By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Comcast paranoia

As many of you know, Comcast is in the process of messing things up even more than it normally does.

Weirdly enough, on Friday night the signal coming out of our ancient, coal-powered Airport base station suddenly dropped to the point where I had to drag my laptop into the same room in order to get a decent connection. I’ve done enough testing to convince myself that it’s the base station and not the laptop. The situation persisted throughout the day on Saturday.

Last night, the problem appeared to have healed itself. Early this morning, too. But now the signal is back to being ridiculously weak.

The family iMac, connected directly to the cable modem, does not seem to be affected.

Is anyone else experiencing this? Is my suspicion that it might be Comcast realistic, or does it stem from my near-total technological ignorance?

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Technology Monday


  1. Boston Knucklehead

    Comcast screw something up? Never heard of that happening before.

  2. ms. kitty

    I’m a longtime Comcast customer, mostly happily, and haven’t experienced what you’re describing. But I have gotten good results calling Comcast customer service directly, because they can look at your connection from their computers and see if anything’s wrong. It sounds to me like your ancient base wireless station might be at fault. Good luck—I know how irritating it is to have something go wrong with my computer connections.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    I guess I’m wondering if Comcast might have changed its signal so that it’s optimized for one of the newer base stations. That doesn’t seem likely, though, as the signal keeps going up and down. Looks like interference of some sort.

  4. Steve

    Dan, have you recently expanded your mansion? Even if you’re still in the house, if you get more than 200 feet or so from the base station the signal can get degraded. It might be hard to get from your newly constructed north wing.Don’t think that’s the problem? :-)Can you change the channel on which the Airport transmits? If so, try that.How about a wired connection. Does your Airport offer one? How does that work? If that works OK, then the Comcast signal to the modem is OK. How about if you search for wireless signals? Do you find many transmitters? If not, maybe interference isn’t the problem.That’s all I got.

  5. Anonymous

    Sorry but Comcast doesn’t control the strength of the signal coming out of your base station. Something else must be interfering with your signal (microwave oven?).

  6. MeTheSheeple

    Comcast has nothing to do with your wireless access point, nothing. Chances are, a neighbor just bought a new wireless router or a new cordless phone, or you did.So try changing the channel on the router. Did it fall into a different position, like behind a desktop computer with a metal case?If the thing is really dying, you can get a new replacement for less than $30 shipped if you have to.

  7. MeTheSheeple

    And if you’ve got this original Airport “Graphite”, some quick research suggests you may only be connecting at wireless-B speeds of 11mbps, rather than the 54mbps wireless-G (read: one-fifth the speed). You can also get routers that promise to support the Wireless-N standard when it becomes a standard in more than a year, which can go several times faster than that. Your laptop probably doesn’t support that speed, but the next one will.The $30 router from the last comment is a -G 54mpbs router.

  8. Pink Granite

    Hi -Recently, we’ve had problems with our Airport suddenly cutting out completely. We unplug the Airport (and sometimes the DSL modem), wait a few minutes and then plug it back in. That seems to buy us a few days – sometimes a week or two. On my PowerBook G4 (from 2005), if Airport is working and showing signal, then I have internet access. On the newer (from 2007) MacBook Pro (with Intel), even if Airport is working and shows signal, we sometimes get the message we’re not connected to the internet!Our Airport was purchased in February of 2005. We’ve been wondering if it’s getting old (at only 3 1/2 years!) or perhaps outdated? We have our internet access through Verizon DSL. That modem is the same one we installed back in 2005. When we’ve had problems with that, the Verizon tech people have described it as “old”. We’ve purchased no new cordless phones, microwaves etc. Nor have we remodeled or expanded our “mansion”. We live in a rural area, so any changes our neighbors might have made seems an unlikely source of interference.We’ve been wondering if it’s time to get a new Airport and a new modem.Please keep us posted here about what you learn.Thanks!;o)- Lee

  9. ComcastCares

    If it is not happening when you are connected directly to the modem, it is probably something with the router. I have the airport too and I did experience something similar about a month ago. What fixed it was opening the Airport Utility, click manual setup, Wireless, Wireless Options. There was a check box in the Use Interference Robustness. When I unchecked it, my wireless range returned to normal.Hope this helps!Frank EliasonComcast@ComcastCares on Twitter

  10. jilcov

    I’ve done enough testing to convin2c6ce myself that it’s the base station and not the laptop

  11. Brian Flaherty

    I have Comcast for my cable and I only have analog. As we all know, they have been taking away channels from analong and moving them exclusively to digital. Obviously, this is a ploy to get people to move to digitial.I have been ticked off at this abd have been searching the web to get other people’s thoughts on Comcast’s scam. It seems that Comcast is scanning blogs and websites and posting comments on negative postings. Google “comcast” under blogs and take a look.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Still no luck. I have tried changing channels on the base station, but the results have been the same or worse. The interference is so overwhelming that it has also diminished my ability to (ahem) borrow my neighbors’ WiFi signals as well. I have also tried enabling interference robustness, but that also has not worked.I am certainly willing to get a new base station, but I don’t want to start throwing money around until I know that it will work.

  13. Jon Pfeifer

    Are you using a MacBookPro? If so, a friend at the Genius Bar said he has seen a lot of issues with the MBP and airport connections. He managed to fix mine after many talks with AppleCare failed. If you are indeed using MBP I can detail the procedure he went through. I was at my wits end, losing connections every 5-10 minutes.

  14. Steve Stein

    Get yourself a “g” (or if you’re feeling rich, an “n”) wireless modem. My kid mocked me for a year for sticking with the “b”, and whined and whined when he came home about the modem speed until I was sufficiently shamed into spending the $50 or so for the newer modem.And you won’t get all that soot from the coal burning, either!

  15. Dan H

    The inability to get onto your neighbor’s WiFi network all but nails it as interference from a new source of radio waves in your vicinity. It’s unlikely that both his and your router have “deteriorated” at the same time.Usual suspects are cordless phones, microwaves and other WiFi routers.If quizzing the neighbors is not do-able, a new Airport Extreme =may= help because the newer “n” WiFi standard is stronger and more resistant to this kind of problem, but be sure to buy from a place with a good return policy.-dan

  16. Anonymous

    After 3 years we left Comcast for RCN. It is a far better company and is not in the running for most worst company in the country

  17. Jim Hughes

    Hi all, Jim Hughes from Comcast’s Boston office here. Dan, I’m glad to see that Frank from our Comcast Cares online crew responded to your technical question. I thought I’d also touch base to make sure that everybody here knows how to contact our local customer service team by email or live chat — this is a corporate site, but if you scroll down, it leads you to our New England customer service team. As for the MSNBC move, I’m happy to report as a fan of Countdown and Hardball myself that there is no political motivation here, just an effort to maximize our network resources for our customers. More than 70 percent of our New England customers now receive digital service, and with one analog channel taking up the same amount of space on our network as 10 digital channels (or three HD channels), these adjustments will allow us to continue adding HD programming in the weeks and months ahead. (We have offered our analog customers who want to watch channels like MSNBC a free digital box for a year.) Other providers are doing away with analog service entirely, but we will continue to offer a low-cost analog option for the foreseeable future.

  18. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    You think comcast is quick on the draw to post warm and fuzzies after negative on-line blogs, you should check the XM Radio sites and, both of which are suspiciously similar in content and organization (and which the XM customer relations department asks questions about when surveying former users). Why only yesterday, a comment about XM’s atrocious customer service department was followed by hugs and kisses — and when the oddness of doling out hugs and kisses for a corporation after a complaint was pointed out, the poster was banned and the thread locked on

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