Inside Tech Support

An insider's view of the OOL technical support call center. I am an OOL techical support representative and I've created this blog to give you an insight into the workings of the call center as well as help you get inside the mind of the guy who is helping you.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Upload Cap

Ah yes, a subject near and dear to all the rabid P2P (Pirate2Pirate) app users. I'm sure you are all dying for me to spill the beans on what triggers the upload cap and how to avoid it.

But yet again us tech support guys are useless. We don't know that the limit is, the networking guys won't tell us. From a management viewpoint this makes plenty of sense. The reason why they have a cap is to preserve the limited upload bandwidth. If we tell you what the limit is, you will use the bandwidth right up to that limit and we would still have a saturation problem.

The good news is that after you are capped and call in, when you ask the rep what triggers the upload cap and he tells you he doesn't know, at least now you know he is not lying, he really does not know. And don't bother speaking with a supervisor, they don't know either.

Working conditions

Have pity on us, we work in a shithole. It's a depressing cube farm overcrowed with people talking loudly on the phone. The desks are bare, since there are no assigned seats who can customize their environment with pictures or other personal effects when you have no idea where you will be sitting tomorrow? You aren't even given a desk drawer to store your stuff in, you have to carry it to and from work (headset, manuals, recent training docs,etc). You have to supply your own pens, the PCs always crash and the monitors are 5 years old. They've upgraded the computers twice in the past 2 years but there seems to be no budget for montitors. Either the screen is scratched, blurry or dark. I need to find a crooked opthamologist who will swear that my eyes have permanent damage from having to stare at Cablevision's crappy screens for 8 hours a day so I can sue the bastards.

Higher speeds

I'm sure everyone has seen the Slashdot article about the 50Mbps
speeds supposedly coming down the pike.

We were told a few months ago that OOL has been upgrading the network (all that tweaking possibly causing the slowdowns we've been seeing?) and that by the fourth quarter we will be offering tiered service. We were told this will include the ability to run servers and it will include web space. We were told that "all we need to do is flip a switch".

I really doubt this. OOL has enough trouble running a 10Mbps network at top speed. Can we really expect them to wave a magic wand and suddenly run fine at 50Mbps???

I found the most interesting part of that article to be this:

In the initial targeted deployment of this high-speed service in Oyster
Bay, Long Island, Cablevision is providing a committed information rate of 50
Mbps, out of the available 100 Mbps, symmetrical services.

Right now we have 10Mbps down,1Mbps up. And that is why we have a cap, people use up too much of the limited upstream bandwidth. If it is symmetrical, meaining 50Mbps down/50Mbps up will there still be a reason for a cap?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Slow speeds

A lot of you have been complaining about slow speeds or rather a reduction in the speeds you used to have. You also complain that when you call in, tech support knows nothing about it and when you show them proof, they really don't do anything but reset and bypass your router and clear your cookies and cache.

There is a wide variation in speeds on the OOL network. I've seen ftp downloads from the OOL ftp server range from 400 kB/s to 1.1MB kB/s. It's a dirty little secret but management has an acceptable minimum speed. If the acceptable minimum doesn't live up to the advertised 3 times faster than DSL, tough. OOL is 3 times faster than DSL on average. If you are below the top of the bell curve, too bad. (<==Management's viewpoint, not mine, don't flame me now!)

Now what is causing these slowdowns? We have no idea. There is a culture of secrecy at Cablevision, everything is on a need to know basis. That is why when you call in with proof of your slowdown, we have no idea there is a problem because the networking groups (who I'm sure have tons of reports on all their systems and know to the kb/s what is the speed on the UBRs) don't tell us. The call center has to figure out there is a problem by analyzing call volume over a period of time. We then open an outage and we'll see it sit for weeks while the network groups do nothing. One day I'll come in and the outage is off the Outage board. Did they fix it? Who knows? But I doubt it and I'm sure I'll be getting some more calls from people in that area and I'll have to blame their slowdown on "There are no problems in your area so something must be running on your PC that is causing it".

It's not always our fault

Operating a computer is not as easy as turning on your TV. You do need some training to operate one properly. Unfortunately, unlike a car, you don't need a license to use a computer, but you should!

The number of compeletly clueless morons that call in and demand to have us fix their computer because it has a million popups is astounding (I didn't have this problem when I was on AOL!). PLEASE! Do us a favor and go back to AOL, we didn't make your PC go to all those porn sites or made you click on every toolbar you're offered. You messed it up, fix it yourself or pay to fix it.

Back to the car analogy, Your PC is the Car, OOL is the Road, the Website you want to go to is the Store.

Do you call up your Town's Public Works dept if your Car is running like crap?

No, you either fix it yourself or you take it to someone who has more Car knowledge than you do.

If you are having a problem with the Store, do you call up your Public Works dept and complain?

No, you would contact the Store.

Now if the Town put a roadblock at your driveway or the road has a bunch of detours that keep you going in circles, THEN you would call the Town.

In my experience, 75% of the PC related calls are problems on the customer's end but we're the bad guys when your computer can't get online and (after 20 minutes of troubleshooting) we tell you to contact your vendor.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Optimum status page

My OOL is down, why does the Optimum status page say "All systems go"?

The status page is useless. IMO it was created by management just so they can tick off a mark on a checklist: "Has online status page?" CHECK

The status page is only for large scale outages such as entire UBRs or mail issues. So if you are in one of the outages as described in How it works(99% of the outages) you can forget about finding it on the status page.

Such large scale issues are usually discovered by the call center and only when the queue shoots up quickly. Some investigation needs to be done to see why the queue is going up. When the Comm Desk , who monitors incoming tickets, finally figures out from the calls what is happening, they declare the outage and alert the NOC who alerts the group responsible. These outages are usually fixed quickly so by the time the status page is updated (by the call center who besides doing the above also have to post the issue to the outage board, alert the supervisors and page management), the issue is over.

You would think they would have better monitoring on such critical equipment but I'll save my rant on the useless networking groups for a later post.

How it works

On the various boards and mailing lists, I see many complaints like

I called in, they made me jump through hoops, I setup a tech to come and 3 hours later it came back on. Why didn't they know it was an outage?

A modems offline outage is declared one of two ways
  1. By the Network Operation Center (NOC). If 30% of the modems on a node are offline a ticket gets sent to the Communications Desk aka Comm Desk at the call center and they add it to the Outage board.
  2. If more than 5 people call in on the same node and their modems are offline, the Comm Desk will declare it an outage, create the ticket and alert the NOC.

In both cases techs get sent out into the field to investigate what is going on.


Welcome to Inside Tech Support. I am an OOL technical support representative and I've created this blog to give you an insight into the workings of the call center as well as help you get inside the mind of the guy who is helping you.

I've been working here for a while (hey, the technical job market sucks). The pay is bad, the stress is high and the schedule worse.The turnover is unbelievably high so that is why your YMMV when you call in. You might be lucky and get me or you might get Joe Blow right out of training who doesn't know a node from a doughnout.

Contrary to rumors and common belief, tech support is not there to blow you off but we are there to help.