Tuesday, December 1, 2015
"What good is it having F-- You money, if you never say F--- you."
That's an oft-repeated line in a trailer for an upcoming television series titled "Billions." As far as I can tell, it's about a guy who starts with nothing and makes billions of dollars and now there's a zealous federal prosecutor after him. Another line from the trailer.
"When did it become a crime to become successful in this country?"
I don't know who produces "Billions" or what channel it's on. Maybe it's CBS. Maybe it's Showtime. But I have watched that trailer at least a dozen times, and, in a stroke of irony, I've watched it every damn time in my living room on Comcast cable.
Here's how the day started. Once again, I rode my bike to the station (in the rain) and as I put down the kickstand learned that our Metro E failsafe Comcast point-to-point system wasn't working again. Time for plan B - broadcast on a phone line. Audio sounds horrible on phone line. Read the texts below. You'll see.
The worst missive came from my little sister, who runs the books.
"You sounded horrible. I couldn't even listen."
And that's too bad, because we had a pretty good morning show going. Just look at my notes way below...
A lotta stuff happening.
- US Senator Joe Donnelly (D)got a little pissed on the show about working his ass off to procure 80 million dollars for early childhood education... only to have Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) not apply for the grant.
- Post-Tribune Reporter Michelle Quinn apologized for laughing last week while caller Sue talked about gays or guns or something. "Really," I told her on the air. "And I just thought it was good radio."
- Verlie Suggs and I and a few callers addressed the topic du jour in America - what looks like a growing cover-up in Chicago regarding the police shooting (16 times) of LaQuan McDonald. (Later in the day Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel fired police chief McCarthy.)
- Spike Lee on Don Lemon's show tonight said that Mayor Emanuel and Prosector Anita Alvarez gotta go.
- Little Calumet River Development Basin Commission Executive Director Dan Repay took a quick-hitting phone call about when the Little Cal guys might stop collecting their fee.
- The Teamsters Local 142 pack (Richard Knipp, Larry Regan and Harvey Jackson) brought retiree Les Lis on the show... in his signature Hawaiian shirt. Les had the quote of the day - "The world really sucks. I just try to bring it a little cheer.' Check my notes if I got that right. I seem to remember he said it with a little more rhyme and zing.
We could be talking about all of these things... instead you get to hear about my ongoing struggle with Comcast. I bumbled through nearly five hours of local radio - almost all of it delivered as if we were broadcasting from a filling station in southern Alabama - and then I waited for another Comcast guy to show up, along with a hired IT consultant for my side.
And here's where it's getting a little weird. For most of the 18 months I've been fighting with Comcast about them not being able to provide a clean connection between our new studio at the Purdue Center and our old transmitter site seven blocks away... I've concentrated on the old site. I have lived through several instances of the Old Infrastructure around the old site causing us problems. The problem cannot be, I reasoned, with the Comcast equipment at the brand new Purdue Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center. After all, Comcast put in all new stuff. And sure, Comcast could literally ignore my pleas for help and my constant nagging on the air and blogging (nagablogging), but surely Comcast wouldn't dare put in substandard equipment into the new Purdue Center.
Now, I'm starting to wonder if the problem isn't in the brand new five-million-dollar Purdue Center. At about noon today, another Comcast tech (I won't give his name for fear of retaliation against him) and an IT guy we have hired in the past - Ryan Holmes... we went back to the Comcast lines at the back of the Purdue Center.
"Look at this," Ryan said to the Comcast guy, "this coax input line has been separated four times. That's gotta weaken the signal."
'And in all the Metro E I've seen, it's never come in to the building in coax. It's always fiber."
Ryan and the Comcast tech agreed that there were two pretty solid questions to ask the Metro E section.
1. Why has the Comcast coax line coming in to the building been allowed to be split four times?
2. How come Comcast allowed a Metro E system to come in to a building on regular old coax, and not fiber?
In the end, does it really matter what the answers are to these questions? Not really. Not when a company has F--- You money. And the people in central office obviously know that they have F--- You money, judging from the way they have treated my wife and I and our little radio station.
Here's an example. I have, as you know, been complaining about the quality of my Comcast connection for about 18 months, long before we had the dreaded Metro E system installed. Somehow my struggle got up to the level of a Mr. Kevin Connolly, who represented himself to me in phone calls as some sort of honcho out of the Chicago office.
"Jim, we're gonna get to the bottom of this and get you up and running," he told me. He also told me that he didn't have a number to call him directly, which I thought was a little weird. How does his wife call him, if he has one? And how does anyone at work call him? Do they all go through the 800 number?
Anyways, on Nov. 19, Mr. Connolly asked me for a time to power down the routers at both our Purdue new studios and our old transmitter site.
It’s late. I need a time frame for rolling both of the Cisco DPC3008s. If there is a time overnight on the weekend I’ll do it then. If 8:00am works for tomorrow I’ll do it then.
Please let me know. We are making strides but I want your take on how it looks after I reboot the modems.
Kevin L Connolly
So I gave him a time to power down the routers on Nov. 20... and haven't heard from him since. What happened after he powered down the routers on Nov. 20?
The phones went out, the Metro E as always didn't work, even the internet went out from time to time. It was a mess. I was in New York visiting my sister and daughter. Among other heroic endeavors to stay on the air, guest host Verlie Suggs did the morning show from our rather chilly old studios... next to a space heater. East Chicago mayor Anthony Copeland waited for a half hour outside our new studios - where the hell are they?
We have been, in a word, embarrassing. Almost to the point, echoing my sister, that I can't even listen to our own radio station. And, as the three or four of you know who read this blog, I have tried a dozen times or so to contact the mysterious Mr. Connolly, to no avail. I feel as if he tricked me into believing that he really was gonna help us. Instead, he rebooted the router, kicked out our phones, Metro E and internet... and then went on vacation for 11 days. That's how you can tell Comcast has F--- You money.
Connolly, Kevin L.Nov 23 (8 days ago)
I am currently out of the office. If you are in need of immediate assistance please contact Comcast Commercial Customer Care @ 800.391.3000
By the way, here's an email I just got from from station manager Debbie Wargo.
Comcast went out again tonight after purdue game so I programmed music and spots in Arrakis to run until Coast to Coast. Rick is at a concert.
Oh well. I wish, just for a moment, that I had F--- You money. But then I think of what I would have to make myself into on the way that billion dollars. And the wish passes.
So how did the rest of the day go? After the Comcast tech and IT consultant Ryan Holmes departed, leaving behind a trail of doubt about the efficacy of Comcast as a whole, I decided to go into action.
"Debbie, hold my calls." No, I didn't really say that. But later in the evening at a meeting of the NIPSCO citizens advisory panel I had to apologize to three people for not getting back to them. It's just sounds so important to say, or even blog to you.
"Hey, the three or four of you, hold my calls. Pronto."
Anyways, audio and computer wunderkind Christina Cortez, 18, and I decided to bypass the Metro E system altogether. No shit. We really didn't know what we were gonna do to somehow, by the start of the afternoon show, establish audio connection between our two sites. It took us a good five hours, but eventually we reprogrammed both of our Tielines and rerouted audio from the board and plugged a bunch of cat 5 cables into different receptacles and entered in new:
And so forth. Aren't the three or four of you just a little bit proud that I can at least spell these network components?
Me neither. Christina and I and IT helper Mark Smith went into panic frenzy mode at about 3:30pm but by 4:30 - after a series of dead air experiences and "Check, check, check" that went live on the air - were able to get Ron Harlow and Tony Panek on for the afternoon show. We used regular Comcast internet to do the connection, which explains why we went off the air this evening and Debbie had to play some music from the old studio.
It was the shitty Comcast internet connection that was the problem in the first place. That's why we upgraded to Comcast Metro E. We're back to the original problem, and in the morning I'm scheduled to broadcast live from a breakfast at Round the Clock restaurant to help raise funds for the Northwest Indiana Food Bank. And then after that I'm scheduled to help teach a Purdue Cal class from the new studios. We'll see if any of that happens. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if we had dead air all morning or, almost as bad, had to play old Bon Jovi songs from Debbie's iPod at the old studio.
Anyways, this evening I sat next to Jackie, who publishes the 411 newspaper. She asked me, in front of the CEO of NIPSCO, Violet Sistavaros - "JED, what's the problem with your Comcast at the station?"
I panicked a little, racking my brain for a quick synopsis to make the topic hush itself. Violet and her massive power company are huge sponsors, and I wouldn't want to jeopardize that by looking unprofessional.
"We just can't get a clear connection to our old studio using this new Comcast Metro E service," I told Jackie. She and Violet just stared at me like - "And?"
"It's just a lot of old infrastructure in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago. I suspect that maybe Comcast shouldn't offer this high-tech point-to-point service in these areas."
"Have you tried boosters?" Violet interjected. And then, before I could get a full explanation of what boosters are and how they might help us, everyone started clapping and it was time for Violet to give a speech on the new NIPSCO satisfaction survey.
After the speech, and dessert and a really cold Lagunitas, I sauntered up to the bar at Gamba's and sat with the owner, Benito. He introduced me to his daughters, who just made the cover of the local mag about food and entertainment, and gave me some wine. I pledged to bring him on the show to talk about Christmas foods, his new menu, and how the youth of today sometimes just don't know what hard work is all about.
Oh, and I forgot. Regina Biddings Muro, the assistant chancellor at Purdue with whom I worked at WJOB in the mid-1980s, hatched this great idea to interview ten of the leaders of local charities like the Boys and Girls Club and the Red Cross and play the interviews on the air around Christmastime, when rich people make their end-of-year donations for tax purposes.
"Sounds like a great idea, Regina. When can you do the interviews?"
That woman doesn't miss a beat. "Next week good?"
Also, Benito introduced me to a tall guy at the bar. Turns out he works for AT&T.
"I met you before when I was chief of staff for Gary mayor Karen. Remember?"
"I do. You look familiar."
"I work for AT&T now," he said. "And I want to talk to you about your Comcast problem. We've got a whole bunch of new fiber products that might fit your needs."
Music to my ears, baby. Music to my ears.
Here's a couple of communications from our loyal and increasingly pissed-off listeners:
JED, Dump the terrestrial path. Split the audio feed at the new studio. Drive the Internet server from Indianapolis Boulevard. Put in an RF STL between Purdue and the transmitter. Drive the transmitter with RF link. Keep the cable if you're concerned about cutting the cord, and keep it exclusively as a back up to the radio link. Consider the TCO between having the STL and not having it. STLs are going to easily deliver availability statistics between four and five 9s.
Standard operations: No more issues between the two locations, because you've overcome the terrestrial infrastructure issue. By the way, this approach is an alternative that you control.
Remember, Comcast will sell you a solution, but you need your problem resolved; solutions and resolutions are not always synonymous. It's not that they are bad folks, but they have to work wholly within their 'solution' set. They're not going to proffer something they don't sell.
Here's a couple more:
Your level's are way off, Sound's like the Mic's are on the other side of the room!
Lots of static this morning
You sound badly muffled
The "Voice of the Region" Emitting from a fish bowl, again. WJOB works as well as E-911.