Vol. 1 No. 6

April, 2002


DSL Hell


Don't Call Me and I Won't Call You



Do You Want to Pay for Bad Radio?





DSL Hell

by Paul C. Pinderski

Let's face it. We still live in a 28.8 world. Internet connection speed. 28800 bits-per-second. If you are lucky.

I was attempting to log in at home last month and the connection speed was a dismal 14.4. 14.4! That's impossible. We are supposed to be living in the NASA Saturn rocket age, not the covered wagon. 14.4? Did that “blazing” modem speed come as an extra with my Mac si? High speed was being pushed for years, T-1, T-2, and we are not talking Arno movies. Fast uploads, streaming video and audio, killer content on par with television. And for the masses, DSL. Faster. Reliable. Direct connection to the net. It is like you are living under the superhighway on-ramp. Always ready to rock n roll.

At my office, we have had DSL service for years. In fact, we have gone pretty much paperless because of this technology. Research is now primarily on-line because of the fast connection speed. Until the phone company screws up.

The office DSL was out for a week. The back-up dedicated modem line was also cut. For those used to instant access, this turns into a seige mentality; you cannot communicate with the outside world. Revert to stone age.

Now, I am not an expert in telecommunications. But I know when something is wrong. And I can trace what's wrong to the point of no return.

The frustration starts with the initial service call. The tech on the other end of the phone does not know what he is talking about. First, who is your provider? You are! Second, who installed the DSL? You did! Third, who is your provider? You are! Fourth, we don't know you exist. Huh? Fifth, what is the problem? Our DSL line is out. The last time it happened it was at your central switch. Sixth, it's probably your network. No, you idiot, my LAN is fine, and the router is showing all systems go except your outside line. Seventh, are you our customer? Yes, damnit. Eighth, well, it is usually your network problem. No it's your line. Ninth, well, we usually send you out a copy of Windows 3000 to reinstall. Idiot, we don't have Windoze; we have no central server, this is a Mac office, and our network is fine. Tenth, don't you have a computer next to the DSL modem? NO. Eleventh, ah, we usually ask you to reboot your server software. Wrong, check your outside lines, buddy. Twelfth, who is your service provider again? You are! Thirteen, have you had any work done lately on your equipment? NO. Fourteen, any work outside? Yeah, your company trucks are all over the village. Fifteen, oh, maybe they cut a line, why don't you go outside and ask them. What? If that's the case, how can I call you with this service problem? Sixteen, good point, but usually we ask you to reinstall....... STOP! KILL ME! Seventeen, sir, it is usually the customer's problem. Trust me, it's not my problem, its outside my office. Click. That's a summary of a two hour pass-the-tech-buck conversation on Day One of the Outage.

Day Three a tech actually arrives on scene. He is checking the main telephone line. He says that it working fine, it must be my equipment. When I go to show him the phone junction box, I see that he is alligator clipping the regular phone clips. Those lines are not the problem. I say I don't think you understand the problem. After an hour, he realizes that the main telephone line (i.e. the account number for the office) is working fine. It was not out. That was not the reason for the call. During the two day downtime, a other ancillary phone lines, including the modem line, went down. Oh, he said. That's not on his repair ticket. He can only really check the main number, not anything else. That's the number his call center gave him, so that's the only number he can fix. However, he does spend the next four hours, and fourteen telephone transfers with his own company, trying to zero in on the DSL circuit problem. He is as frustrated as I am when he comes back in stating that they can't find a record. I show him the phone bill, yes, we are a customer. Here is the password. Here is everything I have. Finally, someone tells him we are a customer. But the problem is a data line. We go back in and he tests the line from the router to the outside box. I show him the router indicators are fine; it shows no outside line connection. Then outside. No data tones outside. He concedes. It is probably the telco's network problem. I have been trying to get this admission for three days. However, he can't repair it today. He says he called in a data line repair call; I needed to call for a separate repair call on the regular telephone lines.

Day Five, two retirees show up and flash the staff badges that they are the data line techs. They wander inside and outside the office. Scratch their heads. They can't find the problem. After a few hours, they think its probably an outside problem. But they say, “We're not allowed to fix it.” So they leave. I was not present during this visit, otherwise there would have been a real problem they could not fix.

Day Six, we are on the phone again to the tech call center. They are telling us to reboot the central server, and we keep telling them we don't have one. And that's not the problem. The phone company has the problem on its end. Fix it. But they don't know how.

It is bizarre that for two plus years we have had this turnkey DSL installed by the local telephone company, been a customer for a long time, but when the first call ticket came in, they had no idea who were were, what system we had, what the real problem was, or how they were supposed to fix it.

Day Seven, another team of techs shows up at the office. It is the same routine. They look at the Cabletron router box like it something from the Roswell debris field. So the techs run around again. The secretary gets snippy at the techs when they attempt to tell her that it is probably the office equipment. She justs tells them “fix it!” Afterword, they ask the secretary to sign some paper. She is uneasy about it, and has it checked by a partner who tells her, no, don't sign it. Apparently, it was some blanket service charge back to our account. They take the unsigned paper and leave. Again, I was not present at this exchange, but the information is reliable since NOTHING was accomplished.

Then, at the end of Day Seven, the DSL comes back on its own. Just like the past short outages over the years, never lasting more than a few hours, this reconnection came from sources outside the building. Someone at central switching must have bumped into a circuit rack on the way to the Krispy Kreme donut box. Apparently, that's how things get done at leading edge locotelcos.


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Don't Call Me and I Won't Call You

by Paul C. Pinderski

What do the following have in common?

The voice sounds like echos in a canyon.

The voice sounds like its fifty fathoms under the ocean.

The voice sounds like its at the end of Runway 4-L.

The voice sounds like a cat being spaded in an alley under the el tracks.

If you said what current cell phone connections are like you would be correct.



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Do You Want to Pay for Bad Radio?

by Paul C. Pinderski

Radio is bad. Really bad. The concentration of media ownership in each city has overkilled bland programming. Many stations are now corporate managed by one station boss and one station programmer. Or they purchase the canned syndicated syrup of styles: oldies, the 70s, the 80s, soft rock, hard rock, shock rock. . . . sleepy rock. The era of cutting edge, local programming, with local personalities driven by community interaction are fading in the fossil world of concentrated media ownership. The FCC has allowed more and more companies to own more and more stations in the same market. It has not lead to new programming or better programming in the cost savings. It has lead to a mud-pie approach to broadcasting. And the bean-counting cost cutters have sliced talent to the bare bones, especially on all-news outlets, where a local beat reporter is extinct. So the local radio scene has been driven to all-time broadcast lows, what can a regular person do?

For the cost of a premium car radio, you can own a satellite radio receiver. Then you can have the privilege to pay $10 to $20 a month for digital radio formats. Hundreds of channels of programming will be at your finger tips.

But is this not the same, bland, vanilla corporate shill programming that we are subjected to on free, public radio airwaves? I cannot be local programming. The costs would not justify the replication of the existing local station networks. Besides, when you are commuting through the endless sea of snarled traffic, people tune to local stations to see if they are going to be late to work, or have to bail the expressway in order to be early for lunch.

Is this a conspiracy by the regular AM-FM media giants to ween consumers on to the notion of paying for programming under the notion that it will be different, or commercial free? But if you look at the fine print, only some of the satellite stations will be “commercial free” whatever that means. The media conglomerates took their own program rebroadcasts off their own station internet sites under the claim of gray-area copyright concerns. Only major league baseball is gearing up for internet pay-per-hear. And MLB is raising the price, too.

But if you are going to spend $20 a month for this new satellite service, under the guise that you have your own programming at your fingertips, I have a secondary suggestion. Go to your local record store and buy a CD. Play it in your car. That's the only way you have full digital control over your radio dial.


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