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Comcast, Please 'Fess Up To Your Port Blocking; Your Customers Deserve To Know

Yesterday, after the shock and awe of my shiny new Comcast bill wore off (see my previous post), something else popped up to consume the better part of my workday. 

Comcast blocked my outgoing email.  It took me all day and a couple of hours and three phone calls before Comcast fessed up:  Comcast is blocking Port 25.

They claim I have a virus and my computer is spamming. 

But..I’m on Mac and I run anti-virus software regularly and I’m extremely careful..

(…because I’m totally paranoid about viruses and DNS spoofing and keystroke loggers etc., because I was an almost victim of identify theft - a story I handed off to MSNBC’s Bob Sullivan who then handed it off to NBC Nightly News’ Tom Costello and the culprits were hung out to dry.

Anyway - shout out to Bob and his Red Tape Chronicles at MSNBC.  Bob broke the Choicepoint story and he’s a reporter of great integrity, passion and compassion for victims - the Anderson Cooper of identify theft.)

At any rate, my anti-virus software has so far turned up nothing on my computer - zero, zilch, nada.

I started having email issues a couple of weeks ago.  Suddenly, spam was circumventing the Comcast filters - filters I had  dutifully trained over the course of several months by flagging each and every piece of spam. 

At around the same time, I found out - by sheer luck because one of my pals alterted me - that the system was rejecting incoming emails.  Some really important incoming emails had bounced back at senders. 

Furthermore, I was surprised to find old emails from publicists and others sitting in my Comcast webmail spam folder - emails that had previously sailed through.

I’m still getting annoyed phone calls from people who think I ignored their emails - emails I never received and never even appeared in my web spam folder.

Then, on Tuesday night, the send mail problem started.

I called Comcast.  A new layer has been added to the vmail system.  Callers must submit to a computerized recycle of their routers before the system connects with a customer service agent.  it’s doesn’t take that long and…okay - I get this.  Comast must have a lot of people calling in to say their system is down when it’s a simple recycle problem.  Which must drive them nuts.  But still…arrrrgh.  for those of us who know to check our routers, it’s an impediment.

My rep - a guy name Michael - was extremely kind and knowledgeable. (Lots of points in the plus column. Promote this guy.)  Comcast is having problems system-wide, he admitted.  About one -in-a-thousand customers are experiencing a problem.  It’s "sporadic" and he can’t tell me why I’m having issues.

Even though Comcast doesn’t support my email program, he tried to help anyway.  (more points here.)   If I understood what Michael was telling me -  my outgoing mail is on port 25 and this is the problem.  Michael wanted me to switch to port 587 but it appeared that Eudora (my email program) doesn’t allow for this.

So - I’m stuck.  Comcast has no idea when this problem will be resolved.   Michael ruefully suggests I use webmail until the problem is solved.

Late in the afternoon, I call again and ask to speak to a Supervisor.  I hear the Comcast mantra:  they don’t support my email program and they can’t tell me when the problem will be fixed.  I’m told to use webmail.  "That’s why we have it."

Finally, I insist: my email worked flawlessly for years until a few hours ago. The problem is on your end.  You changed something on port 25 that caused the problem.  You need to fix it.

The mention of port 25 triggers something in the Supervisor.  "Oh," he says, "maybe a security block has been placed on your email."

Bingo.  Yes, he finds a block.  The Supe connects me to security. 

Security guy is also very nice and helpful.  He says I have a virus and that my computer is sending spam.  But I’m on a Mac, I say.

Security guy rescinds the block immediately.  (additional points.)

Security guy says someone might be accessing my open router.  I say my router is password protected.

I’m told the spam incident happened at 6:30p.m. on Monday or Tuesday and that Comcast was contacted by AOL.

I live update my Norton anti-virus and run it.  Norton locates nothing. 

I call my tech god, David Farrow, a long time Mac expert here in Marin.  David is coming to the house this weekend to conduct an extra level of checks.  We’re also changing the router password, just to be safe.

Says David:

Regarding ComCast: over the past couple of months, they did migrate to a new mail system, attempting to keep all the settings intact. 

Am told that there were a great many bugs; people who rely on it for their daily email apparently endured significant outages and inconsistent performance during the transition, and the support department was consequently snowed. So, I’m wondering if this may be related to what you experienced and / or what you were told by the Comcast support department.  

But, to be fair, David also voluteered: 

Overall, I have gotten good service from Comcast through some sticky situations (including one where we had to

regain control of an eMail account that was owned by a deceased individual).

Life in the Internet fast lane.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s all worth it.  Oh, well.  All’s well that ends well

The day ended on a high note, though  Ken from the National Flood Insurance Service Center called to tell me that he rescued my policy from some weird bureaucratic limbo.  (Yes, this has not been my week.)  But thanks to the Ken’s and the