Today I spent 90 minutes on the phone with Windstream Support for a 2-minute problem.
My dad bought a new DSL modem to replace the one that Windstream provided, so that he could own it and not have to pay a monthly rental fee. Smart move.
Ordinarily, the way these things work is that you unplug the old one and plug in the new one and everything just works. When this did not happen, I called Windstream Support, and there The Saga Begins.
The DSL light kept blinking for several minutes, indicating that it was not getting a connection to the internet service provider.
The first person that I talked to, told me that I needed to contact the hardware manufacturer who would connect in to the modem and change the configuration settings.
This is plainly not true. It is impossible for the hardware manufacturer to connect in if the modem is not connecting to the internet in the first place.
I called back and got a different person, who insisted that the problem was that I had a temporary email address attached to the account. That, also, was not true. And finally after over an hour of pointless back and forth, he finally escalated me to a level 2 network engineer.
The level 2 engineer looked up the model number of the modem that I was using and said that it was an ADSL modem and I needed a VDSL modem, and recommended an option. This took about 2 minutes.
I don’t know the difference between ADSL and VDSL, and, of course, as a customer, I shouldn’t have to.
My beef here is not with incompetent first line support. Of course they’re not competent. I don’t blame them for that. I understand that they are following a script to solve common problems. But intentionally training them to give misleading – and even completely false – answers is not okay.
My objection, rather, is with policies specifically designed to discourage people from owning their own hardware. If they make it as complicated as possible, they can continue to charge a monthly rental fee for equipment, rather than allowing people to control their own network infrastructure.
Someone without a technical background would simply give up at the first hurdle, and not bother trying to buy their own hardware. By making my parents feel stupid and incompetent, they could probably have tricked them into spending more money for something they didn’t actually need. This behavior is predatory and unethical.
Buying a new DSL modem should not be any more complicated than buying a new phone. You plug it in and it just works. Windstream is intentionally creating a situation where people pay more money for things they don’t need. Someone shouldn’t need a technical background or network engineer training in order to connect to the internet.