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My Travails with Xfinity xFi

Stylized image of the xFi Gateway device with a swirl of light around it

The Coronavirus pandemic changed the way my family and I used our Internet service. Spoilers: Our data use went WAY up.

At first, Xfinity (aka, Comcast) lifted data caps, and that was appreciated. Then in July, they reimposed the data limits, so I had to make some adjustments. I decided to dump my personally owned equipment and adopt the xFi Gateway.

It was impressive. And it was terrible.

Adopting the xFi Gateway

In July 2020, Xfinity announced they would charge for data beyond 1.2 TB each month. And we were definitely using more than that. Xfinity offered Unlimited Data for $30/month with your own equipment or $25/month with xFi Complete that included the xFi Gateway which offered mesh abilities.

I’ve always preferred to own my own modem and router for our Internet service. I can access all the router settings, and I can research how to solve issues when they arise.

But I figured I’d give Xfinity a shot. (Cue the foreboding music here.)

xFi Gateway with xFi Pods

I received the xFi Gateway and deployed it easily. The mobile app really is good. I could label devices and assign them to people in our home. This allowed me to set schedules and even unceremoniously yank a connection when a kid became disrespectful. That said, I never set a schedule or disconnected my offspring.

After a week or so, the gateway’s self-diagnostics qualified me for xFi Pods, the mesh network components. They worked really well, too.

Until…

The Unexplained Blips & Xfinity’s Tech Support

Whether wired and wireless, all connected devices would experience about 3 blips per week. These “blips” weren’t just simple bandwidth congestion where the connection would stutter and recover. These instances were hard connection resets. When a blip occurred while anyone was using Zoom or Microsoft Teams, we were disconnected from the meetings completely, forcing us to connect from scratch. This was not conducive for telework and virtual learning.

I forgave the blips, at first. But they became more frequent. So I started calling Xfinity Internet Support.

It went exactly how you’d expect.

I would describe my issue to the reps. I should have recorded this because I repeated more times that I can count.

In the beginning, the Tier 1 techs would vaguely troubleshoot my gateway and pronounce success. And a few days later, the blips would return.

After calling several times, I started getting more advanced technicians who were more transparent with their troubleshooting. But the results were the same: After a few days, the blips returned.

Then I had the Big Conversation with one of the advanced techs. We discussed and troubleshot many things. And then the conversation abruptly ended with his diagnosis.

He claimed I had too many devices attached to my network, and he suggested that I upgrade to a faster Internet package. And then he essentially stopped listening to me.

I respectfully disagreed with him and explained that my 5-year-old non-mesh router had handled the same number of connected devices (e.g., computers, tablets, phones, IoT devices) without any issues. Unfazed, the tech repeated that I needed faster Internet.

My Solution

If the tech can quit on me, then I could quit on the xFi Gateway. I packed it up and returned it.

I dug out my old modem and reconnected it. I enjoyed the call to Xfinity support so they could recognize the modem’s MAC address. I connected the tried-and-true modem to a new Netgear Orbi mesh network router.

Guess how many blips we’ve had…

Zero. Not a single one.

Arris modem with Netgear Orbi mesh router system

So this blog post is an ode I wish I could sing outside the home of that dismissive Xfinity support technician.

Comcast Raises Its Data Caps

 

You Got Comcasted

Comcast, who offers Internet services via its Xfinity brand, announced a significant increase in its data caps. Several markets were placed under a 300 GB per month data cap. With this limit, customers were allowed 3 no-cost overages in any 12-month period. After that, going over meant an extra $10 per 50 GB of data.

Starting June 2016, the cap jumps to a respectable 1 terabyte (1,000 GB) per month. Comcast claims its customers can stream 700 hours of HD video content without fear of exceeding the cap. For customers who do exceed the terabyte, the same $10 per 50 GB fee still applies. Comcast claims 99% of their customers don’t use 1 terabyte of data. They previously claimed this same statistic when they instituted the 300 GB cap. There is no word whether customers are allowed any complementary overages.

There has been a lot of negative attention on the Internet data cap, and it seems that entertainment giant actually listened.

I am a Comcast customer in Atlanta, and my family has been living with the data cap for a few years. The 300 GB cap just felt so restrictive. When we started to stream a Netflix show, I found myself doing quick mental check to get a feel for whether we were topping out our cap. One terabyte certainly lifts that constant feeling of dread.

Comcast Caps Atlanta [UPDATED]

Comcast Cares. Yeah, Right...

I live in the Atlanta metro area, and I’ve learned that this market is part of a Comcast trial. A trial in which all high speed Internet customers get a 300GB limit per calendar month.

Is 10GB per day generous?

A limit of 300GB per month is barely reasonable and far from generous. If my kids watch a few shows on Netflix, and I caption some videos for my work, then 10GB per day is confining. Suddenly, my peace of mind about using the Internet (which is already a significant portion of my monthly bills) is gone. I find myself wondering if I’m going to hit my limit on a daily basis. Talk about having a dark cloud over you while you try to enjoy a streaming movie from Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes.

Monitor. Monitor. Monitor.

So how do you monitor your Internet consumption? Comcast gives you three options. First, dig deep into the Customer portal on the Comcast Web site. It’s there. About three levels down. Second, you can sign up your cell phone to receive warnings via SMS. You can set warnings to fire off at certain usage intervals such as 80%, 90%, and 100%. Finding the Web page to sign up isn’t particularly easy, either. Third, you can download and install a meter app for your desktop computer. It uses Adobe Air. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust Adobe Flash with all its security issues, so why would I want Air on my PC, too?

Get to Your Usage Cap Quickly!

My Comcast high speed Internet service is reasonably dependable and very fast. But rather than feeling like I can brag about it, I worry that it just means my family and I can hit that 300GB limit just that much faster.

Does Comcast really care? Or do they care more about keeping rates steady while increasing revenue through penalties?

UPDATED 19 Dec 2014

I encourage you to visit my toolkit for engaging elected officials so that they will consider reviewing Comcast’s and AT&T’s rules and fees on broadband Internet.