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(Last) CenturyLink

April 22, 2012

When I moved into my house a few years ago, I had the typical set of move-in chores to complete: set up accounts for utilities, subscribe for pay-TV, find an Internet provider. In my area (a major metropolitan neighborhood), the geographic monopoly of internet access is controlled by Comcast (for cable connectivity) and Qwest (for old analog and DSL connectivity). At that time I was already aggrevated by Comcast’s customer "service" (aka "bend over, take it, and be happy we gave you anything") because they had flat-out stood me up for multiple past scheduled service calls, but I liked their network speeds and reliability so I called and set up an appointment for the "hook up". Yet again, Comcast no-showed and then acted like it was my fault for wasting my day waiting on them and tried to schedule another "sometime between 8 and 5" waste of time. I was fuming. Ok — no Comcast; they can go ****** a ***** before I spend another 8 hours waiting. Instead, I switched to the only other option: Qwest & DirecTV.

Operating at Qwest-Speed
A Shaky Foundation

Phone service enabled, DSL modem received and set up, and I thought I was connected. Oh how naive. 1st noticeable difference: the speed. OK — not a big surprise. I know DSL is an outdated and dead technology hindered by aging infrastructure. As long as I can get ~1.5 Mbps (below the lowest end Qwest offered), it’s good enough for browsing, mail, remoting into work, gaming. Unfortunately, although sold as 2Mbps (and paid for), my service rarely (if ever) even approached that. Frequently, speeds were sub .5 Mbps (yes — there is a decimal point there). In addition, I learned that my connection would frequently (like 10 to hundreds of times in a day) simply drop for several seconds to several hours. For you math geeks out there, Yes, that’s 0 Mbps. I called Qwest to get it resolved and they scheduled another day to be wasted waiting.

Legacy of Disservice

The agreed upon Saturday arrived and the technician (a nice enough fellow) appeared slightly before the allotted 4 hour appointment window expired. He spent 1 minute checking the (public) lines coming to my house and found that the signal at that point was already so degraded as to be basically useless. He then informed me that since my neighbor’s car was parked beside the telephone pole he needed to climb to check the signal further "upstream", he could not do any more work. I agreed that I’d ask the neighbor to move the car when he returned home, and the technician said he’d return the next day to continue.

Later that day, I had my neighbor move his car and parked mine to block the spot and ensure it could be easily freed when the tech returned. The next day (Sunday) was wasted spent waiting for the tech to return, and by 5:00 PM it was becoming clear that I was either forgotten or completely ignored yet again. I called Qwest and was informed that the ticket for my service had already been closed. I asked for an explanation as to 1) why the ticket was closed and 2) why had no one contacted me to let me know not to wait all day for a tech who had no intention of returning.

The "explanation" floored me: the ticket had been closed because someone had decided that the (again public) phone lines coming to my house/area could not handle the 5 Mbps service I was paying for, so they simply reduced my service speed and considered the matter closed. No followup communication. No checking to see if this resolution was acceptable to the customer. No offer of lowered rates or refund of payment for past months of terrible service. This is like an auto mechanic deciding that to fix a flat tire he should just remove the wheel entirely — and not tell the driver.

At this point I was stuck between an incompetent (Qwest) and an arrogant jerk (Comcast), with the only other option being no Internet connectivity, which today is not an option in my business. With the reduced traffic speed, I at least had connectivity again — bad, unreliable connectivity which was roughly 1/5 the speed I had received over a decade earlier, but connectivity.

This lasted all of about 1 month before I was again losing my connection consistently and constantly. It was to the point now that I wrote software specifically to monitor my connection and log all major failures to cite each time I had to call support. Luckily for Qwest, I can’t afford many 4-8 hour blocks of time waiting to see if a technician will show up, so I didn’t call for service often — I struggled through with the poor connectivity I had.

Sample connectivity log:
06:43 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
06:56 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
06:58 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
07:02 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
07:04 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
07:07 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
07:09 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
07:16 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
07:19 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
07:19 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
07:24 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
07:25 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
07:28 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
07:29 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
07:34 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
07:42 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
07:50 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
07:51 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
07:54 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
08:00 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
08:25 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
08:28 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
08:30 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
08:31 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
08:43 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection lost.
08:47 PM Tue 04/17/2012 : Connection established.
04:33 AM Wed 04/18/2012 : Connection lost.
04:40 AM Wed 04/18/2012 : Connection established.
04:40 AM Wed 04/18/2012 : Connection lost.
04:43 AM Wed 04/18/2012 : Connection established.
10:08 PM Wed 04/18/2012 : Connection lost.
10:09 PM Wed 04/18/2012 : Connection established.
10:25 PM Wed 04/18/2012 : Connection lost.
10:25 PM Wed 04/18/2012 : Connection established.
06:13 PM Thu 04/19/2012 : Connection lost.
06:15 PM Thu 04/19/2012 : Connection established.
06:38 PM Thu 04/19/2012 : Connection lost.
06:45 PM Thu 04/19/2012 : Connection established.
07:04 PM Thu 04/19/2012 : Connection lost.
07:04 PM Thu 04/19/2012 : Connection established.
08:35 PM Thu 04/19/2012 : Connection lost.
08:41 PM Thu 04/19/2012 : Connection established.
More of the Same: aka LAST CenturyLink

Again I encountered terrible service to such a degree that even if the modem could acquire a connection, it was unusable. This latest round of failure’s cause was apparently that Qwest had been acquired by CenturyLink (to much advertising fanfare) and although the same employees carried over through the merger, their memory did not: someone in the telecom thought it a good idea to "upgrade" me back to a higher speed which the lines still could not handle. I was "upgraded" from sub-1 Mbps crappy connectivity to no Internet at all. Yet again I was on the phone with support (this time at least I had large logs of the numerous connection failures documented), and yet again the "solution" was to give me less bandwidth (still with no apology or reduction in cost, etc.). It seemed pretty clear that the company should simply fix the infrastructure or admit that they are incapable of delivering service and stop offering (and taking people’s money), but what do I know!? I guess I just have a conscience when it comes to screwing over customers…

So that’s it; I’m done with Last CenturyLink. They apparently can’t deliver the services they are selling and are continuing to push a dead technology. I believe in the power of competetive business to drive great value for customers — the best products and services should win, and those that don’t do right by the customer should fail and go out of business. The only reason companies like Qwest/CenturyLink are able to survive is because of the necessity of the services they control coupled with their existence under geographic monopolies where there is insufficient customer choice and competition.

So: I’m back to the arrogant Comcast. At least they only have to turn on the service and I can install the modem myself. Maybe I’ll schedule a 4 hour block during a workday next week and then not show up if I want to feel appropriately "serviced".

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From → Opinion, Soapbox

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