I’ve never been a big fan of phone companies. I’ve dealt with a small independent local company, lived in SBC territory in several states, and now live in Sprint Local area. I’ve never had good service, ever. The only thing worse than my phone company service has been cable company service.
Here’s my latest saga.
Sprint finally decided to offer DSL in our area. Great, I thought. We had been using fixed wireless for a couple of years since it was the only thing better than dialup available out in the country. But it has a huge problem: it require line-of-sight to the remote antenna. We have some very big trees here. Despite the company saying that the most powerful antenna should penetrate them, and mounting it on top of our roof — giving it a good 40 feet off the ground — we couldn’t clear the trees. So in summer, our connection would be very unreliable, and slow when it did work.
So we signed up for DSL the very day it became available here. Sprint scheduled someone to come out to install a DSL splitter the next week.
Our DSL modem arrived by UPS the day before the installer showed up. But the first problem: I ordered a static IP but there was nothing telling me what my IP is. Sprint DSL tech support (the one bright light in all of this — almost all of those people have a clue, and are helpful and can actually fix problems!) gave me the info I needed.
The next day, Sprint’s installer showed up at about 3:30, and said she had to leave very soon to get the brakes on her truck worked on. Great.
Now, a word about DSL and phone lines. A standard phone requires two wires (1 pair) to operate. Most phone cabling supports four wires (2 pair), and some even supports six wires (3 pair). Few people use these extra wires in their home.
When the phone company sends DSL signals to you, their (outside) lines carry the DSL and the standard phone service on the same single pair. However, phones in the house can interfere with DSL, so you have to either split the signal or filter it. When you split the signal, they install a splitter outside. They’ll keep the voice part like it always has been, and run the DSL signal on the unused pair on the existing wiring (or run a new cable for the DSL altogether).
So anyway, the installer arrives complaining that she will be late for her brakes. She goes down to our basement (where the computer is) to install a new splitter.
The tech support people specifically told me “do NOT let the installer put a splitter at your inside jack, make them put it outside.” I politely told her this, but she ignored me. Until she couldn’t get a signal in the basement.
So, she returns our original jack down there, then rushes outside to install a splitter in our box. No surprise, she can get a signal at our box. She installs the splitter, connects things, then closes the box. She does not bother to check if we get a signal inside, just says that “we need to upgrade our wiring to Cat 3.”
Now that’s probably fair; the existing wiring used nearly 100 feet of flat “modular” cable to run from one end of the house to another, and this probably does interfere with DSL.
I tried and was able to get a (slow) DSL connection with things as she left them. But we also noticed DSL sounds on our regular phones: beeping, static, etc. Very problematic.
Well, I ordered 100 ft of Cat 5 cable (why not, it’s $12 at newegg.com even with shipping). I started replacing cable starting with our outside box and winding through the whole house, connecting only the voice part of the cable to our regular phone jacks. Finally, everything’s hooked up and I test things.
But guess what — now I get no DSL signal at all, but still hear it on the voice line! How can this be?
Well, it turns out that the Sprint installer hooked things up the wrong way at the box, and I just duplicated her error as I made sure to connect things exactly as they were. Switch the wires around and poof, noise is gone from the voice line and it works properly again.
But there is STILL no signal at the modem. I made sure to use a 2-pair cable to it, figuring it could just use the extra pair itself. No luck. Finally I called Sprint tech support.
They ask a few questions, then ask “Is your modem plugged into the top or bottom jack?” I tell them I have only one jack. They say, “So the installer didn’t finish then?” I relate the saga in brief. Sprint guy says, “I HATE it when they do that!” He’s ticked, but not at me. He says he’ll have to schedule another appointment with the installer, but after talking to him a bit, I manage to figure out that if I just disconnect the voice side from my office jack, and hook up the DSL side to it, it should all work. He schedules the appointment, adds lots of notes to try to make them understand how to use a screwdriver, and assures me I would not be charged and that I can cancel if I fix it myself.
So I hang up and reconnect the office jack. Sure enough, it works now, and with a perfect connection quality to boot.
So the original installer made two errors: 1) she sent the combined DSL+voice signal through the whole house, instead of just the voice signal, and 2) she hooked the modem to the voice pair since she didn’t supply the new jack. Ironically, had she made only one error, I would never have had a DSL signal at all. It was only because she made both errors that I had a DSL signal, albeit poor, to start with.
Oh, and the Sprint tech support person also said that part of the installation includes running new wire, which the installer refused to do, claiming they’d charge me $75 to do it.
So now, I have two options: 1) I can keep the appointment tomorrow, or 2) I can purchase a new wall jack out of my own pocket and install it myself.
I think I’ll go with #2. At least I can keep four different wires straight. I’d rather not trust my phone wiring to the telephone company again.