Comcast’s Oscar Fail
Though the problem seemed to begin on Friday with our Comcast cable TV service, we didn’t much care until the family sat down to watch the 82nd Academy Awards and the video stuttering and audio dropouts were so horrifically bad that it was almost unwatchable.
Rebooting the device during a commercial break was a mistake since it took forever and didn’t fix the problem, so I grabbed my iPhone and did a search on Twitter for the word “comcast” to see if it could possibly be a network issue others were experiencing rather than my cable DVR failing.
I was stunned to see that there were dozens of people tweeting about the “stuttering” and “pixelation” of video and audio and it appeared that most of the problem was in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul and the surrounding metro area (see SheilaBird; KeinKernMusic; DFRevert; CSWebGrl).
But in further investigation this morning, I’ve discovered that many of the people tweeting were in Illinois (e.g., JoshMeans) so this might’ve been a regional problem. During the Oscar telecast I reached out to Frank Eliason via Twitter (@ComcastCares and he’s Comcast’s “Twitter man” according to BusinessWeek) and he was, with his typical Johnny-on-the-spot follow up, checking into the issues but nothing has come of it yet. I’ve reached out to him this morning to ask for a statement about what went wrong, what Comcast did and is doing about it and he responded by asking for a DM with my email, so we’ll see what Comcast says about the issue and I’ll update this post if-and-when I receive something.
I suspect that this sort of “fail” is going to become more frequent rather than less so. Especially with more and more of us maximizing the use of our wired and wireless internet connections and with the cable companies trying to shove more services down a pipe that — while admittedly fat and robust with seemingly high capacity — is still a finite resource.
UPDATE 4:07pm: This morning’s post was one that’s received a fair amount of traffic today and in it I promised I’d update you, so here you go.
Moments ago I got off the phone with Mary Beth Schubert, Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Comcast in Minnesota. While pleased to receive an apology and that my squeaky wheel was getting greased, essentially there’s no identified cause and I came away from the call not knowing anymore than I did before receiving it.
“The particular incident that you mentioned I can confirm and that it was in isolated spots in Minneapolis and the southwestern suburbs and was intermittent. We cover 111 different cities — and you’d mentioned Chicago or something — but it was isolated to small areas of the Twin Cities,” said Ms. Schubert. She then mentioned feedback she’d received from Comcast engineering staff and that, “It appears the problem was first identified at approximately 8:15pm (CST). We immediately began researching the cause of the interference and it appears that it cleared itself about 11:15pm late last evening. We continue to look in to the cause of it.“
The anecdotes I, and others on Twitter, had about this stuttering and video pixelation going on for at least two days wasn’t formally acknowledged and not addressed. “Again, we have recognized, our engineering area, that the interference was identified approximately 8:15pm on Sunday and gone late that evening.“
Perhaps it was record viewing of this year’s 82nd Annual Academy Awards, too many people tangling up the series of tubes by sending their internets, or some internal infrastructure fail as Comcast does away with analog signals over cable so the tubes don’t get filled up (you know, like with trucks), I received no hard data on why the Oscar telecast was a disaster for so many of us and what they’re doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Ms. Schubert was very gracious and listened patiently to my additional concerns — and I do appreciate her reaching out — but I think Comcast needs a blog to talk to customers, some transparency, and especially system updates that tell us what’s going on and what they’re doing to fix technical issues since it’s highly likely we’ll see more of them. Maybe (and since they’re literally across the river from the upcoming light rail depot in downtown St. Paul) they’ll be able to easily catch the Cluetrain.