Slow TimeWarner Internet in NYC Shows The Promise (and Limits) of Social Media

Is This Thing On?

Some New Yorkers are pushing through a fifth day of slow, almost unusable speeds on their TimeWarner / Roadrunner Internet connections. And when they can get though to Twitter or community-focused sites like Yelp! and the Brooklynian forum, they’re complaining.

So while their customers are dealing with pages that start to load but never finish (or that never load at all), TimeWarner — like many companies — is using a Social Media Outreach Team to monitor the internet for customer complaints and issues. Gripe about bad service or a bad product online these days and, more often than not, you’ll get a message on Twitter or an email from a company rep saying “I’m sorry that you’re unhappy…can I help?”.

While looking around on Twitter for anyone else mentioning internet trouble in New York City, I found TimeWarner’s Main Customer Service Twitter account. Social Media Team Manager Philip Blum and representative Brien H responded immediately to my report. They sent me messages on Twitter and by email right away and expedited a technician’s visit to my apartment. They also facilitated two different calls with a Tier 3 Tech to run tests that seemed to confirm what I already suspected: It is a problem with their network.

I know that TimeWarner Cable has a reputation for bad customer service but, if the people I dealt with are any indication, the company is making strides in the right direction. The tech who came to my apartment, the Tier 3 Network Guy, the representative who called me with updates, and Phil and Brien — each of them seemed like smart, engaged people who really wanted me to get my problem fixed. In a time where customer service cutbacks are rampant, this level of personal responsiveness deserves to be recognized and complimented!

But five days later, my internet is still broken…. and I think that this shines a light on an interesting phenomenon.

Corporate social media outreach is great, but without fixing the institutional issues with their service — bad equipment, understaffed technical teams, etc. — it’s just like the buttons at New York City crosswalks: They’re just placebos. Buttons that aren’t connected to anything — that are in place so that we can push them and feel like we have some influence on things.

TimeWarner has developed a sensitive “social nervous system” that can quickly detect when there’s a serious, wide-spread problem: It’s a shame that it’s going to waste by not helping the company actually improve it’s response.

What To Do If You’re Affected By The TimeWarner Internet Slowdown

So let’s get practical: What can you do to make things better in the meantime?

  1. Try Using A Virtual Private Network.

    When I saw that TimeWarner’s routing was screwed up, I tried connecting to the internet through a VPN (“Virtual Private Network”). Tellingly, I wasn’t able to connect to the company’s server here in the US but **WAS** able to reach the European server. Sending my traffic overseas seems to have dodged whatever faulty TimeWarner switch or router is causing the problem and, since then, I’ve been able to browse with no lost connection or “timeouts” (albeit at much slower speeds than normal).

    So, if you have access to your company’s VPN — or a VPN service like Hotspot Shield, Strong VPN, or VyprVPN (which is the service I am using)1 — try it and see if that gets your internet back into semi-usable shape.

    It’s a little slow (and all of my Google results are being returned in Dutch!), but look at it this way: You’ve finally got something in common with dissidents who need to use the Internet in countries all over the world — you know, people with real problems and not just a bad connection! đŸ˜‰

  2. Complain to Public Agencies That License These Guys.

    Here are links to the NYC City Complaint Form for Bad Cable Service and the New York State Public Service Commission Complaint Form. Use them!

  3. Reach Out For Help… Politely!

    Don’t think that putting a #FAIL tag after your complaint makes you a hero — it makes you semi-anonymous, snarky jerk. Don’t tell a company that you wish “they would die in a fire”2. If you feel your frustration building, I’d suggest reading this post by Derek Sivers before you fire up your flame-thrower.

    After all, technology is only dehumanizing when people stop using it humanely. Let’s use it to solve problems — not to make people feel bad about themselves or to insult the dignity of people doing difficult jobs.

Do You Have An Update? Anything To Add? Leave A Comment!

  1. See Paul Stamatiou’s excellent review and walk-through of VyprVPN here. []
  2. Seriously, I saw this while looking for information []

4 Responses to “Slow TimeWarner Internet in NYC Shows The Promise (and Limits) of Social Media”

  1. peterleonard (peterleonard) April 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Twitter Comment

    Great post on the limits of Corporate use of Social Media – and yes, I’m part of this particular TWC failure too. [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  2. SocialSentiment (SocialMediaSentiment) April 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    Twitter Comment

    “Slow TimeWarner Internet in NYC, Manhattan, Brooklyn | Veritrope” [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  3. Ken C April 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. After 8 years of living here I’m fed up with the inconsistent speeds. The best is calling and going through the automated system that sends a fake “boost” to your device. Don’t forget the horrible 3rd party contractors they send out to do installations and wire our buildings.

    In addition to the slow speeds, do consumers realize there’s a HUGH monopoly on services in NYC? I’m from the midwest and we could choose from 3 providers– each with their own features — because they are actually competing for business. Why is it that TWC is the only provider in Manhattan for cable internet and TV?