I moved into my present home three years ago. Prior to that time, I received my broadband service from what is now Comcast. That was cable modem service, which generally performed at about 2.5 Mbps (download). While speed was pretty good, it did vary based on load, and I did have to reboot the cable modem occassionally. The service was acceptable, and I would have continued to use Comcast, but they did not serve my new house at that time.
Before I discuss my horrible experience with Earthlink, I would like to provide some background information. I am an engineer, who has worked in the computer industry for almost 25 years. Half of my career has been with my present employer, Cisco Systems. I am not authorized to speak for Cisco on the quality of broadband services, however Cisco does reimburse me for my broadband connections, and I believe that my technical experience and training should add some credibility to my review.
In August, 2004, I became an Earthlink residential DSL customer, and signed up for service with a download speed rated at 1.5 Mbps. This service was priced at about $40 monthly. When the new customer package arrived, I had some trouble connecting to the Internet. A technician was sent to the home by Covad, which has a contract with Earthlink, and service was established. For 3 years, the service has proven to be reliable.
A variety of websites have tools which can assist you in measuring the speed, security, latency and overall quality of your broadband connection. The site I trust the most is dslreports.com. Basic membership is free. They provide links to speed measuring tools around the globe. While any one site might be giving you distorted results at a particular time, this use of a wide collection of tools can help you to test more accurately. At the same time, as a site member, you have the opportunity to record all your speed measurements, so that you can accurately determine your typical speeds.
A couple of years ago, Earthlink and other DSL providers began to offer their customers higher speeds. From 1.5 (Mbps down), Earthlink started to offer speeds as high as 6.0 .. or for those also switching their phone service .. 8.0. Part of what determines DSL speed is the distance of the customer from a Central Office switch. When I initially asked for more speed, I was told that my distance limited me to 1.5 Mbps. At the same time, it was suggested that I occasionally check back, since equipment upgrades are ongoing, and in the future, greater speed might be possible.
Last summer, I again requested a speed boost, and initially I was told that I could now get 6.0 Mbps. I was instructed to call back three days later, to confirm the upgrade. Upon my call back, I was told that a mistake had been made .. I could not have faster speed at that time.
About a month ago, I repeated this ritual for a third time, and this is where I pretty much totally lost my faith in Earthlink. First, they now route all calls through a voice recognition based menu system which really does not seem to do more than frustrate you. Second, they have completely moved their technical support team to India, and while this probably saves them money, the customer service can be a nightmare.
On my first call of this cycle, it took almost an hour to reach a live person, and had to be transferred at least three times to reach someone who actually understood my problem and request. With each person taking the call, I had to reconfirm my identity and re-explain why I was calling. Finally, I reached a technical support person who seemed to understand, and he did some checking. He stated that he could put in my request for 6.0 Mbps, but I would need to follow up 3 business days later, after the upgrade was completed.
The follow up call was every bit as painful, and when I got to person three, I was told that the upgrade had been completed as requested. As an engineer with a lot of experience measuring broadband, I had not seen any change in linespeed, and I explained that to this person. He asked for remote access to my computer, which was granted. FIrst, he went to the 2wire site, where readings were similar to the 1.5 Mbps that I reported. He then cleaned up all my PC temp files, and took another reading - no change. He then used toast.com, which uses smaller packets. If the reader uses google on toast.com, you can learn how that site provides very inaccurate readings. He even tried to remeasure without emptying cache, which I politely explained will not provide an accurate measurement. So - he then indicates that he will pass me to their more senior installation support team. Of course these people were unavailable, but would call me back.
Two more days pass, and a senior installation team technician named William called me. Again, I discussed what I wanted and what had been claimed. After 20 minutes, William puts me on hold to check my problem ticket, and I am disconnected. I call back, and an hour later, I have reached William again. He now indicates that he does see the request I had made, but he cannot find a record of the work really being completed as promised. He tries to reprovision the line, and it makes no difference. The call ends with his promise that the will get this fixed for me.
Another week, and I call back. Still, measurements indicate no improvement in my connectivity. Again, I get bounced to three different people, and again, I am assured that the upgrade has been done. This time, I am asked a series of basic questions, such as - have I rebooted the PC, how long is the telephone cable to the DSL modem (2 meters), how long it the ethernet cable from the modem to the PC (1 meter), etc. He does more testing, and then claims that the issue must be a faulty DSL modem, I have two choices - I can purchase a new modem for $80, or I can sign a 12 month contract and have the new modem for $20 shipping charges. I indicate that I am willing to go with the latter, provided that it does result in speeds approaching 6.0 Mbps.
Now they need to forward me to sales, and again the call gets dropped. I eventually get back .. and get forwarded to sales, but before we can complete the transaction, the call is dropped.
I have never before dealt with a firm that has been this incompetent in dealing with a matter so close to the very heart of the product or service that they offer. I will be changing my service to another firm. Comcast does now have local broadband, and ATT/Yahoo is another option.
Recommend this product?
A few years ago, a senior corporate executive at Earthlink was charged with fraud. Based on my experience, as described here, I feel that I have to conclude that this firm is either using fraud in its customer service, or elese it is extremely incompetent. I urge the reader to consider other sources for broadband service.
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Amount Paid (US$): 40 month
Version Number or Year: 2004 (first year of service)