Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How to deal with Qwest DSL problems

I'll spare you the play-by-play of our 7-day ordeal getting Qwest to admit there was something wrong with our DSL and fix it. After four in-person visits and dozens of phone calls, the tech who came today was able to restore our download speeds. And, miraculously, a while after he left the upload speed was restored as well. (The trick turned out to be something about having someone at Qwest change our "tree," which translates into changing a port for a DSLAM; a DSLAM is something that sits deep in the system, behind the ATM networks.) Apparently a problem with a tree is very rare, so DSL providers want to thoroughly explore the more plausible options (customer forgot to put a filter on phone line, customer's computer is infested with bandwidth-hogging spyware, physical damage to inside or outside phone lines, screw-up at the customer's ISP) before looking inside their own system. And the customer with the rare problem gets to twiddle his or thumbs while answering the same questions about the system performance over and over and over.

Every Qwest DSL service technician we dealt with in person was a joy to work with, genuinely interested in solving our problem. And every Qwest rep we spoke with on the phone was either an idiot or a jerk.

(If you're into Qwest-bashing, here's an amusing evocation of the Qwest phone support experience from a former Qwest customer.)

On a more positive note, here are some of the resources that helped us out during the 7-day Qwest DSL nightmare:, our excellent Seattle-area ISP. When Qwest phone reps kept disconnecting us, Seanet got through and pleaded our case., another Seattle ISP that has a very useful and attractive test for upload and download speeds.

Broadband Reports. This site has free speed tests (a limited number per day) and forums for dishing the up-to-the-minute dirt on all the major DSL providers. I registered (free) and got some excellent ideas for testing from the Qwest forum. With paid membership you get access to tools for testing line packet loss, ping tests, and all kinds of cool stuff. Which I hope we won't be needing any time soon.

I could do without hearing the phrases "trace route" or "dSLAM" again. I want to forget the internet address for configuring our modem. I want to stop thinking about how DSL works and just take it for granted -- like electricity, water, and air.

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