Faster internet – sounds simple enough. When I logged in to my Comcast account, there was an option to upgrade to gigabit internet for an additional monthly cost. My modem was on the approved list, I agreed to the terms, clicked some buttons and I thought I’d be good to go. What could possibly go wrong? After I rebooted the modem, I did indeed have faster internet, but little did I know what problems would ensue…
Problem #1 – I kept getting prompted to activate my Comcast internet service.
I called Comcast, and their automated system rebooted my modem to “fix” the problem. Once you do that, you’re locked out of talking to a person for about seven minutes, and then you need to call back. Upon calling back, the automated system says it needs to reboot your modem again. If you refuse (multiple times) and fight with their automated system long enough, you’ll get to talk with a person. Most likely, you’ll speak with someone out of the country, that at best is difficult to understand, and worse is usually incompetent (as you’ll see by my many calls to Comcast throughout this ordeal).
- A side note, I have a huge problem with American companies outsourcing jobs overseas. Especially as we are in the midst of a pandemic and recession. More than one out of ten people are unemployed (U6 unemployment numbers). Comcast continues to lock us into contracts for the privilege of paying them. Moreover, they charge higher and higher rates annually. Comcast is already a monopoly when it comes to high speed internet in this area. We have no choice but to use their service. The least they could do is support our economy by providing jobs. Furthermore, with as much as they charge for their monopoly of services, they should provide exemplarily customer service. Sadly, they fail at both of these.
I digress. The tech support representative explained that there was a file that had to be written to the modem, and once he uploaded it, things would be fine. Well, they weren’t and I had to call back a few more times until this was resolved.
Problem #2 – The speed would be great for a few hours – around 940 Gbps download and 38 Gbps upload. Later on in the day, it would crawl to less than 1/10 of the advertised speed. The solution? Reboot the modem. It would take many resets a day to keep functioning. By the way, this has been the same modem I was using for the last few years without issue when our plan was around 300 Mbps.
I tried looking at various solutions on my end. Perhaps the firmware of the modem needed to be updated. Signing into the modem, I saw that the firmware was v6.01.02. On Netgear’s website, it showed that their firmware is up to V6.01.06. Netgear says “If your firmware is out of date, contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for assistance.”
I phoned Comcast. This time I was lucky enough to speak with an American. After about an hour of various nonsense on their end, the rep admitted they had absolutely no clue how to push a firmware update to my modem. After much Googling, and reading the same issue and similar frustration of other people, I gave up.
Maybe I needed a newer modem? After all, I’ve had equipment fail and require numerous reboots in the past (dying routers for example). After checking the approved hardware list, I went to Best Buy and purchased the Arris SB8200. Long story short – same problem (reboot needed about once a day), and after two weeks of fighting this, I ended up returning it. I tried everything, and I mean everything you could think of – the usual troubleshooting, to exotic options like line aggregation, paying for an extra IP address, etc.
In the meantime though, I contacted Comcast through the online chat and spoke with another rep outside the US. The person sent a tech person out to my house – unfortunately, the tech person had no idea why she was there.
Problem #3 – Perhaps it’s the cabling.
Since two approved modems were having an issue, I explained to the tech that the next step would be to replace the wiring leading up to the modem. Two hours later, the rep had replaced the wire from “the box” to the modem, but decided not to complete the job by replacing the wire to the house from the street. She checked the signal at the box and said it’s better that it was, so that should be it, but if it’s wasn’t to call Comcast back.
Problem #4 – Nevertheless, the problem persisted.
Since the previous tech didn’t do a thorough job by replacing the wire coming up to the house, I had to call tech support, fight with them over everything that we’ve tried, and finally got them to send out another tech person.
He too had no clue why he was there, and I had to ask him to replace the wiring from the street to the house. He did, and afterwards, he sent a signal to the modem that broke my internet (line aggregation with the Arris SB8200). He had no idea what that even was, or the advantages it offered. He wasted hours of my time with pointless nonsense. In the end, I had to call tech support again, have them disable the 2nd IP, agree to the account changes, re-enable the 2nd IP, agree to the account changes, and then it worked. I have since terminated the 2nd IP address.
Problem #5 – Maybe I need to rent a Comcast modem.
Frustrated and without other options, I decided to go to the Comcast store and rent their modem. Perhaps there was some “special sauce” in it that would make things work.
They charge $25 a month for their modem, and that includes unlimited internet (since they now put a cap on data). Here’s what’s stupid. If you use your own modem, and want unlimited data, they charge you $30 a month. You pay a $5 penalty for using your own modem!
Well, it’s been more than a week now, and indeed their modem has whatever special sauce it needs to work without needing reboots. There are certain random times where the connection hiccups or goes down (around midnight), but comes back up without user intervention. Pretty normal for Comcast.
The Comcast XB7 modem comes with a built in wireless router that I didn’t want or need. I had to enable bridge mode in the modem to bypass and turn off all of that stuff. Then connect the modem to my home mesh network router.
Problem #6 – Getting the fastest speed possible out of the modem and network.
During the testing of line aggregation with the SB8200, I learned that it is actually possible to get over 1,100 Mbps download out of Comcast’s gigabit plan. However, once you connect the modem to the router, all the ports out of the router are maxed at a 1 Gbps connection (the effective data speed is around 940 Mbps).
This new Comcast XB7 modem has a 2.5 Mbps output jack. When my 10 Gbps computer was connected directly to the modem, I was able to utilize the full speed of over 1,100 Mbps as reported by Speedtest.net.
Even though my router (the Orbi AX6000) has a 2.5 Gbps WAN port, all the other ports are 1 Gbps. That immediately causes a loss of over 200 Mbps when wired to any of the 1 Gbps ports. Furthermore, no wireless device in the house can utilize the full 1,100+ Mbps. The router offers WiFi 6, but the fastest we’ve seen from our devices is 600-800 Mbps download. Fast for sure, but not as fast or consistent as wired.
Determined to get the full benefit of the gigabit internet and utilize all of that speed on our home network, I needed a 10 Gbps switch with more ports than I currently had. I’ve been using a Netgear switch with two 10 Gbps ports for transferring data between my backup server and PC, but I needed at least two more 10 Gbps ports for everything to work at the fastest speed. One port would connect to the modem and one would connect to the Orbi router. Also, I use a Thunderbolt 3, 10 Gbps ethernet adapter, to connect my MacBook Pro to my backup server occasionally (I’ve been swapping the wire between my PC and MacBook as needed). It would be nice to have that connected as well.
So, I ordered the Netgear XS508M switch.
Problem #7 – Wiring it all up.
I quickly learned that a switch doesn’t act as a wired router. A router is still required. However, my Orbi doesn’t have a 2.5 Gbps or faster output – drat! Luckily, the Comcast XB7 has a 2.5 Gbps output and can act as a router. Going into the settings of the modem, I was able to turn on the router, and disable the wireless (I’ll still be using my Orbi for that). Plugging the modem into the network switch worked! I now had 10 Gbps internet on all ports and was able to pull down over 1,100 Mbps downstream and over 40 Mbps upstream on wired connections!!!
Problem #8 – Getting the Orbi to work with the 10 Gbps switch.
Since the XB7 from Comcast was now acting as a router, I had to set my Orbi to function as an access point. It worked just fine, except the satellite extender wouldn’t work.
After hours and hours of frustration, attempting to reconnect and sync the satellites. Switching it in and out of router / access point mode and back again, I changed one setting in the Comcast XB7 modem that made it all work.
What worked was, I manually assigned an IP address to the router and then the Orbi system functioned as it should (in access point mode).
Problem #9 – Now that I had the potential to have my MacBook and PC both run at 10 Gbps at the same time. I needed to run a second cable only office so that I would have to physically disconnect and move the ethernet cable between the two computers. Thus, I had to run a second cable between my modem and office (under a stair case).
This wasn’t too difficult, just time consuming. It involved moving furniture, running cables, and connecting everything.
Now, everything is working the way it should!
Problem #10 – The total cost.
I went from a plan that cost $74.95 a month (total including taxes) to one that will cost $115 a month plus taxes (the plan is $90 and the modem is $25). I have yet to see a final bill. In total, that’s over $50 a month more, or $600 for the year.
The Netgear switch cost $542.35, and the cable was another $25.
Fortunately, we’re able to afford it, and with as much online content as we utilize, plus cloud backups, plus online school for the kids during this pandemic (which will continue throughout 2020) it’ll be worth it.
My upload speed has more than tripled. This is definitely welcomed and long overdue. Backing up files to my online hosting has been a chore up until now, and now with 4K, 5K, and sometimes 8K being uploaded to my YouTube channel, this will be quite a time saver.
I hope this helps you with avoiding some of the problems and frustrations I’ve had in dealing with Comcast.