In Case Of Fire Grab Your Cable Equipment First

In Fargo North Dakota, there was a fire at an apartment complex that destroyed 62 of the units, leaving about 150 residents homeless. Some of the residents lost all of their personal belongings, plus their cable equipment from Cable One. In the fine print Cable One requires that the customer be responsible for any damaged equipment and pay for it if it is destroyed. Some residents are stating the cable company now wants to charge them between $500 and $1,000 depending on the type of equipment the customer was using at the time of the fire.

Service agreements that customers sign say you’re responsible for returning equipment in good working condition. But Rich Smith says he wasn’t responsible for the fire, and what it did to his third-floor home. He admits the cable wasn’t the first thing on his mind after the fire, but when he called CableOne Wednesday, “The operator I talked to said it was a big loss to the company. I really had to bite my tongue because I know she didn’t write the policy.”

CableOne’s general manager said, in a phone call, that they’ll work with customers on a case by case basis. It will be based in part on their payment history, and the depreciated cost of older equipment. They won’t charge for modems or DCTs, but they will for DVRs, which are worth $500 when new. G-M Scott Geston added, “We’ve been hurt too.”

This one statement made me think. What is the real value of a used DVR?

but they will for DVRs, which are worth $500 when new.

For any of us who have had cable service, we are aware that the equipment that is supplied may be used when we receive it from the company. We are all aware that used electronic equipment, no matter what it is, loses its value fairly quickly. For those who lived in the apartment complex and who had insurance, it would be interesting to see the value that the insurance company would put on a used DVR.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – Today

The Tech Man Sometimes Rings Twice

This week’s senior call was a bit unusual. The woman who called me is reasonably confident in simple tasks, and willing to experiment with workarounds, but not really comfortable with technology. She has a relatively new, high-end laptop supported by a matching set of cable modem and wireless router. She uses the wireless connection even though the laptop normally sits within three feet of the twin-antenna router.

Until a few months ago everything worked fine, but one day she suddenly did not have Internet access. That should have prompted a call for help, but her son was in another state and she didn’t think to call me because she thinks of me primarily as a tutor. But her Internet access is important to the business she runs from her home so she did what she could. She simply scanned the neighborhood for unsecured wireless networks and ended up logging on to her neighbor’s system. Problem solved. Well, sort of solved.

Whether her conscience bothered her or she was properly concerned about using an unsecured system, she called me to help her. This was, like, three months after the problem started.

Before diving into a system that I have not seen before, I like to get as much background as possible. Had she had any other problems? What was she doing when it happened? I asked those questions while simply looking at her operating system (XP) and generally getting familiar with how she had it set up. She related that she had called her ISP and they sent a field tech out to examine the system. He spent about an hour with her doing various tests. The tech said that the modem was good and that she had a problem with her computer or router. Since it wasn’t his problem, her couldn’t help her and she would have to get her computer fixed.

The tech had spoken, but we knew the computer could talk to a neighbor, so I thought it was probably healthy. She had a loose ethernet cable under her desk that went to the router. She said that she used to use it before she went wireless. On impulse, I connected her directly from the modem to her computer and checked the connection. Windows said it was good, but there was no access. I re-inserted the router and checked the wireless connection. Again, Windows reported it was receiving and transmitting packets without a problem. At this point, I knew the problem was identified, but not solved.

Before I could tell her what had happened, she mentioned that when Time Warner took over Adelphia, it suddenly started charging her a monthly fee for modem rental, but that didn’t seem fair because she didn’t have access and besides, she owns her modem.

To give Time Warner credit, it has some good phone tech support people who have good interaction skills. We called to report the problem. After I briefed the tech on the situation, he agreed it sounded like something at the company’s end. About twenty minutes later, and with the help of a supervisor, it had cleaned up the mess at its end and downloaded whatever files were needed to make the system work. This was done with a lot of apologies.

Now she is back online. I also confirmed that she would not be billed anymore for modem rental. Just for the fun of it, I encouraged her to request a refund of charges for the time when she was offline due to Time Warner not recognizing her modem. I’ll let you now how it turns out.

Click here to read about my new tutorial on helping seniors. The new version has grown considerably over the original. It has more topics and anecdotes, and fewer typos. While you’re at it, check out my expanded tutorial on decision theory.

[tags]wireless, wi-fi, wifi, time warner, adelphia, cable modem, senior computing[/tags]

Outraged By The State Of Adelphia? Get In The Queue!

This was the week that my senior clients were permitted to experience the decline and fall of western civilization. The troubles started over the weekend. Well, really they started much earlier than that. They started when the management and owners of Adelphia made certain decisions that ultimately led to its going into bankruptcy and being acquired by Time-Warner.

After the acquisition, not much happened for a while, but this last weekend, the transformation must have started in a lumbering sort of way. The normally trustworthy Internet service was spotty over the weekend, and email almost non-existent, but popping into life occasionally. On Monday the Internet was okay, but the email service was totally hosed. For some reason, I only got a couple of calls about the problems over the weekend, but the total shutdown on Monday brought with it several anguished clients calling to see if something was wrong with their computers. Many of them have small businesses and depend on email.

Of course one need not get bent out of shape over a simple system crashing like that. You can just call the old service number to ask what is happening. Only the old service number doesn’t work anymore because that was an Adelphia function and callers were directed to hang up and dial a new number (totally impolite – they could have automatically punched through to the new number, but that particular lack of service is another story). The trouble with re-dialing was that I suspect they must have had a single line with a whole city of people trying to call. No way could anyone get through. But there are a couple of other things one can do. For instance, one could go to the Time-Warner Web site and look for the system status. Surely it posts the current operating statistics. Other companies do that for their customers. Well, maybe Time-Warner does post system performance, but I could not find it and, more important, I could not find any useful information at all. The site is an advertising venue with FAQs. Nothing wrong with that, but it is not helpful. I interpret any service company’s failure to post performance data as an admission that customer satisfaction is not as important as the short-term bottom line.

So there is another path. Cable companies are typically licensed monopolies along with other utilities like electricity and water. So I called the city to complain. That got my name on a queue of outraged citizens who were quicker on the draw than I was. At that point I gave up and told my clients to wait and maybe those who are on cable might want to consider switching to DSL. Either way, they must accept the fact that their email addresses are going to disappear as Roadrunner takes over. Time-Warner presumably owns the right to the marque and could have served its new customers by allowing them to keep their addresses, but that is not what the company did. It insists on Adelphia customers installing Roadrunner. This might not seem like a big thing to you, but as my clients have been getting the notice emailed to them to change, they panic and call me for help. The process could have been automated at the shop and ultimately transparent to the user, but that is not how it chose to proceed. Granted, it decided to kill the old addresses, and then added salt to the wound by forcing subscribers to slit their own throats. The timing was excellent. This demand to install Roadrunner came to my clients just as the whole service went down. That really confused them. They thought they had broken something.

Seniors are like that. When their computers do not function as they expect, the first thought is “Now what did I do wrong?”

This series of errors compounding on each other was described in detail in major headlines in our local newspaper the Tuesday after the blackout Monday. Then today (Friday) there was a follow-up article saying that nearly all customers were back in service – which means that some customers had compromised service for a week, and it is not over yet. The city attorney still had not been able to respond to all the citizens who had complained, but at least it is now possible to call the Time-Warner service number and actually get through, mostly.

I am not trying to flame Time-Warner here. Similar things could have happened with other companies. It just happened to be the one that did it to us. There is a culture of lack of service in our service-oriented society that is truly appalling. At every step of the descent into chaos, a little common courtesy and forethought would have prevented near hysteria in my clients who depend on the Internet for business and social activities.

At least I am glad that I avoid making specific recommendations for broadband service. When my clients want advice, I explain to them how the systems operate and what the likely tradeoffs are. After that they are on their own. The ones who opted for DSL certainly had it better this weekend. I wonder if more will change. Would you?

Click here to read about my new tutorial on helping seniors. The new version has grown considerably over the original. It has more topics and anecdotes, and fewer typos. While you’re at it, check out my expanded tutorial on decision theory.

[tags]adelphia, time-warner, dsl, cable modem, roadrunner, shoddy customer service, queue[/tags]

DSL or Cable Modem?

Verizon is running an aggressive new advertising campaign to push their DSL service. As part of that campaign, the company touts a J.D. Power and Associate report that polled “thousands of consumers nationwide” on factors including cost, billing, image, performance and reliability, customer service, and email. Unfortunately, the results don’t always look good for Verizon’s DSL service …
Continue reading “DSL or Cable Modem?”