Monday, February 12, 2007

Friday night the stars aligned for a long session of World of Warcraft. Webinara (and her trusty feline companion "Citrix") had things to do. She needed leather to craft some armor to sell on the Auction House and to frantically gain experience in an attempt to catch up to the rest of the people I play with. She planned to visit the Charred Vale to smite some harpies and to clean up the nasty basilisk infestation. You know, a typical Friday night.
In World of Warcraft, once a character has explored an area he or she is able to arrange (in exchange for a few bits of silver) to hire a mount to fly back to other explored places.
It is a big world, and running everywhere is lame.
As Webinara flew over the vast Stonepeak Mountains on her way to The Barrens she watched other characters far below battle monsters and gain phat lewt. Then, in mid-flight, "Disconnected from Server".
This happens, but it had never happened to me in flight before. Would Webinara be dropped to her death? Lost in the unexplored mountains? Magically appear at her starting point or destination?
I wondered as I tried to log back in.
I kept wondering as I was unable to connect.
Our internet was down. On Friday night.
As I walked upstairs to power cycle the cable modem, I called Roadrunner. They are on speed dial, you know.
After navigating through the exhausting computerized menu and understanding (several times) that my call would be recorded to play back at office holiday parties or whatever, I reached a "technician".
"Have you rebooted the computer?" she asked.
"That isn't the issue. There is no signal to the modem."
"Can you reboot your computer anyway?" she persisted. Mustn't stray from the script.
"Okay," I conceded, "I'll reboot this one," I picked a server in the office at random,"But the light on your modem says there is no signal."
"Is your TV working?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied, "My TV is fine."
"So you have cable TV?"
"No," I answered, "We use Netflix. We don't have cable."
I know. I was being difficult. But let's remember, please, that my internet was out. On a Friday night.
I began to ask about the possibility of an area outage. This was flatly denied. Mine was the only house out. Someone obviously crept into our backyard and severed the cable.
I asked if it could be ninjas.
This was met with stunned silence.
"I'll be up for a while. When should I expect the repair person?" I asked.
This is what tipped me over the edge:
She typed for a moment, then said, "Monday between 8am and 6pm."
"But wait," I was genuinely confused, "This isn't a call for new service or an upgrade or downgrade. My internet is broken."
"I understand that," she answered, "and the technician can be out between 8am and 6pm on Monday."
"My internet is broken," I persisted, "and it isn't my fault. Why do I have to wait until Monday?"
"That is the first time the technician is available," she responded. I could tell she thought I was a bit dense.
"The technician?" I asked, "There is only one technician for the whole Houston area?"
"That is the first appointment we have available for a service call."
"It is Friday night," I reminded her, though I suspect she was aware of the date having so recently checked her calendar software.
"I can issue you a credit," she offered.
"Can you issue me a weekend of 'always on, blazing fast internet'?"
She could not, though she mentioned that if I had been a cable TV customer and my cable TV was not working they could send someone immediately.

Saturday, I dragged the family to the college library down the street to (ab)use the free Wi-Fi.
I immediately tried to get the UVerse page for AT&T internet to grant me access to the phone number to order service.
That site was down for maintenance.
I settled for the main customer service number and a long series of computerized menu options that could barely understand my vocal selections, since my voice was lowered to library levels.
By the time I'd reached a person to take my order, I knew the efficiency of this organization would be on par with that of Time Warner.
"I'd like to sign up for UVerse," I started. Sometimes a Saturday can be made better by throwing a slow pitch at commission-based sales people.
"I'll have to see if it is available in your area," she answered.
"It is," I helped, "I checked weeks ago."
"Can I get your phone number?"
I gave it to her, but this caused additional trouble because it isn't an AT&T number. In fact, it is a Vonage Voice Over IP phone number.
As I explained this, I asked if I could pick up their VoIP service with the high-speed internet.
I also gave her our address so she could check for availability that way.
She said the only way to get UVerse is to pick up the cable TV service with it. Voice Over IP is not yet available.
"I don't want TV," I answered, "We don't watch it and I can get internet without it."
There followed a brief argument where I needed to explain how to navigate the UVerse site to display the "custom packages" area to remove the Cable TV service from the "Cart". I had to do this from memory. The site was down for maintenance.
She clearly thought I was a giant liar, so I gave up and started asking about the "Elite" level DSL service.
I heard the woman reboot.
Not her computer. Her.
She needed to back out eleven hundred screens or something to access the script for "Elite DSL". While she pulled it up, I asked about download speeds and how fast we could make the switch.
There were several things that needed to happen, apparently, and none of them were easy even for a company as massive as AT&T. And let's not get started on "Equipment Costs."
I thanked her for her time and prepared to end the call.
"Did you want to schedule the install?" she asked.
"No thanks."
"Could you tell me why?" she asked.
Oh, I hate that question. For some reason, I answered it anyway.
"You've told me I can't have the much-hyped UVerse service without paying more for TV we won't watch than the internet itself. You have quoted equipment costs with arbitrary number and no explanation and, if I switch to your phone service and move my number it will take three weeks to even get internet, because you won't turn it on until you've got my phone and account number synced up, even though you could technically do it with a new number. Saving you paperwork should not cost me time."
There was a moment of stunned silence.
Then she asked to put me on hold.
I listened to an ad for UVerse. Apparently, you can get cable TV through that.
When the customer service person came back, the story was different.
I'm not sure about this, because I don't have access to their subscriber information, but I'm pretty certain our house will be the first in the nation to ever get phone or DSL service through AT&T. I know, they are a major phone company and it doesn't make sense for them to have never installed service anywhere, but the process is still in the Beta testing phase apparently.
We need a phone line. Our first in years. I feel dirty.
I pressed the woman about what hardware they were charging me for. I got her to drop their wireless router from the list.
I asked about upload speeds and explained Asynchronous DSL service to her. While I did this, she upped our limit at no charge to get me to shut up.
She offered an installation this morning, but I didn't want their tech and the Time Warner guy fighting to the death in our backyard.
Not with me at work missing the whole thing, anyway.
She offered every day this week, but having someone home for most of it will be impossible.
So Friday. Friday we get a phone line and DSL.
She offered to sell us a cordless phone, but I again explained that we have Vonage and would never use that line for voice.
When we returned home from the library, our Roadrunner internet was again working.
Maybe ninjas repaired the cable in the backyard?


Andrew Moore said...


The cable internet at work recently changed hands, and has been Road Runner since the beginning of the year. It's also gone out every other week.

Last week I asked one of their phone techs "Does telling people to unplug the modem and plug it back in ever work?"

He replied "That's hard to say."

Joe said...

Earthlink ... $9.99 Dial-Up! Sometimes the best solution is the low-tech solution. Besides, it isn't like you need to bandwidth to illegally download anything.

Because that would be wrong.

Garrick said...

Last week I shook hands with a guy who was on dial-up at home. Of course, that was before I knew he was on dial-up.
I spent the next 45 minutes boiling and scrubbing the skin off my hand in case any of it got on me.