I think it's important when something goes well to make a note of it in the same way that we would complain about something when it goes poorly. I see people bitching quite a bit about BrightHouse and I've had my issues with them too but I just had a really good interaction with them and so I wanted to be fair and note that as well.
For the last several days I've been trying to trace down a very elusive problem with my Internet connection. I have two different computers here on my desk: one is a Mac and the other is a Windows machine. They are connected to my router in completely separate ways, one via Wi-Fi and the other is hard-wired into the router.
A few days ago I started noticing problems where I would go to some of my regularly-used websites, and my PC (which is the computer I use the most) would tell me that that site is "not available" or "could not be found". It would be like saying CNN.com was not available or MSN.com was not available. In fact, tonight MSN.com was not available!
The other things that would happen is I would go to a website and it would load only partially. It would be as if all the formatting of the website was removed. So I'd only see text and maybe some hyperlinks.
In speaking to BrightHouse several times over the last week we didn't have much luck troubleshooting the problem.
At one point I thought I might have some malware so I spent some of today getting that pulled out by the roots. (Actually handling the malware was easier than I thought it would be because I was able to go back to an earlier point on my Windows machine and restore it to the point where there was no malware.)
In any case, the mysterious browsing problem was not going away. I sat here and watched MSN.com be unavailable on both computers for a good 15 to 20 minutes tonight while I was on the phone with BrightHouse.
Also in my in my favor was the fact that BrightHouse came out today and gave me a brand-new router so that eliminated that as a potential source of the problem. I was still having browsing issues and the router was not the cause.
This is kind of an elusive problem because it would come and go--sometimes it would be on one computer and not the other and other times it would be on both computers and it was just very hard to pin down.
So, to be honest, I was kind of dreading dealing with a tech support rep over the phone at BrightHouse trying to convince them that what I was seeing was a real problem.
Tonight I got kind of lucky in a few ways. The first was that MSN.com refused to come up on both machines (which means it was probably not a problem at my house but rather "upstream" if you will). So that was good and it was refusing to come up for pretty long period of time--long enough for me to get BrightHouse on the line.
Also before I tell you about the call, I should note that I learned during all of this a few days ago that when you call the 888 number for BrightHouse, you get connected to a group probably in the Philippines. Those guys work for RoadRunner. When they take their notes those notes do not make it onto the screens of the guys here locally who work for BrightHouse; and so if your problem is of a more difficult nature and it gets escalated, chances are all that discussion you had with the Philippines group will not show up in the notes in your account at BrightHouse.
So you'll end up repeating yourself.
The number I was given for the local BrightHouse group handling Internet issues here goes almost immediately to a rep. That number is 727–329–2056. I hope you won't abuse it.
I called the number this time and got Kathy. I don't know her last name. She sounds like she might be a heavy smoker and of course that's totally irrelevant (sorry Kathy) but it might help somebody at BrightHouse know who I'm talking about.
If you're a BrightHouse manager and you know who I'm talking about, give that Kathy a big, fat raise. She was great.
The best thing that Kathy did was not assume that my problem was just like any other. Now to be fair I made it easy on her because I started off with a really good summary of my problem and some of the things that we had tried in the past. It so happens that I'm an Evernote geek and I take really good notes most of the time. Before I started this call I made sure to clear my head and write up a new summary of the problem as I currently saw it.
Kathy listened attentively to my summary and then clarified her understanding of what I had said.
Oh, one thing I didn't bring to the table was a lot of emotion related to this issue even though I've been beating my head against the wall and my hands against my desk for the last week over this thing. I guess I'm old and wise enough now to recognize that somebody like Kathy isn't the actual source of the problem.
So chock one up for getting older!
Kathy was fantastic because she didn't make me retrace all of those tier 1 tech-support steps that they always put you through. She merely asked me whether or not certain things had been done before and what I had tried. I felt like she was really on my side and she was working to understand the problem just as much as I was.
After we tried a few different things that didn't fix the problem, we were both nearly giving up when at the last moment Kathy noticed something in my account. She noticed that I am actually an EarthLink customer.
Of course I worked for EarthLink back in the early days as most of you know and I've just kept my account ever since. But I didn't think to mention it because I'm always calling BrightHouse and I just sort of feel more like their customer these days. EarthLink never contacts me anymore and I think I'm even paying BrightHouse directly.
So it's just kind of a weird relationship.
I also want to say that all along I've been suspecting that this issue was (sorry for techno jargon here--I'll clear it up for you in a second) a DNS issue.
DNS stands for Domain Name Server and it's the part of the Internet that resolves or translates the English word for a website like "website.com" into a series of numbers (aka: an IP Address [IP = Internet Protocol] that represents the actual location for that website. That keeps us human being able to talk about all our Internet adventures in English instead of numbers.
I'm not even sure why I knew this was probably a DNS issue. I was just seeing some weird stuff on my screen and that's what it felt like to me. Also I'd ruled out just about everything else!
Getting back to the end of my conversation with Kathy, she noticed that I was an EarthLink customer and that there were different DNS numbers they used than the ones for BrightHouse. Long story short [and I'm only including this detail in case someone else out there on the Interwebs has a similar problem one day], she thought it might be worth a try to force each computer to use different DNS numbers to see if that fix the problem.
I can't tell you how relieved I was when I saw how quickly MSN.com loaded after we made the change on the first computer.
Then I checked MSN.com on my other computer and it was still hosed.
So it sure looked like we had a fix. There's still a small question or two I have around this issue (like why it happend in the first place and how permanent is this fix of forcing certain DNS settings) but it looks like we got it fixed enough now that I can go ahead and get back to work instead of losing so many hours on this problem.
Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment at the end of all this (hopefully the end) to give a shout out to Kathy and BrightHouse for a job well done in a situation that could've easily been dismissed as just in my head or something too elusive to bother with.
Having been in that position myself (or close to it) at EarthLink, I know it's not always easy fixing everybody's problems and keeping all those customers happy.
I do know though, that when you get it right it's commendable. That's why I wanted to take a moment to jot this down. On the one hand if anybody else is having similar issues to what I had, maybe this will help them. On the other hand I wanted BrightHouse to know that I'm a happy customer and why.
And don't forget to give that Kathy a raise and/or promotion if you can find her!