What to do when your ISP off-shores tech support

Richey mylists at battleop.com
Sat Dec 27 22:43:44 UTC 2008

I once had an @home rep insist that my connection was down because there was
ice in the lines.   No matter how many times I told him it was 58 degrees
outside he stuck to his guns and insisted that was the problem.


-----Original Message-----
From: Steven M. Bellovin [mailto:smb at cs.columbia.edu] 
Sent: Saturday, December 27, 2008 3:35 PM
To: Joe Greco
Cc: nanog at nanog.org
Subject: Re: What to do when your ISP off-shores tech support

On Fri, 26 Dec 2008 19:10:13 -0600 (CST)
Joe Greco <jgreco at ns.sol.net> wrote:

> I did ask, and all the local people are, in fact, local.  It's a
> matter of training and technical knowledge.  None of them was really
> putting together the fact that the modem was sketchy for the service
> class we had.

Yup -- I've had similar fun with Comcast.  Once, I was seeing 15-20%
packet loss on the local loop and 90% (you read that correctly) packet
duplication. The advice I received translated to "clear your IE browser
cache".  I demurred, and I was told that (a) generally, performance
problems were solvable that way, and (b) 15% packet loss was pretty
good.  I escalated...

Then there was the time they upgraded the firmware in my cable
modem/NAT to a buggy release that didn't understand the activity timer
in the NAT table.  Every 30 minutes, like clockwork, my ssh sessions
would die.  I had to try to explain that to someone who didn't know how
to spell IP, let alone TCP.

Oh yes -- judging from their accents, everyone I spoke with was
American.  In both cases, once I reached the clueful people, things
were resolved pretty quickly.  (Well, not the packet duplication; that
took *weeks* to resolve, but once the packet loss problem was solved I
could at least get decent throughput.)
> My point is that you not only need the language skills and a good
> phone connection, but also a reasonable process to deal with
> knowledgeable people.  I understand the need to provide scripted
> support, but there should also be a reasonable path to determine that
> someone has an exceptional problem and isn't being well-served by the
> script.

Customer records often include an optional data field that says things
about particular customers.  I heard a story -- and I'll leave out the
names, since it's second- or third-hand and it does involve people and
companies most of us know -- that one very clueful person's record had
a note saying more or less "if you don't understand what he's saying,
he's right and you're wrong, and you should route his call immediately
to Tier N, where N is large"...  But getting on that list is the hard

		--Steve Bellovin, http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~smb

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