An Unexpected Visit From Comcast

Comcast Truck by hoot2012 via flickr

‘Twas a dark and stormy night when a knock came at the door…

Actually, it was a sunny afternoon when my wife rang my mobile phone. A Comcast field technician had arrived at my home and wanted to check our cable modem. I thought this was odd, to say the least. I spoke with the technician and she really seemed on the up and up. She had a Comcast van, badge, and fancy cable tester. She told me that they periodically check modems and mine was reporting a “high transmit’ and had “a negative signal”.

This sounded odd. Comcast proactively correcting issues at customer’s residence? This is not the image of Comcast that most of us hold. Myself and a number of others on twitter thought this was #dubious. That said, she ran some tests, checked some cables. and said that the line between the wall jack and the outside needed to be repaired or replaced. We decided that the cable went through the attic and neither of us seemed interested in having her crawl around in the attic to replace it, so I thanked her and let her depart. I’ll check the cable myself.

In the mean time, I contacted a friend who works for Comcast to ask if this was legitimate and why they didn’t call. This is his fascinating response:

Yeah, it’s definitely legit!  What she was referring to was your modem has several health factors it needs in order to stay within a “good working window”.  If yours was flagged for a visit, it is because you probably have what we call a high transmit level that is either on the outside of what you’ll need to maintain a good working modem or a combination of SNR that is typically directly related.
If you’re curious, go into the GUI of the modem… not the router and look at 3 points of interest.
1.  Your downstream levels  +/- 10.
2.  Your SNR to both downstream and upstream (1 each)
3.  Your Transmit level which we want to be NO higher than 50.
When your transmit level reaches too high, it will typically bounce off and on of service.
The reason they don’t call first is MOST people will see the call coming in on their caller ID and treat it as a solicitation… go figure!?  Why not the mail?… Well that too ends up in the round file as JUNK mail, so we’ve found the best way is to stop by unannounced in hopes of catching someone at home.  Most people are and will be suspicious as YOU are and for good reason.
The computer generates calls like yours when technicians are in the area and “normal” service calls are lacking for that area.  It will then send us a job like that, where IF we make contact and are allowed to correct the problem, then we’ll do it.  OR, we’ll leave a door tag explaining the problem.  Most people that get these sort of visits will agree that their modem HAS been unreliable and its all because of the levels the modem is receiving and how hard it has to work to “transmit” back.
Its routine and recommended.  Typically a “geek” (me too!) such as yourself would question it and probably MOVED your modem from its original spot, or changed the levels to the modem by inserting another splitter in line.
Its very common around this time of year where “dad” takes Junior’s room as he moves out to college and makes an office out of it.  “Hey, why not?  It has a working cable jack there so the modem will work just fine.”
In YOUR case, if your cable has been damaged, it too will cause problems. Welcome to the world of “digital”.

So, there you go. I’m not sure I fully agree on the contacting the customer bits, but I can at least understand where they are coming from. Especially if they are just trying to usefully fill otherwise dead time and aren’t sure they’ll even get to the customer site. I asked if I could share this email and was told “absolutely!”, which is why you are now reading this. :)