Brought to you by CenturyLink, with help from my local power company and fire department.
Fiber internet is the holy grail of all Internet connections in 2022. It promises ridiculous speeds, symmetrical speeds, 1000 megabits up and 1000 megabits down, downloads 20x faster than my old, more expensive, “business class” cable line, and uploads 100x faster.
I absolutely jumped at the chance to bring fiber internet into my house and when it came I was giddy like a little girl. My jaw dropped when I got a 50GB game off steam in just a few minutes.
All was well for a long time, but then I came home one day and found a fire truck in front of my house and a giant firehose strewn across my neighbor’s lawn leading into the back alley. The telephone phone had caught on fire when a power transformer exploded and the fire destroyed the fiber repeater on the pole.
Obviously, this was an extreme circumstance and an awful inconvenience. So I tried to be understanding, as was my employer, who not only expected me to join online meetings during the pandemic but also relied upon the services I hosted in my lab in my home. CenturyLink came out to assess the damage and realized the damage was so bad that they couldn’t fix it that day and couldn’t even promise when someone would come out and follow up and I just went into some kind of limbo, lacking information, trying to figure out how to do even the basics of my tech job without decent internet. Thankfully, it was only two days later, someone else came out and put in a “temporary” fix… I was up and running. He said they’d have to come back out “later” to put in a permanent fix. That was spring of 2021. I was just happy to be back online again after 1.5 weeks of downtime.
Things were fine with the “temporary fix” for a while… but come September, the “temporary fix” wasn’t holding up though. I pull the fiber line out of the modem, and there’s no light in the line. You’re supposed to see the light that carries the data through the line clearly visible when you disconnect it from the box. My service is completely dark again for several days. Nobody had ever bothered to put in the permanent fix over the summer, as was suggested. The tech explained that I was the only one on the block with fiber, so it probably wasn’t worth it to management to send someone out to replace the damaged equipment… but he ran a new line and I was back and running…another week of downtime.
Then, October, down again. Another week of downtime. This was really starting to get old, and I’d lost my patience with the customer service idiots saying “have you tried turning it off and on again?” I’m like… “There’s no light in the fiber… there’s supposed to be light in the fiber! You don’t need to get me to reboot my router when there’s no light in the fiber!” By now I’m steaming out the ears and sending angry emails to whoever gets them over there. I spend the week trying to figure out how to set up a failover system using a 4G hotspot device. I get the hotspot to work, but the bandwidth limits are atrocious, and the hotspot is unable to forward ports, because LTE networks do not allow it… so my servers, lab, and databases are unavailable to my colleagues to access for yet another week and I get the pleasure of fielding all kinds of comments like “why don’t you just put it up in the cloud?”… to which I reply, “because these servers would cost $20,000/mo to host in the cloud!”
Then January, down again. This time I waste no time sending angry emails. I don’t know if the emails worked or not, but the tech showed up two days ahead of the scheduled appointment, unannounced. I was surprised but told him to have at it… by all means. Two CenturyLink vans worked in the alley and I talked to them repeatedly and they just seemed totally confused by what on earth was going on up there on the poles and what kinds of bandaids were applied to fix the situation.
February, down again. I have no patience for customer support, and this guy gets it… he doesn’t follow script and doesn’t ask me to reboot my router, thankfully. I assume he has notes from the previous down incidents but schedules a tech for 4 days out, and I am thoroughly angry and embarrassed that my service is so shotty, affecting my business and job. This time the tech shows up one day ahead of schedule and I’m thankful, again. He is sympathetic. I follow him into the alley and watch him climb a pole… “what on earth is going on here?” he asks as he examines wires that seem to go in strange directions that confuse him.
“That pole over there caught on fire, and nobody put in a permanent fix,” I reply. “This has been going down regularly for 9 months, and as recently as 3 weeks ago!”
Mario isn’t going to leave me hangin. He goes up and down the alley for a few hours, and eventually knocks on my door. “It’s fixed” he says. He has a smile on his face to convey that he’s feeling victorious.
I can’t possibly let him leave without understanding, for real, what’s going on up there, so I ask him straight-up.
“Apparently when the box melted on the pole, they just took the bundle of melted fiber lines and literally taped them together!”
“Oh my god, really?” I laughed.
Mario laughs with me. “I just ran you a completely new line 350ft down to the next block and checked your light levels, and your light levels are great now…. there’s no more tape on your line so you’re going to be just fine.”
I thank him for coming out early, and get back to my business.
I’m happy that the techs would come out ahead of schedule, on multiple cases, but obviously, this experience with CenturyLink was abysmal overall. I can understand that extreme events happen, like fires, that create problems like this, but for CenturyLink to repeatedly fail to follow up with the permanent solution is the real sin here. Furthermore, the fact that they would leave an early adopter hanging who’s had WEEKS of downtime in the last 9 months was straight-up awful. They should have sent over a limo to take me out to dinner at the fanciest place the CEO can afford to make up for all the pain that I and my businesses have endured dealing with this bullshit.
There’s still no permanent solution on that pole, 9 months later. The other lines are all still taped up. Even if I’m the only person on the block with fiber, a new offering in the neighborhood, they don’t want their early adopter telling the neighbors and surrounding businesses to avoid CenturyLink due to their fumbled response to this, especially when their competitor, US Internet, is right at the end of my block and promising to begin offering service to me in the spring of 2022.