ISPs who suck, ISP Hall of Shame, Telocity, NorthPoint DSL, DirecTV DSL

ISP Hall of Shame Inductee

Telocity via NorthPoint Communications/DirecTV DSL

ISPs who suck, ISP Hall of Shame, Telocity, NorthPoint DSL, DirecTV DSL

the phone company

Telocity via NorthPoint Communications/DirecTV DSL defunct

Personal agony: November 2000 to May 2001

Telocity offers Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), broadband over plain old copper wires like the one used for your telephone. As a matter of fact, DSL and POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) are usually provided on the same line. I was intrigued by Telocity because it provided A.) SDSL (Symmetric DSL - 784Kb/sec. upstream, 784Kb/sec. downstream which is good enough for hosting a small web site), B.) DNS name serving, C.) static IP addresses, D.) official acceptance of UNIX® and Linux boxes, and E.) a decent price.

Telocity first started sucking when I signed up in June 2000. They had a little checklist and when it was time to "order the DSL line" (approximately two weeks time), it appears that the provisioning process was so screwed that two weeks would become several months. The sucky thing is that they said nothing until I called them back to get an update on my account status.

After a couple of times of ordering and canceling, Telocity decides not to take orders unless they know they can fulfill them. Wow, what a concept.

The installation dragged on and on (three visits by three different technicians: two from PacBell, one from NorthPoint), the standard DSL headache. However, the do-it-yourself installation was a snap and Telocity even offers DNS name hosting for customers that want to run their own servers.

Telocity service, when it ran, was actually very good. They did have a tendency to lurch from one network outage to another, pretty much on a monthly basis.

One time (late November 2000, shortly after I got up and running) was an unannounced upgrade of their fiber backbone. A customer service supervisor phoned back later and explained that this was apparently a scheduled upgrade, but A.) they neglected to mention it to customers, B.) it knocked out service for 12+ hours, and C.) they didn't bother telling front line customer support. Good teamwork there, fellas!

Another time was a multiple day snafu in mid-February 2001, possibly a router or DNS outage that denied access to large portions of the Internet. No explanation nor apology has been extended despite the fact that I left a trouble ticket open with the specific request that I wanted to know what happened and that I was to be contacted by customer service.

Annoyingly, Telocity did not report service outages on its customer web site.

March 20, 2001 update

Patti Hart, Telocity President and CEO, is leaving the company to "pursue other interests." Someone at one of the DSL Reports bboards refers to Elizabeth Fetter as the "wicked witch of NorthPoint."

March 23, 2001 update - The Bataan Death March begins!

A rather gloomy development: NorthPoint Communications, the data competitive local exchange carrier (DLEC) files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. NorthPoint blames its failed acquisition by Verizon (NYSE: VZ), the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), who backed out. It's pretty obvious now that data services deregulation has simply given everything to the Baby Bells.

March 24, 2001 update - "You've got mail!"

I've been reading the news reports about NorthPoint Communications bankruptcy and guess what finally lands in the mail?

March 29, 2001 update - Network goes dark

On Friday, 29 March 2001, at 9:37 A.M. PST, NorthPoint Communications shuts down their DSL network, taking my computer offline.

AT&T (look - another phone company sucking!) bought NorthPoint's DSL network, but unceremoniously 86ed all of the network's customers. Tens of thousands of business customers as well as consumer ISPs like Telocity, EarthLink and MSN get screwed by Ma Bell. Hey, it's the phone company, why would anything ever change?

Here's what landed in my mailbox (that I accessed via webmail) after my DSL connection died four hours earlier.

March 29, 2001 update - But wait, there's more!

Amusing trivia: Telocity is using software from Critical Path (NASDAQ: CPTH), a company on the path to critical condition: falsified financial records, SEC investigations, internecine corporate strife, layoffs, shareholder lawsuits. All the things that win FC points.

Hey, I think I figured it out! Those Critical Path execs are on the same prescription as those Verado/FirstWorld/Sirius guys.

March 30, 2001 update - "Ding, dong, the witch is dead!"

NorthPoint President and CEO Elizabeth Fetter is gone, along with 700 Munchkins (71% of employees).

April 9, 2001 update

Telocity also has a customized NBCi portal which I did not use. NBC pulls the plug on NBCi (which was ultra-lame anyhow) and says they will roll up their Internet assets back into the mother ship (much in the same way that Disney pulled the plug on their portal).

Thanks for the FC points! sucks. sucks. sucks.

[Trivia: Critical Path hits a new 52-week low, trading at a measly $0.75 per share. They probably increased the dosage.]

April 19, 2001 update - Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Exactly three weeks after promising me that they ordered new DSL service from Rhythms, Telocity reneges. Gee, we're not in that old habit of promising before provisioning, are we?

I guess Telocity is not signing up with new DSL carriers, notably Pacific Bell (SBC Communications) and the possibly doomed Rhythms NetConnections. Both companies provide DSL service to my area (I can see the Rhythms and PacBell tags dangling from the telecom patch panel in my condominium building's utility room).

What's DirecPC? It's the Internet over a satellite dish (the same type that offers DirecTV television programming). Downstream Internet data comes across the satellite signal. Upstream is provided by an analog modem in the set-top box. It's not as good as cable modem or ADSL but it costs more. It's also not available until August 1 (probably be more like Christmas in ISP-speak).

It doesn't matter. I don't have line-of-sight to the southern sky; I have a very pretty grove of birch trees instead.

April 23, 2001 update

Former Telocity President/CEO Patti Hart is announced as Chairman/CEO of Excite@Home. Good luck, Patti! You're gonna need it.

April 24, 2001 update - Telocity telespams me

Someone phones me at home, a telemarketer. This half-wit speaks like Beavis, makes Jerry Springer talk show guests sound like Nobel laureates. The lamest thing is he doesn't even know what he's trying to sell me, which is DirecPC satellite network connectivity (now that Telocity has been acquired by Hughes). After I point out that I don't have line-of-sight to the southern sky, this very confused person says that I can get a $100 rebate, and then suggests that I sell the satellite receiver for a hundred bucks.

The weirdest thing is that he's not really trying to take an order. He's trying to get me to call a toll-free number (DirecPC sales, I assume). How lame is that? Telemarketing is all about taking an order. You can't let people "think about it". (In fact, this is a good strategy to deal with telemarketers. Tell them you're eating and ask them to call back a couple hours later. They never do.)

After chatting mindlessly with Beavis for a few minutes, I finally say that I want to talk to his supervisor. He says he'll give me toll-free number to talk to a supervisor. I say, "No, you have a floor supervisor; I'd like to talk to that person." Beavis covers his hand over the phone and starts chuckling with other people in the office (I assume one is Butthead); I can hear the "heh-hehs" in the background. He finally puts me on hold and a few seconds later, the connection is cut.

What a bunch of morons.

April 26, 2001 update

Telocity has an announcement on their customer web site that says that they have signed a deal with PacBell to provide DSL coverage. No word from them about my account.

June 9, 2001 update

My Telocity account appears to be closed now, including e-mail (via POP3 and webmail). Their web site's graphics and copy have been updated to reflect DirecTV/Hughes acquisition of Telocity. The service is now called DirecTV Broadband.

June 20, 2001 update - Bad publicity

NorthPoint Communications converts its Chapter 11 filing to a Chapter 7, the final straw. I think a Harvard Lampoon guy once wrote, "The only bad publicity is your obituary."

Coincidentally, DHL drops off a prepaid shipping box to return the Telocity DSL modem that I thought they forgot about. The enclosed letter from the Senior Vice President of Service Delivery warns me that I'll be billed $499 if I don't return the modem by July 15. They don't want the power supply or cables.

August 29, 2001 update

DirecTV Broadband, the renamed Telocity subsidiary of Hughes Electronics (itself a subsidiary of General Motors), has announced that it will be selling broadband access through the Circuit City chain of stores. This is not the satellite based DirecWay services, but just the DSL offering.

September 7, 2001 update

Okay, this is just about Critical Path, Telocity's e-mail software provider: Critical Path (NASDAQ: CPTH) closes the session with a new 52-week low of $0.26 per share, three cents above their intraday low (52-week high is $78.00). Shareholder lawsuits continue to roll in.

October 18, 2001 update - Make up your mind already

Apparently, the old Telocity DSL service is now called DirecTV DSL. Maybe next week it'll be called something else.

December 13, 2002 update - Friday the 13th

DirecTV DSL is calling it quits. Ninety days left for customers to migrate to other providers before the plug is pulled. Buh bye!

January 31, 2003 update - Lights out!

DirecTV DSL is starting to pull the plug on some customers.

the phone company

Last modified on Tue Dec 2 01:46:14 GMT 2003
Copyright © 1999-2003 Tara Hertz.
All rights reserved.

ISPs who suck, ISP Hall of Shame, Telocity, NorthPoint DSL, DirecTV DSL