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A pox on CenturyLink

A small rant. About an inconsequential matter. But … well, “it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.”

CenturyLink. The company formerly known as CenturyTel. CenturyTel was a very good company. OTOH, if you attempt to deal with CenturyLink (a metastasized version of C’Tel and something called Embarq) you may be taking your brains into your own hands. If you have any left after listening to the screaching music and shouted sales messages they have on their (I use the term lightly) customer service line.

The short version: On Monday I signed up for DSL Internet. No telephone. No cable. No nada. Just Internet. Service was supposed to begin, and a modem supposed to arrive yesterday via UPS.

No modem. No service. I call their 800 number. No worries. We don’t know why it wasn’t today, but for sure, tomorrow.

This morning bright and early a very nice installer shows up, activates the service and gives me a modem off his truck. Soon I’m managing to surf the ‘Net via a wired connection. But, among other things, I can’t do anything with the wireless function on the modem. Can’t get email. Can’t, can’t, can’t. Several calls to tech support over the next three hours. First one is odd: “Oh, they don’t show that you subscribed to DSL. They show only that you’ve subscribed to the phone service.” Uh … no, no way lady. Explicitly excluded phone. It’s DSL only. The sales rep and I had an extensive talk about modem options and all. Nobody could have mistaken my order. I’m tellin’ you.

She goes away. Comes back and says, “Oh, I was wrong. Everything’s properly set up for DSL.”

For several hours, I continue plugging away, attempting to configure the modem and get email. Finally call tech support again. “Oh,” says this one, “the reason you can surf the ‘Net but can’t do anything else is that you’re listed as a ‘provisional’ user. Your account hasn’t been activated yet. And won’t be until September 1.”

I attempt to remain polite. It’s not her fault. And I have to say that all the tech support people I’ve talked with have just been sterling. It’s the business office that seems screwed beyond belief. She goes off and checks again. Yep. “It does say the service should have been active yesterday, but now it’s September 1, and they say there’s nothing they can do about it.”

It occurs to me they may be operating in a time warp. Maybe they’re in some century where connections actually did take weeks — where they had to be made laboriously, by hand, in person. Not this century, where anybody can just type in a command to tell the electronics to make what should have happened yesterday happen today.

I tell her I want to cancel my account — that they sold me the service under false pretenses and that I’ve already wasted way too many hours. Cancel me, NOW, baby! Not her department (of course). Please hold.

After nearly 20 minutes of the above-mentioned screaching (which by now I’ve memorized, which is good because its volume has deafened me and I can’t actually hear it any more), I hang up, haul the modem, with cords dangling from the box, to the local office, where the kindly installer takes it back with clucks of sympathy and promises to make service-canceling calls in my behalf. I come to the library, send a blistering email to CenturyLink’s billing department duplicating his efforts — and now I try to figure out who can become my Plan B Internet provider.

In other words — sigh — keep on expecting “lite” blogging for another week or so. And if you chose to deal with the blob called CenturyLink … good luck to you.

It may be even later than September 1 before I’m connected now. But at least there’s hope it’ll be with a company that doesn’t merely blurt (via endlessly repeated electronic voice) how much it truly, truly, really, we-mean-it CARES about its customers.


Just to make the day even cheerier: government snooping “rights” expand. Again. The one good thing about government is that, no matter how crappy some private company is, government always makes it look good by comparison.


  1. Ellendra
    Ellendra August 27, 2010 7:22 pm

    On behalf of customer-service phone people everywhere, thank you for not taking your frustrations out on the nearest target.
    (I’ve had 2 such jobs, it pays well, but it means getting an earful every other caller)

    I hope you find a better ISP, one that appreciates you!

    Recently, I heard of a company called, which waits on hold for you, then calls you when the operator finally picks up. Haven’t tried it myself, but it might make such calls a bit less stressful?

  2. naturegirl
    naturegirl August 28, 2010 12:51 am

    Whatever happened to technology “making our lives easier”???

  3. Richard
    Richard August 28, 2010 9:39 am

    What ever happened to technology making lives easier? Well the short answer is it was taken over by regular SLOBs. I’m basically a super geek and tech has even made my life harder. Like Claire’s installer the people that actually know what to do are now the grunts. I looked around the office the other day and was disgusted to see that out of 20 IT (information technology) employees only 2 were actual IT. The wisdom of big business to model themselves similar to government bureaucracy has made tech for idiots and impossible to acquire. On a daily basis I actually call a helpdesk (outsourced) in India that opens a work ticket then decide they can’t handle it so they transfer it to a “tech” in China who then transfers it to the guy in the office next to me. And then I get admonished at review time for my apathy and condensating manners. Yep the regular SLOBs destroyed tech. Companies dumb it down so that the masses can deal with it.That’s why so many sheep think iPhones are so cool when I’ve been doing the same and more complex tasks with earlier smartphones. Idioaucracy! Sorry for the rant. So Claire your best bet is to get the installer to get everything done.

  4. G.W.F.
    G.W.F. August 28, 2010 10:41 am

    I can certainly see our frustration with this provider. I have myself been a Comcast customer for years, so after reading your ordeal all I can think is…lightweight! You got to speak to an actual live person?

    You have not even begun to experience incompetence until you have dealt with CMST. The have even gained national recognition as the worst company for 2010:

    To beat out Microsoft, BofA, BP and Halliburton you have to be bringing your A-Game.

    I can honestly say, as a customer (with no other choice of provider in the area, so I am either a customer or a Luddite) no company has worked harder to be the worst. They deserve the award and I doubt if any company will ever beat them out for that spot going forward.

    I have been at the same address, getting the same high-speed connection for 2 years. Yet I was recently informed my customer owned modem needs to be upgraded or I will no longer be able to connect. The act of unplugging the old and plugging in a new took me 30 seconds. Yet getting back on-line took me four hours this morning 🙁

    I have spent plenty of time looking at providers, but never found any that even rate as “okay”.

  5. naturegirl
    naturegirl August 28, 2010 3:08 pm

    That was a good rant, Richard….I actually learned from it….no wonder it takes hours to actually get something done, with all that transferring….

  6. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty August 29, 2010 8:36 am

    After living with dial up internet since about 1992, I finally broke down and ordered DSL here. We have a choice between the DSL (optic fiber) from the local telephone company, or a very poorly run wireless outfit. After hearing the horror stories of the wireless users, I opted for the DSL. The dial up will no longer be available fairly soon anyway, I’m told.

    So, I was pleased to learn that the costs have come down since I looked at DSL two years ago, and the only real down side will be a two year contract. Two years ago they wanted $200. for installation and modem “rent” and now all those costs are waived. Don’t know if it is worth the effort to buy my own modem, since they are adamant that doing so would cancel any relevant tech support.

    The tech support from this company has been pretty good, especially considering that I run a linux operating system and these tech kids know NOTHING about linux. Doesn’t seem possible, but there it is. I’ve had to instruct THEM so we could make their stuff work with mine. Oh me. Like taking your car to a mechanic and then winding up with more grease on you than he does. 🙂

    Anyway, it should be installed in the next 7 to 10 days. We’ll see what happens.

  7. Jake MacGregor
    Jake MacGregor August 29, 2010 10:59 am

    we all pick our battles Claire …. I know my fatigue and pain can aide me in making bad short term decisions with long term consequences

    assume that all utilities are horrible at service as they are gov’t granted monopolies – oligopolies at best

    did you actually expect good service?

    it is not good, fair or reasonable … it just is

    your choices are among the best of the worst

    wishing you well in solving this conundrum


  8. Tom
    Tom August 30, 2010 6:14 am

    There are no good ISPs.

    If you can get DSL you are probably in an area where the local cable monopoly can also provide you with Internet. They won’t be much better customer service wise. If you’re lucky the local phone monopoly will have something like Verizon’s FIOS. If nothing else there will be some satellite provider (although in addition to sucking at customer service, satellite Internet sucks too)

    With luck the Internet service will be ok, it is the customer service that fails.

  9. Sam
    Sam September 1, 2010 8:41 am

    Its probably not time to shoot those bastards either.

  10. John
    John September 1, 2010 2:37 pm

    “Be thanking your lucky stars” as they say in tech support.

    I live at the end of the phone line and in a dead cell zone and can expect any option other than dial-up, or satellite, by the next millennium.

    The cable companies fiber optics cable runs about a quarter mile from my house. I need a sharp hatchet to cut into the line and loads of tech knowledge / equipment to get access since the cable guys don’t even know this area would use internet service.

    DSL, even with poor tech support, etc., is more serviceable than dial-up. Most sites that I try to visit load the dancing bunnies and the ads first and then the real content. Takes a long time to get anything other than the simplest page. Click-n-wait.

    Accept any DSL that functions as a major gift here in rural America.

    Looking forward to your books!

  11. Jeffrey Quick
    Jeffrey Quick September 1, 2010 4:13 pm


    I was going to write a “be thankful anyone will sell you DSL” rant, but you beat me to it, and worse…I at least can get Sprint 3G. Which isn’t all that.

    And yes, it’s the same deal here…the line is so near, yet so far.

  12. Ellendra
    Ellendra September 1, 2010 7:48 pm

    “Most sites that I try to visit load the dancing bunnies and the ads first and then the real content.”

    John, I usually have NoScript running, and very seldom see dancing bunnies any more. It works in both windows and linux. Just type “NoScript” into your search engine and it should come up with a list of places you can download it for free.
    (You may have to “allow” certain sites, as it will block all scripts unless told otherwise)

    It helps a lot!

  13. Diane
    Diane September 1, 2010 9:09 pm

    I’m like John: we have only At&t phone service to choose from, but another local phone company (who DOES offer DSL) runs within 1/2 mile of our house and actually goes around us and further up the road! I don’t have the $ for satellite, so I have resigned myself to finding a used laptop and using free wi-fi when I’m in town.

    Which makes me wonder whether this lack of service is the free market at work (not enough money to be made in our neck of the woods) or is it government regulation, taxation, etc. that keeps us from having access to higher speeds?

    Thanks for the tip about NoScript, Ellendra. I’ll try it.

  14. John
    John September 1, 2010 9:14 pm

    Hi Jeffery and Ellendra,

    Thanks guys!

    Jeffery for the brother with a different dial-up type service. I’m in all the wrong colors on the 3G maps. Satellite has such a bad rep unless all you want is e-mail, oh well?

    Ellendra the tip on “NoScript” looks promising. I hope it is a great ‘dancing bunnies” killer. I use Firefox and it showed up quickly, got downloaded and installed. Learning curve engaged.

  15. Diane
    Diane September 1, 2010 9:19 pm

    Holy Mackerel! That little add-on does speed things up! 🙂

  16. merccom
    merccom September 3, 2010 7:50 pm

    being someone that has dealt with centry link be happy there service was to bad to keep. (though i would not doubt if this were the last part of the century link story. for example, if they cant even figure out if you have service or when you were supposed to have it or even what the hell is going on with your account, what do you think is going to happen in billing?)

    they have this odd habit of cutting off your service every now and then. when you call to find out whats up they inform you that you havent paid your 250 dollar bill that you’ve racked up…… come to find out if you use to much bandwidth they charge you more….. and more….. and more.

    then they cut you off and wont restore service until you pay the bill.

    but how do you know how much bandwidth you’re useing??? well, thats your problem, just pay the bill.

    century link is even worse than comcast…. i think.

  17. paul
    paul September 9, 2010 7:46 pm

    john and diane,
    you should also try ad blocker plus add on to firefox. along with no script you can pretty much get rid of all extraneous stuff. however, many sites services require you to enable javascript to actually get the content, as well as many nifty web 2.0 features like ajax (check out googles new search results presentation). and of course neither add on help with bandwidth intensive content like video or flash. i live out in the woods too, and i’ve found that my verizon mobile tethered to my cell phone is pretty darn serviceable, about 1.5Mbps down, .5Mbps up, which is comparable to DSL. and i was able to cancel my home phone line so it kind of paid for itself! i have comcast cable at my office in town, and i’ve found it to be rock solid, though i am paying for business class so that may affect it. but great speeds. good luck to you all!

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