Wednesday, December 21, 2005

DSL, you complete me

It's been three months or so, but we FINALLY got the DSL working right. I converted our DSL Extreme dialup account to DSL (at $14.95 a month vs. $12.95 for dialup, resistance is futile) At first, we couldn't get a signal at all. I'm not sure what happened, but we did get up and running. But the signal would cut out whenever we picked up a telephone to make or receive a call.

Now I had already dragged the modem, telephone and cables outside to the NID (that's network interface device), unplugged the house's wiring at the test jack and plugged in everything there to eliminate any influence of the household wiring (which the DSL Extreme techs were CONSTANTLY blaming all my problems on, even though I was outside bypassing it entirely). Glad I didn't spend five hours under the house rewiring the phone jacks (all two of 'em) because being under the house is a special thing that should only be done once every two years, and I'd already been under when we had termites last year.

Don't get me wrong, the Billing and Technical Support staff at DSL Extreme (both of which I've had to deal with) are extremely helpful and responsive. But they are loathe to get SBC involved. See, even though DSL Extreme sells the service and has the routers and other techie equipment at their Winnetka, Calif., headquarters, the lines themselves are still the responsibility of SBC (and yes, I could've ordered the DSL through them,.but I liked the DSL Extreme deal and terms better, and I already had an open account with them for the dialup, which was way more rock-solid than any other dialup service we had, including AOL and AT&T). And e-mailing Tech Support with my signal problem was not enough. I had to call them from home and be ready to do wiring and modem gymnastics in order for them to get "a ticket started" with SBC.

"NID," "a ticket started," it's a whole new language.

Finally I bit the bullet on Sunday and called them. First they lowered the speed of the line from 1500 bps to 768, and the line supposedly got more "stable." They figured I was too far from the phone company office. I told them, "Van Nuys is the center of the entire fucking universe, and if we are not close enough to the central office, nobody is.'' Stability be damned, the speed reduction didn't work. We still lost DSL signal when using the phone.

So finally, they agreed to open a ticket with SBC, telling me that there could be a $125 charge if the problem was with my inside wiring. Since I was 100 percent confident that this was not the case, we proceeded to set up an appointment. SBC came a day early, the guy right away went to the phone box (or NID, for those who have been paying attention), got into the "phone company only" part and removed an MPU, which is some kind of electronic circuit that's either supposed to remove interference or alert the phone company when there's a problem on the line. The SBC guy told Ilene that these now-ancient circuits are a real pain in the ass.

Now everything works great. We can talk on the phone and use the Internet simultaneously -- and hopefully DSL Extreme will soon see fit to bump the speed of the line back up to 1500 bps. DSL Extreme offers a speed test on their support page, and it's easy to check up on how fast it's going.

With a little more dogged determination, I could've gotten this all resolved in the first month (I still have to caulk the bottom of the toilet, and we all know how long THAT's been going on -- and I do have all the things I need to complete THAT job), but the thought of having to spend an afternoon on the phone with DSL Extreme wasn't high on my personal list of ways to spend said afternoon, so I delayed.

Still, the tech support from DSL Extreme is pretty good. I've only had to wait on hold once when calling -- there's usually someone on the line to help right away, and for $14.95 per month, it really is a whole new world for those of us who have been stuck with dialup.

So problems notwithstanding, I would recommend DSL Extreme. But the whole process of getting a working line should be easier for those with nary a computer-nerd bone in their bodies. Both SBC and DSL Extreme are praying, when they start a new customer on the service, that everything in the physical setup -- from the telephone pole to the wiring down to the house, the DSL filters, the house wiring, the home computers -- is working fine so they can send a "self-install" kit and not have to physically show up. For newer dwellings and newer computers, this probably works a whole lot better "out of the box," literally and figuratively.

I think when we get to the next generation of broadband, whether through an upgraded fiberoptic network or via wireless, this will all be easier. I suspect that ease already extends to cable Internet service, but I promise you nothing.

1 comment:

Aaron Hanscom said...

14.95?! Wow. Verizon is reaming me.