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Telcos Can Get Customer Service Right

A picture I took of a Westell Model 6100 ADSL ...

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In a world where customer service is generally going to pot,  I like to point out when other companies are doing it right. It might seem strange that a local telephone company is doing it right, but they are.

CenturyTel is often referred to as a rural local exchange carrier, because it primarily serves rural and smaller cities in 25 states. CenturyTel provides service in a number of locations in Washington state, including in Gig Harbor, where I live.

About a week ago, I noticed a problem with some websites on my DSL line. After some packet traces, what it looked like to me was the sites were simply getting blocked by some kind of system–intrusion detection or otherwise. Seeming strange, I called CenturyTel support and asked about this.

One problem I have when I call the technical support of any Internet service provider is that I know way more than the person answering the phone. My day job is in supporting people that run data networks. So I have to choose my words very carefully with the person answering. I try and explain as much as I can in as simple terms as I can.

After getting bounced to a couple of people on my first call, I eventually got to someone who was still utterly confused by my problem, but offered to check with the networking people to figure out what was wrong. I later got both emails and phone calls asking for various troubleshooting data. I even gave them the guy in the local central office’s name whom I talked to when my static IPs were messed up a few weeks ago by an Ethernet cutover they did in the central office.

After all that, we didn’t get anywhere. The networking people were pretty sure they weren’t blocking anything, but they wanted to help me get to the bottom of this. Because I wasn’t using a leased modem, but rather one I purchased myself, they offered to let me borrow a modem from them to see if I still have the problem–conclusively proving it’s not my equipment–or if they’ve got a weird problem somewhere in the network.

On Monday morning, one of the local techs showed up with one of the modems they give out for lease. I fought with it for a while, he left and came back an hour later. While I determined I didn’t want the modem–it was syncing at a much slower speed and was giving me dialup speeds–I was able to determine that the websites in question were not blocked, leaving me to figure out what the problem was with my D-Link ADSL modem.

I played with my DSL modem a bit more and eventually stumbled across the problem, which actually seems counter-intuitive when you think about out, but I’ll take it: I turned the firewall on on the DSL modem! I left the firewall configuration wide open, but I turned it on. Once I did that, the problem went away! The sites in question worked.

Needless to say, this was a rather puzzling problem that ended up being on this end of the demarc. However, the reps at CenturyTel actually seemed to care about the problem and were willing to do what was needed to solve the problem, or at the very least prove it wasn’t theirs.

I sent the techs at CenturyTel an email that had my ticket open an email letting them know the problem was resolved thanks to their help, even if it was my own. I also commended them on their professionalism.

See, it’s possible to get good service from a phone company. Too bad the larger telcos don’t have the same can-do attitude that CenturyTel seems to have.

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C-List #Cybersecurity Celebrity, Podcaster, #noagenda Producer, Frequenter of shiny metal tubes, Expressor of personal opinions, and of course, a coffee achiever.