By Jim Stanford on February 16, 2014
Earlier this week my Internet service was bogging so badly that it felt like dial-up, or worse. Unable to get any work done, and tired of waiting on hold, I posted a complaint on Charter Communications’ Facebook page. While the company did nothing, a friend happened to spot the post and offered a solution.
For anyone not in our circles still having trouble with Charter (née Optimum, née Bresnan) Internet, the problem is with the company’s domain name servers, or DNS. I’ll let the friend explain:
These are servers that translate (or “resolve”) a domain name like google.com into an Internet address like 123.456.789.123. It is like a phone book for the Internet. Charter/Optimum/Bresnan has used their own DNS servers for years. Something went badly wrong with their recent changeover to Charter and those servers are not working well. When you go to a website like nbc.com, you may actually need to “resolve” more than a hundred domain names in order to display that page. Every ad, every video, every link on the page may use a different domain name. A properly functioning DNS server can do that in milliseconds. But Charter’s DNS servers were taking a LONG time (up to 20-30 seconds) to resolve the domain names.
Here is the prescription (for Mac users): Go to System Preferences > Network > Advanced > DNS > click + and type 188.8.131.52 or 184.108.40.206 into the window. Those are Google’s servers. If using a wireless network, you also can change these settings on your router (Airport Utility for Mac users).
For those not wanting to use Google, other options are 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168 from Open DNS.
Many thanks to Jim Little Jr. for his assistance. By spreading the word so widely, it was like the St. John’s Hospital physician had inoculated half of Jackson from a measles outbreak.
The DNS solution is so simple, yet it continues to befuddle Charter’s comically inept customer service phone reps. Those reps weren’t even reachable on the night in question, with wait times of up to two hours. While waiting on hold, customers get to hear the same message over and over:
“Our goal is to deliver the best products and services, and we can’t wait to show you all the ways customers are happier with Charter than ever before.” Ha!
Another reason why customers in Jackson are unhappier with Charter is lack of support for online streaming. NBCOlympics.com is broadcasting every Olympic event in real time; all NBC asks is that viewers verify that they subscribe to TV. Yet Charter does not provide the required account verification, even for those of us who pay the company for TV and Internet.
When Olympian Resi Stiegler of Jackson Hole competes in alpine skiing this week, it’s unlikely anyone with Charter service will be able to watch live. Nor will ski racing enthusiasts in Colorado, Montana and Utah (also served by Charter) be able to cheer on their hometown athletes.
I called Charter last fall to inquire why I couldn’t watch some college football games on ESPN.com for the same reason. Five months later, the company still has not addressed the problem.
This is what happens when a regional provider is bought by a big company that is bought by an even bigger company. Service wanes. Slow Internet, poor phone support, lack of online streaming — it all adds up to FAIL for Charter.
Fortunately, the company is negotiating to renew its franchise agreement with the Town of Jackson and will be before the council in the next month or so.