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Mac the BA DSL Guy
by justin 02:00PM Sunday Jun 25 2000
Ask the BA DSL Guy, Mac - Part I "On the Bell Atlantic DSL Help Desk"

My name is Mac the Bell Atlantic Tech Support guy, but you can call me Mac. I work in BA Help Desk in Houston Texas (far from Bell Atlantic home turf). So not only do we have to deal with the heat, and deal with humidity, we have to deal with cubes, and shift work..

Each day we login to our phone system, which keeps track of our time on the job.. two 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute lunch. (The phone system tells us the current call queue). We're all using windows PCs, and we have a web browser, but while we are on the line with a CX (customer, in help desk slang), our screen is captured and stored to make sure we're not surfing on company time. Big Brother is always watching! Otherwise we can surf whenever we want with the normal exceptions: (No porn, chatting, games, downloading, etc.)
Dress code is slacks, collered shirts (golf shirts and the like) and loafers, no sneakers please.

I am on Team "A", and I deal with dozens of calls each day. Inside our offices are 40-50 techs each shift. Many of Team "A" are inexperienced, and sometimes, sorry to say this, just plain stupid. BA Tech is just like George Carlin said about kids, "A few winners, and a whole lotta losers." .. Some have accents so strong that I can barely understand them, let alone a CX on the phone.

The sometimes twisted life of a BA DSL trouble ticket:

Everyone who calls here is placed in the queue. If there is a heavy call count you may have to wait 5-10 minutes. The best times to call are in the morning between 8-10am and in the afternoon between 2-4pm.
Avoid 8-11pm, because our database is usually updated during that time, so we have trouble getting at your line history.

Once your reach a human your DSL phone number, name, or username (usually DSL phone number) is taken from you and our system shows us everything that has happened with your account since the close of the sale. Past trouble tickets, escalations, and other information (name, phone number,
address and in some cases your Social Security Number) is there. But this history log is all we (Team A) have to work on, there are no other tools available to us, so dont ask us to run trace routes or test line quality, we can only give advice based on your line history!

If we can fix your problem, great! We are happy and so are you. but if it cannot be fixed over the phone your ticket will be ESCALATED. .. normally your ticket will be given over to Broadband (BB), a group that is regulated by the FCC. Once your ticket has been pushed to BB, a group in our office called Team B takes over. These are usually the
best people, (temps promoted from Team A), and can talk to BB where the normal techs can't.

Broadband will try and track down the problem by doing different tests on your line, at the frame, DSLAM, switch, GSP, etc to try and get you online.

Normally a BB member will call you within 48-72 hours to see if you are online and if not try and help out more. BB are union-ized .. they do not work for BA.. I think they really don't care to do more than the minimum to avoid getting fired. See the movie "Office Space" to understand this..

Now, BB is not the only place your ticket can go. Sometimes if an issue is on your computer and can't be fixed by a tech or a lead tech, your call could be transfered to Tier 1 (T1). T1 is based in Norfolk, VA and is part of BA. T1 is just another call center, but these guys are a bit more
experienced than the the first people you speak to..

If T1 can't fix you, they have the ability to transfer you to T2. Mostly we have no idea who or where T2 are, or what they can do. Rumor is that T2 is the CEO who can morph into any tech...

The last resort is if someone from T1 sends out a tech to your house and takes a look at the problem. Hopefully by this point your problem will be fixed. A tech to come to your home costs you about $120 bucks.

Have some mercy on us!

Large scale Tech support is the lowest paying sections in the computer industry. Most in our office make 10 bucks an hour, even though many people here have MSCE, A+ or other qualifications. The majority of people who work here are students, and who are computer literate but don't have
college degrees, just working class folks. At times, job training was just a few days, but it is currently two weeks and involves a small exam.

The turnover rate is high due to the fact that the company that has the BA contract uses a a Temporary-services firm to staff the office. We are all temp workers: No benefits, just the minimum hourly wage, thats it.

We are told to always be polite, and calls are monitored. You can be fired for treating a customer badly even though once in a while a CX will beat you up.

Current tech headache:

The PPPoE software that BA uses (WinPoet) and AOL 5.0 Plus doesnt't mix! The TCP/IP stacks are getting corrupted by AOL. Especially the TCP/IP DUA #2 VPN support. Never let AOL 5.0 Plus be downloaded if you can help it.. Rumors floating around are saying a patch will be released with the new build of WinPoet 2.0.2.

** If you have any questions or comments, let me know. If I can, I will do my best to answer them in some future column **

topics flat nest 

Character Counts 40,41,43
Premium,ExMod 1999-03
Humble, TX

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

Pardon my ignorance.
No, what I should say is "Help me reduce a part of my ignorance.
What is "BA"? I've assumed it was Bell Atlantic.
If so, why the office on Houston?
Personal requirements - such as availability, pay scale, etc? Other cost considerations? Hours?
Just curious. Thanks and good luck.

..needs sleep

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

Heh. I went back and clarified that.. not doing my editor job very well..
yep BA = Bell Atlantic.
yep BA uses workers in Houston!

Newark, DE

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

Well east coast wages are ALOT hire than in Texas most people in the south will work for 10hr where on the east coast u can't get them to work for less than 15hr with a 2k sign on bonus. Studies have shown that 1 out 3 Technical people on the east coast are truely good at what they do, that figure is more like 1 out of 10 in the south.

Lutherville Timonium, MD
Why Houston? If you want a good operational definition of the term "draconian", check out the State employment laws in both Texas & Virginia, especially those regarding the "Right To Work".
System BA outsourced the tech to Getronics/Wang, who in turn outsourced the staffing to a temp agency. Getronics/Wang is located in Houston, hench "Why Houston?".

I cannot give out my personal hours and days off (for privacy and retaliation from BA intrests), but there are three shifts. Day, Night, and Graveyard. All are 8 hours (8 1/2 with our measy 30 minute lunch). Payscale for techs starts at 10 an hour, which is not bad for this area of the world.

I hope that answers your question.

Still Waiting For My Flashcom Rebates

Brooklyn, NY
A really useful and informative insight into the "other side". Often insiders who post online have an axe to grind, and their posts tend to reflect their bitterness. This is not the case here. 3 cheers for Mac.

FWIW first line tech support in the computer/internet world is often outsourced to 3rd parties. And is generally not very well paid or satisfying, hence the high turnover and burn-out rate.

Nick Braak
Business Editor

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy


You are correct. There is a high turnover rate. I would guess somewhere between 60-80%. Thanks for the kudos!

Capitol Heights, MD
Hello Mac,

Let me clear up some of your problems with the
T2 question. Let me start by doing a process flow
map for you.

1. Trouble gets called into the trouble center in

2. If help desk technician can fix the problem
great, if not the trouble gets referred to Teir
I tech support.

3. This is located in VA (Norfork) to be exact.
The Teir I support is call HSS High Speed
Solutions Center. It is their job to locate
the possible cause of the dsl problem. If they
find the problem the process ends here with a
call to the BA Data Network Operations Center
Teir I support, to contact Teir II or to repair
the problem (get at tech out to the customer
location or to fix the internal network
problem). If the problem can not be solved,
a trouble ticket is put into the BA Data NOC.

4. Once the trouble ticket is put in a BA Data Noc
Teir I tech looks at the ticket and does a few
preperscribed test to find out line conditions,
and if the customer is in sync (has connection
to the ASAM (DSLAM)). If this test fails a tech
should be dispatched to repair the line fault
condition. If this test is successful this
becomes a no route trouble and is sent to a
higher level of Teir I support.

5. At this point the Teir I tech will see if the
customers MAC (Media Access Control) address is
in the Bridge table (ARP Cache) of the router.
If MAC address is there, a throughput test is
done to see if the customer has good
throughput within the network from the end user
customer to the router. If this test fails Tier
II is called in to investigate if this is an
ASAM (DSLAM), ATM Switch, or a router problem.
IF the test is a success, Teir II is called in
to investigate if the problem is being caused
by the router, the public ATM network, or the
6. If the problem is solved at the BA Data NOC the
ticket is closed out and the problem fixed.

Now there are only three problems that a customer can have. They are: No Sync, No Route, Slow
Throughput. For those who want to debate this,
Slow Throughput and syncing at the wrong speed, to
me are the same.

As you may have noticed I left out the use of the
term Broadband. This group no longer exsist as
Broadband. Broadband is now BA Data Network
Operations Center.

I hope this helps

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

Interesting report shuttle. I did not know that about Broadband. Is that new, and if so why has'nt it tricked down to us?

Capitol Heights, MD

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

The "Broadband" center was once known as The Bell
Atlantic Broadband Service Center or BABSC. The
Center underwent a name change to The Bell
Atlantic Data Network Operations Center or
BA-DATA-NOC (some even call it The BADNOC, but
that name is frowned upon). This is due to the fact that Bell Atlantic needed to define the
function of the "Broadband" center to provide a
clearer picture of its purpose. The term Broadband
was not descriptive enough, and was the source of
much confusion when it came to trouble tickets.
The term Data Network Operations Center gives the
correct picture of a center which contain many
groups and Tiers of support. The term teir I, and
teir II can apply to any number of technical
groups within the BA-DATA-NOC. Each piece of
network equipment has a tier I and II support
group. For example IU Activation, Network
Creation, SP Activation, and MCO are Teir I
functions. While Tier II is more concerned
about the actual network equipment: ASAMS (DSLAM),
(ADN) ATM Switches, Routers, Test Servers, and
(Public) ATM Switches. It can be said that once
you are at this point you will be handed over to
the Teir I and Teir II of the ISP, be it BAIS,
AOL, SNJI, or some other ISP. The Broadband name
gave the impression that you the customer was
handled in one continuous path of service from
your ADSL modem to the Internet. This is just not true, service happens as a result of a series of
hand offs and teir hopping: Ex. Teir I of one
group to teir I of another, then to teir II of
still another group. You get the the picture.
I must say that this can become confusing on
a trouble ticket, but the most important fact to
remember is that most of the Teir I folks are
inexperienced and undertrained, and the Teir
II folks are overworked and overloaded with
internal network infastructure problems.

This is still no excuse for poor service, but given time Bell Atlantic will be able to get its
people up to speed.

I hope this helps.

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

Quite a bit actually. If you don't mind I will ask Justin to add this your section to my report with the appropriate credit of course. This clears up quite a few gaps.

Of course I have heard of Data-NOC, and I do see reference to it now and again. When we transfer to Broadband Oasis says "Refer to BABSC". That now makes perfect sense. Thanks again!!!

Long Beach, CA
I really hate to nit-pick you guys, since you're being so complete in your explanations, but you keep spelling "Tier" wrong.
Otherwise, EXCELLENT job of reporting. I've done more Tech Support than I ever wanted to, and I know exactly where you're coming from.
Heard any good cup-holder stories lately ?
Regards, Jim

Capitol Heights, MD

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

Ok, I get it "i before e except after c.


Thanks Justin for giving Mac the DSL Guy this forum to describe his job and what goes on behind the fence. I would rather read that than all the posts that are beating up on Bell Atlantic even if they deserve some of it.

I was also interested in the post that was added by shuttle83 about the next level of tech support. I printed both posts to review again.

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

A very good insight of life in trench as a front line help desk tech. You were all professional with your report, kudos to ya. Been there and done that, I know your hands are tied and they should empower techs like yourself to do more. Although, BA along w/ other providers has room for improvement, however I'm glad they have extended your training to better understand the system you support which will enable you to provide better service to your clients.

Keep up the good work! "Knowledge is power!"
System I have the Infospeed DSL. Its OK, just slow upstream, but there is a problem with it. It seems that after being connected for anywhere for 15-45 minutes.....there will be a pause. This pause will happen for about 20+ seconds, sometimes i disconnect the dialup and reconnect because its taking way too long. Its bad while in the middle of hosting a game for friends or just plain surfing, where there is a pause after each CLICK.

The MTU is set to 1400. Buffer window size is 65355. And its PPPoE 1.4. And I did that fake IP address(1XX.1XX.X.X) or something like that for the NIC. I heard that windows has a patch, on RASPPPoE site, but did not run that. Short of using RASPPPoE, which is my last resort, what can I do?

And I asked one guy from BA support and he said that its the router or DNS updating itself, LOL.


If you are still using the WinPoet software, I would suggest uninstalling and reinstalling it. Yes, this sounds like a cop out, but on occasion this works.


Mountain View, CA

Re: Answer

Open your newsreader and add news.pacbell.net. Log in the same way you do for e-mail and you should be off and running...


Hamburg, NY

Browser Sticking? This may help!

This problem is usually caused by Windows hunting for a DHCP server. You didn't say what type of modem you are using but there is a fix that usually works for this. You are on the right track with the non-routable IP addx. Here is what we usually do to take care of this issue.

In Network Properties, you need to verify and tweak all 3 TCP/IP properties. The easiest way in to network config is to right click on "Network Neighborhood" and select properties.

a. Double Click{D/C} on TCP/IP (Dial Up Adapter) IP Address - Obtain Automatically
Wins Configuration - Disabled
Click OK

b. D/C on TCP/IP (DUA#2 VPN Support)
IP Address - Specifiy
Subnet Mask -

Wins Configuration - Disabled
Click OK

c. D/C on TCP/IP (Ethernet / Speedstream)
-this will depend on modem type
IP Address - Specify -
Subnet Mask -
Wins Configuration - Disabled
Click OK

d. Click OK out of Network Configuration, you will be prompted for a reboot at this time, after rebooting, you should see an improvement in your boot time (may not be noticable on all systems). But this should also take care of your browser hanging for that 20 seconds to 2 minutes every so often while browsing.

Hope this helps, has helped numerous people in the past and I am sure many more later

Have a great day.

Baltimore, MD
Your insigt into the other end of a phone is very useful. I get the idea that there is no set of routes that a user can follow for resolution. What I mean is that there must be some comonality to the errors that 1000's of users of DSL are experiencing. We could group them as:

1) Software related - not really DSL related but inevitable.
2) PC related - not really DSL related but inevitable.
3) Distance Related.
4) Line Plant quality (within distance but line quality causing failure).
5) Hub Port Failure
6) Modem Failure
7) Routing problems

The reason I think like this is that if we fall into a category and you tell us the path to resolution then we can help answer the questions and facilitate the process of escalation. I find it is helpful for an understanding of how the system works to best work with it. Maybe the errors are others - what can you see as major headings and what paths do the tickets follow.

Neil McAslan
EMail: Neil_McAslan@compuserve.com
System I learned a lot from your msg. I was with BA dialup customer for 10 years+ and was very impressed with their skills and knolwedge even it's midnigh shift. I wish and hope BA should do the same for DSL support stuff. I agreed the dsl support level needs to be beefed upto analog dialup support level.
Structurewise, BA needs backbone overhaul as well as DSL support overhaul in order to attract customers. voice over DSL is the key for BA's business today and tomorrow.
System I work for bellsouth dsl tech support and our situation is very similar. we do not have team a & b but 1 & 2. we do not call our customer's cx but cu. we also make 10 bucks and hour as a temp employee through an agency that contracts for a company that contracts with bellsouth to provide support. we also take alot of pride in assisting our customers but we are growing at such a rate that we only have 3 days to train our new techs before they are on the phones talking to customers. alot of us are very technical but most of those people have already moved on to other bigger and better jobs (high turn over rate). Since tech support is provided for free with dsl service there are not alot of resources being pulled for tech support salaries. Would customer's be willing to pay an additional $5 a month if they could receive top notch technical support?

..needs sleep

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

Anyone who values their own time, would pay extra if they were confident of saving time and hassle.

The drive to have the lowest price product has driven humans out of the customer service business and left dumb computers. Thats a false economy.. which is better for the US? a few customer service professionals, or millions of customers, spending hours of their own time project managing solutions to problems the company causes them.
Sure the *company* becomes efficient, but then the *consumer* has to do all the work and inefficiently as well.
MCI saves several million bucks by making it impossible to speak to a human in billing or customer service for longer than 2 minutes. In return for this $5m saving, all of MCI customers run the risk of entering "billing snafu hell", and often do, at enormous expense to their productivity, not to say stress. Thats stupid, thats the american customer service system.

Character Counts 40,41,43
Premium,ExMod 1999-03
Humble, TX

Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

For nearly 20 years, Bill Gates emphasized low prices with less-than-the-best in either
product-OR-service AND also letting the individual struggle along.
He became the richest man in America and is, therefore, credited with America's great economy due to our dominance in this technology.

Go figure.
System Ouch.

That really sums it up well. So now I'm sad. I can't name a single service I pay for (cell phone, telephone, LD, credit card, bank, electicity...) where I can actually call up with a problem and ENGAGE a human being in a productive conversation about said problem.

Your post is really depressing, but completely on the mark.

I did find an easy way to rectify my BA billing problem, I just went to the PUC and let them harass BA into calling me with a solution...



Re: Mac the BA DSL Guy

I was actually shocked to find a company that thrives on keeping customers happy. They are my cell phone provider, which will remain nameless here as I feel this is not the place to give them a plug. In the last year and a half, I had problems with my phone (not their fault, they sell them but don't build them) and both times, they replaced the phone, no charge, even though after it was out of warranty, I offered to pay. The second time, their rep even drove out to my place of business to personaly deliver my new phone. I had one billing error and it was immediately credited when I called them. Every time I deal with this company, I walk away a satisfied customer. Their people are helpful, knowledgeable, and very pleasant. I wish more companies where like this.
System welcome to my world....im a t3 in canada 4 BA
i gotta sell the stuuff
System Well Mac it sounds to me like your in Dallas. And as far as your team "A" techs, well both team "A" and team "B" have no clue what is going on (let alone the management is clueless). I just wish they would get rid of Compusa tech support(if that is what you want to call it).


First off.. the original post-er, you call yourself tech support and you don't even do tracerts... what is wrong with you?! Either you are too lazy or lacking,or Bellsouth(.. or whatever Bell you work for) sux0rz maj0r a$$!! D00d you aint a tech by any means. Second off, what is up with all dis departmental pinball going on? The way I see it it's like, well i'm too lazy to help and its not in my job descrip. so lemme transfer you to this dept. who isn't us and you may get help after being onhold for 10 or whatever minutes, and if not they'll escalate you to.... that is bull shite! I work for a major ISP and it's unfortunate that we deal with your FUCKT UP company!! I am proud to be a gatdamn uber'tech and it makes me absolutely cringe when I gotta escalate it cause its your stupid ass equipment and network that you are so reluctant to fix... cuz ya guys think you know everything!!! Anyways I'm done venting. It's just that I read the smack about us(**********) in these forums when people don't realize that we try our best, but we gotta deal with morons(vendor support) and worse off, have to adhere to their dumbass rules.

Jhon, Senior Technical Rep
'Some ISP... not AOL'

PS: Winpoet blows BTW. Use Enternet. I'd post a link, but that'd be illegal.