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Fuck you, Time Warner Cable

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I missed a payment on my Time Warner Cable bill. Prior to this, the hostname of my laptop was "yupa" (after Master Yupa, from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, because it's a MBA, get it, air? ok, sorry, that's fucking awful I know). Anyway, look at what my hostname is now:

jordanorelli@auto-prov[0] ~: hostname
auto-prov.rr.com

umm, excuse me, I never changed my hostname. Anyway, let's back the fuck up and see how I even discovered this.

When I got home today, I opened my MBA and fired up Chrome. On startup, it tried to open up all the tabs that were open when I closed it. Some of these included a google.com page. All of them were, instead, redirected to whatever hostname they were talking to, with ap_index tacked on the end. E.g., refreshing a Google page bounced me to google.com/ap_index, which is the automatic provisioning page that a Time Warner Cable tech is supposed to see when they start up the computer. My brother (who is also my roommate) opened the account and has all the info, so I had to wait a few hours for him to get home because I was effectively powerless to fix it. (ok, I could have called him, or searched his room for the paperwork, but he was at work and I wasn't going to invade his privacy so that I could refresh Reddit for the eight billionth time that day). Now, if you're not already pissed off, then you've already been indoctrinated into thinking that such terrible service is acceptable from a cable provider. Realit check: they're the Internet company, my bill is late, I want to connect to the Internet. They have me by the balls. My entire connection to the outside world is in their hands. I know that the bill is late and I want to pay them, but I'm unable to. If I'm not paying for my Internet, put up a fucking credit card form and just let me pay for it right there. If they can't render a credit card form, are they really fit to be the couriers of so many millions of people's information?

Anyway, back to my complainy story: a few hours go by, my brother gets home and calls up Time Warner to pay the bill, and the Internet came back on. Right? Pfft, I only wish the story was as smooth as that.

I could visit new pages, which I verified by checking a page that I've never legitimately visited before: cnn.com (a website that I'm convinced only exists to verify that your Internet connection works). That worked fine. Went back to Google and I was again bounced to google.com/ap_index. At this point, I don't think anything insidious is happening; Chrome can be aggressive about certain caching behaviors, and sometimes this can cause odd behavior. Nine times out of ten this can be fixed by clearing all the browser data and restarting it. I tried that, but the behavior persisted. Tried visiting Google in Safari: same behavior. Now I'm annoyed: they've actually gone and stored some usage data, and they're selectively blocking my access. Fortunately, it's just hostname based, so encrypted.google.com works just fine. At this point, I'm thinking it's DNS caching, so I open up my terminal and clear my DNS cache (sudo dscacheutil -flushcache if you're not aware of that one). Still, the behavior persisted. But I noticed something when I was there: I noticed that my hostname was changed to auto-prov.

ok, fine. The hostname changed during DHCP config or something like that. Ok, Ok. Easy enough. sudo hostname yupa, clear all browser data, and I'm back to normal. But, reality check: all of my own caches were clear. Either the router or Time Warner stored some information about what page I tried to access when my account was past due, and it was still being blocked. How is that not a man in the middle attack? Aside from that, what % of users see that they can't reach Google and go "gee willikers, better put on my nerd pants, file up my UNIX terminal and debug my Internet connection"? Probably 1%, and the 1% of us that actually know what to do in that situation probably only know because it's what we do professionally. If the thought comes across your mind that I somehow shouldn't be miffed because I'm able to fix the problem myself: that's like telling a plumber that he would be happy if he came home to step in a puddle of pee because of a leaky toilet.

If I was 99% of people, I would have had to call Time Warner back a second time, schedule a service call, possibly take a whole day off work because their timeslots are all six hours long for a fifteen minute job, and sit around all day not knowing when a perfect stranger is going to come over to try to fix the problem, or wait until there's a timeslot available that's not during the work day. That's all well and good if you can work from home with a broken Internet connection, but that's very few people. When they actually get to the apartment, they show up and put down a toolbox and then get on the phone because half the work is done remotely anyway, but they won't let you do it yourself, and the chance that a TWC service person will come to your house and be unable to fix the problem is substantial.

All of this, is after we had to have three service calls just to get our Internet set up in the first place. Of course, when I moved into this apartment, I was already aware of the royal clusterfuck that is Time Warner Cable, having dealt with them in the past and having heard numerous horror stories, but TWC services this building, and thus I had no freedom to chose my provider. The choice was this: suffer through Time Warner's bullshit, or don't use the Internet.

So no. That's not fucking acceptable. Sure, I was able to fix the problem myself, but I'm an outlier; a statistical anomaly. The supermajority of people are not professional computer nerds. For many people in New York City, the reality of the situation is that Time Warner has a monopoly on the market, you have absolutely no choice, and you will endure horrible service over, and over, and over again.

I'm dealing with the ap_index hijack now, what a pain!

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