If you swear at me, I will be terminating this call.

I have a rant that has been long time coming. Phil Collins could even feel it coming in the air. (Oh lord) …. or is it (hold on)? Note to self: Google lyrics and get them right before trying to use them in blog post.

"Oh please God, make my lyrics easy to remember"

I am going to rant on a kind of work-related topic.  And this is a “one time only” rant, as I don’t like to post anything too close to my area of work. It’s not the work itself or the customers, but it is the fact that the general public know very little about “Teh Internetz” and how it gets into their computer box thing.


You know who you are.

The impatience and convenience-crazed attitudes of society today make it very hard for people to understand that a DSL service is not, in fact, a guaranteed service that all houses should have, like a telephone line. It is a privilege, and one that we are lucky to have.

For arguments sake, I am going to discard dialup and keep this rant to DSL services. Because nobody really expected much from dialup anyway. Just to have it was wonderful – we were like children having a bicycle for the first time. Now, we are like spoiled brats who expect the fastest bike in the world that never gets a flat tyre, and we expect it to be cheap.

Remember the thrill of knowing that a jpeg of Pamela Anderson in a bikini was only a mere 16 minutes away?

Nowadays, internet plans are available with theoretical maximum download speeds ranging from 256k to 24000k. Huzzah! The most important thing to note here, is the word THEORETICAL. No internet service provider can guarantee any speed or stability, because the speed and stability are influenced by:

1. Where you live – ie, how far away you are from your local exhange. And this doesn’t mean birds eye view/line of sight distance, this means how long the underground copper cables from your house to the exchange are. Cables follow specific paths, so you could well be 1km from your exchange on your map, but have 1.7km of cable length.

2. The quality of your phone line – if your phone line was installed sometime in the 1400s, you will find that the speed of your service is not the maximum attainable. According to the TIO, the main wholesaler is not obligated to provide anything more then a telephone line that is capable of supporting voice calls and dial-up. Therefore if you live next door to your exchange, have a DSL plan with a maximum theoretical speed of 24oook, and are only getting 12000k but your telephone works perfectly, this wholesaler is not legally obliged to replace your phone line for free, even though you aren’t getting the maximum possible speed. Phone lines were laid down decades before the invention of broadband, and it is an absolute miracle that copper phone lines can even support DSL at all.

3. Being on a Pair Gains System. I CBF going into much detail about PGS, but it pretty much means that instead of giving your premises the full wiring that handles DSL and phone simultaneously, when the phone lines were laid down, they split that copper and directed the other half to your neighbour. So now, neither line can support DSL. Copper is bloody expensive, you guys.

4. Being on a RIM. Again, I CBF going into it so allow me to explain it using sock puppets.

Whereby it might be only possible to have ADSL1 services, meaning no ADSL2+ or Naked DSL. It sucks, but there is not much that can be done.

5. Your stuff. If you have a 12m long phone cord going from your phone jack to your modem, then this will affect your speed/stability. Phone cables should not be longer than 2-3m. You may get decreased speed and connection dropouts if any of the following are wrongly configured/old/faulty: computer, modem, wireless router, phone jack, filter, splitter, phone cord, ethernet cable. If you use a wireless router and you have thick walls, a tin roof, a temperamental microwave, have multiple devices sharing the same wireless connection, and many other factors, this will cause wireless dropouts and such.

5. The weather. Cold weather brings moisture, and moisture causes issues with the copper phone lines that your DSL service is on, and the pit that they go into. If the pit gets wrecked, it can compromise your phone line quality and DSL speed/stability.

What does an ISP do, then? They are the “middle man”, if you will. People pay the ISP to be connected the internet. To describe it at the most basic level, the ISP takes the end of your phone line at your local exchange and plugs it into the DSLAM, which is connected to the network. Your modem is the gateway between your computer and the DSLAM. The username and password that your ISP has supplied you with, is configured into your modem (or, gateway) to open that gate into the internet.

Please excuse the crudity of this model, I didn’t have time to build it to scale or to paint it.

Once you have an active connection, your ISP keep you connected to the best of their ability. I cannot speak for every ISP, but the majority of ISPs are more than happy to compensate for downtime caused by things outside of the customers responsibility (ie lines, exchange outages etc). However nobody can guarantee that a DSL service will remain stable forever and never experience any issues. Why? Because of those above factors that are completely outside the ISP’s control.

My current job is providing technical support at an ISP – and I mostly really enjoy it. I take pride in my work, and contrary to what people think about call centre staff, I am eloquent, intelligent, and above all, have a genuine desire to help the customer out and make sure they are happy.

That's me, just doing my job, and its plain to see that I am helpful and empathetic. Thank Yoiye.

In my job, when somebody calls with a connection issue, we make sure that there is connection at the DSLAM first, and then go through physical troubleshooting with the customer, checking cables, removing phone filter from the wall and checking modem configuration etc. Why? Because it is the quickest way to narrow down what the issue is. Often customers call and report that they have no connection,  and during that first physical test, when they realise the kids have unplugged the modem, they begin apologising for being “silly”. Don’t ever apologise, that’s what we are here for – and its a good thing that it was just an unplugged cord, because it means that its not a more complicated issue! So enjoy the rest of your day!

Physical testing not only determines if it is plugged in, but also helps us to determine that the caller is not just a random cat trying to get online.

So that’s all peachy. What gets me is when people get a dropout or lose connection and then refuse to troubleshoot or even listen to the person on the phone that is trying to help them.

Hypothetical Example:  Overnight, a customers connection stops working. Customer calls, angry and upset as they have to have the internet RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Fair enough, so I listen to them yell at me patiently for about 5 minutes and then find a gap in the monologue to let them know that I understand and want to resolve it as quickly as possible for them. So I check and find no apparent issues at the exchange, and then explain physical troubleshooting. They ask “Why should I have to do that? It’s your fault, you fix it”. I explain politely and gently in a non-argumentative manner that there are all sorts of factors that can create an issue, and that they can occur anywhere from the computer to the network. Again they instruct me to just fix it now. FACEPALM. I start trying to ask basic questions about the lights on the modem, when the figurative sun shines down and their connection magically comes back and they calm down.

If you like, I can recommend a top computer technician who could drop by and fix it for you today?

I realise that not everyone knows how the internet actually works, and that is fine. They don’t have to know. They are paying for the service, and for people like me to know how to fix it when it breaks. I don’t know how my mobile phone works, that’s why I pay my mobile carrier to. However if I cant use my phone, and the support staff ask me to check settings in it, or switch it off or whatever, I listen to them and quickly do it. Because they know what they are doing, and I don’t. Yelling at them for 10 minutes demanding they fix a phone that they cannot see, and do not know the issue of, is not going to get my dang phone working “right now”, is it?

What would have happened if that connection hadn’t come back up? Would the hypothetical customer have allowed me to help them, or would they have threatened to go to Today Tonight, or A Current Affair? TV shows like that never seem to show both sides of the story – they just stick to the old argument of “Small Aussie Battler vs. The Big Evil Company”. Never mind that more often than not, the company who cut that solo mothers power off when they had a 4 week old baby or whatever, did so because she had not paid her bill in over 6 months and so she was in no way entitled to have that power connected anyway.

"How was I supposed to know youse would try to direct debit my power bill? I was getting married in Bali"

Before I spiral into a tangent side rant about bogans having too many kids and thus not facing up to their consumer responsibilities whilst expecting everyone else to wear the blame and cost, I better try to remember my original rant.

Oh yeah. There needs to be more education about how the internet works at a basic level. Ideally, people would be more open to working through problems instead of yelling at someone. I can tell when a customer is serious because if they tell you that they are needing a service up quickly, they don’t waste their time yelling at you. They communicate clearly and concisely, and will follow instructions at their end straight away in order to get the issue resolved. Because that is all they want. They can be abrupt and sound angry, but hey – once it is fixed, they are happy that we got it sorted for them, and want to move on. And that is really what the job is about.


Love, Chelle xoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxxo


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