Two significant events happened with my Comcast information services this week: I got a letter to call them to arrange an unnessesary upgrade to my TV equipment, and without any notification I was aware of, they made changes to the Internet service that broke my company’s VPN connection software.
Please contact us as soon as possible to arrange an unnessary equipment upgrade
So, we all know the Digital TV Transition came and went, and the government imposed new rules dictating that over the air broadcasts will be digital-only from now on. Most of us know that this doesn’t necessarily dictate any change to cable TV companies’ method of transmitting any channels from the central office to you via cable, regardless of how they receive this particular channel in the central ofice before relaying to the customer — but cable companies used the hoopla over the transition as a (well-deserved) excuse to get rid of their analog-only receivers and pack more digital channels into the same space. Here is what Comcast is doing in Boston:
- Comcast channel numbers 2 through 23 will continue to be transmitted over the cable in analog, backwards-compatible NTSC format as they always have been.
- Channels 24 through 96 which used to be transmitted in analog format are now being transmitted in digital format only.
- Channels 100 and up will continue to be transmitted in digital format only, as they have been for several years already.
If you want to receive channels 24 through 96 and you don’t have a digital Comcast TV receiver, you must upgrade now.
So far, so good, right? I am currently paying for and receiving only channels 2 through 23, which is their cheapest (unadvertised) level of service, and I will continue to receive these channels in my analog TV without any additional equipment.
Last week, I got a letter that layed out exactly what channels were being converted to digital format, and strongly requesting that I call them immediately to arrange an equipment upgrade, despite the fact that it is not necessary for me, specifically, to upgrade my equipment!
How many old folks are using the same TV package as I am and got this letter, called them, and got slammed into upgrading to a more expensive level of service?
In summary, I got a less-than-clear letter about an major service change that doesn’t affect me. Next, I have an even more irritating story.
We’re adding helpful features to our DNS infrastructure to assist you in failing to connect to your VPN
This was discussed on Slashdot, so I knew it was coming, but I do not recall getting any notice directly from Comcast about it.
In a nutshell: breaking away from standard DNS protocol, Comcast modified their DNS servers so that instead of correctly responding with “no information avaialable” to requests to map unknown hostnames to IP addresses, the DNS servers respond with the IP address of a Comcast search/ad web site
You have to be a networking expert to to notice the problem with this scheme, but to such people, the adverse effect is painfully obvious: This change will likely break the VPN client you use to connect to your company’s private network! Most VPN clients depend on the “no information available” answer; when you look up private-server-name.mycompany.com, and after your ISP’s public DNS servers report no answer, only then does the VPN client try again by asking your company’s private DNS server for the IP address.
Comcast’s DNS change was implemented to “get [you] where [you] want to go online even faster and easier than before.” Quite contrarily, I was not able to connect to my company VPN last night until I remembered about this change and fixed the problem on my end. (The fix was to temporarily switch my computer to use OpenDNS instead of Comcast for DNS, while I wait for my automated opt-out request to be fulfilled at Comcast.) If I didn’t know what I was doing, I would have had to wait at least 9 hours for my company help desk to open and help me.
As I said above, you can opt out this standards-breaking idiocy, but I wasn’t properly informed. How many hours will be wasted at different company help desks this week first, figuring out why so many clients can’t connect to services inside VPNs, and then helping them fix it?