Sunday, June 14, 2009

Got Speed? - A Tale of Slow Internet Downloads

A few months back, we started experiencing Comcast Broadband Internet download speeds that would make the Slowsky family happy. Ocassionally a YouTube video playback would pause because we were watching the video faster than it could be downloaded. I did nothing, dreading a perceived call with someone from Bangalore who would tell me to clean-up my cookies, unplug my equipment for 30 seconds and turn and cough. I just hoped the problem would go away on its own.

Next, the unthinkable happened. The problem got progressively worse to the point where we couldn't even watch a YouTube video! Oh, the horror! That meant no more evenings sitting at the computer watching Laughter Yoga or the Arlington Rap.

I still dreaded a call with Comcast support. I had already done my own troubleshooting by removing the router from the configuration and by comparing the results on two different computers, and I didn't want to endure more pain while a remote technician walked me through similar steps at a snail's pace.

I turned to Google, and I found two helpful things.

  • A Web site called SPEEDTEST.NET that provides a feature for checking your download and upload speeds. Instead of having a generic complaint about slow performance, I now had the ability to tell them exactly how slow it was. My download speed for the first test was 0.08 Megabits per second! Compare that with the 6 Megabits per second or higher that are advertised!

  • I found an e-mail address for a special Comcast support team called the City Desk that deals with difficult problems. I believe the team was created in response to customer complaints about the difficult support process.

A technician was dispatched based on my e-mail to the City Desk and a brief scheduling call. The technician couldn't find a direct cause of my problem, but he replaced all connections between the pole and my computer, and he worked with the technicians at the office to increase the speed on my account. The process also involved several resets and re-boots of the cable modem. By the end of the day, I was experiencing 16.0 Megabits per second downloads, and I was given a credit for one month worth of Internet usage fees from Comcast!

Downloads were good for about a month, and problems returned this week. I decided to buy a new modem on the chance that the existing modem was the problem. I came to realize that I had been renting the previous modem for $3 per month for over seven years, so I had already paid over $252 for a modem that I still don't own. I bought a Motorola SurfBoard SB5101 at Best Buy for $80. The install, unfortunately, did require a call to the Comcast support center, but it was quick and painless. The result is 20+ Megabits per second downloads, and a waiting line to use the family computers. Now I can laugh again without the aid of a Laughter Yoga video.

No comments:

Post a Comment