it's just from the pole to the home, perhaps it's system wide. My guess is the latter. I believe that the blocking you see is artifacts from overcompressed mpeg files. Because comcast is running out of bandwidth trying to keep up in the high speed internet game, they have to lower the quality of their broadcast signal.

I'd love to hear more from someone more knowledgeable on the subject, but my speculation is based on some basic research and knowledge of networking.

I should note that I have no blocking on Verizon FiOS utilizing the SAME in-house wiring leftover from my comcast installation. So, the blocking I got was either from the cable box (though both are motorola) or the comcast network between their office and the outside of my home. I'd be willing to bet that verizon and comcast get the same feed quality.

Don Libes said...

The tiling problem appears to be more than just overcompression. The CTC report wasn't that clear but what it seemed to say was that they do not see the problem at Comcast's headend but rather only at some customer homes.

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to get a pixelation problem resolved now for about 6 weeks (no success after two trys and they blew of my last Saturday appointment). All my tvs with boxes suffer this problem, but whats really weird is if I watch a dvr'd show and it pops, I lose sound until I rewind, etc. On really bad pixelations, my internet connection also stops for a few seconds. These problems are more frequent on windy days. My next appt to try to resolve it is on Thursday, but I don't hold much hope because of the upcoming predicted icestorm. Either way it they can't resolve it this time, I'll be adding to the county complaint list.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Libes - Thank you for another good blog.
Too bad I can't convince you to move to NJ. I'm certain that our problems with Comcast are greater than yours! But I must admit that since Verizon came on the scene, Comcast telephone operators are more polite. However, their responsiveness still leaves much to be desired...

JJ said...


Didn't know how to leave this info other than posting a comment. The BTHSMDBD wire center that serves parts of Potomac and Bethesda is now lit for FIOS TV. We had our install on Tuesday. Install was painless (already had internet service). SD PQ is excellent - crystal clear (miles better than Comcast). HD is excellent (somewhat better). I got the base digital package without any premiums, 2 HD DVRs and 2 SD STB's. Cost including $5 discount for having internet service and $9.99 discount for one year commitment is $6 less per month than Comcast (and that was for Comcast's expanded basic package). So I get twice the programming, one more DVR, and better PQ for less money. Posters have complained about the guide and DVR functionality. The Comcast guide was a bit better but VZ is about to rollout a new one. DVR functionality is about the same. Mostly it's Tivo users that are complaining. Yes but with Tivo you have to buy the equipment and then pay a higher monthly subscription fee.

Thought you would be interested in some local first impressions.