Nemo Memo
You Want REALLY Good Customer Service and Support? Call THESE Numbers!


My high-speed Qwest DSL home office Internet service performed flawlessly for an entire year, without any drops or interruptions. Then it rained, long and hard, with plenty of thunder and lightning. Our phone line started crackling and the DSL network became unreliable.

James from Qwest replaced every component in our phone and networking hardware during the weeks we continued to experience daily DSL drops. I have his personal mobile number, and when we need more on site help he sets up an appointment to update whatever is necessary.

One Friday he replaced our networking node (or whatever it’s called) at the neighborhood central DSL terminal, but our service was down afterward. I called Qwest’s toll-free tech support number. After a standard routine of unplugging, re-plugging, and troubleshooting, the agent rebooted the DSL modem remotely, and I was back online.

Two days ago I realized I needed to call James and thank him, finally, for making our network connection stable. I was in the swimming pool, and when I got out, Barbara said “John, can you get our Internet working again? We just lost it.”

We had stayed online for four full days (whoopee!) without an interruption. I had plugged our new DSL modem and new Linksys router into a new enormous uninterruptible power supply, at the suggestion of James’ colleague Rudy, a DSL line signal wizard. But that was not a permanent fix, so next week James’ supervisor will take over, and he’ll remain on our case until we are 100 percent satisfied.

In my work I service and troubleshoot a lot of local folks who have cable or DSL service. Comcast is very strong and reliable in our area (Tucson, Arizona), and Cox is almost as good. These companies split Tucson into two chunks, and each has roughly half the population as clientele. Qwest keeps getting better and better. Their installations have more bugs than do the cable guys, but subsequent service drops are much less frequent for most Qwestians.

We needed the rain, after years of devastating drought, so I’m not blowing a gasket about our DSL dilemma. Qwest, in the presence of James and his colleagues, both local and at their Idaho phone support center, are patient, well-trained, and thorough.

Barbara asks why we can’t migrate to Comcast, but that’s missing the point. Not being TV watchers, why pay $60 per month to Comcast when we can get the same Internet capacity for $20 – $25 less from Qwest?

It’s annoying to have these problems, but with quality in-person and phone service and support, we’ll remain loyal to Qwest.

* * * * *

Last night I was helping my mother and brother. He lives in Michigan and I am visiting her in the Chicago area. When he comes to her condo apartment, he’s unable to use his laptop for work or personal Internet, because my late father’s DSL service was not set up to share the network.

I went to Office Depot and purchased the same Linksys wireless-G router I now have at home, and installed it on Dad’s HP tower. It tried to connect, but I couldn’t get the PC to remain logged into Dad’s SBC Yahoo account.

Instead of taking a long walk on the beach as I did last summer, I called SBC/ATT phone support, and spoke to Abby in the Philippines. I’m always happy when I’m talking to people there, because their English is perfect and their tech skills are usually just as good.

She had me disconnect all Ethernet and power cables to the DSL modem and router, then shut down the HP for a minute. After rebooting, she walked me through the electrical and Ethernet reconnecting and powering up sequence, then we opened up Internet Explorer on the PC to 192.168.1.1, Linksys’ router administration address.

I thought Dad’s ancient DSL modem was the problem, but the model is recent enough to distribute service to a wireless router. Abby had me change a few setting here and there in the Linksys web interface, and justlikethat! I was wirelessly using my Macintosh PowerBook G4 via AirPort alongside the HP, and my bro can do the same when he comes to visit Mom at Turkey Time.

* * * * *

Al is a client and loyal Tucson MUGger who recently switched from AOL dial-up to Qwest broadband. I was out of town when this happened over the summer, and his brother-in-law or some similar relative helped him get it working properly. Bro-in-law also picked up a D-Link wireless router that neither of them was able to put into service. Enter Nemo.

I tried the usual shutdown/disconnect/reconnect/startup procedure on his D-Link, with no success. I called the company’s toll-free support line and immediately reached a smart guy in the Philippines. Yippee. He had me download and install a modem firmware updater that had to sit quietly and rest in the unplugged router for hours or days, I don’t remember which. Exit Nemo.

Back two days later, I sort of confirmed the updater was okay, but I called Philippines again for insurance. D-Link’s second phone techie had me reset a bunch of router IP info, reboot everything, and afterward Al was grooving wirelessly throughout his house, with much satisfaction.

Linksys’ wireless router installation procedure is so straightforward that Al could have donated his D-Link unit to TMUG, purchased a Linksys at full price, installed it with my help in person or over the phone, and still come out ahead, but dadgummit he had that D-Link and he was gonna make sure it worked because Bro-in-law said it would.

Am I correct that Linksys, Belkin, Netgear, and D-Link are the four major retail brands of wireless router? I think Kurt VanderSluis, my networking guru, recommends them in that particular order. Once any brand or model is working, it usually stays working more or less forever. Some routers are more robust electronically than others, and some are more ready for prime time rocknroll let’s boogie out of the shrinkwrap than others. A Linksys #WRT54G on sale for $50 is a screaming deal that is always available someplace in the United States, with comparable prices locally I hope for international readers.

* * * * *

First-rate technical service and support are available, if you are lucky. I hope the corporate strategy of employing qualified, articulate, trained overseas and domestic agents continues, because the alternative — web-only FAQs and Help guides — is worse, especially when you can’t go online to access them. India gets a bad reputation, which is somewhat deserved, whether on a language or skill set basis. Many Canadians are now supporting United States companies and users. Comcast and Apple each have hundreds, if not thousands of our neighbors to the north in this role.

I haven’t needed to call AppleCare for myself or my clients in a long time, which speaks well for Our Favorite Computer Company. When I did, the results were no better or worse than when speaking to reps from other companies, such as the ones mentioned above.

What are your percentages with mission-critical phone assistance, or Apple’s Genius Bar? Please sound off with any raves or rants pertinent to this topic (registration is free for our Article Discussion area below). My experience is not always so rosy, but Qwest, SBC/ATT, and D-Link get high marks for my recent no-room-for-failure queries. Your mileage will vary, but I repeat I think the trend is positive.

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About John Nemerovski

John "Nemo" Nemerovski is MyMac's Reviews Editor. He is a private and small group personal technology tutor in Tucson, Arizona, USA, with an emphasis on iPad and iPhone training, plus basic computing, digital photography, and Photoshop. Nemo is an accomplished music instructor on keyboard and guitar, and an expert artisan bread baker. If you are interested in writing reviews or requesting a product review on MyMac, contact him: nemo [ a t ] mymac [ d o t ] c o m.

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