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The 'Cable Guy' Now a Network Specialist

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the 55k-isn't-too-slouchy dept.

Networking 235

Hugh Pickens writes "Amy Chozick reports that cable guys, long depicted as slovenly cranks who dodged growling dogs and tracked mud on the living room carpet, often have backgrounds in engineering and computer science and certifications in network engineering. 'Back in my day, you called the phone company, we hooked it up, gave you a phone book and left,' says Paul Holloway, a 30-year employee of Verizon, which offers phone, Internet, television and home monitoring services through its FiOS fiber optic network. 'These days people are connecting iPhones, Xboxes and 17 other devices in the home.' The surge in high-tech offerings comes at a critical time for cable companies in an increasingly saturated Internet-based market where growth must come from all the extras like high-speed Internet service, home security, digital recording devices and other high-tech upgrades. 'They should really change the name to Time Warner Internet,' says Quirino Madia, a supervisor for Time Warner Cable. 'Nine out of 10 times, that's all people care about.' Despite their enhanced stature and additional responsibilities, technicians haven't benefited much financially. The median hourly income in 2010 for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers was $55,600 annually, up only 0.4 percent from 2008."

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235 comments

Not comcast (5, Funny)

bigtrike (904535) | more than 2 years ago | (#38556944)

Last time I had a comcast tech out to fix my cable modem, I had to show them how to use ping.

Re:Not comcast (5, Funny)

mrclisdue (1321513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557012)

Good work on your part.

He showed up at my place shortly after, and I showed him how to use LOIC as a tool to check the comcast servers.

Next time, I'll show him how to speed up his PC and search for Nigerian princes.

cheers,

Re:Not comcast (2, Funny)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557144)

Next time, I'll show him how to speed up his PC and search for Nigerian princes.

Cut the guy a break - and show him how to search for Nigerian princesses. It sounds like he'll be a "stay-at-home" spouse soon.

Re:Not comcast (5, Informative)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557170)

Yeah, my experiences with Charter have been about the same over the last 10 years I've been a customer of theirs. The only time I ever had a tech that seemed like he knew anything (and didn't just try to bullshit me) was recently, and even then it took a problem being escalated to the supervisor's supervisor to get that kind of attention. Turns out the "shitty wiring in the walls that was preventing [me] from getting more than 4 meg that would never be repaired unless the landlord tore all the walls out and rewired the building" was actually a faulty node that was blasting everyone in this complex with so much noise on the lines that anything beyond regular web surfing didn't work for shit (and even that worked like crap during peak, which was always the excuse, "it's peak usage, sorry, nothing can be done". It took a year of complaints from everyone in this complex until they finally investigated and found the problem with the node and, when they replaced/repaired it, holy shit, everything started working again. Imagine that...

If there was any other alternative that offered similar speeds, I would switch, but unfortunately my choice is them or DSL that tops out at 7 meg for the same price. Either way, their Level 3 guy openly admitted that most of the lower level techs know enough to plug the shit in and do basic troubleshooting, but that's about it. However, he did say that 99% of the time the problem is user error related to people not knowing how to plug the shit in or connect to the network, so maybe that's why? Either way, though, I could do without the bullshit answers. I've had the problems blamed on my router more often than I can count (even though that's complete bullshit), and funny, that always segues into trying to get me to rent one from them for $7 a month. Uh, yeah, no thanks...

Re:Not comcast (0)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557216)

preventing [me] from getting more than 4 meg

unfortunately my choice is them or DSL that tops out at 7 meg for the same price

Hmm maybe you got the story crossed over but I'm not really seeing the problem here...

Re:Not comcast (1)

Garybaldy (1233166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557476)

I understood it to mean due to a network problem he was only getting 4meg that when fixed exceeded the 7meg offered from dsl.

Re:Not comcast (4, Interesting)

Sevalecan (1070490) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557482)

No joke. My dad has Charter out at his business, and his modem died not too long ago, so he called them up and they came out and replaced it. This new modem had three different ethernet ports on it, and what the charter guy did was plug the router into the second, non-operative port (he was only paying for one connection anyway), and then plugged his desktop directly into the first port on this new modem. He also told my dad that he needed a "business router" and that's why the router no longer worked. Business router my foot, all he needed was someone with a brain larger than a peanut to come in and hook it up for him. I unplugged the computer, plugged it back into the router, then plugged the router into the first port of the new modem and all was well. It's just a cheap little d-link router but it works fine, he doesn't need anything more and never did.

Re:Not comcast (3, Interesting)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557188)

I wouldn't generalize this. I've seen some bad Comcast installers, but some of they are quite with it. In fact, if you're dealing with the business division, those guys are quite good. One of the last guys I dealt with asked me why I had a business connection at home. We started talking and he was a big Linux fan. He thought it was rather cool I ran a BSD project out of my house. Even shared some insight on their IPV6 deployment plans with me.

Re:Not comcast (5, Interesting)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557192)

...I had to show them how to use ping.

On the other end of the spectrum, needing to call technical support simply to get the ips of the name servers I needed to use elicited a salvo of "Can you ping the servers?" and "Can you give me the output of tracert?" Finally, after 15 minutes of explaining that I was using linux ("That platform isn't supported"), I could configure my machine myself, and all I needed was this one bit of information, the "tech" on the other end of the line actually seemed annoyed with having to give up the one piece of info I actually needed.

Re:Not comcast (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557254)

the other end of the line actually seemed annoyed with having to give up the one piece of info I actually needed

I don't think giving out DNS server IPs is in the script, and going off the script means that rep is going to be disciplined, and they had to exhaust the 15 minute script lest the rep get punished before being able to go off script, which also ruins the rep's required average call time which it probably something like 3 minutes. So you had them between a rock and a hard place, no matter what the rep did, once you called in, that rep is about to get disciplined, and no one likes no win scenarios.

Which at least fits in well with the management strategy of keeping the turnover rate of line employees up to keep benefit costs down.

Re:Not comcast (4, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557502)

What I do:

Them: Hello my name is $OBVIOUSLY_FAKE_NAME
Me: $OBVIOUSLY_FAKE_NAME, is it? I know you have a script and all, but please save us both some time and just escalate me to a higher support tier, the info I need isn't on your script. (If they refuse, then I say: "Sorry about this, I know calls are recorded... so, I'm right pissed off and I'd like to talk to your manager!")

Once I've got the next higher up support personnel on the phone I can usually say things like: "I need the IP list for my name servers, my IP is: xx.xx.xx.xx", or "Your cable-tech guy forgot to give me the admin password for the modem, what's the standard PW or reset procedure & web-based config?" and I'm off the phone in mere moments.

IMHO, there's no need to ever mention what OS you're using. If they ask I tell them it's none of their business, they sell network service, not software.

Re:Not comcast (4, Informative)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557488)

I always use 8.8.8.8 (one of Google's DNS servers) as an emergency backup when I cannot reach mine.

Also, a lot of linux distros do support DHCP, which is a good way to get the settings before manually configuring. (which may not be an option in your situation)

Re:Not comcast (1)

rhizome (115711) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557660)

Last time I had a comcast tech out to fix my cable modem, I had to show them how to use ping.

I've got news for you: he knows how. He was just being lazy and padding his hours with a play-dumb work slowdown.

Re:Not comcast (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557728)

That's the thing, though. Comcast techs aren't paid by the hour, at least around here. They're paid per job. That's why usually, their motivation is to show up, half-ass their way through the issue as fast as possible, and get on to the next job.

Re:Not comcast (1)

PhoenixFlare (319467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557770)

Sounds about like my local company (Shentel) too - we had outages 5 separate times in October, each time the idiots on the phone were convinced that something was wrong with our router or computers, how dare we insinuate that their equipment could POSSIBLY be broken.

Finally after 5 calls, a 15-minute browbeating of one of their phone monkeys, and 3 dispatches....they futzed around for almost 3 hours and finally figured out that someone sliced a line putting in a privacy fence.

And this after I had to talk to 3 separate people to actually get the provisioning right on our modem to get the speeds we were paying for.

And the last 3 times I had one at the house... (2)

wygit (696674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38556952)

he had several meters and black boxes his employer had given him but hadn't shown him how to use. He was standing there clipping clips to different connectors, saying "Is this what I hook this to?"

Re:And the last 3 times I had one at the house... (3, Insightful)

Mannfred (2543170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557010)

I guess what the article is really saying is that now the cable companies _need_ network specialists even at the customer-facing frontline, but they're not willing to pay for them.

Re:And the last 3 times I had one at the house... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557182)

Precisely. Not the cable companies are alone in their contempt for their customers. Lots of businesses now regard customer service an technical support as little more than a pain in the ass. Some even admit to crafting "the experience" such that customers will use it as seldom as possible. Apparently, cheap, untrained, English-as-a-third language help is getting harder to come by.

You're missing the big picture (2, Insightful)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557644)

All companies regard employees as a pain in the ass. Going by the capitalist model, all workers are essentially profit-stealing overhead. Ideally a company with no employees, run entirely by machines, is the most profitable.

Basic economics works against the working class.

Re:And the last 3 times I had one at the house... (4, Insightful)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557028)

The cable companies around here seem to subcontract out all their install work, mostly to people who aren't good or care about their job. Verizon still has their own employees doing the Fios installs since they have to send someone up onto the pole to run the fiber from the tap into the house. The Verizon guys appear to be better trained and better paid (not surprising since they are unionized). $53k is peanuts on the coasts, but is a decent salary elsewhere in the US.

Re:And the last 3 times I had one at the house... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557122)

That's why I don't have cable for either TV or internet. The Centurylink guys seem to be quite a bit more clueful and the DirecTV technicians on the rare occasion where I need them go way above and beyond what I've needed to make sure things are done and that I won't have further problems.

Re:And the last 3 times I had one at the house... (4, Funny)

Aighearach (97333) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557228)

way above and beyond what I've needed to make sure things are done and that I won't have further problems.

So, what, they installed a weather control machine?

Networking Certs and CS Degree? (1)

cluedweasel (832743) | more than 2 years ago | (#38556956)

"'These days people are connecting iPhones, Xboxes and 17 other devices in the home." Seriously? Certs and a degree are needed to hook up equipment to a home network?

Re:Networking Certs and CS Degree? (3, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38556980)

shows you how worthless those are, considering your partner may have just been hired cause he owned a truck and a hand drill

Theory based Degree can get killed in the cable (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557148)

Install cable systems is very hands on and lack of skills can you or others killed. Some of what cable guys do is like electricians and I want some who knows what they are doing not some one with just certs or Degrees. THIS IS LEARN ON THE JOB JOB! that should need a min of a degree to get in.

http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/106756 [dslreports.com]

Just look at the story's where a cable guy grounds to a GAS LINE and other stuff.

http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/79994 [dslreports.com] Botched Comcast Install Blows Up House
Investigators believe grounding rod punctured gas line

http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r25415431-Comcast-fried-my-new-Sony-52q-lcd-tv [dslreports.com]

http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/80151 [dslreports.com]

http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/80368 [dslreports.com] both technicians stated that the company-installed "system" of cables on the roof were "a real mess" and were unsafely stretched over and near an electrical box and associated cables."

Re:Theory based Degree can get killed in the cable (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557320)

Last decade I worked for a cableco and we had the opportunity of free training from this place called Jones/NCTI basically a paper binder self paced training system, fax in your chapter test answers, then study the next chapter, repeat. I took a couple classes for the heck of it (although it had nothing to do with my job, we had what amounted to a free site license, where any employee could sign up and it was rubber stamp approved). The frontline techs were required to take these classes, engineering staff not required. The classes were pretty good and basically explain in great detail very clearly (modern high school level, old middle school level) more or less how not to end up in a link from Joe_Dragon on /.

Simple individual case incompetence, is probably much more likely than company wide lack of training.

no it's lot of contractors who some times are pay (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38556958)

payed per job and are over scheduled leading to time where they don't even show time.

And I have seen job listed where they just say if you have a truck and a list of tools you can start right away.

Captain Obvious strikes again.... (0, Offtopic)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38556964)

This just in:

Cable companies screw their employees just as much as their customers. Stay tuned while we go deep undercover into the world of cable company management and ask the really tough question why can they charge so much for a shit product? We'll get into that and more after the following commercials showing dancing toilet paper, talking animals, cars driving in the rain, and finally... angry white men trying to get elected. STAY TUNED!

Re:Captain Obvious strikes again.... (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557060)

Correction, companies screw their employees as much as their customers (tho the preferred word there is consumers, moo)...

It will take month for under cover boss to fix com (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557208)

It will take month or maybe more for com cast to be fixed one week is to shout.

Maybe one week in the call centers / walk in centers. 1-2 weeks in the field. And 1 week in the back end at the head ends and other NOC's.

Hourly income was $55,600 annually! (2)

seyyah (986027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38556968)

The median hourly income in 2010 for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers was $55,600 annually, up only 0.4 percent from 2008."

Terrific start to the year with that sentence!

Re:Hourly income was $55,600 annually! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557016)

The median hourly income in 2010 for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers was $55,600 annually, up only 0.4 percent from 2008."

Terrific start to the year with that sentence!

Yes, they must be really hurting. I mean everyone makes 6 figures, right? right?

Re:Hourly income was $55,600 annually! (3, Funny)

Lorens (597774) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557040)

I want an hourly income of $55,600 too. I don't understand why they only work one hour a year, in their place I'd work a whole day!

Re:Hourly income was $55,600 annually! (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557238)

lollll...I hear you. Before I read that, I thought the only place you could make that much an hour was by pilfering 401Ks on Wall Street.

Re:Hourly income was $55,600 annually! (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557354)

Means they're not playing games and pretending a non-manager is an exempt manager therefore exempt, a popular activity in the IT world.
Hourly at 55600 means you get $41.70/hour for working overtime (storm repair work, high workload, etc), whereas salaried at 55600 means you get laughed at on /. for working uncompensated overtime.

Re:Hourly income was $55,600 annually! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557062)

The median hourly income in 2010 for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers was $55,600 annually, up only 0.4 percent from 2008."

Terrific start to the year with that sentence!

In at least two homes, seems the party never stopped...

I think you need to work 6-7 days a week to hit (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557220)

To get that pay and that is pulling long days as well.

Re:I think you need to work 6-7 days a week to hit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557274)

I think you don't understand what median means.

Re:I think you need to work 6-7 days a week to hit (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557522)

I'm sure he knows that the median is the guy you call a 900 number to get ones future told.

Names (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38556972)

A UK cable company now part of Virgin Media called itself "Telewest Broadband" to promote its internet service instead of their TV and phone offerings.

But when you ask for a cable card they don't know (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38556984)

A lot of the time when you want stuff like that they don't know much about them and with the pc's they want to install that POS software on them. Also comcast give out the POS Norton AV as well.

Re:But when you ask for a cable card they don't kn (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557074)

I give them a sacrificial computer

"oh yea I totally use that 850MHz Pentium 3 as my daily computer, it meets all of your minimum requirements"

Re:But when you ask for a cable card they don't kn (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557214)

A lot of the time when you want stuff like that they don't know much about them

That's the company line, if you ask for cablecard... "We don't know what that is." They've got to feign ignorance
"Just rent our $LIMITED_MACHINE_WITH_FANCY_MARKETING_MATERIAL at $SUPER_INSANE_MARKUP per month or buy at $VASTLY_OVERSTATE_EQUIPMENT_WORTH."

Example: just rent our $2000 intentionally DRM-crippled DVR for $100/month that has a capacity of 20gb, or up to 20 hours of TV recording. Pause live TV, and record it (as long as the program doesn't have a no-record flag), rewind, and fast forward (except through no-fast-forward sections such as sponsored messages, where the broadcaster paid for the no-fast-forward bit).

Also comcast give out the POS Norton AV as well.

Mandatory software that the cable tech is required to offer, and encouraged to push as hard as possible, due to company commissions received later for AV subscription renewal revenues.

Hmm.... not so sure about this .... (5, Interesting)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 2 years ago | (#38556986)

I don't know that the cable providers are really trying to get "Network Specialists" to do the installs? I completely agree that times are changing, and today's installer is much more likely to be bringing the connection into a home for Internet service than for simply watching TV. But the median pay doesn't sound that out of line to me, for what I think they're really looking for -- which is someone capable of efficiently driving to customer locations and following some defined procedures to hook up the cable and attach the required equipment.

The real "Network Specialists" they'd pay a lot more for would be the guys working at the "back end" of the cable company, managing the large switches handling all the traffic going out to various neighborhoods and ensuring people aren't hacking a modem in some way to get more bandwidth than they paid for. Other back end workers would be responsible for such things as rolling out firmware upgrades to the cable modems or set-top boxes on their network, testing equipment that comes back in as defective or customer returns, and keeping on top of network outages.

Just because today's customer is more sophisticated and wants to attach 15 or 20 devices to their connection doesn't mean the INSTALLER is expected to assist with any of that. My personal experience with cable company troubleshooting of issues (such as intermittent connections) tells me that if anything, they'll ask you to disconnect the cable modem from everything else and troubleshoot with only one PC connected directly to it. They don't really understand, or WANT to understand all the other things you might be trying to do with it.

Re:Hmm.... not so sure about this .... (4, Insightful)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557044)

Just because today's customer is more sophisticated...

Just because today's customer THINKS they are more sophisticated because multiple devices can be easily connected to a home network as a result of standards and effective design created by hardworking engineers.

Re:Hmm.... not so sure about this .... (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557554)

Just because today's customer is more sophisticated...

Just because today's customer THINKS they are more sophisticated because multiple devices can be easily connected to a home network as a result of standards and effective design created by hardworking engineers.

Just because today's customer NEEDS to be more sophisticated because hardware and software engineers don't follow the standards exactly, add in useless vendor lock-in bells and whistles such as "WIFI Speed Boost", and don't release the driver software so that we can actually USE the hardware on OSs (like Linux or Windows7) out of the box, because of the slave drivers the engineers work for don't get bonuses if they don't meet bogus deadlines the hardworking engineers thought were ridiculous in the first place.

Re:Hmm.... not so sure about this .... (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557072)

Or maybe they know that too much advanced stuff is technically against their TOS so if you're not a good little bit sipper you really ought to upgrade to business class.

Re:Hmm.... not so sure about this .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557090)

Indeed. Connecting various devices to a home router isn't exactly in the realm of "network specialist". It's maybe a half-day course to learn how to do it? Or a zero-hour course for anyone with even an inkling of interest in technology, since they will have already done this dozens of times for themselves (and family, and friends...).

This isn't brain surgery here. I'm not saying that these techs aren't having to take on new responsibilities. I'm just saying that ~55k$ seems plenty for what the on-site installer is being asked to do.

testing equipment? then don't even do that (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557264)

http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r26702537-HD-Comcast-could-have-set-my-house-on-fire [dslreports.com].

They send out a box that later on one cable guy says they were supposed to stop giving these out quite awhile ago, and that they are known to do this, which is why they stopped using them...so just the guy at the Tech center was not so up to date, I suppose.

1. why do they still give out 5-6 year old boxes? (that can't get the new guide that comcast is working or use MPEG 4 channels)

2. why are people still being forced to rent boxes that old at prices that keep going up. Let's say $7-$16 /m has payed off that box and then some.

Re:Hmm.... not so sure about this .... (1)

mkraft (200694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557334)

There are a number of levels inside cable companies when it comes to support.

The lowest level is the "cable guy". This person is not likely to have a computer or engineering background. They receive training from the cable company to do basic things like use the diagnostic meter, run coax cable, strip wiring, etc. basically they are kind of like basic electricians. Some may have some training as to what QAM errors are and the like, but not enough to fix problems. Some are employees of the cable company (more likely for trouble calls) and some are contractors (more likely for installs).

Next up the line are the "line techs". These are the guys in the trucks with cherry pickers. The customer rarely deals with them. They are trained in diagnosing line and node problems to find errors in the signals (leaks, interference, etc). Likely they have an electrical engineering background. When there's an "outage" (TV, Internet and/or phone), these are the guys who are deployed.

Lastly, there's the people who manage the headend and servers. These are ghosts, you'll never see them. These are the ones with computer and engineering backgrounds, the ones you could call network specialists. Customers never deal with them directly.

So basically the "cable guy" is still the "cable guy".

Re:Hmm.... not so sure about this .... (2)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557474)

My experience with Comcast is that they have various levels of technician. The people who do the installs are the first line. But they also have line (RF) techs and data techs who handle the infrastructure. Those guys are the ones who are rarely going to show up at your house, but actually know how to get stuff done.

Re:Hmm.... not so sure about this .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557478)

Many cable providers are providing minimal training to new employees as long as they have a valid drivers licence in order to save dollars with only a supervisor having an education and possibly prior experience possibly in networking , which is why they have to phone the company alot of the time . sales professionals usually are given a bit of training and run scripts which require little knowledge .Gone are the days where you called for a networking issue and actually got someone who went to school for that at the first tier. it is not until higher tiers that they get someone with an education or extensive experience .A couple of fios courses or fios being part of a course is not exactly what this is stating I would disagree with the article and change it to sometimes, not state often .they might have a certificate for fibre optic which can be as little as part of a 5 cr course to as much as a couple of very short courses but certainly not a diploma or degree . I suggest they check out who is getting hired by looking at adverts across the board.

The 'Cable Guy' Now a Network Specialist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38556998)

yeah. This'll be true when they do more than hook up a Belkin shit200 to their shitty modem. In order to be a "network specialist", you have to actually hook up a real network not install a fucking gateway and call it a day. They are installers. Period. They don't build networks. When they can claim that, they can claim an arbitrarily fancy sounding title.

Time Warner Internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557034)

Could be catchier. How about America Online?

network specialist (2)

l3v1 (787564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557054)

Network specialists? My a$$. They are no more network specialists than bloggers are professional journalists (yes, I feel your pain and anger and feel free to think yourselves to be anything you want, which won't change a thing).

If you want to be sure that the work is done right, try to do as much of the local installations yourselves as possible. Otherwise you're in for a treat: lot of wasted time plus paying for stuff you end up doing yourselves anyway.

And no disrespect, but calling an average of >50k for cable installing low... come on, be at least a bit realistic.

Re:network specialist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557670)

funny comment about journalists and bloggerts. I would say the best investigative work for the past 2 yr has been by your amateurs. This is independent from the fact that mainstream (cut throat capitalist) journalism is a failure. Mainstream journalism is an abject failure. Fuck your professionals.

Re:network specialist (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557754)

The guys making > $50k are not the guys comming to your house hooking up the cable. They're the guys hooking up and dealing with the CO equipment and other pieces of provider side equipment. The guys coming to your house are typically classified as low-voltage cabling installers. In most states, they don't need a license for that. In any event, I haven't had a phone/cable guy come inside my house in over a decade. There's just no need for that.

traditional phone guys used to be knowledgeable (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557076)

It does depend on how far back you go. I can believe that phone guys in the 80s didn't do a lot, but if you go further back, they tended to be at least moderately knowledgeable electricians, since a lot of phone issues ended up being something with the wiring.

Re:traditional phone guys used to be knowledgeable (1)

swb (14022) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557656)

I think the old-school Bell System technicians had a couple of advantages over the Comcast guys.

One, was the "Bell System" -- they were working with a completely designed vertical infrastructure. There was no mystery equipment, bought at the lowest price, from a Taiwanese manufacturer. And for many installs there wasn't much to do besides check cross-connects, make a few test calls with a butt set and ensure that the phone placed was the correct color for the homemaker's interior and the dial label had the right phone number. The harder installs were multiline extensions at small businesses.

Two, was the union, which made the job decent paying, with reasonable work rules. This attracted better quality people to the job and probably did divert some technically minded guys that might have otherwise become electricians (or who WERE electricians) or other decent paying trade union jobs.

Three, was being part of a state-sanctioned monopoly with a small, but legislatively guaranteed profit margin. This meant the company could create training programs and provide tools and so forth and not care about the money they spent since they could count on CWA and/or IBEW backing when they went to the government for a rate increase.

I've had good experiences with Comcast technicians, but I haven't asked much of them. Most of them seem to be blue-collar kids with weak high school educations and pink collar aspirations of some kind of computer technician career. They've usually been nice, made their equipment work and even fixed a couple of my DIY coax issues with improved splitters.

fluff don't read (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557080)

installed a “wireless gateway,” transforming an unused stairwell into a control room for the modem and router that can handle at least 24 devices at 22 megabits per second.

Anybody in this business more than 5 minutes, already knows you don't need an unused stairwell to hold a little apple airport. Unused Barbie Dollhouse stairwell, then I'll be impressed. My unused stairwell has a fileserver psuedo-nas, a small 3 unit compute cluster, a vlan capable ether switch with a zillion ports, a sbc6120 pdp-8 clone with an ethernet to serial telnet converter box, one of my ipphones that connects to the house asterisk ip pbx, and yes, I wedged an apple time machine box in there as a wireless gateway too.

Also not sure about the marketing figure of 24 devices. A /28 for the customer and a /29 for the public guest network? Uh, not. Probably just pulled than number out of a completely meaningless nether region.

Another rant is you don't need certifications in network engineering such as my long expired CCNP to ... crimp a F-connector on a cable, or yank cat-5 thru a wall. I think this is one of those ever so trendy and tiresome "be glad you networking guys at least have some kind of job, because physicists and aerospace engineers are stuck driving taxis" story. Its very much like implying that you "Need" a french literature degree to be a mcdonalds fry cook because that seems to be the only job position hiring french lit grads now a days. You need the overtraining and overeducation due to intense competition and lack of jobs, not because the workload requires it.

Finally, $55K is for a national job not just flyover big cities on the coasts. In the semi-rural area where I live, three times that gets you basically my house, a nice landed estate, an upgraded non-mcmansion house, an acre or so to grow gardens or have the kids play or put up a ham radio antenna in a non-HOA neighborhood, more or less low crime, decent neighbors, great four season weather, tons of money left over for kids education, travel/vacations, excellent local schools, tech toys, gourmet food, etc. Two spouses income and if you want you can live a rather more elaborate lifestyle, like perhaps own a house on a lakeshore, or substantial land for a private hunting reserve, etc. So spare me the comments that $55K in the flyover coastal areas or Chicago means living in a cardboard box and eating mac n cheese in the park; we know that. I know that TW pay has at least a small correction factor for local cost of living. The difference in salary required for "the good life" varies across the US by darn near a factor of 10, so if you can get a mid paying job in a fantastic area, its pretty good indeed.

Re:fluff don't read (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557250)

Still, 55k is more than 4 times what a teacher gets paid here in Greece right now!!

Re:fluff don't read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557470)

I know a guy who about 10 years ago bought a house for 18k. Yes 18k. He somehow talked the bank into giving him a 30 year mortgage on that. His 'house payment' as it were was about 20 bucks a month. He lived in a *small* ass town. It took him 2 hours to get to work. He didnt make much more than 50k. He lived *good* on that. You could literally walk across the town in 20 mins.

Some people seem to think where they live now is *the best place ever*. No it is just what you can afford right now. In many 100-200k sized towns you can within 5 miles live in a trailer park to a very respectable mansion. It is just a matter of what you are willing to pay for. The day of the mcmansion is over. Now back to reality...

If 55k was the only income for that family I would say you want to live in something 100k and down. Probably drive a 4-10 year old used car (or two). Its not great but hey thats middle class.. You dont get everything you want... Remember you own your stuff and do not let it own you.

Re:fluff don't read (1)

thejaq (2495514) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557686)

Lots of houses in minneapolis for $50K 10 yr ago and today. You can comfortably afford that on 8-9$/hr.

overeducation needs = discrimination on people who (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557608)

overeducation needs = discrimination on people who can do a job / can do a trade / tech schools but not a full college.

Renumber the old term not college material. Now we are going wrong way and makeing people get high and higher degrees for jobs that don't need them while jacking up loans at the same time as well. just to trun out people with lots book knowledge but little real work skills or knowledge

Other Way Around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557084)

Cable television is an extra to Internet service. That they still think otherwise just shows how out of touch they are.

You use the word specialist (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557110)

But I don't think it means what you think it means.

The last time I had a cable Internet connection to be installed, I had ordered it without a network card, so I was sure that they would not give me a Windows Only one. I clearly had this on the application. I also installed Windows, because I knew it would not go well otherwise.

So I have a clean Windows installation with on a paper the MAC address that they will need to make the connection. The first guy comes in and no connection. Well obviously, because he is using the wrong MAC address. I explain this to him, so he tells me that for this they need to send an engineer by.

The engineer comes and I tell him the problem AND the solution. He seems not to believe me and looks around in various network settings. After 20 minutes (!) he calls in to his HQ and tells them the MAC address I already had for him.

All I wanted to have a working connection. The moment he left I called in, told them I had a new MAC address and gave them the MAC my router has. This was not possible as the account was allowed only one device.

So if they are really specialists, the first guy could have done the call with the MAC address, seen it working and save their company a lot of money.

Re:You use the word specialist (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557196)

Geeze, they lock it down to MAC address? What if you get a new PC? They can tell (or predict with some accuracy) if its a LAN card or a dedicated device via the "OUI" organizationally unique identifier portion of the MAC addrs, so their software will likely not fall for you telling them your apple airport is actually your new PC. They might fall for you telling them its your new mac mini, maybe.

What will work is installing a second NIC on the machine, installing debian linux or whatever, configure the new nic on your lan, set up a bit of iptables nat, and away you go. This pretty accurately describes my home setup for over a decade now (with newer lower power machines periodically installed, of course)

Re:You use the word specialist (1)

Aighearach (97333) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557278)

Glad to have comcast... the modem just gives uses DHCP and locks to the first MAC address that connects... and if you get a new computer, turn the modem off and back on. (or wait an hour for the lock to time out)

Re:You use the word specialist (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557500)

Yeah, I'm not sure what the point of the MAC lock is anymore, except maybe to circumvent people hooking a hub up to the ethernet out of the modem and trying to get IP addresses directly from the modem. But with the Comcast stuff, I've found that a couple of reboots always solves the problem.

"Specialist"? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557134)

My foot. Sure, there are a few that know what they are doing and should be doing something more advanced ( and get paid for it ), but most that i have ever dealt with are buffoons and should be picking up trash instead.

Professionalish? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557164)

Professionalish titles will only cause people to demand professional quality 110% of the the time. But hey, here on SD all PR is good PR right?

I make it simple on 'em... (2)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557202)

While I have a "good" (but small) cable company (right down to putting paper booties on when they enter the house), when I have a line problem and they talk about coming out, I always disconnect all of my other other routers and subnets and pipe the cable modem to one dedicated dumb little PC.

Habit formed from experience with a "bad" (but huge) cable company that would always blame the problem on my equipment if there was more than one wire between their modem and the PC.

If the big cable companies have gotten better at all, I would point the finger at their having better test equipment - equipment that obviates the need for knowledge.

Re:I make it simple on 'em... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557742)

I have go as far as making my own locked box Point of Entry for the Cable, DirectTV and Phone companies. Anything inside my house was done by me/contractors ahead of time. So when I switch from Cable to Satellite, then back to Cable, the installer "or New bullshit Network Engineer", only has one place on my property to go and complete his required duty. (I am one of those assholes who works hard to keep introductory rates of services, so I switch when the price jumps. I personally hate the fact, for these past 15+ years, our internet services have never, seriously improved, without a hefty price tag to offer the customer for added benefits the customer never receives.)

    In San Antonio, we have Grande, Time Warner, AT&T, DirectTV, Dish, HughsNET, and pretty much all the cellular companies. I have gone through pretty much all of them throughout the beginning of dialup, ISDN, ADSL/DOCSIS Cable. In the beginning the amount of new runs that would be done because one company would tell me the RG-6 Coax cables used by Satellite were inferior to the TWC's version. From every excuse in the book to say something was wrong with how the previous communications connection had to be changed, or a new run performed.

  Finally after 3 years of switching between companies I was fed up with their bullshit installation problems. I Visio'd a wiring/networking layout for my house, eliminated most existing coax jacks. Designated a network patch panel to centralize all coax, Ethernet, telephone jacks to the one central box. Then ran a direct feed line to the Southwest end of my place for Satellite use, and a front yard access for the Cable/telephone company. Whenever I change services, I prepare ahead of time the disconnects for whichever services. Plus having the whole house wired cat5e, to a central patch panel & 24 port gigabit switch REALLY simplifies matters for me.

    Still having such a organized and expensive network setup at home. I still get installers who are "Network Professionals" now, completely baffled as to WTF I have setup at home. One Time Warner installer was insistent that he HAD to run a new coax line direct from outside so he could install Road Runner services. I showed him the door that minute, and gave him a lesson in Information Technology concepts.

    When work was hard up, I applied to work as a Installer, Repair/Tech, and I was given the boot for not having a truck, or various past working experiences in "actual telecommunications", forget the fact, Network Administrators who maintained 50,000+ computers throughout various large buildings, a network admin may already have the experience, training, and knowledge to wire-up a 4 bedroom home.

    But whatever these cable companies only want to make the consumer feel like the people that come to install these 'essential' services, are in fact Professionals.

Between the Management and the Unions of these companies, We probably will never see actual IT Professionals working as Installers or Repairers. I happen to associate with AT&T Communications and U-Verse installers/repairers, and the opposite of the spectrum Time Warner Business installers, and various contractors that do Cable and Satellite installs. None of these guys are anywhere familiar with turning on a Computer let alone being able to troubleshoot simple network problems that result in, having the Modem release and renew a IP address due to a changed router or PC connection. Some of these guys have learned throughout the years proper networking techniques and troubleshooting skills. But their employers Prohibit their level of involvement with a customers computer. (rightfully so, because as a computer repair guy, sometimes a problem the customer is having, is due to the users ignorance of their own devices. Or the of age teen in the house has infected the whole household with malware/virus issues trying to use the latest P2P methods.

    I find it also a bad step in the skills and certifications for existing "Network Professionals" will kill our job market prospects. Current needs of these Network Professionals are on a business scale. We can get paid decent from 50k ~ 80k, depending on market. Current Cable/Telephone installers get paid 30k ~ 55k a year. By changing the definition of a skilled Network Professionals duties to be average telephone installer job skill, will hurt the job requirements, and pay expectations.

    I really wish these companies would just freaking get the hint. They are needing to rethink their strategies, and also fix the current employment issues they have going on right now. The latest complaints I hear from these installers is internal affairs in their employers are corrupt and political. Veteran techs are at threat if job loss, and people who cheat the system will be given a pass. All for the sake of arbitrary metrics.

   

Special Ed, not Specialist (1)

SJester (1676058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557224)

My last cable installer felt it was best to drill from the outside, then discover where it went. Apparently the kitchen is the best place for a cable modem and wireless router, on the countertop next to the microwave. Suggestions to the contrary were ignored. The landlord said "He's an expert. Let him handle it." I'm glad the drill didn't end up in the shower.

fios ad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557232)

Is this a fios ad?

also, this talks about all of the credentials and requirements they have... and supports that with the fact that people are connecting iPhones and Xboxes. Seriously?!?

iPhones, Xboxes and 17 = hit the download cap (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557276)

250GB is fast being becoming to low. even more so at 10M -20M+ download speeds.

Re:iPhones, Xboxes and 17 = hit the download cap (2)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557388)

Wait you're complaining about 250GB? Man come to canada where most ISP's are still at 60GB.

They only check the signals (3, Informative)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557310)

I've had cable installers come and go for years and years. All they ever do is use their meter to check the signals coming through the line. If the signals are good that is all they are interested in.

Frankly it is not all that hard to train someone to hook a cable up to a meter and check to see if the numbers are in acceptable ranges. In rare cases where the signals are off they start to replace splitters working backward from the cable modem. If that doesn't work they give up and blame neighborhood saturation.

So i don't know why you'd want to pay these guys a lot of money. They aren't doing highly skilled work. Now, if you're talking about the network engineers who have to design and fix the grid that is an entirely different story. Those are obviously highly skilled people who have to know their stuff. The guys plugging in modems? Not so much.

Re:They only check the signals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557542)

The pay isn't just for the work we do in all types of climates, it's for having to deal with people like you and smile about it =)

Oh brother! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557338)

Why is it that every "remarks section" of a story dealing with Internet providers or Television providers becomes a dumping ground for pissed off malcontents bent on posting some innane rant? First off, there's a difference between traditional cable companies and telco companies providing inernet/television. Cable companies are creeping into the data centric entertainment service but still, there installers are mostly wire guys. I came into the FiOS field because it paid way more than $55k a year, mostly due to my experieince in both the EE field and the Network engineering. Before I was hooking up your brats XBox, I was either splicing fiber, setting up digital electronics such as DS1's and their relative equipment (CSU/DSU's) or managing a several hundred workstation LANs. I have an Electronic Eng. degree with a handful of certs (and not A+, Net + or any of those other "tech" certs). I have a valid C-7 license (State certified low voltage contractors license). Because Verizon pays for furthering eduction, I am working on a Network/Internet Security degree. And while this degree is an online degree through the local college, I still bust my ass with the reading and the assignments. Verizon may have hired whoever they could at first but they've been padding their workforce with degreed techs like me.

Union Schools (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557362)

If unions like the Communications Workers of America (CWA) taught network engineering skills to members it would make a bigger union and a better workforce. Maybe make one's tuition payable out of one's union dues, with discounts for grades above 50%ile. Trade schools should be run out of the revenue of the trade, not out of the public pocket as a subsidy to that industry. The public should be in the business only of certifying minimum education standards, properly primarily educating applicants through highschool, and stimulating the incoming student body size to ensure strategic industries have a raw labor pool on which to grow and compete.

If the United Autoworkers had opened robotics and engineering schools for members in the 1980s instead of resisting automation, we'd have a better organized, educated and productive workforce, and a stronger domestic industry - and better cars.

If these unions were strong enough and offered better benefits, their membership would grow enough that we could have competing unions instead of the monopoly. Then strikes and other labor negotiations would bottom line at what's actually better for the industry's workforce as a whole, instead of just the members of that union.

IT needs apprenticeships or trade schools not CS (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557536)

Lot's IT / networking stuff is very hands on and is stuff you don't get in a cs degree. And Teaching network engineering skills is what trade schools and on the job does. CS is Teaching high level theory while some theory is good CS is to much on the theory side and lack the REAL work skills.

I wish they would hire more. (1)

CaroKann (795685) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557372)

Based on my own experiences, my cable company now tries to discourage technician visits. It takes a week to get an appointment, even if you have no service.

Now, they are encouraging customers to go to the local cable office to pick up their own equipment and install it themselves.

In recent years, the equipment itself has changed. The cable box is now a simple box, without even an on/off button. I think the idea is supposed to be "hook it up, plug it in, it works", requiring no expensive visit. Unfortunately it does not always work that way.

In my case, after hooking everything up and having the cable company register the box over the phone, the box would simply die. I could not even be able to turn it on. Following their advice, I did three exchanges before I lucked out with a phone person who knew what was happening. After entering a series of secret codes using the remote, the box suddenly worked. I don't think the boxes were physically defective at all. It would have been so much easier to have someone come out.

Now if only all of my channels would work...

Re:I wish they would hire more. (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557514)

It might be coincidence, but I get way faster service when I tell them my television signal is out.

Re:I wish they would hire more. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557606)

Now if only all of my channels would work...

For this you may need a public works engineer. I could recommend my moat-guy, but I heard he was injured on the job -- Alligators. Turns out he wasn't certified for Animal Control.

Wages wrong by about $15k (2)

Jonwww (1017284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557394)

The original article/post links to a page describing "Radio and Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers" and their pay of $55,600, however what is actually being discussed here falls more under the "Line Installers and Repairers" description and their pay of $39,970. Hopefully that makes some of you feel better about the service (or lack thereof) you received from your 'cable guy'. The correct link for this job description is.... http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos195.htm [bls.gov]

Re:Wages wrong by about $15k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557740)

I agree, the wages are way off. My husband was a BBT3 for Charter and made $17 an hour. You'd need a hell of a lot of overtime to get to 55K. Here installers are manly contractors paid per job. When he started in '04, he was paid just over $11 an hour, it definitely isn't a high paying job. He currently works IT for another company and starting pay there was $17 an hour. The techs that know their stuff and are good at it, move on to better paying jobs with better conditions. Every natural disaster we say glad we are he isn't out working in it.

Experts in something else besides IT (1)

klui (457783) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557398)

I think they're experts in routing cables in very tight and uncomfortable spaces like attics and crawl spaces. They would often want to route stuff directly through a wall rather than in-wall because it's the easier to do the former. But I appreciate their expertise in this area. Connecting stuff to MPOEs and NIDs they definitely know that stuff. How to tell if the wiring into a premises are electrical or telco, yup. Splicing fiber, definitely. I'm surprised they're paid that low because I've asked a contractor how much it would cost to route networking and video cables in a home and I was quoted $4500 for 20 drops.

But in terms of hooking stuff to an enterprise switch, I have doubts most of them know about VLANs and stuff like that.

No so bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557402)

$55K exceeds the median household income which include multiple earner households. So its not so bad a salary.

Larry the Network Specialist! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557432)

Coming Soon!

and yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557444)

They still get paid slightly more than minimum wage.

More of a reason to hate Comcast and their scumbag Executives. Require more education for installers but refuse to pay them a living wage.

Anyone who says they get $55K is a moron. they Get $28-$30K

About to be let go (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557512)

In my experience, it is an iron rule that when you find a good service tech for home accounts, they are about to be let go or take a buy-out or their department is being outsourced or whatever. And, when I say "about to be let go," I mean "have gotten notice."

when I was a cable guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557676)

back in the 80's & 90's, I was hired right out of high school w/ no experience and a bit of electrical training at school. 30 days training program, ride with other guys for a couple months, and then send you out. Granted, the services were simpler then, but the job hasn't changed much.

Experts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38557758)

In the past month, I've seen installers from AT&T (twice) and Comcast (once) fail to configure their routers to the users current IP range. This left printers and anything else with static IP's unable to connect. The Comcast tech didn't know how to do an ipconfig /release-/renew on a Windows Vista computer, leaving the users computer unable to connect. He gave up and left, saying it wasn't his problem after he confirmed the Internet connection worked with his laptop.

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