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Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro
DSL Tech Support

Friday, March 10, 2000, at 1 p.m. EST

Most of the 21st century has fallen short of expectations to date (Where's my rocket-propelled car? What about my household robot?), but I did manage to drag one part of my home out of the 20th century with a broadband connection.

This slice of the 21st century, in the form of a DSL (digital subscriber line) account, costs me $60 a month. At $20 more than what I used to spend on a second phone line and a regular Internet account, it's money well spent. However as I found out from my own experiences and the experiences of many disgruntled readers, the high bandwith bandwagon has not amounted to much for many. This Friday we will sift through the gripes and moans and try to provide guidance and advice on DSL and the provider everyone loves to hate -- Bell Atlantic.

Bring your questions to Friday's discussion, or submit them here ahead of time.

You can continue the discussion among yourselves on Fast Forward's DSL message board.

Rob Pegoraro: Hello and, I hope, welcome back. I have gotten a *lot* of e-mail about my DSL piece this morning, most of it not too complementary towards Bell Atlantic. And I see we've got quite a few messages along those lines. (I would also like to hear from some satisfied customers... somewhere.) Anyway: Let's get ready to rumble!

Washington, DC: Boy, were you right on about BA DSL today!
Your only mistake: they are evil, Rob, truly evil. I am trying to pass on this one useful tidbit I got in an otherwise worthless tech support experience earlier this week: the DSL client software for Macintosh has been upgraded for OS 9. BA hasn't announced or distributed this update yet, but it is available online at http:--members.bellatlantic.net-~download1-.
You do need to have MacPoET 1.0 on your machine before installing the upgrade. I've been using it for 3 days now on a machine with OS 9 wit

Rob Pegoraro: This is a point I didn't get to in the article (ran out of space). BellAtlantic.net uses something called PPPoE (Point to Point Protocol over Ethernet) to connect its DSL customers; the upside is it's supposed to make setup on your computer simpler, but the downside is you need to run a special program to log in and log off, instead of the connection just being there full-time. Our correspondent notes that BA now supports Mac OS 9 with its PPPoE software.

Glen Echo, MD: Ay way you can find out if there is a correlation between substandard Bell Atlantic adsl connectivity and whether your isp is Bell Atlantic or another provider? Bell Atlantic just got fined "lunch money" by the FCC for failing to handle other companies' legitimate service requests in the voice arena. perhaps there's a corporate pattern here.

Rob Pegoraro: I wish our telecom reporter Peter Goodman was online here; he wrote the other story (BA getting fined $13 million by the FCC for mishandling customers switching their local phone service in N.Y. state).

To answer the first question: Problems with BA's DSL itself can affect you if you don't use BA.net as your Internet provider--the data still needs to travel over the phone company's DSL gear, after all. But the BA.net customers who've e-mailed and called me also sounded disappointed in BA.net as an ISP.

Forestville, Maryland: Not a question but a recent experience. BellAtlantic started my DSL installation on February 28. At that time none of the other phone services were moved to the DSL line -caller-id, voice mail, call in waiting, etc-. On February 29, the technician came to complete the computer hookup, however, he could not complete it because at the time the modem was not 'routing'. That evening I called the support desk and they were able to help get me online. Wait time for tech support was about 2 hours. March 1, discovered the services -caller-id, call-waiting, etc were moved to DSL line BUT voicemail was not working. March 2, called BellAtlantic about voice mail and they got it working that day. March 3, lost the analog portion of the DSL line, couldnt make or receive any telephone calls. Connection to the internet was still working. BellAtlantic sent out a repairman to restore the dial tone. When he restored the dial tone, I then lost the connection to the internet! Saturday 2 repairmen came to the house and restored both sides of the DSL line. March 6, after 8am lost connection the internet. After many calls to BellAtlantic, was told service would be restored in 72 hours which was not acceptable to me. Reached a supervisor and they said 48 hours turnaround time. Called on March 7 for status of line and discovered a synce problem AND a disconnect order had been issued, BUT ISSUED FOR THE WRONG line. Previously I had 2 telephone lines in my house and once the DSL line was installed, I asked them to disconnect the other line. Was told it would take 24 hours to fix. Called on March 8 because service was still not restored and was told it was being worked on. March 8, lost the analog line again and called to report it and was told line would be done for 48 hours. About 4pm on March 8, service was restored to the entire DSL line. Each time a call was made to the DSL service techs, I was kept on hold for no less than 2 hours each time! While their service may be good and inexpensive, it's been a nightmare to me to get it working consistently.

Rob Pegoraro: As an example: This is the kind of e-mail I've been getting so far today. I do hope that somebody at Bell Atlantic is reading this; to paraphrase Deanna Troi, "I'm sensing some anger in the room."

Washington, DC: Good Afternoon, my name is Joy Ragsdale, a member of the Litigation Staff with the Office of People's Counsel.

On March 2, 2000, our office filed a Petition requesting the Public Service Commission to direct Bell Atlantic-Washington, D.C., Inc. to explain, on the public record, why DSL service is not available to all consumers in the District of Columbia.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for noting this--I'm told that a copy of this petition is on its way to my desk. (How's that for real-time journalism?)

Personally, I've talked to several people who--even though BA has DSL capability in more central offices than Covad--can only get DSL through Covad. It's puzzling, since the distances involved can't be that great; this is an issue we're still trying to figure out.

Arlington, VA: This is a bit off the DSL-BA topic, but here it is anyway. A friend recently told me that Internet Explorer has a quirk -bug? or backdoor?- that lets the webmaster of a web site to which you connect scan the contents of your hard drive while you are connected to the site. Is this an urban cyberlegend, or are we really being Big Brothered by Microsoft?

Rob Pegoraro: Nothing's off-topic here, Arlington. (Go ahead and send in a question about souffle recipes! Watch me try to wing it!)

Anyway: That sounds like an urban legend on its face, but probably derived from actual news. IE for Windows has had a ton of security bug-fixes, and there have been reports of various security holes (closed by said bug-fixes) that could allow some sort of snooping, although perhaps not on that scale. I don't think this is deliberate; I just think that Microsoft needs to do a better job on security. Think of this as the downside of this browser-Windows "integration."

Washington DC: Actually MacPOet is not new. It has been at the page cited since the begining of the year. I is also "beta." We were promised both a final MacPoet for OS9 and new scripting software for initial account setup for OS 9 by February. It's not here and there's no word of when it will be.

Rob Pegoraro: Hmm... making users rely on beta software is kinda bad manners. I've heard of one other choice for PPPoE Mac software (saw it on a Web page the other day) but, not having used any of this stuff, can't vouch for it in any way.

College Park, MD.: My DSL was installed on Feb. 18th. I have had no problems at all with it except for the PPPoE server not responding -once or twice-. The majority of all problems are the fact that nobody qualifies the DSL lines any more. There are lines that have pair gains -DSL for two lines from one pair- and they don't have the best support for configuring the computer.

Rob Pegoraro: A note from a (more or less) satisfied customer...

Washington, DC: I too have been having problems with BellAtlantic DSL service. No service at all, in fact, for 8 days. As discussed in your article today in the Post, tech support has been overwhelmed. I've had to wait for hours, have been "escalated up" to a higher level, who never called back. I finally found someone yesterday, Tom, who was extremely helpful, tried everything to no avail. What is my recourse?

Rob Pegoraro: Hope Tom's reading this discussion today!

You really are stuck in this situation, because the problems are probably well outside your computer and your house. To be perfectly clear: DSL isn't quite a fully established technology. All the companies selling it are having their growing pains (for instance, this morning I got e-mails from angry customers of CapuNet and Flashcom, ISPs that don't use BA DSL at all).

However, the company has to be able to take care of its customers when these things happen.

Fairfax VA: I've been using BA's ADSL N VA Trial Service since 3-98. ADSL service has been 100% reliable and I had nothing but praise for it until BA declared the trial over in April 1999. My problem was that I signed up with clark.net as my ISP and they went away when the NVA trial was over. Access has been a problem since then. Long story. Now, I've been set up to switch over to Infospeed DSL using a DMT modem and the green CD software. Am I trading one set of problems for another?

Rob Pegoraro: To judge from the e-mail I've been getting, quite possibly yes. I *hate* sounding like a shill for the competition... but you should check out all the alternatives--DSL and cable--before signing up with BA.

Millersville, MD: I have had my share of frustrations with BaNEt DSL--most recently suffering through a 7-day outage and more than 12 hours on hold.

My question--I don't understand why the "analyst" has to transfer the customer to "level 2 support" to see if a ticket has been written to troubleshoot a line problem. As I explained to countless supervisors, I am the customer and shouldn't have to track my own repair ticket. I finally found a supervisor in Dallas who figured out a way to get a message to "level 2"--something I was told was not possible by first line tech support. Within 36 hours of talking to the Dallas supervisor, my service was finally restored. The supervisor also read me excerpts from my file which makes me look like a raving lunatic--not to mention that the notes put in by tech support were totally inaccurate. For example, instead of saying I had "no service" they reported I had "slow throughput". I could go on and on,,,,but you seem to know the script as well as I.

Thanks for listening...lura-bellatlantic.net

PS...I happened to order my service online and when nothing happened within 10 business days, I called. Only to find out that "sometimes online orders don't get tickets written up". So what's up with bellatlanic and their inability to process "tickets". enough...I feel better now.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for sharing your experiences; my condolences on your ordeal.

Colesville, MD: I'm a veteran of many battles with Bell Atlantic. I went for over two months without service due to modem problems. I thought about going with one of the other DSL providers, but deciced that since I was having connection problems and the other providers all use the same BA infrastructure, it wouldn't really make any difference. Finally, I did receive another modem after countless phone calls, scathing e-mails and a bitterly worded letter to their so-called "Cutomer Care" outfit in Nofolk, VA. About 3 weeks after sending the letter I actually got a response from a manager who began the reconciliation process. Today my connection is working, but not as well as before I upgraded to Windows 98, but that's probably another story. The system seems awfully delicate though. I have to be very careful not to upset anything for fear of being "Unable to establish a connection" again. The problem that I do have now is that the new soundcard I tried to install to work with Windows 98 conflicts with my Efficient Networks 3060 ADSL modem. The sound is great but the modem will not connect. Both the souncard and the modem use IRQ 10. This is a known problem with the 3060 and Sound Blaster compliant sound cards. I could go on but I'm probably already starting to bore you. THX
Less Than Satified DSL User

Rob Pegoraro: DSL problems *and* stupid Windows conflicts?! Ouch. As for the former: Glad to hear things seem to be working now. As for the latter: Um, wasn't this kind of nonsense supposed to go away with Win 95? IMHO, you should ask for your money back on the sound card (since you don't have a choice of what kind of modem to use with DSL under current implementations.)

Washington, D.C.: It is interesting that you bring up concerns with distance. We were informed that BA-DC could provide services to consumers who live within 12,000 ft. of the central office. We have not received a clear answer on the difference of 12,000 ft. versus 18,000 ft. Have you heard these issues from any other provider?

Rob Pegoraro: Not really. One difference is that BA only supplies ADSL, while the other providers (CLECs = Competitive Local Exchange Carriers, in telecom parlance) offer variants such as IDSL or SDSL, which work over longer distances but at slower speeds and (unfortunately) higher costs.

Bear in mind that the important measurement isn't straight-line distance but "wire feet," which can be very hard to guess without actually tracing the copper's course along telephone poles and through utility conduits.

Fairfax, VA: I've had a mixed experience with BA for 2 years now as one of their guinea pigs in the NVA trial of ADSL using CAP modems from WorldVision running at 1.4Mbps downstream; 64Kbps upstream. I run both a Win 95 machine and a PowerMac over ADSL, and the experimental version has been faultless as far as web access is concerned. However, many other problems have arisen along the way. Dealing with BA has been frustrating and has required all the patience and empathy I can muster. Most folks I've dealt with have good intentions but limited perspective from their positions within the company. That has led to a number of missteps along the way. Right now, I'm signed up to switch over to BA's DMT service on Tues to try to clear up the remaining problems. After reading your DSHell article this morning, I'm having second thoughts as my NVA trial modem and access line have been 100% reliable. It's just been other stuff that led to this move.

I'm a retired engineer and have been studying the technologies involved for some time, so I think I have pretty good understanding of how and why my problems developed and persist. BA is struggling, that's for sure.
Dick Rucker

Rob Pegoraro: Another DSL vet... thanks for sharing your experience. I would agree with you on not changing your service; if it isn't broke, don't upgrade. (Well, sometimes.)

Northwest Washington, D.C.: Just a couple of years ago, consumers were promised that an array of advanced services would come our way once the telco companies "deregulated" well, now they have deregulated on their timetables, but what excuse can telecommunications companies give now for not being able to smoothly roll out services like DSL?

Rob Pegoraro: There are many excuses--thing is, some of them are true. This stuff *is* complicated to set up and service. It *does* involve some high-maintenance tech support burdens.

But: The other reality is that there has been a lot of overpromising and hype by telecom firms anxious to merger their way to the top. Personally, if I hear one more CEO pledge that their next CEO will let them grow large enough to be an effective competitor, I'm going to be ill.

Just my $.02 worth as a telecom consumer...

Washington, DC: The Office of People's Counsel also requested the Public Service Commission to hold a Public Hearing with all DSL service providers to discuss their busines strategy on deploying Telecommunications Services in the District of Columbia.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the update on that--should be interesting to hear what folks say.

Washington D.C.: I live on 34th Place in Northeast D.C., is DSL available from BA-DC or any other company in my neighborhood?

Rob Pegoraro: It should be. But the only way to (sort of) know is to plug in your phone number at the various Web sites of DSL carriers and see what they report:




Good luck!

Silver Spring, MD: Hi, I have a DSL nightmare story for you.
I have DSL Service with Flashcom since Dec 99. My DSL Service has been out since 2-24 and the Tech Support has been giving me the run-around and false promises. Nobody know what going on and my service is still out now.

Rob Pegoraro: I've seen complaints about Flashcom's service in the various online forums (DSLReports.com, comp.dcom.xdsl)--most pertaining to customer service. I *hope* that Flashcom is crediting you for this outage... but it would be better if the company had an actual explanation. Be prepared to bail out if necessary.

McLean, VA: Rob,
Regarding loop length limits, one important thing to keep in mind is that the 18,000 foot limit is forced on competitors -like Covad and Rhythms-. In other parts of the country, these companies can offer DSL to customers over 30,000 feet from their CO. But BA wont allow them to offer this in their territory.

Rob Pegoraro: This is true. (Covad's offices happen to be in Tysons... hmm.) My understanding is that there's some sort of legal action pending or ongoing in this matter. Thing is, if the DSL companies want to be able to compete fully with cable modems, they're going to need to be able to offer service at that kind of distance.

Odenton, MD: I would recommend anyone considering DSL review the dslreports.com web site and the user reviews it contains. Reading those reviews is one reason I chose a different DSL provider than Bell Atlantic.

I agree that DSL is a very new technology that is still undergoing growing pains. That is all the more reason for selecting a company with good customer service. My provider -speakeasy.net- has its own newsgroup for answering questions and, although their phone lines also tend to get busy, are much smaller and more accessible than BA. In fact, the president-CEO often posts answers directly.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm posting this note, but wait for the next one before picking up the phone...

Silver Spring, MD: After experiencing several outages with BA DSL, I went to DSLReports.com to find another service provider. DSL Reports is a great resource--you can pick an ISP and check out its user reviews and ratings. Speakeasy got super ratings, so I went with them and got connected a week ago. However, in just this first week with them, I've had down time TWICE!!!!

Is there an ISP that you'd recommend? I'm getting the impression that they all suffer from these problems.

Rob Pegoraro: And here we are, a contrary vote.

Forestville, Md: When BellAtlantic is down..how do you get refunded for their down time. As my previous comment noted, did not have FULL access to the DSL line for over a week, yet, sounds like i need to contact the people that handle the analog portion as well as the internet portion of the DSL line

Rob Pegoraro: From what I hear, you need to yell long enough--apparently they're not offered automatically, you need to kvetch about it first. Some amount of luck seems to be involved as well.

Harrisburg PA: Yes, BA does provide xDSL service up here in PA.

I'm curious why BA went the route of using WinPoET instead of just a straight IP connection. The WinPoET is just another "layer" that can go wrong, -eg login, pswd, etc-. Don't know why they need me to login w user name and password on a point to point line.

Their install was crazy. Tried to run their online registration - connected via the DSL but reg screens never came up. Then week later tried to reg over telephone - WRONG!! Forced me to go back to web and "try again" they said they made some changes through the week. Tried again and this time it worked BUT...

When I selected GTE as the DSP I couldn't get past the next screen no matter what I tried. I HAD to select QWEST inorder to register. I'm sure GTE would like to hear about that.

Rob Pegoraro: Another comment on this PPPoE protocol. I agree with you on this, Harrisburg; I prefer to have fewer layers of software to break on my machine. But there are also some reasonable arguments in favor of using PPPoE.

McLean Virginia: I wanted to make a correction to an earlier comment on BA availablitiy as it pertains to COs. Covad actually has DSL equipment in more COs than BA.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, this is true--although in D.C. itself, BA has more COs than Covad, or at least it did when we surveyed this issue back in December. (This wouldn't be Mike Smith with Covad, would it? :)

My "Central office", DC: "Central Office" conjures up the image of one big building in the center of town. But I take it that there are lots of "central offices" distributed in any given area. Is there any way to get the physical addresses of these "central offices?" Also, thanks for the comment about the competitors, distance and speed. I got a quote today from Capu.net at higher cost and lower speed than my BADSL at the office.

Rob Pegoraro: Central offices are actually pretty small--e.g., a friend of mine lives two doors down from one on Lee Highway in Arlington, and the structure involved is just a little house-sized stone structure with a small Bell Atlantic sign on the front.

No, there isn't an easy way to get the physical addresses; Bell Atlantic is not particularly gung ho on revealing this kind of info for security reasons (I do see their point there). The other problem is that knowing the address doesn't tell all that much; the more important figure is the wire feet between you and the CO. The DSL carriers' Web sites can give you reasonably good guesstimates of that.

Silver Spring MD: Why doens't BA support users of Windows NT Workstation 4.0 above Service Pack 4? This limitation is the reason I've been unable to make a "connection" to BA's ADSL service at my residence. They claim that they do not, yet, support anything above SP4 and, further, they can't support Windows 2000, either! That's unaccepatble. What's wrong with them? When are they going to get their act together?

J.K. Lambert

Rob Pegoraro: An excellent question you ask, Silver Spring. But I think this is a case where BA really means that they won't give you any help on setting up Win 2000 (some of my correspondents would probably say this means that, technically speaking, they don't support personal computers at all :)

You should be able to establish a PPPoE connection in Win 2000--for instance, I'm told that some DSL hardware directly supports that protocol, relieving you of the need to put the PPPoE software on your computer. See http://www.carricksolutions.com/pppoe.htm .

Or you could go elsewhere. If the company isn't willing to play ball, why give them your money? Just a thought...

NW,DC: I have DSL at the office and inquired online about home service. That was over 6 months ago. I'm probably in a "fringe" of the required 12,000 feet, maybe well beyond. But last week a nice person -Chris- called me from BA -how unusual to have someone on the internet side of BA actually initiate a call-. He inquired if I would like to be a beta tester of "new technology" and "software" that would extend the distance limits. The conversation ended quickly, but politely when I told him that I was a Mac user and he said the test was only for PC's. Have you heard anything like what he seemed to be suggesting?

Rob Pegoraro: No - but I'd like to hear more about this. E-mail me at rob@twp.com with the details.

I've heard a bunch of complaints about BA.net's Mac support, incidentally.

Forestville, Maryland: I checked the 3 ISP's mentioned in you article and unfortunately, NONE of them provide DSL service in my area, so I'm more or less stuck with BellAtlantic.

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry to hear the news. Maryland south of Howard/Balto. counties seems particularly underserved--there are relatively fewer COs enabled for DSL, and the cable franchises have been really slow at rolling out any kind of cable-modem access. (Anne Arundel should be coming online, and there's a cable-modem service in St. Mary's, but nothing in P.G., Calvert or Charles. What are these guys waiting for, anyway?)

Near the White House, DC: Re: tech support. Your article was too kind. But here's one better. When a field tech was in my office for installation there were problems. Instead of having a priority number to call he had to dial the same tech support I did. He too had to wait -for almost 2 hours- for a live person to answer. Then it was immediately clear that he knew more than the person who answered and he was bumped to level two where, thankfully the wait was not as long. I cannot believe that upper management knows that their field techs are forced to "cool their heels" waiting for retail, uninformed tech support. The tech told me he and others have made this complaint internally, but to no avail.

Rob Pegoraro: Your story reminds me of an e-mail I received a while back--one of the things that persuaded me to do this story. This guy had a field tech in his house who had to call tech support, was put on hold--and fell asleep on the phone!

Y'know, I hope that any Bellfolk in the audience reading this discussion don't see this as BA-bashing. There are real complaints here; I've got about 40 more in my inbox. If there are people who are happy with their BA DSL, I'd like to hear it--but at the same time, people who are paying $40 a month deserve to have their concerns addressed adequately.

Pittsburgh, PA: I'm probably one of the few fortunate ones not to have to deal with PPPoE -- I got in early enough that I got a static IP address.
I can't recall the last time my service was interrupted for an extended period of time. The last interruption I can recall happened about 2 months ago and it was for no longer than 30 minutes. I figure they were doing some form of equipment upgrade at the time.

Did you ever ask BA why they decided to go with PPPoE?

I see absolutely no benefit for it on the consumer side of things -- PPPoE isn't built into either Windows or MacOS. All it does is make it hard for Windows-Mac users to get online and even harder for Linux or other free OS users to take advantage of the service.

Rob Pegoraro: And here we have one satisfied customer.

I didn't get into PPPoE, although it was something I'd looked at, mainly on the grounds of space limitations. It's also more or less unique to BellAtlantic.net, while the outage and tech-support problems I reported on apply to Bell Atlantic DSL customers in general. But your question is a good one to ask.

NW DC: Here's one vote of support for Bell Atlantic DSL -- I've had a few outages with them since installing in 10-99, but no more so than any other ISP. Maybe I'll live to regret saying this, but they've been fine so far...

Rob Pegoraro: I know what you mean; knock on wood. Thanks for chiming in.

Falls Church VA: IYO, as someone who is comtemplating "buying" the service from BA:
-1- Should I now? Perhaps wait? Until when?
-2- Comment, pls, on adding to it an existing voice line vs. separate DSL-only line.

Thank you.
L.J. Nelson

Rob Pegoraro: 1) I would wait, but I would also shop around. Living in Falls Church, you should have a decent choice of DSL carriers.

2) It isn't a choice you can make; you have to keep your existing phone line. Bell Atlantic adds DSL to that line (allowing you to ditch any second, modem-only phone lines), while Covad/Rhythms/Northpoint set up a separate, DSL-only circuit for you, which is like having a second line except that you can't use it for voice phone service and there isn't really a number associated with it.

Northwest, DC: Re: Mac users, you might pass on that there is Mac-BadSL forum on the topic at http:--www.macfixit.com-ultimate-Forum7-HTML-000813.html

Rob Pegoraro: Good tip - thanks for the note. It looks like this forum software is scrambling the slashes in that address--to get there, you'll need to replace the dashes with slashes. Confusing enough?

Vienna Virginia: As an employee at Covad, I hear about these issues day in and day out. I commend you on your article this morning and feel that it paints and accurate picture of the state of DSL at BA. Covad has filed and continues to file complaints against BA for anti-trust amongst other issues. Covad is commited to delivering a higher level of customer support to our end-users. With continued pressure put on BA by your readers, perhaps one day we'll be able to get BA to comply with the Telecom of 1996!

Rob Pegoraro: Perhaps I have outed a second Covad employee in our discussion... anybody from BA or Rhythms or Northpoint wanna jump in?

Great Falls, VA: Our phone service is provided by a fiber Digital Loop Carrier -DLC-, rather than copper all the way to the CO. Have you heard of any plans by BA to support ADSL in such situations? I have not been able to get any useful information when I call them.

Rob Pegoraro: Here's where we get into some arcane technology. Basically, the digital loop carrier makes it impossible to get DSL today. Not indefinitely; the telecom companies are working on ways to provide DSL even if fiber connections are involved. The, ahem, Wall Street Journal had a good article on that a few weeks ago--Feb. 21, I think. But for the near term, you might be hosed for DSL.

I'd tell you to check out cable, but the people I've talked to at Media General/Cox tell me that your neighborhood will be the last part of Fairfax to be hooked up for cable-modem access. I'm sorry about that.

Washington, DC: Will I have to use additional periphial equipment to use DSL effectively?

Rob Pegoraro: You'll usually need an Ethernet connection on your computer; Macs have this built in, but on most PCs you'll have to install a network interface card, NIC for short. Into that you'll connect the DSL "modem" (technically speaking, it's not a modem but actually an Ethernet bridge, IIRC), which then plugs into the wall.

Philadelphia, PA: I now officailly hate Bell Atlantic.
I was supposed to be connected on 2-28 but have yet to be able to get on. The hold time is extream and the tech help is less than helpfull. I finally was able to talk to a tech person that seemed to have a clue last night and there is a third level of help that nobody can reach with out having to go thru burning hoops. They have not called me back yet. I guess that I should expect it. My question is who provides DSL service without having to sign up for two years at $50 a pop? Who can I talk to about Bell Atlantic other that BBB? Should I bill them for the time that I spend on hold for lost productivity? Time is money! Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: And one other unhappy customer. The mention of a two-year signup requirement sounds odd to me; one-year contracts seem a little more like the pattern here. (To be fair, these companies have to sink a lot of cash into the installation and hookup process; I understand why they'd like to keep their customers around for at least a little while.)

Rob Pegoraro: Well... I seem to have kicked over a major anthill with my column today. I know there's plenty of questions I didn't get to today; you can e-mail me at rob@twp.com or stop by our message board later on. Meanwhile, have a great weekend, and I'll talk to y'all soon...

- Rob

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