>Cox HSI is hijacking websites to make money.

>I am so mad at Cox Communications, my home ISP, that I could spit nails.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I enter a lot of sweepstakes. I visit 50-60 websites per night to fill out entry forms and to learn more about the sponsors. That’s not counting my webmail service (not Cox); news and weather sites; entertainment sites and forums.

On a usual night, I might get a couple of “page not found” messages. Sometimes the page will load just fine a minute or two later. Sometimes the URL was posted somewhere incorrectly.

I have noticed, of late, that I was seeing a lot of “Cox Finder” error pages instead of the usual “page not found” pages. I guess I paid more attention tonight because the problem was so frequent and irritating.

The Cox Finder, or as they refer to it the “Enhanced Error Results” page, tells the user that the page cannot be loaded, but wouldn’t you like to try one of these other pages instead?

Here’s what the Cox website says about “Enhanced Error Results”:

Cox is currently providing an enhanced error results service that redirects URL entries in Internet Explorer to relevant alternative results provided by Yahoo! Search Marketing. When no relevant keyword can be extracted to produce a list of alternative sites, a search box is presented to the users so they can conduct the search again. If relevant results are identified, an enhanced results page displays providing a suggested list of alternative sites.

My arguments:

(1) I wasn’t searching for terms. I plugged in a URL or clicked on a link.

(2) I primarily use Mozilla Firefox. I only use Internet Explorer when a site doesn’t open correctly in Firefox.

(3) I received these “Enhanced Error Results” instead of valid URLs. In one case, I had a site open but something within the page (an ad or a form) showed the Cox Finder page. I refreshed, and then I got the Cox Finder message for the whole page. Eventually, the page reloaded after multiple tries from the original link.

(4) I received the “Enhanced Error Results” when trying to visit a manufacturer’s website. The same website came up as the last search result in a list of about 10 options. Cox says, “The results served are a combination of sponsored links and ‘natural’ search results, depending on what you were looking for –- just the same as if you used any search engine.”

As I became more and more frustrated and suspicious of Cox’s motives and methods, I did a Google search for the phrase and found a FAQ about “Enhanced Error Results” on the Cox website. I found instructions on how to opt-out. I logged into my account and followed the instructions. Then I logged into a different account and attempted to follow the instructions, and I received a message that I had already opted out.

I continued to have some problems off and on with pages not loading. Then I started seeing the “Enhanced Error Results” again.

Giving Cox the benefit of the doubt, I contacted their 24/7 Live Technical Support via Chat. Here’s how it began:

Edward> My name is Edward, welcome to Cox High Speed Internet Online Support.

Auriette> Is there some problem with Cox HSI service in my area tonight?

Edward> I am really sorry for the inconvenience.
Edward> Unfortunately, there is difficulty with the e-mail service for your
area.
Edward> Our technicians are aware of the issue and are currently taking care of
it.

Hmm. Did I say I was having problem with my email? I don’t use Cox for email. So I asked if he meant there was a problem with internet connectivity. At that point, he asked for all kinds of account information. Now, if he didn’t know where I was, how did he know there was an email service issue in my area?

So then Edward tells me “I have checked your modem signals and are working properly and there is no reported outage for your area.”

And then he tries to blame it on my router, saying, “we do not provide technical assistance for connections behind a third party router.”

This would be the router that Cox’s installer recommended and installed more than five years ago. We’ve never been connected to the internet without it. I’ve had techs over the phone tell me to disconnect everything and unplug it and turn it all back on, but never to remove the router and connect the modem directly to the internet, and I had no intention of trying it tonight, because I believe the problem is related to this sudden influx of sales pitches via the “Enhanced Error Results.”

So, I ask:

Auriette> I opted out of the “Enhanced Error Results” sales page over two hours
ago. How long does it normally take for the opt-out to take full effect?

Edward> It is immediately. However, sometimes the site does not work.

Ahhh. Sometimes the site doesn’t work. Hmmm.

So Edward pastes in a link and says I’ll have to change my settings manually in order to “opt out.” I cannot, however, copy or paste the link.

Auriette> Please wait while I try that.
Auriette> I’m not able to copy and paste that link or to click on it.
Auriette> Please email to auriette@tmlindsey.com

Edward> Just a moment please.

That is not the end of our chat, but it is the end of the transcript that Edward emailed to me. Here’s what really happened:

I ask him to send it to the email address that I use, the email that I had open on my desktop. He sent it to my Cox address. I ask him again to send it to my usual email address and HE LIED TO ME! He said he sent it there, but he sent it again to the Cox address.

AND THEN HE DISCONNECTED.

I was able to click on the link in the transcript and follow the instructions to manually set my DNS settings. I’m not sure what will happen the next time I have to repair my LAN settings after leaving on the firewall for a few minutes.

I am continuing to have problems with my internet connection, though I haven’t seen the “Enhanced Error Results” page lately.

Cox needs to understand that they are not the only option for broadband connection. By partnering with Yahoo Search for this “Enhanced Error Results” process, they are playing games with their customers. In trying to earn a few pennies from click throughs, they are going to end up losing steady customers to other ISPs. Their rude, incompetent, lying tech support personnel will only hurt the situation.

I hope they wise up and correct this problem.

UPDATE: 24 hours later, and I haven’t gotten a single “page not found” of any variety, and no sign of the Cox Finder “Enhanced Error Results” page. Perhaps my opt-out was finally processed. Maybe they repaired the non-existent problem that was causing the lost connections. I’m still suspicious of the Cox-Yahoo partnership.

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About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have three cats and a husband.
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