Rich Warren | Technically speaking, ‘Who ya gonna call?’ | Science-technology


Mental health practitioners should add technology to their practices. Modern connectivity and terminology drive many people crazy. I receive queries from Ph.D.s frustrated with their internet connections or cellphone problems. Obviously, intelligence fails to correlate with online abilities. While advancing age causes increased anxieties, technical problems are not strictly the province of those over 30.

Do you remember that advertising catch phrase for the movie “Ghostbusters?” “Who ya gonna call?” Today’s technology bazaar grows increasingly bizarre. When things go wrong, should you contact the business that sold you the equipment, or the service provider, or your teenage neighbor, or a consultant, or even a friendly person from a third party such as your bank?

One reader suffered through all of these options. A friendly tech support person with a local bank who helped with an online banking glitch also helped her to finally coax her printer to work again.

A very helpful support person for her cable company kept using the terms 4G and 5G in reference to her cable service, yet these terms refer to cellular (mobile) phone service. That even confused me. That cable company provides cell service, but she does not subscribe to it.

The cable company is an easy target. While it may be a huge, profitable, faceless corporation, it can’t possibly know every quirk and detail of all subscriber installations. Online research and press coverage indicates Comcast may be the best of the goliaths, and Charter may be the worst. (I am not in an area served by Comcast.) Champaign-Urbana endured a succession of cable companies before Comcast. Comcast negotiated its way through many previous kludges and invested in significant improvements to provide the services people expect. One remarkable aspect of Comcast is that it empowers all staff, including executives, to help customers with problems. This brings us to the reader who emailed us with a long tale of woe a couple of months ago. I referred her to a Comcast executive who arranged the support she needed. The following is her summary of her trials, not necessarily with or because of Comcast.

“Nick [the Comcast support person] was an excellent listener and patient. He authorized a tech visit for the following weekend, as well as clarified a billing snafu.

“The tech had some ideas and capped an unused Comcast line; he also got us connected to the 5G version of our internet, believing it would provide us with better service. Given my download speed, neither he nor Nick thought the combination router/modem was the problem. It could be at higher download rates.

“Consistency [of my internet service] has returned. What I still need to work on: The printer wifi connection problem is not resolved, and my son cannot connect his secondary computer to the 5G, 4G does not seem available anymore when he tries to get on the internet. I do not think it is Comcast’s responsibility to help me with the printer; and I am not knowledgeable enough to understand whether Comcast should help with 4G, 5G connections.

“In retrospect, my issue is not having someone to help figure out what is needed and how to access it. I tried websites and robo assistants. I tried going to stores, Comcast and Best Buy. I emailed Rich at The News-Gazette. The first human I got on the phone provided misinformation. The second human sent a tech.

“In my dream world, I would talk to Nick and get a tech out — without all the hours and hours of preliminary effort. I know I am not alone. The technology of all our stuff, however, seems to have surpassed the ability of a minimally-trained person to troubleshoot. You need helpers who are not reading from a script.”

One suggestion: If you need a truly knowledgeable, albeit expensive, tech support person to visit your home, contact Jesse Swinderman (swinderman.com or 217-493-9534).

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at hifiguy@volo.net.

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