Why I left Speakeasy, and why I miss them...

October 28, 2010



Two weeks ago, I did the unthinkable: I signed up for Comcast High Speed Internet service. Leaving Speakeasy DSL after 5+ years was no easy decision, but it was getting increasingly difficult to justfy the price for the performance that I was getting. In fact, when I called to cancel, I made sure that Speakeasy knew it wasn’t something that they did, but instead simply a matter of economics: I just couldn’t continue to spend $100/mo on “slow” DSL, no matter how reliable it was. After two weeks with Comcast, I’m simultaneously impressed and disappointed… I’m in love with the screaming 10-15Mbps download (and 2-5Mbps upload) speed that I regularly get from Comcast, and at the price that I can get it for. Everything about the performance is an upgrade: latency to major Internet properties like Google is crazy low, photo uploads haul, backups across Comcast-to-Comcast VPN links are nice and fast at 2-3Mbps… And did I mention the $25/mo (introductory) price?!?!

The other side of the coin, though, is that Comcast service and support leaves a lot to be desired. I’m currently 10 hours into a complete outage, and there is no ETA on the resolution. To quote a support tech from our 5pm online chat: “…a system maintenance is currently affecting your service area. But no worries, this usually gets fixed within 2-3 hours.” Right, just the details I was looking for, and this was 8 hours ago.

What’s more, it turns out that Comcast is completely incapable of providing any proactive notification, or any automated updating of ticket status. Even the “Network Health” outage screen is wrong, showing a neat little column of green checkboxes. I tried finding out a better way to track the current outage, and was told that I needed to call in or start a chat to figure out if anything had changed:

Andrew_ > Is there a way to be notified about these issues in the future? The outage site (http://online.comcast.net/networkhealth/outagecheck.aspx) doesn't show any issues, and I'm not sure where else I should be looking to find out how widespread things are.
Lisette > Andrew, to make sure that we have the right information for you, I will be providing you the ticket number NDXXXXXXX, this would provide you the basis for the outage that you currently have. And you can also contact us through this number 1-800-266-2278 to check on the status of the ticket.
Andrew_ > OK, so I need to contact Comcast periodically to check for an ETA? Any way to get an email notification when something changes with the ticket, i.e. there is an ETA or service is restored, etc?
Lisette > Andrew, I really do apologize we are unable to send email, we do suggest that you can contact or chat back with us with the update.
Lisette > And you can provide us the ticket number to check this for you.

On top of that, the support techs tend to ask some interesting questions. In my first chat at 5pm, I explained that I was seeing an outage and described the symptoms. Then this:

Sonny > Thank you, are we currently chatting using your Comcast connection at home?
Andrew_ > No, I'm on my Sprint 4G now.

Yeeeah, I’m reporting an outage from my non-functioning Comcast connection. Oh wait, problem solved!!! At least the second tech at 11pm was exceedingly apologetic:

Lisette > Andrew, I do apologize upon checking, we currently have system maintenance on your area. Our network engineers are working to resolve the issue as we speak. I assure you that this will be resolved as soon as possible. We are prioritizing this issue since we understand how important your service is. I can assure you that there is nothing wrong with account. We appreciate if you would bear with us on this.
Lisette > Andrew, I do apologize we are unable to process an ETA for this since our network engineers are working to resolve this issue.
Lisette > I really do apologize for the inconvenience that has caused you.

All of this is nothing new, unfortunately, since I’ve heard of a number of issues with service and support from friends & colleagues over the years. This is exactly the reason I dreaded jumping ship, and why it took me so long to do so.

You see, my Speakeasy DSL was rock solid for years — whenever there was an issue, it was because of some local telco problem, or due to scheduled/planned maintenance. Speakeasy kept in touch about these things, too, using new-fangled technology like email to notify me that there were issues, that there were going to be issues, or that there probably weren’t going to be issues but if there are at least you’ll know why. Being proactive, what a concept…

Speakeasy also let me open up a ticket over the phone or web, view/update that ticket, and receive notifications when their techs made progress on the issue. Pretty standard stuff, and something that you can find in any quality operation these days. In addition to providing the basic functionality that we as customers need and expect, in the end it reduces the overall support costs to that service provider. Giving your customers the ability to check on things themselves, instead of having to tie up your staff, seems like good business sense to me.

Here’s hoping the outage “gets fixed” shortly, and that Comcast can improve their service and support. Until then, I’m keeping my Sprint 4G Overdrive box plugged in and turned on. I suppose having a 5Mbps/1Mbps backup isn’t the worst case scenario, eh?

Update @ 8:10am 10/28/2010: Looks like connectivity is back, only 17 hours of outage. For anyone that’s interested, here is my Cacti graph of my Comcast WAN link from my Juniper firewall’s perspective. And, yes, I am a geek. :)