Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Classic Jeff: Another DSL Rant

Fri Nov 8 07:33:02 2002
> > firewall. In any case we only had DSL for a few months before we
> cancelled it
> > in disgust, so its a moot point now.
> Details?

Well, I would dig up my previous rant about this from the archive, except

Anyway, we had Earthlink DSL. We deliberately avoided BellSouth because
Veronica had recently been employed as a first-line support person for their
DSL service, and she had seen so much incompetence in her co-workers that she
really didn't want to end up in the position of having to call them for help.

It worked fine for a while, but then one day they modem just died. Appeared
to be some kind of hardware failure. We sent it back to them in the mail and
got another one pretty quickly. That second modem NEVER worked. At all. We
spent hours on the phone with their technicians, all of whom tried the same
things over and over as if they didn't know the last guy had already done

Their first guess was that the new modem's firmware was programmed with
different virtual circuit numbers (or whatever the hell you call it... I've
forgotten all the DSL jargon since then), and it didn't work because the
equipment at the CO was still using the old settings. For some reason it was
a major, major pain to try to get this changed. One guy had me telnet into
the modem (it automatically gave itself an IP address on the local network)
and fiddle with some settings in there. The next guy told me that doing that
was totally forbidden, and that if I now sent the modem back to them they
would be able to tell that I had messed with the sacred firmware settings and
would charge me the full price of the modem.

They then went through a long series of trying to get the machine at the CO
changed to match the new modem, which was complicated of course by having to
deal with BellSouth as the actual telephone company. They finally concluded
that the "port" (or some other such undefined technical-sounding term) that
my phone line was connected to was simply defective in some way. This seems
like a huge coincedence to me, that there would be hardware failures at the
same time at both ends of the line. I could see lightning or something
getting my modem, but presumably the phone company's equipment should be more
robost, right?

Anyway, there apparently was no deterministic way of switching me to a
different "port" (or "card", or whatever it was that was supposed to be
causing the problem). Their suggestion was that I cancel my service and and
then start over from scratch, and cross my fingers and hope that this time
whatever random process (whether human or machine) that assigned the "ports"
would give me different one this time.

This process took weeks, and didn't solve anything, mostly because I suspect
it wasn't really the problem anyway. It think they just never could get the
settings right, and would never allow me to talk to anybody who actually knew
what the magic numbers were supposed to be.

At that point we just made sure we got our money back for the Internet
service we had been paying for and not able to use, and switched back to
dialup (not with Earthlink, either). They were supposed to send out a box and
some paperwork with which to send the modem back. Its been over a year, and
no such thing has ever arrived. We also haven't been charged for the modem,
so we really don't care. I suspect it is a perfectly good modem, hardware
wise, and would just need proper configuration to work. I could probably sell
it on E-bay or something.

If we ever get DSL again it probably will be BellSouth, because then at least
there's just one company to deal with. At this point its really not an
expense that we can justify. We don't really do anything with the internet
that would require DSL. The main thing it seemed to be good for was
downloading gigs worth of pirated music, which was fun but not neccessarily a
requirement for our lifestyle.