As one who depends on a stable Internet connection for his occupation, I have a huge stake in the state of Seattle’s Internet infrastructure.
As you can imagine, it’s been a rather disappointing paradigm. I pay over $100/monthly for the fastest connection that Comcast offers, and that connection is throttled liberally to prevent Comcast from having to invest in their infrastructure.
In the past 4 years, my Comcast Internet connection was down dozens of times. That I live in Downtown Seattle, the most tech literate city in the U.S., makes this a disgrace. It is, however, status-quo.
Each time it’s gone down, Comcast has blamed my modem, only to backtrack when it was clear that the outage was neighborhood-wide. Apparently, the story is the same with everyone in my building, and it’s become somewhat of a running joke on my block.
Last Wednesday, my Comcast connection went down again, which marked roughly the 30th time it has done so in the last few years.
My phone call to the company went like this:
Comcast: How may I help you?
Me: Good morning, our Internet connection is down.
(after relaying our account info, etc)
Comcast: I see here that your modem isn’t responding to a ping.
Me: Yeah, that’s what happens when networks go down, you can’t ping things.
Comcast: Which lights on your modem are flashing?
Me: Only the online light.
Comcast: Hmmm, its says here that your modem is not responding … sir, you need a new modem.
Me: Yeah, I know.
Me: In the last 4 years, you’ve told me that it was my modem on 29 previous occasions. In none of those cases, was it my modem. In fact, in all of the cases, there was a general outage in my area.
Comcast: Well, sir, if there was an outage in your area, I would know about it – see, we have this software that looks like Google Maps and we have lights indicating where there is an outage –
Me: That sounds cool, it’s a shame that it doesn’t work.
Comcast: How do you know that it’s not your modem?
Me: I don’t. What I do know is that there is a roughly 98% chance that it’s not my modem, and therefore, I would like to exhaust all of the other possibilities before entertaining the least likely scenario. Wouldn’t you?
Comcast: Would you like for me to schedule a technician to come by?
Me: No, because a technician does not need access to my unit to fix the problem.
Comcast: How do you know that?
Me: I don’t. I just know that statistically, the chances of it being anything in my unit is remote.
Comcast: Okay, well, I’m sorry then but I can’t help you.
Some of you may wonder how I expected to rectify the problem, but I already knew the drill.
When I went downstairs to leave for work, there were two other people in the lobby, both complaining that their Comcast Internet connection was down. Both had been told that their modem was at fault, and both had scheduled appointments with a Comcast repairman.
When I got to work, I learned from a neighbor that there was now a recorded message telling all residents of the building that there was a general outage in the area.
I must be psychic, eh?
When I got back home that evening, once again, my Comcast Internet connection went down.
Make that 31 times.
I called up Comcast, gave them my account information, and –
Comcast: It says here that your modem is not responding – sir, you need a new modem.
Ladies and Gentlemen … Comcast.
While this may sound comical, it’s important to realize that I am neither joking nor exaggerating. In fact, I have witnesses to both events.
See, as far as most people know, Comcast’s network never goes down, only their modem goes down. Those gosh-darn modems.
That this is Comcast’s policy is unequivocal. Given that most people wouldn’t know a modem from their elbow, I’m sure it works very well for them. That the nation’s most tech-literate city is being jerked around in this manner by Comcast is a disgrace. It’s exactly this type of monopolistic abuse which has driven our great nation to be the 27th-in-the-world technological shitter. They don’t worry about service, because when Comcast says “bend over”, our “elected officials” all do.
Or maybe not.
When Ed Murray was elected last year, I was pretty bummed, because the fact of the matter is that he is just another corrupt duopoly politician. In fact, as a major recipient of Comcast’s cash during the election, when told to bend over, Mr. Murray spread his cheeks further than anyone.
That said, his recent blog post gives some of us hope:
Another possible solution includes granting internet companies access to utility poles at little or no charge, so that building more infrastructure is not cost prohibitive. As Susan Crawford highlighted in her Special to the Seattle Times, we need to find ways to expand our dark fiber network so every building in the City is connected. We need to ensure that this network stays under the City’s control while exploring ways to rent it at a low cost to service providers. But if we make changes that lower the costs for businesses, these changes would need to come paired with significant improvements in services. I will not be satisfied if these changes simply bring marginal improvements for customers and higher profits for corporations.
While we increase competition by breaking down barriers and enhancing infrastructure, we also need to consider the option of building a city-wide municipal high speed internet system that meets the demands of this thriving technology hub. We may learn that the only way we can truly have the internet system this City needs, is by building it ourselves. If we find that building our own municipal broadband is the best way forward for our citizens and for our City, then I will help lead the way.
It is shocking to me that the United States invented the internet, but we have one of the biggest digital divides in the developed world, and are falling far behind other nations who have speeds much greater than ours. We need to find a path forward as quickly and efficiently as possible before we fall even further behind. Our economy depends on it. Our democracy depends on it.
I look forward to appointing a permanent Chief Technology Officer in the near future and working with him or her to secure Seattle’s position as a leader in technology once again.
Now, is this a bunch of horse shit?
Oh, no doubt.
In 2014 America, however, horse shit is the best we’ve got.