(This is Part I of this report. There is a second part here Part II and a third part here Part III)
I ordered Telecom’s new ‘Go Large’ Broadband Service on November 21st, 2006, and received their DSL-502T ASDL Router and was up and running by the 23rd of November. This new service is, apparently, New Zealand’s first broadband service without a throughput limit. All they ask is that you don’t do high load activities like video or song downloads between 4 PM and midnight.
Well, I’ve had problems right from the beginning with this service.
Just now, I went on-line to find a link to Telecom’s advertisement for the Go Large service and Googled on “Telecom Go Large” and immediately came across this story in PC World NZ which parallels my own very nicely.
My problem is drops. Every 10 minutes or so, the service drops my broadband link and then after 30 to 60 seconds, it automatically reconnects it. This happens night or day, regardless of whether I’m moving traffic or sitting idle. I can see when it occurs because I have a small program that simply pings (which is an extremely low load activity) several remote servers I use. When the pings are getting through, I’ve got green lights on the screen, when I’m dropped, they turn red.
On my first complaint call, I received a case # which is 129-33-084 (in case any of you Telecom PR types are reading this).
Using that case #, I’ve called and complained on each of the following days: November 23rd, 24th, 26th, 29th, December 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th and 10th – which brings us today.
Each of my calls has been taken by a polite and concerned individual – no complaints on that score. But, like many folks who answer the phones for big corporations, they apparently have scripts they have to follow.
In my first few calls, we went through the scripts. We changed the line filter, we counted the number of telephone outlets here (four) and the number of devices connected to the (just the ADSL router and a hardwired telephone, we power reset the ADSL Router and restarted my computer, and we tried disconnecting the hardwired phone for an hour to see if the drops ceased. All of this failed and on November 24th, my case # was elevated for the first time to the ‘advanced group‘ who apparently deals with things the first level of folks cannot.
Since then, the pattern has, for the most part, been predictable. Once every day or every other day, I’ll call in to complain and I will always get a new person (they must have hundreds at the call center) and I’ll give them my case # which they will read through before we get started. This takes longer and longer as the notes increase with each call but, in fact, I like that they keep such conscientious records.
They will ask me to hold, or ask if they can call me back, and they will go off and talk to someone in the advanced group about what’s happening. They come back and tell me that the problem is in the physical equipment at the exchange and that they are ‘investigating it’ and while they are working on it, they cannot give me any estimate of when it will be fixed.
I’ve been given this explanation and promised at least three times that someone from the advanced group will give me a call – but no one ever has.
Other things I’ve learned or that have happened along the way (I recorded these things in my notes as we went along this torturous path together):
Nov 29th – Situation improved and I called in and they said that someone (the advanced group?) had made temporary changes to my ‘profile’ – whatever that is.
Dec 1st – Problem has returned. Apparently, the ‘profile’ change was indeed temporary.
Dec 2nd – They’ve made another change to my ‘profile’ but I see no apparently improvement. They’ve decided that sending a tech type here won’t help. Apparently, the problem is with their equipment at the exchange.
Dec 4th – This problem is apparently affecting multiple people. Notes in my case # show that the advanced team is working on my problem. Also told me that turn-around-time on anything to do with the advanced team is not less than 24 hours. I said I’d wait 48 hours before calling in again.
Dec 6th – Called again. The current comments from the advanced team, from when the fellow I was talking to went and talked to them, was that they think that perhaps my problem is related to the high speed of the service I am receiving and that perhaps they may have to slow the speed. That would be fine with me if it just stayed connected. Note, I was told in my very first call to Telecom that I am 1.5 km from the exchange which is, apparently, a reasonably short distance.
Dec 8th – since sometime yesterday afternoon, my connection has remained steady. over a 12 hour period I experienced drops less than 1% of the time (.32%). Using Skype through the link is still flaky, but I can live with that.
Dec 8th – about midday, I lost the ability to send E-mail out via two E-mail server systems I use in the U.S. I investigated and it seems that I’m being blocked from sending E-mail out over port 25 (standard way to ‘talk’ to an E-mail server) for all E-mail servers except Xtra’s at mail.xtra.co.nz I called in and had a long and somewhat confused discussion with a fellow at the first level and nothing was resolved. He said he thinks they have a policy of doing this to prevent spam from originating on their network but that begged the question of why I’ve been up and running for three weeks and this has never happened before.
I got a new case # on this one since it is a different problem (Case # 130-55-983).
After we hung up, I Googled on ‘Telecom blocking 25‘ and immediately turned up several articles dating back to April saying that that this was going to be a new Telecom policy but that users with good cause could opt out of the block.
Dec 9th – When I got up this morning, the port 25 block had been lifted overnight and I was able to resume sending out E-mail via my preferred E-mail servers.
Dec 9th – I called in this morning and told the person I talked to that my connection was holding steady and that I could communicate again with my mail servers and that all seemed well. I was hopeful that we were at the end of this long road. I think they were doubtful because the notes on their end showed that nothing new had been done.
Dec 10th – Well, I was optimistic far too soon. Yesterday afternoon, the drops returned – same as before. Maybe even more frequently than before.
I do software development and last night, on the 9th, I needed to download several big software packages from Microsoft’s web site. The biggest one was 225 MB. It literally took me hours and before it was done, I’m sure I generated between one and two GB’s of traffic trying to download this stuff. I’d get a small part of the file and then I’d be dropped. I know how to reconnect on dropped downloads and most of the time I was able to resume the download after Telecom reconnected the link – but not always. On the large 225 MB file, I worked for nearly three hours before I downloaded it successfully. So, in the end, their inefficiency actually produced more throughput on the system than if I’d just downloaded everything once straight away.
Dec 10th – Called in to report that the drops have returned as of yesterday afternoon. Talked to employee # 805273. She went off and talked to her supervisor and tried to get to the advanced team but failed (it is Sunday). She said that this problem is definitely in the exchange and they are investigating. They are going to give my back my $49.95 for the month due to all of these problems. She said her Supervisor’s name is Mark Thomas. She also said that it is reasonable given the type of problem we’re dealing with that these drops should come and go as I’ve described.
I asked her for a specific case # identifying this problem (the one at their exchange) in their system but she had none.
I also asked her for an estimate of when it would be fixed and she had none.
She said someone would call me from the Advance Group. I told her I’d been promised that not less that three of four times and I’ve never received such a call. She said she’d note it.
Once again, I was happy with the way I was responded to when I called in in terms of politeness, concern, and good notes on their end but, in the end, it is always the same. “We know about it, we’re working on it (no time estimate) and we’re sorry“. And, today, they refunded my Go Large bill of $49.95 for the month in consideration for the problems I’ve had.
But, at the end of the day, I’d still rather have a good solid connection like I can get in most first world countries.
In the last hours or two, as I’ve been typing, my ping software tells me that my broadband link has been disconnected nearly 8% of the time. It turns on, it turns off. You wouldn’t think a problem like that would be hard for competent technical folks to find. One really has to wonder what’s going on behind the scenes at Telecom:
Have they over-sold the Go Large Broadband Program and they haven’t the equipment to support it?
Have they got a lot of high tech equipment and nobody on their staff that really knows how to fix it if it misbehaves?
Are they so overwhelmed with technical problems in general that my issue cannot seem to get to the top of the pile?
Something is very wrong. New Zealand needs fast, cheap and ubiquitous Internet to keep it in the running with other first world nations. Many nations have realized that the Internet is the grease that makes so many other things work well in a society. Important things like business and education, for example. Id’ say it would also reduce frustration.