Are You a Time-Warner/Roadrunner Hostage?

I’ve been informed of a discussion on DSLReports.com about Time-Warner Milwaukee/Roadrunner allegedly throttling users and flagging connections as abusive. The gist is that there may be limits in place that people are exceeding, so Time-Warner Milwaukee/Roadrunner, instead of informing the customer they’ve hit a limit, may be actively disrupting their connections to discourage their “heavy” usage.

Here is the response I posted to the DSLReports forum:

I’d really appreciate it if any Milwaukee-area TW/RR users (or any other TW/RR users elsewhere, if you’re having the same problems) would read about my issues with them here, in a lot greater detail:

»alexfalkenberg.com

and drop a comment; I’d like to collect as many data points as I can.

I’m tired of the BS of my cable modem constantly rebooting. I’ve been paying for their “premium” service for a long time, and getting no real use out of it. I snag a couple of TV shows here and there via BT, but that’s really it. Linux ISOs here and there, too, and some audio/video streaming, some remote-desktop stuff, and moving pictures around online. Nothing I’d personally call excessive; the connection’s supposed to be used, isn’t it?

Happens with wget/http. Happens with bittorrent. Happens with ftp/scp. Consistently, any sustained download trips my stuff up so badly that I’m forced to reset -everything-. Multiple times an hour. Sometimes _dozens_ of times an hour (sometimes every 1-2 minutes).

If all I’m doing is uploading, that often seems fine, but I still get random disconnects when there’s nothing in particular going on.

I can’t rely on my Vonage line to make/take phone calls. I can’t reliably get downloadable Tivo content or guide data. I can’t count on getting Windows updates, Linux updates, OSX updates… I can’t do any remote-support work. Can’t listen to podcasts or watch vidcasts. I’m sometimes be forced to relogin to ssh sessions dozens of times in a day. Online gaming? Forget about it!

You name it, connection-wise, and it usually sucks.

It’s been going on a long time. Everyone I’ve talked to (including 2nd and 3rd tier) denies there’s any flagging or throttling, and they’ve really gone out of their way in the past to blame everything but themselves for the problems…if/when I can get anyone at Time-Warner Milwaukee to reply at all in the first place. (I can’t.)

I have gotten tired of explaining the problem over and over and over again to first-level CS people. Techs to the house…are a joke. I’ve done plenty of pointless tests, logging, cablemodem swaps, spent time on the phone, written letters, and…. nothing. I’ve had a bright orange cable line across my lawn for more than a YEAR now when they spent hours here replacing everything all the way out to the pole (with no improvement).

The problem seemed to start in Dec 2006 (yes, 2006) when we got voluntarily bumped up to 8MBps “Turbo” service for an extra five bucks/month.

The problem seemed to go away last year finally around the time we got bumped up to 15MBps speeds.

The problem seems to have returned about 3-4 weeks ago now, and I’ve not identified any causes/changes. I know we’re also lucky to see 10MBps down for a few minutes at a time, if that, when the connection IS working and the cable modem’s not constantly rebooting.

Bottom line: the problem is not in my house, period.

If they’re messing with my connection, or if I’m somehow abusing their mysterious (and apparently ridiculous) limits, then just TELL me. I’m an adult. Give me the chance to drop the service and end a relationship they’ve apparently ALREADY decided isn’t working out for THEM, instead of, well, plainly and deliberately _stealing_ from me, taking money for service I’m paying for and not getting.

Messing with my connection is effectively ending our business relationship. And then continuing to pocket my money is somehow OK? No!

They’ve cost me a TON of money in wasted time alone…and it’s gotta stop.

Thanks for reading along and any assistance.

The real bottom line on this issue, for me, is this: I’m paying Time-Warner Milwaukee for a service (the “premium” version at that). I expect the provider to take my money and, in good faith, provide that service.

Service terms and conditions should be transparent. If a customer is violating some term or condition of that service, inform them so they can decide if another option is better. But don’t lie to them, and don’t steal from them.

Constantly disrupting a connection to modify a customer’s behavior is disturbing and disgusting. Treat your customers like adults, and let them opt out of a service and business relationship you’ve already effectively opted them out of on your end! Except for the taking-their-money-anyway part of the relationship, of course…

I’m not really your customer anymore at that point. I’m your hostage.

That’s it. Reputable businesses should not operate this way. Also, even if this isn’t technically illegal on Time-Warner’s part (I don’t know; I’m not a lawyer), it’s certainly still hugely unethical and deceptive, in my opinion. Time-Warner is making a fortune on their service offerings, by any reasonable accounting. Are they doing so by overcharging the bulk of their customers for their very minor use of the service, and severely interfering with anyone else that actually tries to use the service they’re sold? I think the answer to that is increasingly, obviously, yes.

Please share your stories and spread the word. This must stop.

13 thoughts on “Are You a Time-Warner/Roadrunner Hostage?”

  1. oh man, thank goodness i’m not the only one experiencing this. i’ve been pulling my hair out from this, it’s astounding.

    i’m seeing the exact same thing, ALWAYS with bittorrent, sometimes with SCP/FTP and streaming video (youtube and others).

    i bought a mac mini the other day and it took THREE modem reboots to get completely through the system updates.

  2. Alex,

    Your modem is rebooting. That nearly eliminates purposeful ISP throttling as a cause as many DOCSIS modems cannot be rebooted from the headend. This is why most ISPs tell you to reboot your router when a network upgrade happens so that it can phone home and download and apply its new config file.

    Now — I’m the guy holding Comcast’s feet to the fire for throttling. So if I thought it was TWC + throttling, I’d certainly tell you.

    It still is TWC who owns everything from your rented modem up to the node at the CMTS. If the cablemodem loses contact with the headend, a “watchdog” function in the modem will cause it to reboot in hopes to reestablish communications. There are several reasons that can happen — 99% of those reasons are TWC issues. The modem normally won’t reboot if it loses connectivity with your router or computer — so if the modem is rebooting, it’s because of an issue on the DOCSIS side.

    That said, there are some “you” things you can check — is the AC supply a clean one? Have you added any cables or splitters that might weaken the signal? Do your cables run near any electrically “noisy” sources that might dampen the modem’s link to the headend — such as an electric baseboard heater?

    Thanks for letting me visit your blog. I might be back to your blog from time to time, but I read DSLReports every day or two. If there is anything I can do to help, please contact me on DSLReports.

    –Robb (aka funchords)

  3. (The reply below was also posted at DSLReports…sorry for the duplicated content, but I want to make sure continuity’s maintained in however-many places this gets discussed. -a)

    I appreciate the feedback, wherever you might post it.

    AC: I’ve actually run a cord from the next-door neighbor’s place since I’ve seen it mentioned that it could be that (but honestly, TW themselves have blamed sunspots, overpowered ham radio, CB radio from semi traffic nearby, every network and phone and cable-using device ever made…and on and on, no lie). Anyway, it made no difference.

    The cable modem is currently connected just inside my foundation where the line enters the house (albeit currently with a splitter (also replaced by them) so we can watch TV). The problem still occurs with just the CM connected, sans splitter, btw. Literally every cable and connector from the cable modem’s current location 3 feet from my basement wall, all the way back to the pole behind our house, has been replaced by TW since this started. None of that has fixed anything.

    As for interference, wouldn’t that be an ongoing problem anyway? We’ve been in a pretty steady weather pattern lately, so no real changes as far as furnace use or anything else. Heat is a gas furnace on opposite side of the house from the coax and cat6 runs. As for cables running near anything electrical, they’re where they’ve always been for the last three years we’ve lived here (with the exception of a recent move of the CM to the basement to test the house-wiring-of-some-sort-is-mucking-things-up theory), so the lack of any changes inside our house would seem to rule out it being a problem inside our house, imo…right? We’ve not added any new electronics or phones or anything of the sort since this started again.

    I’m really at a loss about how to even explain this to anyone at TW, when we can even GET anyone to talk to us about it. NO one I’ve talked to seems to really ‘get’ that it could be a problem anywhere but inside my house. The last tech they sent out did the smallest/fastest local speedtest possible, which runs quite quickly…and that passed, so he called everything OK. Before he left, I hopped online right after that, and it’s same-as-it-ever-was. He shrugged, said he didn’t know, and to let them know if it continued!

    I’ve lost all patience for service calls involving my home interior at this point, because they’ve all proven to be complete wastes of time. I’ve literally tried everything I know to try/test, eliminating other equipment, etc.

    So clearly there’s something wacky _somewhere_, but it seems like a ghost in their machine “out there” and I would love to be able to direct them to some specific part or location or something–anything–to get them to take a look. It seems like they’re monkeying around with something, and it’s wreaking havoc on us here.

    What does it take to get TW to take this seriously, and do some good testing? I’d think they could bring their own cable modem, sit out at the pole 100 feet behind my house, try to download something–anything–and watch the CM reboot… Keep tracing it backwards from our pole, until it goes away. With only one guy (me) noticing and complaining, though, they apparently don’t feel particularly pressured to take the time and spend the money investigating this. Meanwhile, I’m out $55/month for Roadrunner service I might as well not even have for as much as I can rely on it.

    As for CM levels, they are always within the limits I’ve seem mentioned around online. Nothing weird there. Very rarely I’ll see some “No FEC lock” errors in the log, but for the most part, nothing weird in the logs or admin UI at all except for the constant spontaneous rebooting I see listed.

    The most frustrating part of this whole thing seems like it’s being blown off and not taken seriously by TW. Literally zero response to long letters, long explanations to techs, etc. Promises of CM monitoring with eventual callbacks…none of which ever happen, etc. But they’re always right on top of the bill! *sigh*

    We’re moving 50 miles or so north eventually (month or two from now), but not out of the TW-Milw. service area… so if it’s a bad line or connection in a neighborhood junction box or something, maybe the problem won’t follow us and we’ll eventually be fine. Who knows. The lack of comparable options is quite frustrating. I’ll still worry for our current neighbors and the next family that lives in this house.

    Thanks again.

  4. You seem to be miSsing an very important point… NONE of you are checking on how many RST packets are being sent at your modem from your ISP…. Mine road runner does basically a DDOS on me all the time; same problems you all talk about. I have the hard reboot my modem ALL THE FU%%%ING TIME. I use a network monitoring software and I have seen just now RST at the 1050% level over 16000+ packets per ten minute sampling being sent at me from Time/Warner Road Runner. When I told them they are blocking my service through their unlawful direct action they denied it until I showed them the network logs; THEN THEY GOT VERY VERY UPSET. They state I had no buisness monitoring and logging my network traffic. THIS IS HARD EVIDENCE OF WHAT YOU ALL ARE COMPLAINING ABLE. This is not throttling a user; it ids directly denying a user paid for service by the provider. Means fraud; failing to provide a service paid for by deliberated action..

  5. @menahunie: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I really can’t speak for others who have posted here with similar issues, but we did check for RST packet-related issues a few times when our situation was at its worst, and came up empty. It’s certainly possible that this is something new, or is only affecting certain users in certain areas for whatever reason(s)… but it seems it wasn’t an issue for us here, as far as we know.

    We’ve been as upset as you seem to be (and worse, I’m sure), because we share your belief that, in the end, this all boils down to false advertising, fraud, or just plain old theft.

    I’m curious about the monitoring software you’re using and what tests you’re running, output of test results, as well as what your setup looks like, which cable modem, which router, what your bandwidth usage is like, etc. We’d be happy to post your setup, tests and data/results here.

    Thanks again for your comment. Good luck with everything, and keep us informed as you see fit.

  6. Western Ohio/Time Warner Cable (WOH/TWC) is certainly guilty.

    Silly me for downloading FreeBSD and OpenSolaris images on the same day. (This time.)

    “Unlimited Access”, so long as you don’t use it.
    What is the purpose of the FCC?

  7. If I might suggest why not monitor your actual use using something like Doppler view pro. I think it tracks actual use and speeds of data transfers. If your being throttled or controlled by your service provider in any way I would think this software could generate the records to prove that.

    http://www.dopplervue.com/

  8. dopplerVUE is a little higher-end than the average user would need (or understand) to troubleshoot a problem, but it’s certainly a nice tool in the right circumstances. The pricing seems reasonable enough, and they do offer a free 30-day trial. Thank you for the suggestion!

  9. Identical to the problems I experienced after accidently leaving a mapquest search open for two days. Rebooting the modem works to temporarily reconnect, modem will spontaneously reconnect, speed after reconnect is dial-up bad. I’m replacing the modem today. Tech due out tomorrow.

  10. @Yvan: Thanks for posting. Assuming it’s the same issue, your Mapquest search likely had little to do with creating the problem, but it may have helped make it more visible; we noticed that higher numbers of connections often increased the frequency of reboots (as did any hint at all of sustained transfer speeds). That slow speed may be an ongoing series of super-short disconnect/reconnect cycles as well; once we started having a really bad run of reboots, it often seemed to linger a while.

    With any luck, a current modem will solve your problems. Interestingly, btw, newer modems seem to be deliberately configured to NOT show those same log entries our earlier problem modem(s) did; those entries really helped us troubleshoot and verify our reboot problem, and now… you can’t tell anymore. I find it a little fishy, honestly. We could still be rebooting unnecessarily, but now it seems TW has taken steps to prevent us from knowing for ourselves. I’ve not had a modem replaced in a while now, so maybe all that has changed.

    Hopefully you either don’t end up needing a tech, or if you do, you luck out and get one of the seemingly-rare competent ones (seriously, good luck). Would love to hear back from you once it’s up and running correctly again.

  11. I dumped tv Time Warner but kept the internet for my home computers. Got the WII hooked up to Netflix and got a Bluray to watch HULU + . Hulu has all the recent tv shows and Netflix has movies and tv. havent missed a show for soooooo much less. Netflix is costing me $9.99 for DVD and streaming. HULU is $7.99.That $18.00 is much less than the $45.00 I had to pay for shows that I can only watch on my tv.With Netflix my famlily can watch tv on our computers (3 laptops) Time Warner is still too expensive for simple connectivity.

  12. @LindaCotter: We’re a Netflix household as well and really enjoy it on several devices throughout the house (and quite often outside it). We also have a Hulu Plus subscription…that we barely use, unfortunately; it really depends on what we’re trying to watch/do. Hulu Plus drives us (well, me) crazy with the enforced commercial interruptions and inconsistent availability of episodes/seasons for shows, making it more painful than Netflix to watch, and harder to rely on overall… Your overall point is dead-on, though, whether you have issues with your local cable provider or not: streaming services are substantially less expensive than regular cable TV and a great alternative for a lot of people. Thanks for your comment!

  13. This is also happening in NY yea I wish I could bill them for the hours wasted checking my end. The idea of limiting my bandwidth and not stating that is what they are doing is pissing me off but they are the only ones available in my area

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