You Gotta Be Kidding Me!

Its a long, sad story.

I (Pat) used to work for Hayes, the modem people. (In fact, I was there till the bitter end, when the doors closed in January 1999, but thats another story.) As such, I played with modems...a lot! So I was very aggravated by the fact that I could get no better that 9600 bps on either of our analog lines at home. I tried various Hayes' and competitor's modems, but none of them worked. Of course, calling the phone company was useless ("we don't guarantee anything over 1200 bps" was the reply at that time). About this time Bellsouth finally decided to make ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) available (although not at a reasonable price). Hayes was marketing some relabeled Zyxel ISDN Terminal Adapters (TA), so I decided to test one at home. It worked very well. So I replaced 2 analog lines with the one ISDN line. The price went up quite a bit (basic ISDN was about 80 bucks; I was getting the 2 analog lines for about 50 bucks, if memory serves), but at least I could get a 64K data connection, and two POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines from the analog ports on the TA. Of course, to keep up phone service during power outages I had to keep the TA on a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply), but I already had one in place for the main PC. Life was good. Later we replaced the TA with a Zyxel Prestige Bridge/Router, hooked up to the home ethernet. Now we could surf from any PC in the house. Cool!

I never did go for the bonded B channel data service (128K), because, our ISP (Internet Service Provider) at the time, did not offer it economically. 64K was unlimited for 20 bucks a month. 128K was 20 hours for 50 bucks, and 2 bucks an hour after that! (My ISDN service was un-metered...I was lucky to get on the ISDN wagon early enough). What a crock! Obviously, Bellsouth was not real keen on promoting ISDN. Then along comes DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines). AND more alphabet soup. I am not too sure about the definitions, but here goes...

Somewhere along the line, our RBOC (Regional Bell Operating Company, Carrier, or whatever!) became an ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier), and they had to open up their facilities to the CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier). So, supposedly, we had a choice of who to buy our DSL service from. In reality, for some reason, even though Lawrenceville was on the map where DSL was available, Bellsouth said that I could not get DSL. For one thing, they could not survey my line because it was digital (ISDN). They would not even tell me if it was available at my CO (Central Office). Fantastic Customer Service? Well, Its all downhill from here!

I finally ended up pulling in an analog line just so they could survey it. Guess what? No Go. No reason why, just No Go. About this time I noticed a billboard on my morning commute that was advertising Covad DSL service. So, a little research landed me on's website. Speakeasy would be the ISP, with Covad, the CLEC, actually providing the wire. (I am not providing links to any of the places, because I think they all SUCK!). I provide my analog number for the survey, and YES! I can get full ADSL (Asymmetric DSL) at 1.5 MB down, 256KB up, for 40 bucks a month. There were hardware and install fees, but there were promos in effect that basically covered all that. Great...sign me up! After a week or so, they pop the balloon. I have copper between me and the CO, but "somewhere within the CO there is fiber that prevents me from getting ADSL". Damn! But they are able to offer me an alternative service: 144KB up and down, for 90 bucks a month. Lessee, 1.5M/256K for 40, or 144K/144K for 90. Go take a flying leap!

(I find out MUCH later that the real problem is my neighborhood is served by a Remote Terminal (RT), and that due to the way it works, the DSLAM (Digitial Subsriber Link Access Module or something like that) has to be located there, not at the CO. So Bellsouth or the CLECs that are left will probably get around to that about the time hell freezes over!)

The alternate service was IDSL. I'm not exactly sure how that translates, but it boils down to DSL over ISDN. I imagine the ridiculous price has to do with the fact that Bellsouth just charges too much for ISDN, be you the end screwee (customer), or an intermediate, such as a CLEC. Oh well, stuck at 64KB for a while longer. Bellsouth does not even offer IDSL, although I begin to hear rumors about IFITL (Integrated Fiber In The Loop). No matter, all they continue to say is "No Go". Damn them anyway! If I didn't hate cable companies so bad, I would start to consider them for data AND phone service.

Finally, more research reveals another alternative: PhoenixDSL for an ISP, with Northpoint Communications as the wire people. I managed to get someone on the phone, and asked about IDSL. Yes, they could do that if necessary, for the same 40 bucks as ADSL! Great, sign me up (although I was much less enthusiastic this time...I'll believe it when I see it in action!). Eventually, an SDSL (Symmetric DSL) modem shows up from Northpoint. Sent it back. Finally got the IDSL modem. Northpoint schedules an install time. I already had the thing physically installed when they got here (my bridge/router showed up from the same day!). They show up at 7:30 one night (the scheduled time...they were swamped) and got one of our computers up and running! I am beginning to get a little optimistic now...are we actually going to pull this off??

So, the Northpoint guy leaves me all the necessary info: my static IP (Internet Protocol) address, the DNS (Domain Name Server) addresses, and such like. After he leaves, I install and setup the bridge router, and Walla! The whole network is back on the net. While Bellsouth actually wants to screw more money out of you to put more than one computer on the net, most of the other guys don't care. They just won't support you, because they don't want the support headache that could be. Fair enough in my book. Life is better...we have more than doubled our surfing speed, and still have the whole network hooked up. AND a static IP address. so we can serve up our own web site if we want to. Way Cool!

After 4 months of mostly good service from Phoenix/Northpoint, I decided to drop the ISDN line. This was a big decision, because there was no going back...ISDN lines are all metered now, and I would lose my "grandfathered" unmetered line. But 80 bucks a month was just too much. With a separate data connection, we don't need two analog lines. So, I ordered the complete choice package for our analog line, transferred the two numbers from the ISDN line to the ringmaster numbers on the analog line, and canceled the ISDN line.

Its not 2 months later when we get email from PhoenixDSL: they have been bought by Megapath. Our service will stay the same while Megapath, who only wanted the business customers, finds a sucker to dump us residential customers on. That sucker eventually turns out to be Telocity. Our service is going up to 50 bucks a month, but we can't cancel because we signed a contract with Phoenix. Excuse me?? I sent them an email asking are they going to continue to support IDSL, do I still get my static IP address, and can I still leave my network connected? I was suspicious since they were touting their "VelocityPort Gateway" that sounded like it would prevent a network hookup. The next day I got an autoreply that they had received the message and it was being routed to the proper person. That was the only response I got. In fact, to this day I have never received any email from Telocity except the autoreplies. Turns out my suspicions were at least partially correct. On their web page they are now touting their "Connect and Protect" upgrade, one of the advantages of which is the ability to connect "up to 5 computers", for the bargain price of an additional 10 bucks. So lessee now. I was paying 40, now they want 60. but I signed a contract and can't cancel??? You guys go straight to hell!! I finally get a "support" guy on the phone. What about my static IP address. Well, since I am served by IDSL, I don't get one! At this point I was livid! I slammed the phone down and fired off the most hateful and obscene email I have ever sent in my life! (Yes, I got the autoreply!) Tell me I can't cancel! COME AND GET ME, you bastards!!

In the meantime, I am desperately trying to find an alternative. I am even starting to consider (gasp!!) cable. Then I start to realize a little of what is going on behind the scenes. The CLECs are dying. While this is going on Northpoint (my wire provider) has filed Chapter 11. Apparently Covad and Rhythms are not far behind. As they are scrambling to cut costs, customer service goes out the window. I finally located another ISP (Velotel) that uses Northpoint, so that I may be able to use my existing connection, but they too wanted 90 bucks for IDSL. I guess PhoenixDSL/Northpoint was eating part of the cost to build market share. Sounds like the usual: "we're losing money, but we're making up for it in volume". Finally, I gave up. I bought the base web site hosting package from I figure I can at least keep the web site, which we had just started, up and running, while we figure out where to go next.

One night in desperation I called Telocity again. I got a person on the phone immediately (what the hell??). No, she can't answer my question, I'll have to call back and select the Tech Support option instead of the Former Phoenix Customer option. So I do, and again immediately got a Support person on the phone (am I in the Twilight Zone???). Turns out the first support guy I talked to was wrong. I do get a static IP address. And, since I am served by IDSL, I can't use the sooper-dooper "VelocityPort" gateway...I keep my existing modem, and my connection stays exactly the same...including the network! I was stunned and shocked into silence. I finally manage to stammer out "Thanks...and oh, by the way, if you had just put this information on your web site, it would have saved a lot of trouble!" And nasty email. I started to apologize for my last message, then realized that probably nobody ever read it in the first place!

Then, AT&T buys Northpoint's hardware. Screw the customers, they don't want 'em (from what I have heard, they can't support what they have on their pitiful attempt at playing ISP). With about a weeks notice on March 27, the network went dark. Telocity started scrambling (so they say) to find an alternate CLEC. They continue to ignore my emails. I predicted then that they would string us out for three weeks, then finally inform us that they are not going to support IDSL. It was three weeks and a couple of days when I got the email. They never mentioned IDSL, only that there was not a "compatible carrier" that could serve me. They were trying to hook me up with Covad, who is serving me now via Speakeasy... I was so sure of the outcome I went ahead and signed up with Speakeasy about a week after Northpoint went down. So we only had to endure less than a month of dialup. I am now dealing with my credit card company, disputing any and all charges that Telocity ever made. I can't believe the ineptness of Telocity, and their complete lack of customer service. If you ever have to deal with them, my condolances. Speakeasy/Covad still gives me my static IP address, they don't care if I hook up a network, and THANX MUCH to Doug, KD4NC, who found me a compatible modem and saved me the 360 buck hardware cost!

We are taking advantage of directnic's mail forwarding to provide at least semi-permanent email addresses ( or, because I imagine the ISP shuffle has just begun. Although so far the service from Speakeasy has been very good (I was going to say compared to Telocity, but that would have been an insult!). And though I am shelling out 90 bucks a month for the service now, my attitude towards Speakeasy has changed completely, now that I realize they are not gouging anyone on the IDSL, they are just passing the steep price along. Covad. too, is struggling to stay alive, although they seem to be the strongest and most stable of the DSL CLECs. So maybe by paying them the 90 bucks a month, they will be around a while.

Here's hoping this is the end of the story...

But of course, nothing ever stays the same. In the spring of 2002, all of a sudden Bellsouth's website says I CAN get ADSL. So, I contact Speakeasy's support to see if Covad can give me ADSL now (Covad's web site has always said I can get it, which we now know is not true). For some reason or other they can't answer my question. I ask again, and get the same exact email they sent me the first time. So, I called Bellsouth on a Thursday and signed up. On Saturday (!), the modem shows up via UPS. I hook it up, and the link is hot! Bellsouth had dropped their policy of requiring a "professional" install for the ethernet modem so in short order I had the Netgear FR314 Firewall (it had replaced the Linksys Router) hooked up and the whole network was back on line. I haven't done any of the speed test, but instead of PDF documents coming in at 15 KBS, they come in at up to 150 KBS! Not bad! SO, I changed my Speakeasy account to dial up only at 20 bucks a month (to keep our email addresses for at least a while), and pay Bellsouth 45 bucks a month for ADSL and ISP. Thats less than what I was paying Speakeasy for the IDSL line, for a 10X speed improvement. We'll see how long it lasts...