Sabtu, 19 Juni 2010

DSL EXTREME

I had FiOS before this (and Verizon DSL before that) and I recently moved to a place where FiOS isn't available (actually only about half a mile away!). Verizon's website said the best I could get is 3mbps DSL for $40/month, with contract! I thought of going with Charter, but their sketchy site gave a great price, but said it was only for 6 months. I couldn't find anything about how much it would be after the 6 months so I immediately wrote them off. So I came here to DSLReports to see who was suggested for me. DSLExtreme hadn't been available at my old address but I figured I'd try it with my new one and it worked. They offered 7mbps down/768kbps up for $45 on a 12 month contract. So I signed up.

A week later or so I noticed I never even got a confirmation email or anything else, so I called their support. Their phone system is great, there's not 9 million options like with Verizon and you either instantly talk to a real person who is in the US and mostly knows what they are talking about. Even thier "live chat" people know what they are doing and can provide real assistance. The person I talked to said that my order was pending. I have a feeling it was stuck, though, because almost immediately after our call I got my confirmation email. That's the first place where the average person would have either quit or placed a second order, leaving two orders in the system.

Eventually I got my activation date. A Verizon tech showed up a few days before the date and did some work outside, then came in and tried to test my phone jacks. They were apparently all "broken" so he "repaired" one. He tested it and said I'm good to go, I should be able to just connect my DSL modem. Unfortunately my modem was still at the old place, since I hadn't planned on him showing up. So I didn't get to test it until the next day. It didn't work but it was before my activation date so I didn't worry about it.

Activation day came and went and still I got the flashing DSL light on my modem, meaning it's not working. I emailed support (it was 1AM), and they casually asked me to go to the box and check if the "line is tagged." I had no idea where the box was or what it meant to have the line "tagged." So I called back again, asking what to do. They said to call Verizon and ask where the phone box was. So I did and, as I expected, I got nowhere with them. I called DSLExtreme again and asked if they could ask Verizon or get a local number for me, but they couldn't. Seeing I was stuck for now, I went out a few times and tried to find the phone box. Eventually I found it and saw that Verizon had tagged the "terminals" (another new word I learned), rather than the line. I described it to the support agent, who said they couldn't picture it, so it sounds wrong.

So they sent Verizon out again (after 24 hour wait, that's their standard, I learned) and I thought I heard their truck, then went outside to see if I could talk to the guy. He left before I got out there. So I called support again and they said Verizon had checked it and that all was good. Well, my modem still wasn't working.

Realizing I was again stuck, I set out to fix the damn thing myself. I did a lot of research online and learned about phone jack wiring, NIDs, etc. I opened up the phone jack and found that while the Verizon guy had hooked it up correctly he apparently somehow managed to clip the green wire entirely, so of course it wouldn't work. Using my rudimentary tools (pliers and a small knife) I stripped the wire and re-did the jack so the green wire was connected. Now it still didn't work! But at least I knew the jack was good.

Now for the box. I saw that most terminal pairs had wires from the telephone company coming in from the left and then another line hooked up to the same terminal pairs going out to the apartment. I had only two small wires coming from the telephone company, but none going out. Well, no wonder it's not working! So I called support again and described what I thought the problem was and the level 2 tech said that was definitely the problem so I need to call my landlord. The landlord didn't know which line it was and said that the previous person had phone service so either Verizon connected their wires to the wrong terminal pair or removed the line that was already connected! So I called support again, asking if Verizon could connect the LINE and not just connect to the terminals (the other lines that had been tagged by other companies all had the tag attached to the LINE, whereas my tag was connected to the terminal pair directly). They said Verizon won't touch it, so I'll have to contact a 3rd party to determine which line is mine.

So I looked up how you would test which line is your and apparently you need something called a "toner" which will detect the line signal. The tool itself cost more than a service call, so I got a local service person to come out for $75. It took him about 5 minutes. He did exactly what I'd looked up, connected a piece to the jack and went out to the box then hunted for which line had the signal and then connected it. That's all it took! The modem immediately made a connection to the DSL.

So now I looked up DSLExtreme's site on my phone's browser, remembering they had sent me a link for setup instructions. They are a bit out-of-date on their instructions, with Windows XP being the latest OS you can choose from. Then it showed me how to make a PPPoE connection on the computer. Of course, that's NOT where I need to configure the PPPoE connection. That portion needs to be configured on the modem, at least on most modern ones. There's another major hang-up for the average person. I noted the instructions and just used them on my modem. Finally, it worked!

I get 6.5mbps down and 0.7mbps up (speedtest.net) with 26ms ping, 0% packet loss, 0% jitter ("A" rating on pingtest.net). I was disappointed I wasn't getting the full 7mbps then remembered that PPPoE is supposed to never get all the way to maximum speed. Also interesting is that letting the modem handle PPPoE got me about 5mbps-5.5mbps, while configuring my router for PPPoE got me the 6.5mbps rating.

So the biggest problem point was the sort of hands-off relationship with Verizon. If DSLExtreme could partner with local service people and then tell you at checkout a $75 installation fee may be necessary depending on your phone line setup, I think a lot of problems would be solved. Instead I had to look someone up, which was not that easy since I didn't even know what to search for!

They also need to modernize their setup instructions. Most people will now be using XP, Vista, or Windows 7 along with a router, a modem with routing capabilities, or both (like me).

Their support is very nice and I'm amazed that there's very little wait time and that they are in the US. It shows they do care. But they did have trouble pinpointing my problem. Knowing what I now know, they should have been able to pinpoint the problem pretty early on when I was describing the terminals being tagged and having only two little wires running to them. In other instances they assumed I knew too much "go and see if the line has been tagged" (huh?).

Had this been my mom (or anyone else in my family, really), I think it's safe to say that DSLExtreme would NOT be their ISP right now. She would have given up either when the order got stuck or when they asked to to see if the line was "tagged." Then she would have called Charter or Cox, who would simply get the job done, even if it cost more. I don't recall a cable company ever telling me to go to the box for them! I know that for many people here this may not seem that shocking since they are probably more technical than the average person. But I'm an ex-PC tech and a current web designer who runs his own Linux webserver and it was at times baffling even for me. Most people expect to order service, have it installed, and have it turned on. With DSLExtreme you order the service and Verizon may or may not install it, then you may or may not have to call a 3rd party to really have it installed. They do address this somewhat in the second email they send you, saying, "Please note that you may need to hire a 3rd party technician to have additional wiring done from your phone box to the jack inside your home. DSL Extreme is not responsible for these charges." I read that as, "If you for some reason don't even have phone lines in your house you might have to pay to get that set up."

Sorry about the lengthy review, but I hope it can be helpful to other customers and maybe even to DSLExtreme. Overall I'm mostly happy with the service and I realize at least some of my trouble was Verizon's fault (no surprise there!).

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