Comcast Business Class is the Weakest Weaker Link

Full disclosure: This site is going to be relying on Comcast Business Class internet service, so we need them to up their game.

I just got off the phone with Orbis Lumen, our site host, who had emailed me at 2:30 a.m. to say their servers were down because of a circuit outage on Comcast’s side.

Mark had warned me that although he was confident he could keep the server uptime in the black (they have redundancies and backup generators), their pipeline to the internet is Comcast Business Class, and for the past six months, they’ve been experiencing mysterious, middle of the night circuit outages that has Comcast techs scratching their heads and swapping out equipment to see if that will help.

You would think that something called Comcast Business Class would be more than enough for a small online magazine’s needs (we also use–and lose–it here at The SunBreak World HQ on Capitol Hill), but to hear Mark tell it, the “business class” seems to mean that the service operates best during business hours.

When internet service is interrupted at 2 a.m., he’s only able to call a “24×7 Business Class Support” service center that is unable to roust anyone locally to roll out to fix the problem. Unless the problem can be solved by cycling the modem, they can’t do much.

It’s telling that Comcast’s “competitive matrix” (GoogleDoc) does not include uptime. At all. There’s that single “24×7 Business Class Support” helpline, but otherwise, not a word. There’s a price comparison, details on speed, email, hosting, antivirus protection, and equipment included, but there’s nothing in there about reliability. Qwest Broadband puts this on their front page: “99.9% network reliability for fewer interruptions.” (Qwest also thinks I enjoy paying $35/mo. for a 3 Mbps residential DSL connection in 2011.)

The thing is, Comcast Business Class runs on the same network that Comcast “Residential Class” uses. The main difference is that you get static IP addresses for Business Class, not dynamically assigned IPs. But when the service goes out and the house down the street can no longer download porn (at half the monthly subscription you’re paying), your whole office is down, too. Not quite what you hoped when you hooked your business wagon to Comcast’s internet star.

12 thoughts on “Comcast Business Class is the Weakest Weaker Link

  1. I work for an outsourced IT provider in Seattle and we have dozens of customers on Comcast Business. Compared to other internet options in the area Comcast Business is extremely cheap for the speed you get. However we’ve seen it go down several times per year at some sites depending on the neighborhood. It sounds like what you’re experiencing is par for the course.

    For that price you generally don’t get an SLA. Qwest says 99.9%–that’s around 9 hours of downtime per year, but that doesn’t get you priority repair when there is a network outage on their network. When there is a network outage, the Qwest customers with SLAs get fixed first: T1, EoC, etc.

    It sounds like your expectations were not met–or no one explained to you the pros and cons of Comcast vs. more reliable options. Not to be a troll but I’ve got to say, there’s a *webhost* relying on Comcast internet? Uh…
    Have you looked at Adhost for web hosting? They’re local, in the big datacenter in Fisher Plaza.

    I hope this didn’t come across as condescending.

    1. No, Manuel, good comment. I just like to talk back to marketing positioning, and “Business Class” internet that doesn’t provide uptime reliability numbers isn’t, in 2011, business class. As for Orbis Lumen, they’re not web hosts, no. I just happen to like working with them and talked them into it.

  2. Aaah QWEST. So glad I don’t have their service for my home office. We lost land line service on Saturday morning; it was restored sometime overnight Tuesday night. Zero information in the meantime, except their assurance that I wasn’t the only customer affected. Which, I presume is supposed to make me feel good.

    I had already been considering drop my landline; this pretty much ices it.

    1. I was just having my home DSL worked on over the weekend. The tech came Sunday morning and found something outside to work on, and then vanished. I never got a progress report. I called Monday night to see what was going on and was told the ticket was still open. Tuesday they called to say they were through. Not great commmunication.

  3. I have to give them some credit, at least. I get the sense they are trying to turn a giant ship that has grown from a mass consumer mentality. They certainly suffer from the large org left hand not knowing right hand problem, resulting in you having to steer their ship for them much of the time – but they do have an awareness of this problem, and a desire to somehow make it better.

    I have also managed to get the 3 supervisors and various technicians to be more reluctant to use the catchall “maintenance is scheduled every night between midnight and 6am” to allow them to brush aside outage calls during that time, in our particular time zone (PST). Which is good.

    I’ve also been given a “magic card” that a Business Class technician is only allowed to give out 3 times each quarter of a year that has a number for “priority assistance”, with an expiration date of Dec 31, 2011, and that is redeemable only once. I have no idea if this number will put me through to some all-knowing half-mechanoid Comcast guru, or some happy cheerleader who will console me in my suffering. It is a curious thing….

  4. “The main difference is that you get static IP addresses for Business Class, not dynamically assigned IPs. ”

    Don’t you mean that Comcast allows you the privilege of paying an extra $15 per month on top of Comcast Business Class to get a static IP address?

    1. I think they also get rid of some bandwidth cap they monitor for residential customers. I’m not certain about that, though – I haven’t seen anything written on it.

  5. A quick followup on my Qwest story –

    Many homes in the Montlake neighborhood are still without land line phone service (3/23), 12 full days after our outage. Luckily mine was restored, but the natives are getting restless

  6. Comcast Business does not have a bandwidth cap, unlike residential. The residential bandwidth cap is 250GB. On a side note, Comcast Business Class has a 4-hour window for them to get a tech on-site at any time when your connection is down. Nothing should be hosted off of Comcast Business or Residential services if you want reliability, or any cable/DSL company. If you want reliability, get a slow T1 or MetroE. Otherwise you get wait you pay for. Don’t expect to pay under $1000 a month and have true 99% reliability.

    1. Yeah Epidemic, that’s just it, isn’t it? They, and the DSL providers, and very slowly the fiber ones, are changing the landscape. You’re left asking, how important is that 99% uptime, when you can easily get more than 10 times the bandwidth for 1/10th of the cost. In a very many cases, not all that important.

      I have to give Comcast credit for really trying hard in this business market. Their cable technology is awkward to work with it and diagnose. But they are trying to cut out a niche, even within their own organization, where they’re trying to take give the good service to their “business class”.

      The reality might be, as long as they are relying on their coax looping stuff, that business class really means some faster upstream, no bandwidth caps, allowed to purchase static IP’s, and a 4 hour window to get a tech dispatched (at least during business hours, which they were, at least, trying hard to change)

      The problem is (no joke) some guy’s garage door opener down the street might have a weird power noise issue that knocks everyone’s cable out whenever he opens the door. Hard to find those problems with the technology they are using, apparently.

  7. Comcast is not something I would recommend for any business big or small. Their vmail box capacity is just 30 minutes. We were told that there was no cap on time and then we were told we could get 90 minutes and now we are only allowed “60 “minutes for special times when a Dr is out of town. The sales people lied to us about the capabilities of the system and I would NEVER recommend this service EVER! They are not user-friendly and do not want to raise the bar on their technology for voice. Do not use them.

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