Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of Dealing with the Phone Company

Over the years, we have had a lot of issues with our phone service--powered by Qwest!--which in our case includes the internet service, too. A few years back when I worked at home, every time it rained there was static on our phone line. There are 3 poles around our back property, one up by the house, and two at the very back, one on the north side and the other on the south side. It seemed I was always calling in for service and various technicians would come out and climb around on those poles, trying to fix the problem. Finally, right around the time I was going back to work in an office on a regular basis, they got things fixed and pretty stable for about three years. No static when it rained, or anything.

Then, over the last three months, we have had numerous problems. The internet was down all the time. Finally it was down hard and not coming back ever, it seemed. I had to go to a coffee shop to blog and check my email. A technician came out and worked on things. He got the internet service back up, at least--said there was a loose wire somewhere. But we still had a lot of issues and the problems weren't completely resolved. Suddenly the static was back on the phone line--worse than ever. It was miserable trying to talk to someone with all of that going on. And the internet service kept going up and down. I called in again. The phone company sent us a new DSL modem; they said ours was an early one that had been discontinued. I was interested in trying that out--it seemed to me as I watched the behavior of my internet connection and checked on the modem in the basement that there were two problems: the internet kept going down and the modem had trouble reconnecting (that was in addition to the static on the phone line).

Qwest sent us the new modem, and that did help a lot. I believed that the wireless connection still went down more than it should, but the modem recovered pretty nicely. It kind of masks the symptoms of a problem, really. But the static was absolutely horrendous. I called in again and listened to the same lecture I always get--if the issue is caused by our inside wiring, they will charge us $75 per hour for the technician's time. Yada, yada. In all the years of dealing with this, the issues have never been caused by our inside wiring.

Another technician came out. I couldn't be home to wait for him, but made sure he would have my cell phone number. He called me to report that he had fixed the problem. He had found two screws that were up on the pole by the house that were not screwed in at all, and they were a critical part of our dialtone. I shook my head as he told me this. The reason those screws weren't connected was because the previous guy who came out to fix things had left them that way.

I was feeling pretty happy until the fellow on the phone told me that he needed to do two things--he needed to trim the trees in the back next to the other two poles. I was horrified at the thought of this. I don't care much about the trees on the south side--they are weedy Siberian elms, but the two on the north side are pear trees that we planted ten years ago and that bear a lot of fruit. We like those trees a lot.

So I said no, that he couldn't trim those trees without me being there. He went from my friendly neighborhood lifesaver to a spoilt child who was told he couldn't have his way. He started carrying on about all the times that he needed to trim trees and the homeowners wouldn't let him. This guy must have wanted to work for the forest service or something. I let him go on for a while and then told him that we would trim the trees ourselves. Those two poles where he wanted to trim the trees were all the way on the other side of the yard (1 acre) from where he fixed our problem. He then suggested that we ask for some wire and dig it in the ground across the back and remove our wiring from the pole. Hmmm. The phone company would supply the wire and we would supply the labor. What a deal. I said we would consider it, but we won't. If there was ever a problem, the phone company would be quick to say that we put the wire in the ground and were responsible for any issues. Why would we ever put ourselves in that position?

Anyway, no more static on the phone line, thank goodness. I can now have a conversation in peace--until next time.

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