Is Your Internet Working?


POSTED ON THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2012 AT 4:37 PM

How many times have you ever had to ask someone if their Internet is working properly? When your Internet connection is down and you know that there has to be some sort of problem going on? Knock on your neighbor's door? Call up your friends? Do everything but call your Internet Service Provider (for good reason as you'll see below)?

If there's one company in Vancouver, let alone in all of Canada, who's capable of causing severe migraine headaches when it comes to Internet problems, it would have to be Shaw. Years ago, everyone was pointing their finger at Telus. Whether your Internet access was for home use or for business use, you were almost guaranteed a two to three-hour wait before you could get through to a technical support representative when things went wrong. And that was on a good day. I learned all of the Telus "music on hold" songs off by heart from having called them so many times.

Things have changed over the years. Telus provides exceptional customer service now. The company seems to have learned from their numerous mistakes over the last decade. Formerly known as BC Tel, Telus went from watching their shareholders rip their hair out (no, I'm not a shareholder) to profitability within a couple of years after the merge. Perhaps the billion dollar advertising campaign (those cute commercials with all the lovable little animals against white backgrounds) did pay off after all.

These companies don't just offer Internet access. They offer darned near everything from landline and mobile phone service to movie rentals and home monitoring (we're including Rogers here — we'll save the Rogers "rants" for another post). But in Shaw's case, it appears as though they simply don't have enough people to properly handle technical support for all of the services they offer and for the number of customers they now have. This is something we saw happen literally overnight back in the nineties when Telus first began offering ADSL to residential customers.

Three times last year, our Shaw bill increased by $5.00 per month (see update below). When we finally called Shaw to question them about this, asking the company why our bill was $15.00 higher than it was a year ago to the date, their answer was:

"We've upgraded. We've introduced some exciting new services. In order to serve you better, our rates have increased."

Exciting new services? Serve you better? We had one more concern to discuss with them (by this time, our call had been escalated to a supervisor because I was minutes away from closing our account). Why were we being placed on hold for hours on end when we needed technical support? Their response was:

"We'll be bringing more technical support staff online soon to handle these concerns."

This morning, our Internet service went completely dead again. One by one, our clients began calling us to see if our Internet was working — the problem was obviously affecting the entire North Shore. I called Shaw's technical support line at (604) 629-3000, dreading yet another three to four hours worth of "elevator music" while on hold. I waited a half an hour for a human being to answer and finally gave up hoping that the problem would just resolve itself. It didn't. So I called again and was suddenly greeted with the following message:

"Sorry, we are currently experiencing system problems and are unable to process your call. Please try your call again later (click)."

I tried calling numerous times and got the same message over and over again. Everyone in the city was calling by now — a complete telephone system overload. This isn't the first time this has happened. Not every system (and company) is perfect. But enough is enough.

I've had to call Shaw about our Internet access problems dozens of times — I've even had to call them about our cable television problems and I can't believe how long I've had to wait to speak with a "live" technical support representative. We're talking a half a day here at times. At one point last year, I used their callback feature to request a callback instead of waiting on hold — I heard back from them 8 hours later (in the evening). Unbelievable. And I remember how Shaw tried to make a mockery out of Telus when they first began advertising their callback feature on their television commercials a couple of years ago. Talk about eating crow. I'd much rather use the Telus automated attendant.

Shaw appears to be far too quick in blaming Internet access problems on your router:

  • "Disconnect your router and try connecting to the Internet directly from your computer to your modem"
  • "I've already done that and it still doesn't work"
  • "It still doesn't work?"
  • "No, it still doesn't work!!!"
  • "Oh, ummm... let me check and see if there is a problem in your area. May I put you on hold for a moment?"
  • "Yes" (sigh)
  • Click (accidental disconnect after being on hold for only three hours)
  • "Grrrrrrr... why you #@*%!!"

On the average, Shaw's Internet service appears to go down about once every three months. I can actually tell when their system is ready for an outage just by the way my e-mail begins to act up. A spinning wheel for any given Shaw account — intermittent all throughout the day. This goes on and on and on. Sometimes for a week until finally — look 'Ma, no Internet. They keep telling me that the problem is an Apple Mail problem. Being a Mac Computer Technician, I know that this isn't the case.

Look at the amount of advertising Shaw is doing right now. Millions and millions of dollars worth of advertising for Shaw EXO. Look at the Shaw Tower — the fourth tallest building in downtown Vancouver, all lit up every night (it's hard to miss a power bill like that one). Turn on the Global BC news at 6:00 PM and pay close attention to the last 30 seconds of the newscast. "A Shaw Media company". Who's paying for all of this? We are. Their valued customers.

Too bad there isn't a free Tylenol coupon included with each Shaw bill. Ironically, Rogers sent us yet another unsolicited waste-of-a-postage-stamp last week offering to add a magazine to our monthly bill for as low as one dollar per month. MoneySense Magazine was one of the choices.

I don't know about you but Telus is about to get all of our business — landline, mobile, Internet access, cable television and the works. I just can't take it anymore.

[Updated 06.05.12] What did I tell 'ya? Four paragraphs up, I said that I can always tell when Shaw is ready to go down. For the past four or five days, I've had a spinning wheel for each of my Shaw e-mail accounts — on and off throughout each day. This morning? No Internet. Oops, yes — it's working again. Wait a minute. Nope. It's down again. Wait a second. It's working. No, it's not. As of 3:00 PM, we have a full outage in this particular area of North Vancouver. Shaw's pre-recorded message says "some customers in the Port Coquitlam area are experiencing a temporary disruption of all of their Shaw services." Excuse me? We're on the North Shore!

[Updated 06.18.12] Monday morning — 9:21 AM. I'm already getting spinning wheels accessing Shaw e-mail. Any bets? This is becoming more and more frequent and I wouldn't be surprised to see Shaw go down again within the next 72 hours. Telus, here we come — I'm calling Telus today to switch. I've absolutely had it.

[Updated 06.25.12] It's just another Manic Monday (morning) — 10:05 AM. No, I didn't get around to contacting Telus yet. Shaw is completely down again (intermittent spinning wheels for my Shaw e-mail accounts all week long, ultimately leading up to this "grand finale"). My estimated wait time is between 17 and 25 minutes. At least that seems to have improved. It sure would be nice to have an Internet connection, though. Oh my goodness, what a mess this outfit has turned into. Tell me why I Don't Like Mondays?

[Updated 07.23.12] Oh, no — not this again. It's 9:35 PM and the dreaded Apple Mail "spinning wheel of (Shaw) doom" is causing my e-mail password dialog boxes to pop up again. Why am I procrastinating so much and putting off the switch to Telus? Why does this always seem to happen on a Monday? These updates will take up a half a dozen pages by the end of the year if this keeps up.

[Updated 10.01.12] Well, Shaw did it again. They increased our monthly bill by another $4.00 per month. They claim that it's "due to cost of maintenance fees, new network fees and the cost of new channels" which we didn't ask for because most of the new channels are totally useless — we get them whether we want them or not. Unfortunately, I don't speak a second language other than English so these "new" channels which I don't need are a real bonus, aren't they?

In the past twelve months, our Shaw bill has increased by almost $20.00 per month. When I spoke to Shaw this morning, the customer service representative I spoke with would neither confirm nor deny that their rates will increase yet again within the next three to six months. I actually got a lecture from the person I spoke with about how the price of gas, mortgage rates and everything else has gone up. One year from now, will we once again be paying $20.00 per month more than we are right now? Seeing a Shaw rate increase on our bill once every few months is becoming a little much.

By the way, my Shaw e-mail account "wheels" have been spinning left, right and center over the last 48 hours so watch for another major system outage within the next few days.

[Updated 10.04.12] Shaw Internet is down as of 3:10 PM on Thursday, October 4th, 2012. Just like I said above, it's become rather obvious now that when your "mail wheels" start spinning, you'll see an outage within a few days. It sure would be nice to see them fix this once and for all. And for those of you who keep getting told that this is an "Apple Mail" problem (like us) — it's not. Here's your proof.

[Updated 09.03.13] In order to "serve us better", Shaw has done it yet again. They increased their monthly charges on September 1st, 2013. Thanks for the short notice.

[Updated 01.08.14] After clearing out some old accounting records this morning, we noticed that our Shaw invoices were $81.00 back in 2007. This month's invoice for 2014 was $141.00. That's getting close to double of what we were paying seven years ago. And the channel lineup is the worst it has ever been. At the pace Shaw is going with their rate increases, I'm sure we'll be paying more than double by the end of the year. Thank you, Shaw.

[Updated 10.02.14] How many of you have "inadvertently" begun receiving Shaw's Big Picture Newsletter even though your account settings (ie: Manage Subscriptions) are set to not receive promotional offers from Shaw? On September 23rd, 2014, we began receiving "Win A Trip For Four To NYC" promotional offers to all of our Shaw e-mail accounts. After complaining to Shaw, this was their response:

"We are sorry to hear that you are still getting these emails when you have unsubscribed already, we have sent this information to the team that sends out these emails to ensure that your email addresses have been removed. We have also gone to our new unsubscribe page which is https://www.shaw.ca/secure/Unsubscribe/ and have entered in all of your email addresses here to ensure that they are again removed from subscriptions."

Today, we started receiving a second wave of "Win A Trip For Four To NYC" promotional offers. Shaw's rates haven't increased (yet) but I guess times must be tough. Taking lessons from Rogers?

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