Don Jones

Tech | Career | Musings

Dear @CenturyLink…

Once upon a time (say, November 2014), I had great Internet from you. Not nearly as amazing as everyone else with fiber and cable, but pretty good. Well, OK, it was 8Mbps/1Mbps DSL… but I was happy enough. It got the job done.

In the past four months, however, you’ve taken it all away. Fully half my megabits, all my faith in you, and most of my happiness. And it’s mostly out of sheer incompetence. Super friendly incompetence, to be sure, but incompetence nonetheless.

It began when my DSL began dropping its connection a lot. Called in, tech cam out with a new modem, and we were good to go.

Except, not. Connection kept dropping. So the next tech lowered my speed to 6Mbps/.5Mbps, saying that while my line was rated for 8Mbps, you couldn’t run a line at full capacity without it dropping.

Smelling bullshit (I used to work for Bell Atlantic, and I know telco bullshit when I smell it), I started researching. Turns out the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) on my line would creep downward during the day, as the lines heated up, until by around 1pm or 2pm until the line just wouldn’t hold. I logged and charted the SNR and dropouts… and called again.

This time, I got connected to the “chronic” team (yay, I’m chronic), whose tech came out and measured everything, stuck his head into the in-ground vault, and declared it a “line problem.” So a line truck was dispatched to “condition the line,” which I understand to mean they removed some bridge taps.

Now, all along, these techs have been giving me their phone number (which they don’t answer, and whose voice mail is full) to call back if there’s a problem still. They’ve also closed the ticket promptly upon leaving my property, without bothering to make sure the problem was actually fixed. The line crew didn’t even both re-measuring my SNR, because it never changed a bit. Still 6Mbps, still dropping like flies.

I wish I had some @Comcast-esque stories to share about how everyone was rude, but they weren’t. They were all, as I’ve said, super-friendly. And super-confident. And super-wrong.

Next tech! Mind you, I keep telling everyone about the heat-related problem, since I’ve got, you know, a chart. Doesn’t matter. Next tech comes out, and declares the One True Problem to be the fact that the cable, lying in the ground vault out front, isn’t grounded. The line is picking up A/C noise. Sigh. Answer: Line truck.

And by the way, I’ve seen what you’ve got buried in the ground out here, and I’m not surprised it’s buried. I’d hide it to. These wires were produced by Alex Freaking Bell himself, they look so old and dodgy. It’s probably not surprising that I’m having dropouts. I should probably be surprised that these wires actually support a connection for any period of time.

Yesterday, the lineman –  bless his cotton socks – spent the day (and I mean all day) re-terminating every connection on the 9,627 feet between me and the CO. Except, he decided later, the line actually ran over 10,000 feet, so I’d never be able to get a faster speed. This in spite of the fact that if I had a better throwing arm, I could hit the goddamn CO with a rock. And maybe if that was a very large rock, I’d get more attention. I reminded the lineman that I used to have great 8Mbps DSL, and now the solution has been to lower me to 4Mbps. And I’m still pulling the same crappy SNR of 9-10 as I was before this guy started. Your DSLAM is pumping almost 19dBm to get a signal to my house. My upstream SNR actually got worse, going from around 36 to around 30. Oh, and now he says I’m actually over 10k feet, so I’m just screwed.

He’s promised to leave the ticket open (!!) and call an engineer, because I’m pretty damn mad. He also helpfully pointed out that there’s fiber just a quarter mile away on the other side of a road. I’m sure that does me a lot of good.

And here’s the problem: Right now, you’re my only goddamn option. My little street only has 16 homes. We don’t have Cox (how bad is it when the cable company is the better option?), we no longer have Clear as an option. You’re it. And nobody seriously thinks you’re going to trench fiber to this road, because, well, 16 homes. Screw us.

Anyway, nobody seems to want to acknowledge that, somewhere along the way, the cables got damaged. There’s clearly a micro-problem in some actual copper, and when things het up (welcome to Las Vegas!) it becomes a serious enough problem to drop my already-pathetic SNR to 9. Commence dropping. And yeah, my voice line gets static on it when all this happens, still. So you know, you’re not even living up to your legal obligations to provide decent dial-tone to my house. Just saying.

So now we wait and see what engineering says. Frankly, you need to pull new copper. Our road has zero spare pairs. If someone ordered a fax line, you’d be screwed, let alone if someone were to build on one of the five empty lots on our street. So you know what? Maybe you should just pull some new lines to the road. And maybe make them out of fiber optic. I know Cox is in an expansion phase, and I’ve seen their trucks tooling up and down the next street over. I’m calling them today to see how much I personally have to pay to have a trench dug to run some nice, reliable coax through. Or heck, maybe they’re using fiber these days.

Or at the very least, why an’t you get your story straight? DSL should be able to run 18k feet over good wires without a repeater. And you’ve got the ability to add a repeater to the mix, if you want. Look, I’m not after your top-end 15Mbps coverage, but 4Mbps – when I used to have a solid 8Mbps – is ridiculous, even if I’m at 10k feet.

I should point out that most of my neighbors get appreciably better speeds than I do. This all points to a bad set of wires – you just don’t have any spares in the neighborhood to prove or disprove the theory.

I used to tell people how great the CenturyLink customer service was. Need to turn your DSL modem into a bridge? No problem – they’ve got the procedure for it. Don’t want to get on the phone? Their chat support is great.

Now?

You suck.

(BTW, CenturyLink, you’re welcome to DM me on Twitter @concentratedDon. I’ll hold my breath.)

2 thoughts on “Dear @CenturyLink: Here’s How You’ve Screwed Me

  1. Jim Adgate says:

    Don-

    The telcos and cable cos have no incentives at this point (read: competition) to upgrade wired infrastructure, at least until Google fiber or someone else comes to town and starts eating their lunch.

    Good luck,

    Jim Adgate

  2. Chad Rexin says:

    Sounds somewhat similar to what I have seen as I pay for 7Mbs down/1Mbps up and typically see better speeds than that with CenturyLink DSL. I have had a couple times though in the last 4-6 months where I am seeing dropped connections like you mentioned and no amount of resetting the DSL modem will fix it when it is acting up. Otherwise even though it is slower than most cable internet access in my neighborhood, it is fast enough for videos and download speeds for me to use it without issue. Might be time to start looking closer at the solutions that have faster speeds (thankfully I have options for that)

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