• United States

DSL buyer frustrations continue

Nov 25, 20024 mins
Internet Service ProvidersNetworking

In a previous column, I described my difficulties in having DSL installed in my office two years ago. My frustrations continued in September when a slow degradation of line quality became an outage of uncertain nature. Neither the ISP nor the competitive local exchange carrier could find the cause of the problem, attributing it to customer premises failure or configuration error. Testing on our end indicated no such errors or failures existed.

A CLEC dispatch took more than four hours to find the local exchange carrier (LEC) local-loop access frame wire pair. The reason was not incompetence but confusion. The CLEC records indicated a demarcation point (dmarc) in my building, but no “tagged” LEC circuit existed in the frame. The CLEC found a tie connection to another building where the LEC placed the dmarc upon installation. The CLEC requested a LEC dispatch to replace the wire pair and install the dmarc in the proper building.

Then the fun began. The LEC dispatched, reported a pair replacement with good quality and refused to relocate the dmarc. We still could not pass data and reported the continued outage to the ISP. The ISP, working with the CLEC, escalated the problem and received another LEC dispatch. The LEC, because of the incorrect content of its premises/wire-pair database, had “fixed” a circuit at another location.

Again, the ISP and the CLEC requested that the LEC relocate the dmarc to the correct address, which would remove the tie connection and correct the LEC’s database. The LEC refused, stating that the dmarc was the same physical address pursuant to the contents of its database, and that the CLEC had to place a new circuit order for any correction to occur.

The ISP requested my permission to order a new install, which would solve the problem but would require a complete new set of IP addresses for the PCs on our LAN and router. We decided to have the problem solved and live with this minor inconvenience. The ISP placed the order, and it was rejected by the LEC for an incompatible address and telephone number. Again, this was a database problem; the LEC had relocated our telephone lines within the frame to fix a recurring “disappearing line” problem to the new physical address almost a year before, but the update never got into the database. We finally found a physical premises telephone number that was in its database and the ISP resubmitted the order. The LEC installed the new circuit in the wrong location not once but twice. In each case a CLEC dispatch was required to uncover the error.

The CLEC then escalated the problem and gave the LEC a wire pair location for the dmarc in the frame in our building. The LEC issued a new installation ticket and again the circuit was installed in the wrong location. The CLEC requested an on-premises meeting with the LEC. The LEC refused, and again performed an installation in the wrong location. Regulatory procedures then allowed the CLEC to demand an on-premises meeting to resolve the problem. Finally, after six weeks, a new circuit, in the correct location, was operational.

This unfortunate situation highlights a serious issue – the state of the LEC wireline database. After divestiture, the ownership of the inside-building wire plant was passed to the premises owner, but the responsibility for maintaining the customer frame wire-pair database remained with the LECs. Automated tools were created to allow technicians to access the information and assign wire pairs to circuit numbers. Unfortunately, an inventory audit procedure was never put in place to assure the accuracy of the database and maintenance updates.

At the central office, wireline maintenance and database update are automated. At the premises frame level, cost prohibits such automation, forcing the LEC to use manual procedures. This is a major problem in the U.S. As I have experienced, the customer is always the loser in the battle between the LECs and the CLECs. The wireline database problem is so critical that it only can be solved by a Federal Communications Commission mandate, not negotiation.

Dzubeck is president of Communications Network Architects, an industry analysis firm in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at