the IT city, the I.T. Baby


Thinking of getting XFinity services? Read this tale of woe

XFinity X1 operating system

A random tech, but not particularly baby related story. There’s a review of the XFinity service and equipment at the bottom. TL;DR version is bad service from Comcast, XFinity system still not working after three months, wait for it to get better before you consider getting this. This was written in July 2014 so if you’re reading this years from now who knows.

So XFinity has been advertising in the Nashville area for over a year now. My Motorola DVR was having some issues where it would skip 15 minutes of a program and you’d have to rewind when watching the DVR so I thought I’d take the leap. Easy right?

My first attempt at XFinity

I called and was talking to a Comcast rep about the issue I was having with the old Motorola box… I think the hard drive was bad based on the noises, but whatever the case I was interested in the XFinity box so I asked if I could get one of those and the rep said sure, no problems.

A week or so later, tech comes out with the XFinity box, plugs it in (they were not allowing self installs at this point,) and walks out taking my old busted DVR. I’m ready to get down and play with some of the cool features such as voice search, changing the channel via my smartphone, streaming movies to my tablet, not doing any of these because I don’t have XFinity service.

What what what?

Yes, they came out and installed the XFinity box without giving me XFinity service because when a customer calls up and asks for one of those XFinity boxes obviously they don’t want the service.

Several people later I learn that XFinity is only available via the triple play package… which is Voice, Internet, Cable. I already had internet through Comcast with a dedicated business line… errr.. ok… I’m willing to drop my much more expensive business internet account to cut cost in half to go to XFinity… sure… that’ll work.

My second XFinity visitor (the wiring guy)

Once again, an install tech has to be dispatched. The guy shows up, spends nearly two hours complaining about the wiring (this after pulling so hard on one of the cables the head snapped off of it, but I’m not complaining,) mostly he was concerned with the craptastic signal that was coming in and what shoddy work the previous tech had done, so I wasn’t taking it personally.

He installs the XFinity internet router after drilling another hole in my wall because god forbid the splitter be on the inside of the house. Seriously, the cable modem was five feet underneath the XFinity cable box. He drilled a hole in the wall to run it about nine feet out to the splitter that’s outside the house.

OK, no huge… I now have the XFinity cable modem, the box, all the good stuff… I should be done right? Nope.

A very long conversation with escalations

I’ll skip the nearly two weeks of fighting to get someone to contact me. It’s kind of funny because a Comcast Tampa Twitter rep finally contacted me as I’d been going on for days at this point. Several escalations people supposedly called me, however I printed the Sprint call logs out and nothing was there, or on Google Voice’s gateway that came from Comcast or any unknown number.

There was a woman in escalations who helped me, I had roughly five issues at this point. The XFinity service was not tied to my account, so there was no way for me to change the channel using my phone, use XFinity Android or iOS apps, etc.

She got that fixed, got a bad charge off my account, and all said and told I was out about $200 because I couldn’t make the transition from Business to XFinity within a reasonable timeframe. That was somewhat made up for by a huge credit for a piece of equipment I’d been being charged for that I did not possess, but then again that was my money.

And then she left… I had two issues on the table, was now only out for one install, they’d charged me for two at one point because delivering a box without service and installing the service were two separate charges. I tried getting in touch maybe three more times and all methods of communication were not answered.

I’d been dropped by escalations at this point because they figured they’d done what they were going to do.

And then I reach the Xfinite

An unknown error has occuredFor a while things were good, a few more calls to the internet department and I find that the thing was somehow tied to an email address I don’t ever use.

That’s ok, I can use it for sign ins. I find that most of the features I was expecting are not there or not there yet.

But the XFinity remote worked, which when you have a baby is something that’s nice as baby steals the remote on a regular basis.

Baby stole the remote… I don’t know where it is, we’ve flipped the house looking for it, but at least we had the app that would change the channel. Until we didn’t.

About a week ago on the iPad and on the Androids I suddenly got the message “An unknown error has occurred during this request. Please try again.”

My first call to Comcast was greeted with “what… we have an Android app now? And it worked? Wait you have XFinity service in Nashville? What?” you get the point. I was told that the TV side didn’t handle that and to talk to the Internet side.

The internet side I called later and talked to someone who had no idea Comcast had apps, had no training on the XFinity service, and finally while talking with me hung up the phone. Should be noted that the call was disconnected, I wasn’t being abusive or condescending, the rep just didn’t know what to do so disconnected.

This after 18 minutes of their horrible hold music.

But that’s not where that call ends.

I’m sorry, unsatisfied isn’t an option you can choose

I get a call back from the customer satisfaction robot. I’ve used this before and usually I’m either moderately satisfied or the call went well when I get the robocall. This time I was pretty mad as I’d just wasted another half hour dealing with these idiots.

The scale goes from 1-5, where one is extremely dissatisfied, 5 is extremely satisfied. It asked me overall how would I rate the call, I pressed one. It popped up a message and said “as a reminder, 1 is extremely dissatisfied, and 5 is extremely satisfied,” it asked the same question again.

I entered the number 1 again. It popped the message up again telling me that my choices were 1-5 and one was bad. I entered 1 again. It finally said “I’m sorry, we can’t understand what you’re trying to say” and hung up on me.

So I contacted the escalations email…

I ended up contacting the escalations department via email, and was ignored.


A review of the XFinity triple play platform

So I’ve got the XFinity triple play and one additional XFinity-compatible DTV box. here’s what I’ve noticed.

XFinity Internet box (Technicolor box)

Box has no ability to monitor bandwidth usage. It’s got an extremely powerful signal which reaches very far, however it can’t hear devices that are as far as it reaches. Management software fails after a while requiring you to physically unplug the device’s power to get it back up and working.

Phone is attached to one of two phone ports on the back of the XFinity box, when the internet goes down or power goes out so do your phones. When I called once due to the internet being out and my phones being out I was given an 11 day out service appointment.

So keep in mind the phones are not treated like a landline service would be.

Comcast also has blocked at least the Windows VPN ports. I’ve checked, even done DMZ, it’s a known thing and you won’t be able to reach anyone to help you with it as it’s a tier two escalation.

I just wanted to get into my work network to edit a file… but no. I now remote desktop in to edit a text file… rrrr

The XFinity box only works on 2.4 GHz, so if you’re in an area flooded with it, you’re going to have issues. Not that that’s a major issue, but just note it.

XFinity is also rolling out their boxes with a public WiFi option… so you’ll often see your wireless alongside an XFinity port. This isn’t a security issue as they’re separated via VLAN and the person who connects to that has to have a Comcast/XFinity login.

Unfortunately although the public wifi option is separated and requires a login, if you’ve got someone making terrorist threats against the president and they’re connected to your XFinity box, guess where the secret service is going to appear looking for the perp?

You can opt out of being a public wifi hotspot with a few more hurdles.

Keep in mind though, none of that really affects your bandwidth usage as you have priority and their usage doesn’t get tacked on your bill, however it can affect your stupid router as the management interface tends to lock up when too many devices are attached to it.

XFinity voice

Tinny, but much much more responsive than cell phone voice. Overall I approve except it’s next to useless when your connection is wobbly. Phone down, hope your cell works so you can call Comcast ’cause they’re not monitoring it.

XFinity DVR (main)

They claim it’s the future of awesome… but it’s absurdly slow. It feels like I’m using a computer from 15 years ago. I can start typing number/letters on the remote and I have to wait for it to catch up.

Putting in a channel number like 1505 I can do in two seconds, but it may be six before all the numbers appear on the screen, OK seems to be dropped until all characters are there so I have to wait for that.

The apps on the XFinity box are pretty limited at the moment, sometimes won’t launch, there’s nothing on it at the moment that you can’t get significantly better on a smartphone from 2010. It’s just slow and clunky.

Android/iOS App integration requires your account works, which good luck finding someone who can make a broken account work again.

If you fast forward too far and hit the end of a program, you’ll need to start the program over again from the beginning and fast forward to near the end. The motorola box I had would pop up  message asking if I wanted to delete the recording, this just dumps you back to the selection screen. Kind of annoying.

There are two USB and HDMI input ports on the back. I thought “great, I can use my Chromecast through this!” nope, wrong sucker, they’re disabled. You can get USB power, but that’s it. No Chromecast passthrough for you.

XFinity DTV (secondary)

The XFinity DTV is a secondary box that goes to other TVs. It can access your DVR on the main device allowing you to record and play shows, but it has no storage, moving parts, or DVR functionality by itself.

It also takes about six minutes to turn on, so leave it on.

It’s slightly faster at changing the channel, but lacks the ability to pause live television, and can only reach the second level of FF in fast forward… main DVR can reach 4… not sure if that’s 4x or just some random setting. it doesn’t go to 11.

You can fake the functionality of the live TV pausing by setting your DVR to record, and then watching the recording as it’s recording. But once you reach the end of that recording you’ll be dumped back out to whatever the current live TV is. problematic if you’re watching a game that went into overtime and you’re paused 15 minutes or so for bathroom and chip breaks.

XFinity hardware (overall)

The XFinity hardware is great. I’ve looked at the specs. The software that’s out right now is just terrible. I think when they get this thing rolled out it might be useful, but for the moment it is lackluster and falls behind on functionality.

XFinity support

I’m finding I just can’t find anyone who’s trained. I am told by the TV department that it’s an internet support issue, I’m told by the internet department that they aren’t trained or don’t even have a clue what I’m talking about and as per Comcast usual I’m disconnected or have to start over again in another hold queue.

I was told by the cable installer (second ghost of XFinity past,) that he was possibly the only person in Nashville at the moment who knew much about this as he was from their first XFinity market. He also warned against getting it this early in a rollout.

But here I am. Stuck with a half working XFinity account, an internet router that locks up the management console and blocks my VPN, and paying for services that just aren’t there yet.

In all fairness (possibly)

After having invested as many weeks as I have attempting to get Comcast to fix their problems, I’m probably a bit biased toward the negative. I think that I’m pretty right on the money that this is not ready for primetime yet and as opposed to spending all this money advertising they should have been spending it training an XFinity department to handle these issues.

The XFinity hotspots are a bad idea I think when you don’t have a router firmware that’s even stable to begin with.

The lack of skilled tech support in an emerging market is apparent, and it’s bad. There just doesn’t seem to be any department that can do it all. And that’s bad.

Then again, perhaps there is and the reps I talk to are just horribly misinformed.

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.