The Great ISP Debacle

Here in Pittsburgh, the only options for broadband in the city are Comcast cable and Verizon DSL. They require customers to also purchase cable TV or home phone service, respectively, and I got more value out of the cable (since I already had a cell phone), so I went with Comcast. They offered $30-monthly 3.0/384 service, which seemed far better than Verizon's 1.5/384 for $35.

The download speed was fairly accurate, but I never achieved anywhere close to a 384k (48 KB/s) upload. It would cap at about 20 KB/s, less than half of the advertised speed. I called them and complained a lot, but they always insisted that the problem was on my end. After a while, they offered the "speed tier" 4.0/768 plan for "just $10 more per month," so I decided to try it. But because I changed it in the first week of a month, Comcast's billing pattern meant that I wouldn't see the bill until after the next full month, almost two months later.

The bill arrived, and I discovered that yes, my "speed tier" was $10 per month more. But not $10 more than the $30 I was paying. No, it was $57 per month, $10 more than the "standard" rate of $47 per month. Apparently the $30 was an always-running "special". And the "speed tier" didn't really seem to increase speed very much - I certainly never achieved anywhere near the promised 96 KB/s upload bandwidth.

I decided to drop Comcast and switch to Verizon. I really only needed 384k up, assuming I could actually get that speed, and the downstream speeds are so ridiculous that the difference between 1.5 and 3.0 isn't significant enough to justify Comcast's ridiculous pricing. I called Verizon and they promised that I could have my DSL by February 15th, so I called Comcast and scheduled my service to be disconnected on the 16th.

I'll spare you the details, but I didn't get my DSL on the 15th. After many calls to Verizon's absolutely awful customer service department, in which absolutely nobody seems to have any idea what's going on, I think I can safely say that Verizon has the absolute worst customer service in history. I was told these wonderful statements by Verizon representatives:

  • You'll have your service installed by the 15th.
  • You already have your service. [on the 16th]
  • We don't have any record of your order.
  • There will be a 1-week delay because of an FCC regulation.
  • He said it was an FCC regulation? I've never heard of that. I don't think that's true.
  • You'll have your service by the 22nd.
  • Your order must have been lost. You'll have your service 8 business days after the 22nd.
  • We can expedite your service. (Then why didn't you expedite it 2 weeks ago to make your original deadline?)

Each time I called, I had to play call-transfer-musical-chairs.


Verizon Idiot: Can I have your DSL phone number?
Me: (phone number)
VI: And why are you calling today?
M: (calm explanation)
VI: Oh, let me check on that. (hold) I'm gonna have to transfer you.

(awful music, 15-minute queue)

Second Verizon Idiot: Can I have your DSL phone number?
M: (phone number)
SVI: Where is that?
M: Pittsburgh.
SVI: We don't service that area here. This is Texas. You're supposed to call 1-800-567-6789. Let me transfer you.

(significantly worse music, with instructions telling me to troubleshoot my DSL modem by going online)

Yet Another Verizon Idiot: Can I have your DSL phone number?
M: (phone number... can't they keep track of this between departments?)
YAVI: I'm sorry, you have to talk to Order Status.
M: I already did. They transferred me somewhere else, and then I was transferred to you.
YAVI: Sorry, I can't help you.

(on hold again, in another 15-minute queue...)

I wish this was an exaggeration.

In the long period between my Comcast disconnection (which happened right on schedule - at least they got something right) and the Verizon activation, I knew I couldn't go without internet access at home. I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for a dialup service for one month. I wanted to get connected as quickly as possible, and I just wanted a standard PPP phone number with a username and a password - no stupid software, no stupid dialers, and no stupid proprietary logins. Having been out of the dialup world since 1998, I really had no idea what was out there, so I just called NetZero.

6:00 PM:

Me: I'd like a basic dialup account. I'd like it to be activated immediately so I can use it tonight. And I absolutely can't install any software - I just want a standard PPP connection with a username, password, and phone number. Can you offer that?
NetZero Sales Idiot: Yes.
M: Without any software? Just a standard username, password, and phone number?
NZSI: Yes.
M: When can it be ready?
NZSI: In a few minutes.
M: (credit card number)

7:00 PM:

Me: I still can't connect, and I activated my service an hour ago.
NetZero Sales Idiot In India: It takes 1-2 hours for new accounts to activate.

9:00 PM:

Me: My account is 3 hours old, and it doesn't work yet. I was told that it only took 1-2 hours. When will it be ready?
NetZero Support Idiot: You need to install our special software. We'll mail it to you.
M: I was told that I didn't need any special software, and that I can connect with a standard PPP connection and a username, password, and phone number.
NZSI: That's not true.
M: Then this service is useless to me, your sales department lied to me, and I'd like to cancel my account.

(transfer to Order Cancellation, which has an amazingly long hold time)

So far, it was the standard bad-customer-service situation. But nothing could possibly prepare me for Quondra. She is the single worst customer service employee I have ever spoken to (even worse than Bad John). I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Quondra: Why do you want to cancel?
M: I was promised standard PPP access without any additional software by your sales department. Your support department just told me that your sales department lied to me. Since you don't even offer the service that you sold to me, I'd like to cancel.
Q: We do offer that, sir, with a username, password, and phone number.
M: Without any additional software? I can just type in these values and connect right now?
Q: You need to have our CD installed. I'll mail it to you.
M: No, that's the problem. I don't want to install any software. Computers can dial standard connections by themselves.
Q: You don't know what you're talking about, sir.
M: Excuse me?
Q: I know a lot more about this than you do.
M: Do you even know what PPP is? Standard dialup connections don't need special software. You connect to them with a username, pass-
Q: No sir, you don't understand. We are an ISP. All ISPs require you to install a disk. You need to install a disk to go online.
M: That's completely wrong. But I don't want to argue this with you, I just want to cancel my account.
Q: Before I cancel your account, I have to try to resolve all issues. Now, if you don't want to wait for the software to come in the mail, you can go to our website and download it.
M: How can I go to your website if I don't have an internet connection?
Q: We are an I - S - P. An Internet... Service... Provider.
M: Please just cancel my account. I don't want to argue with you, and you can't resolve my problem, because NetZero obviously does not offer the service I am looking for.
Q: I can't cancel your account yet.
M: Fine, can I talk to someone else then?
Q: No, I can't transfer calls.
M: Can I talk to your manager or supervisor, then?
Q: No, I can only transfer you to other departments.
M: What's your name?
Q: Quondra.
M: Do you have a badge number, employee number, or extension?
Q: No.
M: Do you have any way to distinguish yourself from every other person who works for NetZero?
Q: Just Quondra.
M: Fine, Quondra. I will not speak to you any further. Goodbye.
Q: Let me transfer you to technical support.

(on hold again)

The next day, I called a local ISP and got a regular PPP connection with a username, password, and phone number that didn't require any software.

And finally, today, I got my DSL from Verizon, exactly one month after I ordered it. I now have yet another email address that I won't use ( So far, the service seems to be performing at the advertised speeds. But let this be a warning to all of you: If you ever have to get anything from Verizon, be prepared to wait for a very long time. And for the love of God, never, under any circumstances, call NetZero for anything.

Quondra, I hope you never get fired, so you never work for any other company I'd have to call.