Wednesday, May 04, 2005

No cable TV and no Internet make Phil go crazy

Our digital cable box has been doing weird things for a few months now, but over the weekend it stopped showing us just about anything above the broadcast channels. About the same time, our cable Internet service went from 4 Mbs downstream to about 400 Kbs, a major, noticeable difference. By Monday it had gone out completely, like the cable TV. I've got a service call for Time Warner to come here tomorrow morning, but I'm really worried that the problem isn't in my apartment or building and is actually in some remote piece of hardware that won't be fixed for weeks. I've been leeching wireless Internet access from my neighbors' open access points for a few days, but some of them aren't working either -- they also have Internet service from Time Warner. I honestly don't know how I'll react if the guy who comes here tomorrow can't fix both problems. I'm fantasizing about cancelling the cable entirely, both TV and Internet, and just getting DSL from Speakeasy or Verizon instead. I'd have to rely on DVDs and Bittorrent to get all my favorite TV shows on demand, and I know Liz wouldn't like that solution at all. But she's right: we pay too much money each month for this cable system to be broken. The part that really bothers me is that it's completely out of my control. When something breaks at work, I either fix it myself or get someone I know and trust to help me fix it. But I don't trust Time Warner one damn bit, mostly because I'm just one consumer and they've got millions of subscribers just like me. Why should they give a damn about me? It's not like I can get cable TV from anyone else, thanks to the local monopoly. (I don't have line of sight to the southwest sky, so DirecTV isn't an option.) It's that helplessness that's driving me insane right now. If I could fix this problem myself, I'd do it already. Maybe it will be something stupid, like one of the cats chewing through the cable wires. But I've got this terrible feeling that the problem is going to require some heavy-duty repair crew work that can only be scheduled for two weeks from now, which becomes three weeks because I'll be on vacation in two weeks. Maybe I'll get a credit from Time Warner for the outage, but it still means I'm stuck downloading shows while I'm at work and trying to find the optimal location at home to pick up my neighbors' signals. And I hope that none of them figure out what I'm doing and lock down their APs. I'll promise this much: when I do get Internet access back, be it tomorrow or next month, I'll open my own access point for a while. Free Internet on my network when it's working.

Sorry for the rant. I'll try to post something better tomorrow.

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