It's 11:02 on a Wednesday morning and I'm lying in bed after working out at 4:30am, doing the morning radio show at 5:30am, making eggs at home at 8:30am, and answering emails and doing stuff since 9:30am. I should probably get up and go outside since it's 50 degrees and sunny in northwest Indiana in mid-December and that never happens.
It's difficult to describe precisely how weary I am of the Comcast situation. Comcast has finally gotten serious about finding out why there's a faulty internet connection between our new studios at Purdue and our old studios behind Smith Chevrolet, both in Hammond, Ind. The three or four of you who read "My American, Radio Life" on a regular basis know that the weak and irregular Comcast connection has been the biggest challenge of my life for the past 18 months. The latest:
1. Comcast called in the fixer from Michigan - Eric Oligee. He and his team of several technicians worked all day Monday and Tuesday to find and fix the bad internet.
2. On Monday morning, one team of techs set up at 7150 Indianapolis Blvd. (Purdue) and the other team set up at 6405 Olcott (old WJOB) and tried to connect using the Metro E system, which is basically a direct, point-to-point connection that doesn't go over the public internet. Metro E is like having your remote site on your own interior network. Almost but not quite.
3. I watched as the team of techs on each end could not connect to each other on Monday morning using Comcast Metro E. This was odd. Most of the time, but not always, we could sit at Purdue and connect using Metro E to our old studio... but some time later it would drop and send us to dead air on WJOB. It was odd that they couldn't connect at all.
4. I spoke with Eric on Monday and he said that his teams had made some progress. Eric said that they found some "interference" somewhere near the old studio. Eric said his teams had narrowed the problem down to an alley near a couple of houses not too far from 6405 Olcott. This fits with what I had been telling the three or four of you for some time. I suspected and still suspect that the problem with Comcast is similar to problems that we've had near our old WJOB studios for a decade. It is, as you recall, "Old Infrastructure" all around old WJOB and that has been a problem with AT&T, NIPSCO, city of Hammond, the Hammond Sanitary District and others. We have been having problems connecting Comcast to our old studios for 18 months, with both the public internet and the Metro E service. Coincidentally, yesterday at about 8:58am, when I was talking with a Navy Seal who plays football for Northwestern, we dropped for about a minute, according to those who contacted me. That was on the public internet.
5. Yesterday, after the Comcast team completed two full days of trying to find and fix the problem, Debbie Wargo texted me this while Alexis and I were sitting down to burritos at Memo's Mexican Restaurant:
Mike from Comcast just called and they are ready to do a test and think they have it figured out. I have to go meet and let them into old studio. If this goes past 6:15, can someone relieve me as I have to go to a church mass.
At 5:51pm, Debbie texted me this:
Still here at old studio with Mike (from Comcast). They are still trying to run tests
This last text came as Alexis and I settled in to our seats at Showplace Theater for the 6:20 showing of the movie "Spotlight." This is a regular occurrence. I'm out with my family and somehow due to the faulty Comcast service I gotta leave my family and run down to the station. This time, with a full stash of popcorn on my lap, I just wasn't gonna do it. Besides, Alexis has endured me leaving her at awkward times for 18 months due, as we see it, to the faulty Comcast service. I just wasn't gonna do it again. We watched the movie. Debbie eventually texted me this.
This is what Mike from Comcast said:
6. A Comcast tech just called me. He said that they had completed testing and could we go back to using the Metro E system to see how it works. I informed him that it is a big deal to switch our Tieline codecs from using public internet to a private network and that it would take some time. We have to switch IP addresses, switch out of DHCP to static IP, change subnets and gateways and even the type of audio that we'll be encoding. It can take hours to line it up correctly.
The tech confirmed that the team of techs had, as Mike indicated above, run numerous tests and they're not seeing any more problems.
However, I asked where the "interference" that Eric referenced on Monday was. And here's the odd part. The tech said that somehow a couple of people on the line had connected their Uverse to the Comcast internet and that it was producing what is known as "Uverse impulse noise." According to the tech, "Noise is a big issue." He said they found it and cleaned it up and we should be good to go.
I hope that we are nearing the close of the bad connection between WJOB at Purdue and WJOB behind Smith Chevrolet. It better be. But instead of taking a nap... I'm left with a feeling that something just isn't right.
If Comcast has cleared this mysterious "Uverse impulse noise" that's on the line, and my Metro E service now works, have we accomplished the main thing that we set out to do? (Hint - it's the main thing that we set out to do every day).
Yes, if Comcast has fixed their Metro E service then we can perform on our mission: "We just want to do radio."
If we can hook up to Comcast and do radio from our new studio with no more dead air, then, yes, we have after 18 months accomplished our goal.
But somehow it doesn't feel right. I've got a lot of nagging questions, not the least of which is
Have I done right by the other independent radio operators who try to use Comcast to connect between their remote and transmitter sites?
Should I ensure that they know what happened to us so that they can take precautions so that it doesn't happen to them?
Have I done enough to protect them from a struggle with Comcast that could nearly drown their radio businesses?
Have I done enough to make it clear to Comcast leaders that they cannot treat small business customers with a lack of respect and integrity, as they have done with WJOB for 18 months?
What if someone else in Hammond connects their Uverse to their Comcast line? Does that mean I'll get more dead air?
I don't know the answers to these and other nagging questions. Let me think about it. Time for a nap.