Verizon Rent Lord
The challenges of resolving DSL problems.
Anyone not reviewing their telecom bills and asking the right questions could be in for some surprises. I hounded Verizon for months over their $10 monthly billing mistake until they made good. They've become too big, too fat and too powerful for the greater good. While that just sounds like carrier bashing, since most would not spend the time over a $10 monthly charge, that is the second mistake that many companies make--not spending the time to ensure their billing is right.
Our summer vacation was great, only something didn't add up towards the end. With laptop in hand, I felt comfortable connecting and being responsive to concerns while enjoying vacation. The VPN connection to one customer just wouldn't allow my dealer apps to do their thing. When downloading data to my machine, it would simply timeout and disconnect the link to the PBX.
The real issue wasn't the dealer app; it's simply the connection. After spending some time testing (August), we found packet loss a little over 30% and thus the dealer app was timing out. As we dug further, we discovered that our multi-site customer had numerous issues with all their other DSL lines around the same time. All locations are configured with DSL as backup. When the DSL lines aren’t being used for backup (i.e., most of the time), we use them for VPN connectivity, for maintenance and RMACs (Remote Moves/Adds/Changes).
Next, we visited each site twice, once to troubleshoot the DSL and report to Verizon the failure; and the second visit to install new modems at all locations that Verizon said we needed. Why did the modems fail? All of our gear is protected--just not from obsolescence. According to the Verizon reps in the call center, the modems were too old. Each modem was over 7 years old. After this round, the DSL lines still would not work and Verizon dispatched different techs to the corporate site 8 times. Other sites required 3 and 4 additional visits from Verizon before restoring DSL.
Nothing the Verizon techs or call center staff said added up to explaining the failures when we queried them in September. The customer was never billed for the repeated visits. All sites, except one, were now operational with their backup DSLs in working order. Packet loss means absolutely nothing to a telephone company and we found this in dealing with their call center staff, technicians dispatched to the sites and then to supervisors and managers as we were eventually escalated out of telephone hades. Of course the customer is frustrated and mentioned on more than one occasion that other tenants on the campus were having similar issues with their DSL lines no longer working. In fact, some tenants already moved their services over to Comcast. With the corporate site still not working and the MPLS service having failed five times since August, the backup DSL proved unusable for the corporate location.
I pondered over this and then remembered what Verizon did earlier this year when they raised the rent on FIOS. As I reviewed the bill then and the letter they forwarded, I wasn't happy but concluded the monthly rate increase was acceptable. The low-end bandwidth offerings were "no longer available" and the monthly increases were due to getting more bandwidth whether we wanted it or not. Verizon did notify us in writing and yes, we read our mail. My beef was that what we were quoted was a 2-year contract (reduced monthly rate) and Verizon initially failed to honor it. That was resolved--it just took months of beating on their door for the $10 monthly credit.
I asked the customer for a copy of all DSL bills for one-year prior and a copy of all DSL bills for the current month (September). The next day I became the billing guy. It didn't take long to figure out that DSL billing for all locations was previously $79.99 and the new billing rate was now $91.99. All the DSLs were configured the same way and with a static IP address. The 15% rate increase stood out as something that would answer as to why we had so many issues and why tenants on the same campus were having problems with their DSL lines and were abandoning Verizon DSL out of frustration.
After calling Verizon’s billing contact I found that all the DSL lines were set for up to 1.5Mbps. This explained a lot about the past failures. True, those old DSL modems probably hindered the process of Verizon doing a blanket upcharge to their customers and giving no thought as to cable distance from the customer sites to the serving COs. Call center staff replied, "We have improved technology" and I replied, "Not at 18,000 feet." I sent off an inquiry to Verizon’s media contacts in September and they’ve remained silent.
DSL doesn't work reasonably at higher speeds if you're 18,000 feet from the CO. Another problem is all the DSLs were provisioned with a FAX (Voice). I pulled up Verizon’s corporate website and then called Verizon again, this time getting transferred two levels up the proverbial ladder. After having repeated our findings so many times prior, this manager understood but made it clear that she couldn't comment "on behalf of Verizon." What she agreed to do was order a dry DSL line for our customer’s corporate offices. The other available options: order another T1 (if we can find a useable pair) or find another provider.
Now, the good thing about this boondoggle is the old DSL was used for backup and it wasn’t any great performer at 384Kbps. We had Verizon back off of 1.5 Mbps to 768Kbps and the packet loss remained, and they refused to drop the speed back to the original 384Kbps. You could argue the customer needed this anyway which is true, but it's how you make the journey that really counts. The dry DSL did not make a difference nor will it support them for backup purposes.
Because of these long loops that analog services travel (cable feet), the loop current tends to be very high and also a source of damaged gear. What one suggestion would I make to Verizon if they even entertained listening to it? I would introduce them to a different service, one with the highest customer ratings. It resolves distance issues and provides value while delivering enhanced services including high-speed/high-availability Internet services. Verizon, meet FIOS: now all you need to do is deploy it and stop making excuses for increasing the rent.