[svlug] DSL woes
marc_news at valinux.com
Mon May 8 00:27:31 PDT 2000
We've had some discussions in the past over DSL vs cable modem.
While TCI^H^H^HAT&T had a big lead in unreliability and general
cluelessness, PacBell seems to want to catch up.
Before I start, I read the info on the little business cards left on my line
and they had stats on the DSL line.
The first one said:
1.5 1500B 56%
The second one said:
1.5 2560 13.5 60%
128 474 26.0 27%
So it's not hard to guess that the second column is the maximum speed
obtainable on my line and the 4th one the percentage of the available
bandwidth that I'm currently using, but I'm curious what the 3rd column is.
Anyone has an idea?
At least the good news is that my new line has better maximum bandwidth. Too
bad I can't use it without paying for the $200 plan (6MB down, 384kB up)
Anyway, here's the letter I wrote to PacBell:
So here's what happened.
I get home on tuesday and have a look at my network connectivity as I was
unable to retreive some files I needed when I was at work. My DSL
modem/bridge showed that the link was down, and remained down after
reinitializing the device.
I made the mistake of blaming my ISP and tried to call them up, just to
realize that I had no dialtone either.
My logs showed:
2000/04/02 (Tue) 11:10:20 - Connection to 18.104.22.168 went down
2000/04/02 (Tue) 11:10:40 - Connection to 22.214.171.124 came back up (0:10 down)
2000/04/02 (Tue) 11:11:20 - Connection to 126.96.36.199 went down
2000/04/02 (Tue) 11:11:40 - Connection to 188.8.131.52 came back up (0:10 down)
2000/04/02 (Tue) 11:14:40 - Connection to 184.108.40.206 went down
(then down forever)
The fact that the connection went down 3 times, and stayed up 3mn before
going down the last time wasn't too consistent with a squirrel eating my
So, the first thing I did was to check my inside wiring (66 punch down bloc,
patch panel, etc, etc...) and checked the connectivity to the outside
demarcation box with my toner.
It's only then that I tested the incoming feed for dialtone and realized
that the incoming phone wires had no dialtone either.
At that time, I called 611 from my cell phone, and after entering my phone
number, the system redirected me to the DSL helpline and dumped me into its
Granted it was around 20:00 or so, but the fact that no one ever picked up
the phone in more than 45mn of holding is inexusable. What's even worse, is
that the cheap hold system they have never told me how much holding time I
could expect. Having to hold 1H or more is sad, but at being warned that the
hold is going to be that long is very useful, or better, knowing "don't
bother holding, there is no one to pick up the phone on the other side"
would be even better.
Anyway, after starting with a fresh cell phone battery, I call 611 again,
and started lying to the menus until I got a live human, who immediately put
me back in the DSL queue (or should I say blackhole?) as soon as I give my
Ok, I try again, and this time ask not to be put in the DSL queue. I explain
that the queue doesn't go anywhere, that my line doesn't have dialtone
anymore and that I checked the equipment and determined the incoming feed
lacks dialtone itself.
While the 611 queue has been short every time I called (less than 2mn), and
the people helpful, I was told that because I have a DSL line, they can't
help me, even if it's a physical problem with the line that has nothing to
do with DSL.
Let me say at this point that this is completely ludicrous: if my phone wire
is cut, or disconnected, any PacBell repair employee should be able to help
Anyway, I am lucky enough to get someone who finds a way to schedule a DSL
repair person to come over on friday, and pass on the ticket to the DSL
department, that I just can't reach. I was not overjoyed though, because
friday was four days away and while I can live without my home phone
somewhat, the complete lack of internet access is crippling in my line of
work (Network and Unix Systems Administrator)
I should also note that I wasn't given any time window outside of 8:00 to
20:00, not very precise...
I guess I am lucky to currently work 5mn away from my house, so I just left
a note outside, by the phone box, explaining the problem with details, and I
also left my cell phone number, a cordless phone to test the inside wiring
after the problem is fixed, and a key to the house in case the repair person
needed to get in and have access to my 66 bloc or my DSL modem.
It's a good thing I didn't lose a day of work and salary to stay home
because no one came that day.
So, after 20:00 I called 611 several times because, again, it seems that
there isn't a single soul in the DSL department. I'm told that they have no
idea why no one showed up (although they could confirm that fact in the
computer). What's interesting though, is that they apparently only had
access to part of the records, they couldn't say who was scheduled to come,
what time, and why he/she didn't show.
I was told that some records were only accessible by the DSL department. I
really wonder why... I thought I had gotten DSL service from PacBell, not
Covad or Northpoint...
I was told to call the DSL folks the next morning to see if I could get a
repair person come the next morning (saturday), and I did call, but after
30mn of hold, my call was cut short, I was dumped into a voice mailbox, and
was hung up on after being told the mailbox was full. Truely pathetic!
While the 611 folks were responsive, no one whatsoever could get me in touch
with anyone at the DSL department. Considering how bad their repair service
is, and the fact that their unresponsiveness also affected my Pacific Bell
voice line, it is inexcusable that no one at 611 was able to put me in touch
with a real human from the DSL department. I should have been escalated to a
supervisor who should have confirmed that I had been down for 4 days and who
should have transfered me to a someone who could help me.
If it hadn't for Byron Wagner, and the fact that he had PacBell priority
repair access for his company and employees, I would never have been able to
talk to a supervisor who eventually got someone from the DSL department to
call us back and schedule someone to come over the weekend.
Since again, I wasn't given any time window (or even day), the repairman
happened to come a few hours later while I was out, but I can't complain, he
got the line back up and running, and called me on my cellphone to confirm
The problem? Apparently someone had moved lines around that tuesday and
didn't reconnect my line correctly.
One should note, that PacBell had known downtime on my line (even if it was
going to be only a minute or so) and never gave me advanced notice. Moving
my line from one circuit to another would have cut any phone conversation I
could have had, and definitely cut my access to my home machine during the
Then the transfert was not only not done correctly, but not doublechecked
either and the employee left with my line down.
That by itself is already rather bad, but what's worse is how long it took
to get anyone scheduled to come check the line (4 days!!!) and the fact that
this person did not even show up...
The line between PacBell voice and PacBell DSL also looks like it's more a
big ravine, and it's unacceptable that those two departments can't even talk
to one another ("I'm sorry, all I can do is transfert you in their main
Last, but not least, the complete lack of response from the DSL department,
department in which I wasn't able to reach a single human being over the
course of 5 days (granted, I did call outside of the M-F 9-5 window) is just
While I have nothing but praised PacBell DSL until late last year, this has
stopped after my move from Mountain View to Sunnyvale (about 5 miles). I can
tell that the bureaucracy is severely inderehing this department.
When I moved, I made sure to order a new phone line 4 weeks in advance so
that I could schedule a DSL install before my physical move, and while I was
promised to still have a static IP at my new location (albeit not the same
since I was going to be linked to a different CO), the installer told me I'd
have to use that PPP over ethernet nonsense, which I simply refuse to use as
it prevents me from running my secondary name server off my home machine
(and it also adds unneeded protocol overhead and general flakiness on the
While two Pacific Bell employee did confirm at the time I ordered the new
line that I would be able to keep my static IP plan (grandfather clause), no
amount of time on the phone helped, and even going two managers up the chain
didn't help ("I'm sorry you were mis-informed, I feel your pain, but I can't
I am now using a third party ISP for internet connectivity through my
Pacific Bell DSL line, and got a static IP this way.
Now, after the really bad experience I've had with the DSL part of my line
(which is a shame as the line works flawlessly otherwise), I'd look into
alternative connection options, but considering that my main alternative is
those clowns at TCI, even if it's called AT&T now (same people, same stupid
policies and pathetic tech support department), I just don't know...
A name change won't make me forget that those bandits ransommed me with an
additional $10 connect fee per TV during the cable install when everything
was connected before they came, and then they physically cut the pre-wired
cables going to other outlets in my house because I didn't pay their $10
"connect" fee for those plugs.
One of the reasons why I've avoided @Home/TCI internet cable service was the
flakiness of many cable modems, the fact that some cable loops went down
quite often, and that the respone time for repairs was really bad (and you
had to fight through stubborn tech support people who insisted that you had
to check your netscape proxy settings under nothing else than windows when
you tell them that you can't ping your default IP gateway).
I guess the only reason left I have not to switch is their ludicrous
Acceptable Use Policy, including their section on servers which pretty much
makes the usage of any unix system illegal. I would also question the
legality of daily port scanning on my personal home machines if I were to
connect to their network, and would definitely object to it.
I think I'll pick the lesser of the two evils and stay with PacBell for now,
but they have some serious cleaning up to do in their repair/dispatch
Microsoft is to software what McDonalds is to gourmet cooking
Home page: http://marc.merlins.org/ (friendly to non IE browsers)
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