Thursday, June 10, 2010

Have you ever had an Internet connection installation go smoothly?

I sure haven't. In my post-dorm in college the Internet service was ordered by the building manager and we just had ethernet to our rooms. That worked OK, except that the building was behind NAT, they gouged us on price (after we'd been told it would be $30/month for the whole unit, which would have been basically fair for a NATted connection, the day we moved in we were told there had been a mistake, it was actually $30/month for each of us, and there was no way out), and there was a stupid bug that persisted for months where you couldn't connect to anything on some port... either 8080 or 8008. It happened this was the port used by some University service, and the ISP went on for months blaming the University for the problem even after I wrote them a few times with evidence that it affected any connection to that port. They had to bring in their “top tech from Virginia” to solve the problem. Fun times. But at least I didn't have any hassles with installation. I don't remember the name of the company. It was the major cable company in Champaign-Urbana. I think they've since joined the Comcast empire.

Since then... in California I had SBC either just before or just after their Oedipal merger with AT&T. Their setup process was Full of Fail. The only computer I had with me was a laptop running FreeBSD, so I couldn't run the setup disk. I was told by tech support of a web version (why not send that information with the modem?) that didn't work under Firefox or Opera because it was designed by some fancypants nincompoop that wanted to reimplement the hyperlink in Javascript but didn't want to test on anything but IE. Somehow I'm still bitter about that. I had to talk tech support through creating my account for me, which was hilarious.

I wound up having similar problems when I moved to my apartment in Uptown, but I knew what to expect and got it all taken care of pretty quickly. That apartment had no phone jack anywhere near where I wanted to put my computer, so I got a Wi-Fi card for my desktop box. It has served me well.

For some reason when I moved down to Pilsen I gave AT&T another chance. I had to completely redo my account and get a new phone number because Pilsen is 312 and Uptown is 773. This time the DSL modem couldn't connect upstream. They sent a tech out, but he couldn't access the phone box, because it was behind the neighbors' gate and they weren't home. So we had to schedule a second appointment, and coordinate with my neighbors. Since our building used to be split into two units per floor instead of one, the phone lines were wired accordingly, which was the cause of the problems (to this day AT&T's address on record for that apartment ends in “Floor 2—Front”). Also the previous tenant had been evicted after not paying his rent, or any of his bills, for half a year or so... maybe some of the lines had been disconnected because of that or something. Everyone was really good-natured about the whole thing, actually; I was sort of surprised that none of the utility companies even tried to get money out of me. They had the set-up pages fixed by this point, but for some reason I could never log in to my billing account on-line. I sent several support tickets about this that were never answered.

Unrelatedly, getting the billing switched to my roommates when I moved out was a horrible mess. Apparently AT&T's records got mixed up, and they thought they had transferred service (not just billing) on a 312 phone number to my address in Wyoming. If only — I'd love to take my 312 land-line number with me to Seattle. All I have to do is confuse AT&T enough to hook me up with an out-of-area-code number in a city they don't even service. Put that way, it sounds very possible.

In Wyoming we went with cable, not because of past DSL woes but because everyone said the DSL provider was terrible and Bresnan, the local cable company, was much better. Bresnan's connection was pretty fast, and it well should have been considering what we paid for it. As I recall, the cable modem didn't get a signal at first, and they had to send a dude out to calibrate some thinamajigger on some pole somewhere. It worked for a while, then uptime slowly deteriorated for a few months. I called and they had someone adjust some other thingy (which took a long time and a few trips back to the base for parts), and then a week later it went out again, and they had to fix their busted fix-job. So I was pretty frustrated with them. Not least because we relied on them for phone service, which didn't work at all without the Internet connection, and I was applying for jobs by phone at the time.

Now in Seattle I'm getting DSL through Qwest because cheaper than cable with Comcast (since I have no TV or land-line needs). The package with the modem arrived Monday but I didn't get it until Tuesday because the people in the building office that signed for it didn't tell me it came. I called the office Tuesday and someone found it lying around somewhere. No plan to notify me or anything. Then I plugged the modem in, and for the third straight move, got no upstream signal. A tech came out Wednesday and told my roommate (who was home at the time) that there was dust in the phone jacks. I'm a bit skeptical. He apparently didn't check the jack in my room, but when I got home it worked fine with no cleaning. And... seriously, dust caused a total lack of connection in two different jacks after several plug-unplug cycles? I'm searching the web for various permutations of dust and phone jacks and coming up with nothing. My apartment is not dusty at all. And if dust regularly causes outages, wouldn't it be more efficient for the phone company suggest that customers blow into the jacks, NES cartridge-style, as a standard troubleshooting step? At least as part of the tech support script, if not in the printed materials? You'd think they'd want to try anything that might plausibly save them an expensive tech visit. My guess is they flipped the wrong switch the first time out and didn't want to admit their error.

So, in total, since moving out of the dorms I have not once had Internet service go smoothly. Six attempts by four different companies, every time I've had to talk to tech support, in three cases I've needed physical visits from a tech, and in two I've needed multiple physical visits from a tech. This isn't a large enough sample size to draw conclusions, but if it's representative of the industry as a whole, it can't possibly be an efficient way to do business.

1 comment:

heatrose said...

in seattle! what are you doing there? have you quit cody? who do the cats live with these days?