DSL Strikes Back -- Return of Psidonia
Technology causes nearly as many problems as it solves, and
sometimes you have to wonder if all the gizmos are worth it.
Without DSL, for example, you wouldn't have to worry about the
possibility of your ISP not paying its bills and having its
service -- and your high-speed connection -- severed.
Despite rumors about this site having fallen due to a
successful attack by that rogue and malcontent, El Aparador, the
simple truth of the matter is far less colorful. My ISP left the
DSL business and forced my DSL provider and I to seek other
solutions in mid-April. In the process, a smooth transition
turned a bit bumpy when my first choice for a new ISP decided to
wait a few weeks before processing my application. By the time
they had gotten around to that, Covad, my DSL provider, concluded
that I wasn't doing anything about the switchover, and signed me
up with APlus.net instead. Fortunately, APlus.net offered a
better deal and claimed they'd move more quickly on processing my
account. Which sounded real good because on May 7th, my DSL
connection went down and I was stuck with old-fashioned dial-up
So I told my slothful, more expensive, chosen ISP to
reconsider its business model and cozied up with APlus.net.
Curious about what was taking so long, I tried calling tech
support at APlus.net several times. Each call had one of two
results: either I was told no one was available to take my call,
or I'd be put on hold by the voicemail system and assured that
the expected hold time was only a few minutes. After about twenty
or twenty-five minutes, someone or something got tired of my
patient waiting and disconnected my call.
So on May 17th, I called the main number, "Hi! I'm having a
little trouble with my DSL connection, and..."
"I'm sorry, sir," the fellow on the other end of the line
would say (his name was Brian), "You need to call the tech
support number at..."
And then I interrupted and said, "Yep, I know that tune.
888-301-2516. But there doesn't seem to be anyone there. I just
wait on hold with no one to speak to except an automated timer
that periodically tells me that my 'expected hold time is three
minutes', followed thirty seconds later by another that says my
'expected hold time is seven minutes', and then five minutes, and
then eleven minutes, and then... Brian, do you see the pattern of
"No sir, but..."
"That's because there is no pattern, son. That voice on your
hold system is connected to a random number generator, isn't
"No sir, but..."
"And has anyone told you that that music you play for your
victims on hold (a simple piano melody) repeats itself every
forty-five seconds or so and starts to sound a bit like a
six-year-old practicing chopsticks after twenty minutes?"
"No sir, but..."
"And that after putting up with chopsticks and random number
announcements for about twenty-five minutes, your tech support
number hangs up on me and any time I call after that I'm told no
one is available to service my call?"
"Sir, maybe if I take all your information, I could get
someone to call you back and take care of you."
"That sounds like a great idea!" And I gave him my
information. My circuit ID, my name, two telephone numbers, two
email addresses, and my old static IP (126.96.36.199).
I waited through the weekend. I checked my email -- using
dialup -- daily. No one contacted me.
On Monday, May 21st, I decided to lay siege with email. I sent
the tech support address a polite note with all my pertinent data
and asked them to please look into why I didn't have a working
DSL service. On Tuesday, I sent a more strongly worded email to
every APlus.net account I could find, detailing my troubles and
my repeated efforts at contacting them. On Thursday afternoon, I
decided to try calling tech support again and this time reached a
fellow named Eddie who told me I had to contact someone in
billing since it looked like I was scheduled for disconnection.
"Eddie," I asked, "don't ya think it's a little odd to be
disconnecting someone who isn't connected?"
Anyway, I called billing. I spoke with a young lady there and
explained my difficulties to her. She pulled up my account and
said, "Ah, I see what has happened here, we haven't heard from
you and we have you scheduled to be disconnected tomorrow."
"You haven't heard from me?"
"No sir! We sent out emails and phone calls to each of our new
customers, and you never responded."
"Miss, I have received neither a phone call nor email from
APlus.net." I didn't. Honest!
"Oh, I'm sure you did! I spent weeks making those calls
"You missed me."
"I couldn't have."
"I never heard from you."
"I called or emailed everyone on our list."
"What email address did you use for me?"
Pause. "Um...I don't have a list right here."
"I didn't think so. Look, I have been trying to reach
you. I have peppered your offices with emails and
voicemails and no one has ever replied. I have been going out of
my way, waving my credit card and offering money for your
services. I don't want my service disconnected tomorrow. I want
it connected tonight."
"Um...okay, I'll need your credit card info..." And she
assured me that old TCP/IP settings should work and that DSL
should be up within a few minutes of processing my credit
Except it still didn't come up. I called tech support about a
half hour later (I think my phone call on the 17th may have
alerted them to a problem with the tech support voicemail system
-- it has worked fine every time I've called this week) and told
the fellow that I still couldn't get on line. He suggested that I
should just wait it out overnight to let the disconnect/reconnect
order process and I should be back up. Tired of the whole affair,
I agreed and went off to do other things...but not before telling
my server to try to ping theirs every second.
This morning, I still had no DSL. My box reported 63,691
unsuccessful ping attempts (heh heh). I called tech support
again, and told another young man my problem and he said, "Hold
on a minute..." and he put the phone down -- not on hold, mind
you, down. And after about five minutes (blissful,
chopsticks-free minutes), he came back and said, "Okay, you're
"Nope. No lights. And I can't ping."
"Huh? Oh. Turn off your router and switch it back on."
I did as he instructed and watched for about forty-five
seconds as my DSL modem cycled through its diagnostics. All
lights lit green. I pinged the DNS server. That worked! I was
back in business at last! I danced, I sang, I proposed to the
tech support guy on the other end of the phone, and after he hung
up on me, I sat down to surf the Web.