Sunday, June 18, 2006

Problems are opportunities to learn valuable lessons

Anyone can make a mistake - even Verizon. But protocol must be followed.

An accounting error caused my phone line to be disconnected. Now, my phone line exists for only one real reason: to host my DSL line. For those not savvy in such things, DSL is technology that allows high-bandwidth data traffic to be carried over the plain copper lines used for phone traffic, and to have that service, a phone line must exist at the subscriber's site. The benefit, to me, is that the line is dedicated to me; cable modem provides high-bandwidth traffic as well, but subscribers share a network segment, so a densely populated area carries your traffic as well as that of your neighbors. This permits the speed on a cable modem to vary based on the number of users on the segment, while DSL provides less speed fluctuation. Also, since no one else is on my line, DSL is somewhat more secure than cable modem, which offers the chance for a neighbor (who technically sits on the same network you use) to "share" your PC without your knowledge.

But back to the story

When the phone line was disconnected, DSL was not interrupted. An intercept was placed on the voice line, but since we don't use the voice line, we never caught on. Now, I compounded the error by never using the e-mail box Verizon provided for the service. Verizon probably sent me an e-mail about my impending disaster, but I never saw it. Eventually, the intercept turned into a disconnect, and that was when everything fell apart.

When the DSL was disconnected, I sent Bocona to the local Verizon store to get things straightened out. After some undetermined period of discussion between Verizon and Bocona (and I'd hate to have been the Verizon rep facing Bocona), the voice line was restored with the same number, but since the line had been disconnected, the service was restored with a different circuit. That wasn't discovered until the following weekend; when I came home, I found the DSL still down, and placed a call to technical support.

Why I don't like outsourced Tier I support

I spent two hours on the phone with Tier I technical support (from the voice, the TSR was probably located somewhere in the Orient), who was unable to discover the problem, and who referred the problem to a lineman. Two days later, the line people called to say they were still working on the problem. On Saturday (nearly a week after the problem started), I called again.

Another hour with Tier I TSR, then I was transferred to Tier II, where I learned the circuit had changed and the line could not be re-established with the old circuit. I needed a new DSL order, and to get that I had to disconnect the old DSL (even though it was already physically disconnected), and order a new one. Tier II could enter a disconnect order on the old line; I couldn't order a new one until the disconnect order had been acted on, and even then, I'd have to order the new line through sales.

Sales wouldn't be open until Monday.

Bureaucracy strikes again

On Monday, the disconnect order was still pending. It wasn't until Friday that Bocona could actually request the new service with sales. And when she did, they told her the new service wouldn't be ready until the following Friday at 6 PM. There was no way to speed the process.

Friday at 6 PM, I was sitting in front of my trusty PC, reconnecting to the Internet. Connecting a single PC to the world was no problem, but connecting my Linksys router was another story. That, I saved for Saturday morning.

Hey, Verizon! Accuracy counts!

Verizon Online has a website with a nice collection of troubleshooting pages. I soon found instructions for connecting my router, which required changing the configuration of the DSL modem. I followed the instructions, but the router was still without a connection, so, with great reluctance, I called technical support again. I probably could have solved this on my own, but I didn't want to cause any further damage, so I played the sheep and let the shepherds do their job.

Another hour with Tier I, who was convinced the problem was in my modem. He was right, but for the wrong reasons. Tier I thought the modem was broken. Tier II went straight to the heart of the matter. The documentation on the Verizon site was inaccurate, expecting my router to get its connection via point-to-point protocol over Ethernet (PPPoE). The fact is, Verizon doesn't use PPPoE, and so all I needed to do was make the required changes to the modem and ignore the instructions for setting the router for PPPoE. In five minutes, I was online.

Lessons learned

  • Pay closer attention to accounting issues.
  • Use the voice line occasionally.
  • Check the Verizon e-mails occasionally, even if I don't use it for anything else.
  • And, unfortunately, no matter how frustrating it is, there is no way to get to Tier II without putting up with the shenanigans of the outsourced Tier I.

These are valuable lessons, and I'm in a position to take good advantage of them, but I'm afraid I can't tell you about that... for now.