doc prescribes cure for Charter Internet ills

By Jim Stanford on February 16, 2014

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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 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4 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 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220 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!

When Resi Stiegler competes in Sochi this week, Charter subscribers will have to isolate themselves from any media coverage and wait to watch taped footage because Charter does not support NBC’s online streaming.

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.

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13 Comments so far

  1. Jim Little February 16, 2014 6:19 pm

    Hey Jim, happy to help. This is “open source” as far as I’m concerned! This may not help everyone, but has made a huge difference for me and many others. But a couple of tips:
    1) You want to change this on your router/wifi that is connected to your cable modem if you use one. The directions will vary depending on the manufacturer. But it should be pretty easy to find if you google how to change the DNS for your specific router/wifi access point.
    2) it is a good idea to list more than one DNS server. That way if the first one doesn’t work the backup one should.
    3) if Charter tells you it is “because you use a Mac” they are full of it! Their ignorance does not equal “customer service”
    4) Charter is either ignorant of this problem or in full denial. A “speed test” will still work fine, so if they tell you “nothing is wrong because of the speed test” they are wrong.

  2. KB February 16, 2014 7:29 pm

    I’ve been fighting the fight against Bresnan/Optimum/Charter for more years than I care to think about. As long as you remember that it is NEVER their problem, you’ll be okay. It’ll save you a lot of frustration. When that youtube video buffers constantly at the lowest setting even though you pay for the fastest internet — NOT Charter’s fault. Find someone else to blame. They’ll help you if you want. Usually it is your PC, your router, so the website you’re trying to access. How dare you think otherwise!

  3. Brad February 17, 2014 8:59 am

    Jim, it’s about time someone talked about the gorilla in the JH communications room. An otherwise tech-savvy friend of mine has been trying to convince me for two years that Charter/Optimum had the unbeatable internet service. My suspicions have been confirmed. I have been here 35 years and have lost track of the cable companies I’ve fought with going back to when they were in the office now occupied by The Re-Store, Hey! A new parlor game – who can name all 12-15 companies going back to ’78?

  4. Ray F February 17, 2014 11:53 am

    The DNS advice is spot on — I’ve been using the OpenDNS servers for years because Bresnan’s were so spotty.

    Now if BresnanOptimumCharter would just fix their profoundly inept configuration for email access from remote devices and locations. That’s been a mess since Day 1.

  5. cv February 17, 2014 5:25 pm

    I too had issues watching games on ESPN. A friendly call to the cable company gave me a cable box and dvr free for six months

  6. Matt February 18, 2014 12:27 pm

    I’ve been fighting with the Charter login for sites like ESPN and now NBCOlympics for quite a while now too. Just recently found a post on Charter’s facebook page (by an angry, tech-savvy customer and not their own tech support mind you) saying that you need the old …@charter.net email address and pwd to login (this is different than a charter.com email address). I happened to have and remember my credentials for my charter.net address that I quit using long ago and voila, I can now log-in to NBCOlympics, etc. Why can’t their own tech support give you these instructions?

  7. Emily February 19, 2014 8:26 am

    Thanks for these workarounds. I’m not getting too much improvement with the DNS adjustment but I really appreciate that we’re talking about this.

    Speed tests consistently show fairly good results (between 20-29 Mbps download speed and 2-4 Mbps upload speed) but tests of internet quality show consistently poor results. Check out pingtest.net… I’m getting consistent “F” results with very high ping and very high jitter.

  8. The Techie Guy February 19, 2014 3:42 pm

    Hey Jim,

    I know Charter internet has been crappy for for a couple of weeks now, but let’s be real – do you thin a Centurylink DSL connections is going to serve you better? I don’t think so. 30 / 5 Mbps connection vs a 12/1. Streaming is gonna be really lame on Centurylink. To fix the Charter issue, all you have to do is change the dns server on your router to google dns or open dns. It’s better to change them on your router becasue it will take care of all the devices on your network. I have switched my dns servers about a week ago and afterwards everything has been working just fine.

    Now, I have a different issue to address with you. I’ve been a local resident of Jackson for over 7 years. I’ve been reading articles on your website for a while now. I find it interesting how the topics that you write about are matters that have affected you personally. Basically, if it doesn’t affect you – Jim Stanford – then it’s ok not to write up about it.

    Let’s take just one example. You did write about the ordinance regarding inattentive driving and with your help it was “tabled indefinitely”. I am curios on who came up with the idea of banning cellphones while driving in the Town of Jackson? I would like to bring up the following points:

    1.Has anyone thought there are more people running stop signs and red lights than being on their cellphone?

    2. Do we really want to fine tourists who come and spend their hard earned dollars in Jackson Hole and helping the economy? They are already being ripped or charged good amount of money to support our “local economy”. Think about it!

    3. Do you think it’s fair that the Town of Jackson passed this ordinance just to give more fines and make more money of the drivers? I don’t think it is. Then, they go ahead and ammend the ordinance with defined prices for the fines. Now we see what it is all about. It’s not about the the “safety” of drivers in town, it’s about them making money. if they want to make the town safer, we would have a local driving school to which people would go and actually learn to drive better.

    16 year old kids get their driver license just by driving from the DMV to the down square an back south. They don;t even know how to park a car, yet they have a license. Which do you think it’s more dangerous? A cellphone or an kid that just got his license without going to driving school.

    4. There was no proof or statistics shown or public input when the ordinance was drafted. Not all the emails sent to the council people were shown to the public.

    If you really care about the Town of Jackson, I ask of you you talk to your fellow city council members and organize a referendum to bring the cellphone matter to vote.

    Respectfully yours,

    The local techie guy!

  9. Jim Stanford February 23, 2014 5:10 pm

    Techie,
    I have a limited amount of time and energy to write on this site. The topics vary with what’s happening in a given week, my work and council schedule, what the papers already have covered, etc. Yes, I write about things that interest me, and that’s why I started this blog.

    Regarding the cell phone ordinance, I am planning to write a post reminding people that fines are about to be enforced. For nearly two months, the police department has given out verbal and written warnings, while the town has done extensive p.r. to make the public aware of the new law.

    Mayor Mark Barron brought up the idea — to increase safety, not to increase revenue. I supported the idea. There were three readings of the ordinance, and not one person showed up to oppose it. In fact, we heard overwhelmingly positive feedback throughout the process. This ordinance came after a local teen died in a car wreck in which use of an electronic device may have been a factor.

    Tourists already are facing similar enforcement in the communities from which they come, and the fines are much higher.

    This is not about money, it’s about reducing distractions on our town streets. You are welcome to share your thoughts with the council at the beginning of every Monday night meeting.

  10. Brad February 24, 2014 9:47 am

    Jim – your plea that the cellphone/driving ban is not about money aside (and I’ll take your word), town police are about to enter a target-rich environment with town coffers becoming markedly enhanced once enforcement starts. If they do their job (unlike the stop sign and red light running non-enforcement, as ‘techie’ noted), at least half the people they see will be on the phone and the tickets can fly. As I ply my trade around town, I am amazed at the number of people still on the phone while behind the wheel – most of them. Aside from the signs being posted around town warning drivers to hang up, I have not really seen a PR campaign. I am not surprised the puiblic is not paying attention.

  11. Chad February 24, 2014 3:31 pm

    If only we weren’t obligated to use our phones when we drive! (sarcastic chortle)

    Back to the Charter thing (aka, ‘the original subject of this post’). Is it just me, or were there still serious issues yesterday? Working fine since late afternoon, but the irregularity is quite frustrating.

  12. Jim Stanford February 25, 2014 9:49 am

    There were communications problems over the weekend. Don’t know about Charter, but AT&T had 2 towers down, including on Snow King. Phone service vacillated between 4G, minimal reception and no service at all. Supposedly resolved by Monday a.m.

  13. Jeff March 28, 2014 4:55 pm

    Are there other providers? Silverstar is not an option. Compunet has fixed towers around the area but depends on where you live and whether you have line of site to one of their towers. There’s got to be more, no?

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