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Woes of moving a Xfinity connection - a tragedy in 3 acts

📅 2022-Jan-04 ⬩ ✍️ Ashwin Nanjappa ⬩ 🏷️ xfinity ⬩ 📚 Archive

Despite living in the Silicon Valley, most homes here realistically have a single internet provider - Xfinity. I had to move recently, and being stupid I thought that instead of using the moving option on the Xfinity portal, I would create two separate transactions with Xfinity: create a new connection at new address on date X, and disconnect old connection at old address on date X+3. I had a chat with a human agent and confirmed these two transactions - and they said it was all scheduled.

Act 1: Internet seems to work out of the box!

So, I moved on date X, hooked up my old cable modem at the new address and it had internet! Now this was suspicious, since Xfinity usually needs you to get the new connection activated at a new address. And lo behold, the Xfinity customer portal was still showing a single address - my old address. So, their system was recognizing this connection (though at a new address) as my old one - probably using the MAC address of the modem to do that. This connection would cease in X+3 days, so I had to get the new connection activated soon.

Act 2: Deactivating the old connection

I thought that migrating over my connection would be simple - so started a chat with a human agent. Not surprisingly, there was a problem, a big one - no one knew how to help me. The agents started transferring me between multiple departments inside Xfinity since apparently they had no idea how to handle my case. After an incredible 1+ hour phone call, multiple online chats with transfers between multiple departments with agents sounding like they were in different countries (US, Filipino, Indian accents), we had together figured out these things:

I was informed that my deactivation worked (and indeed my cable modem lights were red now) and all I had to do now was to get my modem activated - a simple operation?

Act 3 - the climax: Activating the new connection

I started a chat with a human agent again to activate a new connection at my new address with my existing cable modem. This is where they ask you for the cable modem model and MAC address and enable internet access for that device. And this is where things got weirder.

The person said that my Netgear CM500 was not appearing for me in their system UI, the closest match was a CM500V. Note that the CM500 is a popular cable modem in the US and is supported by Xfinity. It was working fine one day ago with their system!

Furthermore, the system was asking for both a CM MAC and a MTA MAC address for this device. The latter MTA MAC address is only available on a cable modem with voice support - to hook up a landline. Since I could not provide a MTA MAC address, the system was not letting them proceed with activation!

At this point, the agent had no idea what to do - they suggested taking my modem and driving to the nearest Xfinity store to get it activated. I knew that there would no difference between the software systems used by the agent or the store, but still I ended up doing this in the night just before the store closed. The same thing happened with their software system and the store guy gave up.

Just when I was headed out of the store, he finally consulted with a more geeky-looking store guy (glasses and a real air of experience) and he rubbed his chin - and told me that the activation with an existing non-Xfinity modem would work if I waited one more day. Apparently, he had seen this happen before.

I thought about it on the drive home and it made sense - the rats nest of legacy software systems hooked up together at Xfinity was not showing my modem model (only for me) because some shared databases must not have been synced up yet and sometimes databases in large legacy organizations are synced once a day.

I waited 24 hours and lo behold on my next chat with a human agent, the CM500 modem was now magically appearing in their dropdown and they were able to add just my MAC address (none of the MTA MAC nonsense). Internet was working in a few minutes!

Lessons learnt

Lessons learnt with Xfinity:

© 2022 Ashwin Nanjappa • All writing under CC BY-SA license • 🐘📧