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27Jul/090

FIOS, DSL and Verizon. I want to laugh and I want to cry #1(Updated)

FIOS, DSL and Verizon. I want to laugh and I want to cry #1

**** Update ****

Last Thursday, as I was getting into my car to leave for work, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was a Verizon technician. He took a look around and said, "Yep" conduit under the concrete will be pretty expensive. How about if we go Airborn?"   He explained that we could wire from the pole, to condo behind us (in the air) and then drop a line down to my back door.  I said "shit yeah, let's do it".

I am keeping my finders crossed that the line will be put in before the Fios installer shows up on Friday...  We'll see.

**** End Update ****

I have gone web, blog, and internet silent for the last week as I have been struggling with a both a Verizon DSL connection problem and with my 3 year long attempt to have FIOS installed to replaced that aging, slow DSL connection.

The FIOS story begins: The long awaited FIOS (Verizon's Fiber Optic Internet Service - I don't know what FIOS actually stands for) system was advertised as being available by groups of young teens canvassing the neighborhood 3 years ago. I signed up on the spot and was told it would be available later in the year. That was 2006. Steve, who lived about 10 blocks away at the time, was already enjoying his 20Mbps connection, huge library of free on-demand content and copious HD channels at the time. I figured that it would only be a matter of weeks before I would be able to actually make proper use of the Amazon S3 backup space I had purchased, and more.

I called and visited the Verizon site almost every week, waiting for the "It's Now Available" message to show up when I typed in my land-line phone number. I waited and waited and waited. Finally, 3 months ago (almost 3 years later), the message came up and said "You Can Order Now" and I did. Then the trouble really started.

What follows is not a condemnation of Verizon because they have been more than helpful, but a story of woe based on circumstance rather than ineptitude. I think that Verizon is very large, with many departments and multiple pieces of technology that all rely on one another, complement one another, and in many cases contradict one another. This goes for both their internal systems for customer service and their service offerings. Everyone I talked to was very helpful, but I fear the system is so complicated that there certainly can be no one person or group of people that understand all of it all of the time.

I have been a Verizon DSL customer for 3 years with no real complaints. The service works (when my ancient analog phone line is not crackling). There have been some hiccups now and then, mostly based on the corner of the city I live in being pretty far from a modern phone relay facility. I have had my speed fluxuate between 48kbps to 1740kpbs and sometimes not work at all. I have had both Windows, Mac, XBox and Wii connection problems, but overall, 95% of the time everything has been pretty good. Until FIOS reared its oh so pretty head.

Back to the FIOS story. 3 months ago I finally ordered FIOS and was ready for a complete media takeover by the fiber wonder: TV, Phone, and Internet service all wrapped up in a nice little package. I was looking forward to steaming all of my Netflix On-Demand (through the XBOX) movies and TV shows in a better quality than the fuzzy lo-fi DSL could handle. It was two days before the install when I get the call - "This is Verizon, we are sorry, but we cannot install FIOS until you sign a form". After a couple weeks of trying to get the form sent to me, I looked it over and signed. It basically said that because I live in a small 5 unit townhouse group, that the president of the townhouse association (luckily me) had to sign the form to allow Verizon to install conduit to my unit. I faxed it in and figured I'd be up and running in no time flat.

Another call came not minutes after I faxed the form, saying "Sorry, it will be the end of the year before we can install." Damn, that sucked, but I decided that I didn't want their TV service anyway, after comparing their DVR to the much superior one from Dish Network anyway, so I dodged a bullet there. That should have been the end of the story until December, except...

I received at least one call a night and at least 3 mailers a week advertising FIOS in my neighborhood. I ignored all of them for 2 months, but was caught after a couple beers and a Galaxy game in a chatty mood. I told the salesperson on the phone that I was informed it would not be available in my area until the end of the year, but he would not have any of it. He looked up my address, my phone number, and insisted that all previous problems were dealt with and that I was ready to install. "Great", I thought, I didn't have to do anything but be patient once again and FIOS fell in my lap.

WRONG!
I had an install scheduled for last Friday, but the "fun" started on Thursday. My DSL connection went mysteriously wonky and wouldn't connect. I went and asked some of my neighbors and they said that theirs worked, but that their phone line was a little fuzzy (so was mine). One of my neighbors has his Townhouse right next to the "Verizon" pole connection and POTS box for the complex and he said that a comedy troop of different Verizon technicians and contractors had been playing around with the pole and the box over the last few days and that maybe they caused the problem. I figured that I would wait until Friday afternoon, get my FIOS Internet and Phone installed and not have to worry about that old POTS analog phone stuff anyway.

WRONG AGAIN!
When the Verizon technician arrived on Friday, he took a look around, rubbed his chin, when to his truck a few times, looked at the pole and the Verizon box (both FIOS and POTS) shared by the complex and then told me that I would have to install my own conduit from the pole to my house. What the fuck? The pole is 100 feet away, and to install even PVC would mean snaking it around my neighbor's back yard, through a couple fences and to my back door. The technician left my house, and I was left fuming. I received another call from Verizon about 30 minutes later asking when I would like to try to install again. I was about to tell him where to put his fucking install, but I instead gave him a date two weeks away. I told him that someone broke my DSL connection and that I was told that I have to install my own conduit. He was not impressed with my anger and ignored me because his job is to simply schedule installs (fair enough).

Now I was without a reliable phone, DSL, or FIOS connection and it was the weekend. That is when I get the bulk of my work done on the site: write make games, blog entries, read stories about naked celebrities on the Superficial - you know, all of the important stuff. After playing with the DSL, the phone line, and the router for all of Saturday, I was convinced that it was not an internal network problem. I called Verizon, and after an hour of assuring the tech support person that I had Windows installed properly (I know he was just doing his job) and that each of my non-dsl lines had a filter on it (why would it have worked 2 days before with no changes if lines didn't have filters on them?), he set up a technician to come out today. I had to pay for my sister to wait for him at the house and write up the answer to each of the questions he might ask because I will be in a meeting with my "no-so-understanding if I need to take a call about my DSL, Boss" during most of the "window" time they gave me.

Today, still frustrated with the FIOS problem, let alone the DSL problem, I called Verizon and swam through the jungle that is their automated system until I got to a couple humans. I must have said "yes" and my phone number loudly and clearly 20 times before I reached someone who understood the problem. Ah ha!  I found some answers. I was NOT supposed to install my own conduit, but clear a space for Verizon to do it themselves. That might still be a major problem, but at least I was not being tasked with something nearly impossible. I can dig some weeds and move some rocks, but installing conduit for brittle fiber is not one of my specialties.

So, the DSL guys should be arriving soon, and I should be receiving a call to set up an appointment to look at the conduit install area today. Will I have to write a #2 of this entry with a happy story or a sad story?

Update: DSL is FIXED!!! Verizon DSL guy was awesome. His name was Rod (out of Redondo Beach area), and my sister says that he was absolutely fantastic! He made Verizon proud. Rod also explained that YES, the FIOS people did, indeed create a problem with my DSL  connection when they tried to shove some fiber into it. He had to do some major repairs. Why could the FIOS people not tell they they had created a problem? The answer is that the yall seem to work for different agencies and event different companies inside Verizon.

Now let's have the FIOS people make them proud too.

Update on FIOS: Still no call or email from FIOS on the install...

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