Verizon's DSL Horizon

I've written literally hundreds of columns for more than a decade and never wrote one about the trials and tribulations of getting a network service installed. That's because I never before had the pleasure of trying to get DSL from Verizon.

Having lived through the failed promise of ISDN, I've been watching xDSL rather closely. While the press has been fairly good on xDSL rollouts, I've been around long enough not to count on a "two-week" installation. So wanting xDSL running in September, I started the process in July. It is November, and I still live in an xDSL-free house.

Being a multiphone-line household, I gave the former Bell Atlantic a list of numbers to check out for DSL service. After some weeks, the company told me the maximum DSL speeds each of my lines could support - and they were different. Now I'm no provisioning expert, but, I told the rep, I thought the fundamental governor on speed was distance from the central office - and hey, my house is not that big.

Turns out they interpolated two of the numbers and it was someone else's line. But they had a solution - cancel and reorder. Well, it was already September, but I was going on a lengthy trip, so that's what I did.

Fast forward. I got back from Asia, hooked things up and, naturally, they didn't work. Tech support was clueless. I opened a problem ticket. They said it would take two days to "check out." Two weeks go by. Nothing. They close the ticket without ever contacting me - or fixing the problem.

Then, the pièce de résistance - a "helpful" e-mail arrives from tech support with seven items for me to check, many of which only serve to trigger other questions.

Item No. 2 tells me to change out the phone cable between the DSL modem and the wall. But the instructions say clearly that one should use only the cable supplied by Verizon. Item No. 4 tells me to "check for sync at the NID." OK. Like many houses, my network interface is on the exterior of my house. I'll just run an extension cord and walk my modem outside for that test. Very convenient.

Item No. 5 is my favorite: "External things that may affect [line] sync [in DSL] are radio interference caused by 2.4-GHz phones, halogen lights, digital two-way radios, alarm systems, home networking and faulty dimmer switches." What about global warming?

Because I'm away on business, I'll have to ask my wife to get rid of the cordless phones, dump the halogen lights and disconnect the alarm system. Hmmm, I wonder if the baby monitor is really the "root cause?"

I don't have space to discuss items six and seven, but suffice to say that they'd have me digging up the road outside my house or climbing up the telephone pole. Verizon's final recommendation? Cancel and reorder.

Maybe I should look into ISDN.

This story, "Verizon's DSL Horizon" was originally published by CIO.

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