Be sure to read The Important Matter of Surge Protection for the necessary background information pertaining to this post…
Journey Through Multiple Layers of Customer Service Hell…
So when we left off, I had filed a damage claim with Comcast, on the evening of June 5th. The customer representative, Richey, the guy with a strong Puerto Rican accent, assured me I would receive a call from Comcast on Monday. Well Monday came and went, and I did not receive a call. I called Comcast back on Monday evening and spoke with Samantha. Her customer service skills were excellent, which was valuable since she told me that Richey never filed the damage claim. Samantha took very good notes and filed a claim for me. She read it back to me, and it was very accurate. After giving me a reference number for my claim, she assured me that someone would call me on Tuesday.
Tuesday came and went, and I received no phone call from Comcast. Today, (Wednesday, June 8th) I called Comcast at approximately 9:30 a.m. I spoke to a “new” (his words) representative who took two forevers to handle my issue. He must have been consulting the trainee manual or speaking with supervisors because I was on hold for a long, long time. Upon his return, he informed me that he was putting an alert in the system and that someone would call me back within 2 hours. At 1:30 p.m. I had received no call from Comcast, so I called back and got a more experienced representative who told me the same story as the first: “I’m putting in an alert to the supervisors. This will get their attention and someone should call you back within 2 hours.” I left work at 5:00 p.m. and had not received a call. Every time we spoke I was giving the reps my work number.
I got home and almost immediately called Comcast. This time I chose the selection for I Want To Disconnect My Service. I was connected, (much more quickly this time) with Ernest. His company abbreviation is SLV1AV. I told Ernest that I wanted to disconnect my service since Comcast refused to call me back. Ernest explained “an email” had been sent at 5:00 p.m. I have no idea who sent the email or what it was about, but Ernest seemed to believe it was important. He asked again what the problem was, and I again explained that Comcast’s negligence had resulted in my T.V. being ruined. I explained this in detail, and included anecdotes about other households in the neighborhood that lost TVs. I made sure to tell him that when my wife went to pick up the new cable box at the Comcast office that there was a lady there who had lost 3 TVs, all expensive. She was in tears. There were two other customers with similar stories. Since the line was stretching out of the building (with each customer returning a Comcast set-top box), there may have been more that lost TVs. Ernest did not remark on this. He instead explained that within 48 hours, “inspectors” would come out to my house. He said he was including “a tickler” (his dumb words, not mine) in my file to remind him to call me around 3:00 p.m. on Friday to make sure the inspectors had actually stopped by my house.
Let’s Examine Comcast’s Negligence
On Monday morning (June 6th), I went outside and took photos of Comcast’s grounding box. I was pretty sure there would be no grounding wire. I was wrong.
Click on the photos to enlarge…
Although there was a grounding wire, I was positive that there was a problem somewhere. Unless your house gets hit directly by lightening, there is no way a surge can enter your home via your CATV cable, blowing out the cable box and the TV, if the cable is properly grounded.
On Monday I had no way to know that Comcast would avoid my damage claim, so I did not take any more pictures. Today, when Comcast said they would send out the inspectors, I knew I had to get under the house to ascertain just exactly what their installers did wrong.
Detour Into National Electrical Codes…
Codes for installation of grounds are notoriously complex and confusing. I will try to keep it simple. Below is the general code for grounding communications equipment:
Telecommunications systems [800-40(b)], antennas and lead-in cables [810-21(f)], CATV [820-40(b)], and network-powered broadband communications systems [830-40(b)] must all be bonded to one of the following locations:
1. Building or structure grounding electrode system as described in Section 250-50.
2. Interior metal water pipe meeting the requirements of Section 250-104(a). The limitation of 5 feet in Section 250-50 does not apply.
3. Metal service raceway.
4. Service equipment enclosure.
5. Building or structure grounding electrode conductor.
6. Metal enclosure enclosing the building or structure grounding electrode conductor.
7. Accessible bonding means such as six inches of No. 6 copper conductor connected to the service equipment or raceway [250-92(b)].
We want to focus on #2. Here are the requirements for using an interior metal water pipe as a grounding electrode:
- A metal underground water pipe (10’ in the earth or longer) can only be considered as a grounding electrode for the first 5 ft. of its length within the building. Art. 250.52(A)(1).
- A non-metallic underground water pipe is not a grounding electrode and the interior metal water piping that it supplies is not a grounding electrode and cannot be used as a means to connect other grounding electrodes together. However, this interior metal water piping must be bonded to the service in a manner specified in Art. 250.104(A).
Okay, in layman’s terms, if you have a metal water pipe that has 10 feet or more of its length buried in the earth, it can be used as a ground. For CATV, the copper wire from the grounding block DOES NOT need to connect to the metal water pipe within 5 ft. of its length within the building. If water is brought into your house via a plastic pipe, your interior copper pipes cannot be used as a ground.
Back to Comcast’s Negligence…
So let’s take a look under my house to see if Comcast met the National Electrical Codes.
So far, everything looks good. The ground wire is attached to the copper water pipe. Lets look at another angle.
Again, we see the ground wire clamped to the copper pipe. Unfortunately, had the installer looked down about 5 feet ahead, he would have seen this:
Note what is emerging from the ground. Also note how close the existing ground connection is to where the blue plastic water pipe comes out of the ground.
Now let’s look at the big picture:
Obviously, Comcast has not connected the ground to metal piping that is buried underground for at least 10 feet. What exactly is being used to ground my CATV/Broadband?
Nothing like an old, dry-rotted garden hose to conduct electricity.
What Will the Comcast Inspectors Determine?
I am not an electrician. Perhaps there is something I have missed. Perhaps I have misunderstood the electrical code. Assuming I am correct, will Comcast reimburse me for the damage this caused to my television? Look for an update on Friday, June 10th.