There haven't been too many updates too this blog lately. One reason is that I've ben crunching away on a couple of projects. Another is that on Wednesday morning my DSL connection went out.

I didn't really like the timing of the outage, because I still had a lot of work to do. So I borrowed some of my neighbour's spotty wireless signal (thanks, pal), and checked the Earthlink support pages, where I learned that everything was fine. No outages. So decided to use their chat-based support to tell them that in fact there was an outage. Big mistake.
First I was greeted by a splash page that told me to power cycle my modem. Turn if off 15 seconds, turn it back on. I decided to give it a go even to I had just reset my routher and modem minutes ago. The result was as expected: No connection.

So I start the chat, and after waiting just a few seconds I am greeted by a guy who called himself Ritchie C. - even tho is Indian parents probably had somehting else in mind for him. Nevermind. I tell Ritchie C. about my problems, and then wait. A few minutes. Finally he comes back and apologizes. Nice guy.

He asks me a few questions about my DSL modem, including the status of the lights. Then he asks if I tried power cycling. I tell him I did, but he insists I didn't do it right:

"Disconnect all the cables connected to the modem and then reconnect them after 2 minutes."

Two minutes? And why would I have to disconnect my ethernet and phone cable? This sounds weird to me - especially since the Earthlink website just gave me completely different instructions. But Ritchie C. is very nice about it, so I decide to give it a try.

Of course nothing happens.

But Ritchie C. isn't out of ideas just yet:

Ritchie C: Please try to reset the modem by pressing the reset button present on it.
me: done
me: still no connection tho
Ritchie C: And then follow the steps given in the link below.

Then there is a pause of a few minutes. Finally he gives me a link to a support page that describes how to configure a DSL modem. Only problem: It's not my DSL modem. I inform him about his mistake, and he is quiet for another few minutes - only to give me a link to a different modem. Closer, but still not my exact model. So I look around on the Earthlink page and notice that there isn't any information for the modem that I have been using for years.

And then it hits me. This poor guy in India is using the exat same Earthlink customer support web pages that I am. He isn't seeing any network problems, because Earthlink didn't post them on their page yet. He can't check my line. All he can do is suggest links to support documents that don't help me.

He isn't giving up tho. Instead he is asking me for the light status of my modem. Again.

me: prw on, sys on 100 on dsl on - i said that already
Ritchie C: Okay, then no problem you are getting all the DSL signal with out any problem.
Ritchie C: Is the DSL modem connected to the same computer from where you are chatting?

Of course it isn't, which I tell him. Somehow he gets that part wrong and tells me that everything is fine.

Ritchie C: Okay, if you are connected to the DSL modem then you are able to get connected Internte as you are chatting with me.

This is the point where I get a little angry and he apologizes. As I said, a nice guy. He finally tells me that he would write a trouble ticket to the Earthlink tech support folks - somehting that I wanted him to do 40 minutes ago. I guess I was just too patient.

But then it gets really bizarre:

Ritchie C: Please try to answer the queries given below.
Ritchie C: In order for me to set up this trouble ticket, I will need the following information in this order. Please list the number and the answer to the question so that I may expedite this for you.

01. Preferred contact phone number and earliest and latest time you can be reached there. Also list any voicemail/answering machine that may be present.
02. Alternate phone number (if available) with the same information as question #1.
03. Time zone you are in.
04. Preferred contact email address.
05. Login you have been using to connect to your DSL.
06. Have you ever had DSL with another provider?
07. Have you ever had sync with your EarthLink DSL. If so, when was the last time?
08. Have any phone or vendor technicians been to your location before or since the issue began?
09. Has there been any inclement weather in your area lately (thunder/electrical storms, snowfall, etc)?
10. Do you have any of the following:
a. home alarm system
b. phone-based door buzzer
c. answering machine
d. caller ID box
e. fax machine
f. home networking equipment
g. satellite or cable receivers
11. How many phones or phone devices do you have in your home and are they equipped with a filter or unplugged?
12. How many dialup modems or TiVo-type set-top devices do you have?
13. Have you tried your modem on other jacks in your home or a shorter phone cord?
14. Is the modem plugged directly into the phone jack (no filters, swappers, surge protectors, etc)?
15. Have you tried a line swapper with a 4-wire phone cord?
16. Is the modem isolated from all interfering devices (monitors, 900MHz/2+GHz phones, scanners, halogen lights etc)?
17. Does your home have any dimmer switches installed?
18. Do any of your neighbors use HAM radio equipment or do you live near a broadcasting AM station?
19. Do you live in a house or an apartment?
20. Where is your NID located, does it have a test jack and is it accessible to a technician if you are not home?
21. What operating system are you running?
22. What is the serial number on your DSL modem?

Of course all these questions are in one of these tiny chat support windows, so I have a hard time reading them, much less replying to them. I ask if I can maybe just call or e-mail tech support myself. He says no, but tells me I could answer the questions in Notepad (sic), then start another text chat, paste questions and answers in there - and hope that the next person doesn't make me do a five minute power cycling with my eyes closed and arms high in the air.

By this point I have virtually given up, so I say I will do exactly that - even it seems completely absurd. So I thank him for not being able to help me and say good bye. I kind of hope that I'll be given one of those questinaires regarding the quality of the support chat - but for some reason they never seem to come up when you are having a hard time.

So I do actually paste the questions into an editor and finally read them. And what. The. Fuck. I'm supposed to tell them about my complete DSL usage history and list virtually all electronic equipment in my house - only because they have a network outage that they won't admit?

Also, what about this HAM radio stuff? I think of myself as fairly experienced when it comes to technology - but I only have a vague idea of what a HAM radio really is. Much less on how to find out whether or not my neighbours use it. Do I look for big antennas? Or go from door to door? "Hey, how is it going - say, do you by chance have any HAM radio? No, I don't need any bacon, it's about my internert connection ..."

I've been an Earthlink customer for a long time. Their service is usually fairly reliable, and I like that they igve me worldwide dial-up. I also like that they aren't in the anti net neutrality camp (at least as far as I know of), and that they do P2P research. I've been willing to pay 50 dollars per month for this, even tho the competition is much cheaper these days.

But I must say I'm losing my faith in Earthlink. It's not that they outsourced customer support what gets me mad. It's the fact that they replaced customer support with a complicated system that is designed to make you feel like everything is your fault. Which more that often it's not.

Okay, enough ranting. Only one more thing: By the next morning my internet connection worked fine again. Even without any power cycling or reconfiguring my modem. I guess my neighbour must have turned off his bacon radio.

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