This Electronic World

I’ve just had a taste of what happens when the faults of our wired/beamed world collide with [I suspect] with modern “cost-effective” [mis]management. After four days without internet service, I was forcibly reminded just how difficult it is to conduct normal business without such links. I couldn’t even tell most people with whom I exchange emails that I couldn’t reply.

More to the point, I was also reminded just how poorly managed a particular massive telecommunications system [CenturyLink] happens to be. Internet service vanished. When I called to find out what had happened, I was informed that there was a local outage and that service would be restored within four hours. That didn’t happen. Nor did it happen by the next morning, as promised. Nor by the next afternoon. Nor by the following morning. Nor by that night. I kept calling and getting updates…and promises… but no internet. But after almost three days I was reassured that most of the outages had been fixed – just not in my smaller area – but promised my area would be restored in another 24 hours.

That didn’t happen, either. What did happen was that CenturyLink’s automated system assured me that there were no network problems. When I persisted, the system informed me that there was a problem, but that no repair ticket had been processed. For twenty-four hours, that same message persisted.

After three days, after getting really angry and obnoxious, if politely so, because politeness wasn’t getting any results, or any information. I discovered that they’d sent a technician out, but he didn’t have the right parts, and there weren’t any in Cedar City. Now Cedar City isn’t Denver or Phoenix, but the area does have a university and over 50,000 people – and CenturyLink doesn’t have parts and haven’t been able to get them for three days? We have an airport where FedEx and UPS land and take off daily. So does Delta Airlines. It’s only a three hour drive to Las Vegas.

The actual humans whom I contacted could only say that repairs should have been completed in no more than 36 hours, and, outside of the one who had told me about the parts issue, the others could offer neither a reason nor an estimate of the time when internet service would be restored.

In the meantime, the automated problem response system continued to declare that there was no network problem, and that there was a local problem for which no repair ticket had been yet processed. Then, finally, after four days, I had internet service.

So because of their lack of parts, a number of us were shut down off the internet for four days. I wonder just how much of an annual bonus the logistics manager got last year. And if I can send packages overnight to almost anywhere, why can’t CenturyLink? Or is it that they don’t have enough parts in stock? Either way, it doesn’t speak all that well for the company management.

And, oh yes, this is the same company that advertises how much safer and more secure their service is compared to wireless communications.

6 thoughts on “This Electronic World”

  1. Brian K says:

    I had a similar experience a couple years ago over the land line. Beginning in mid July residents in the area started having problems including no dial tone for outgoing calls, incoming calls are cut off mid ring or after one ring, outside callers need to repeatedly call (as many as 4 or 5 times) in order to get through, and loud background noise on the line. The connector boxes for the area were malfunctioning and after repeated assurances that the problems were fixed they persisted to the end of August.

    Not knowing what else to do, I took a letter detailing our problems to my Member of Parliament’s office and appealed for their help. I got it. His office has a direct liaison with Bell Canada (which told me lot right there) and I was soon contacted by a representative from the Executive Office-Client Relations Bell. Upon advice from my MP’s aide I went to my neighbours with my original letter and encouraged them to copy it, make a change or two to make it their own and then individually email it to Bell’s rep. After being swamped with complaints, within a week the problems were solved and remain so after two years.

    Perhaps I’m being naive but that’s what our elected representatives are there for: to help us when we need it…and it felt good to stick it to Bell.

  2. Alan Naylor says:

    Sadly this sort of treatment isn’t uncommon. I had it when I lived in Groton, CT with the local cable and internet provider. I was calling so often about difficulties that the two women at the front desk knew the sound of my voice and I theirs! In their case the problem was that they did not invest in infrastructure to a vast growth of military housing and personnel in the Groton area which resulted in over stressing their network.

    Businesses seem to function on this model of minimal parts, materials and personnel because they can get away with it. Fewer parts in inventory means less taxes on materials and less cost outlays with difficulties in stocked materials being addressed by same day shipping on parts and materials. The down side is that when materials are not available or have long lead times the companies never consider the difficulty this will impose. Several companies I have worked for have suffered from this short sighted planning.

    More over, what about the customers? When your internet was down for four days did you get refunded part of your monthly bill? It seems reasonable that you should not be charged for full services when you did not receive 10% of what you paid for. You wouldn’t buy 10 gallons of gas but only get 9 gallons from the pump. I have only in rare cases seen companies reimburse for services not rendered in these sorts of situations.

  3. Matt says:

    I have to say that, while I sympathize with your experience, this isn’t anything new and while your post is eloquent (as all of your writing is), it’s a rant and the thing that I am missing is corrective action.

    There are two things you’re missing her: 1) You aren’t leaving the service. They don’t have to rush it, because they know you’re not going anywhere and they don’t even really have to refund you for the lost days. 2) You aren’t doing anything to correct the lack of internet to guarantee that this doesn’t happen again. I have two internet services (AT&T and Comcast) so I never am without internet. In the freak (hasn’t happened in 3 years) event that both go down, I have a phone that pulls service from three *other* providers and it can provide me internet access to my computers in an emergency scenario. This isn’t $1000s of dollars, it’s a couple of hundred a month – *less* than what most people pay for cable and phone service.

    If you at least got a smart phone you’d be able to use e-mail and maybe realize that your site is still stuck in 2005 and people can’t post here with their phones and get that darned captcha updated with something I can use on my phone.

    Please don’t take this as any level of dislike of you, as you are one of my two favorite writers (after Heinlein) and your book “Gravity Dreams” has many traits that I use for my ideal society. In that book, one thing stands out: Actions are what matters. Take action and master your future, don’t be victim to what has been the worst industry for decades and shows ZERO sign of changing it’s ways. Expecting them to get better is silly, to say the least and it’s setting yourself up to continue being victimized by them.

    1. You’re absolutely correct. It is a rant, and I didn’t provide a solution, but once in a while I figure I don’t have to. As for “updating” the site, it is accessible, at least for viewing, to smartphones, and I’ve having my site manager look into another security device, but since I’m not a computer whiz, and I frankly don’t want to devote more time than I already do to the site, simply because that’s time I don’t have for writing, I do have the requirement that the site is easy for me to manage on a day-to-day basis.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        The anecdotes I’ve heard do suggest that one has more leverage if there are competitors available (which seems the case for your locale) and the possibility of switching providers is mentioned as a negotiating tactic.

        Unfortunately, to the slight degree I checked, you’re already with the highest rated provider in your area, so actually switching probably wouldn’t help much.

        From what I’ve seen, they’re DSL rather than cable or fiber, but fast DSL. Since DSL runs over regular phone lines (if with certain filters removed to increase the bandwidth), I’m a bit surprised that the service was so bad. Are they also the local telephone provider? I’d considered switching from cable to FiOS, but if even telephone providers treat Internet as nonessential (except perhaps for major business customers) compared to telephone service, then there’s little hope for reliable residential service at a reasonable price.

        One backup is a smartphone or a tablet with a (perhaps month-at-a-time) cellular plan; it won’t do everything, but will certainly permit brief responses to email to continue to be possible. Indeed, a cellular device that can in a pinch serve as a WiFi hotspot can provide alternative access to a laptop or WiFi capable desktop system, allowing most usual activity to be possible, if with some restraint where high data use activity such as watching videos is concerned.

    2. Also, the the comments form has been updated to use Google’s reCAPTCHA service, which is mobile-friendly. I hope this helps.

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