So, it turns out that the Westell Versalink 327W, the modem/wireless router combo that I use to connect to the Internet(s) via Verizon aDSL, is a known piece-of-shit.
I've been having occasional problems with dropped wireless connections since I got the thing, but in the last few weeks it's become really, really bad. Previously, I could power-cycle the Versalink, or switch wireless networking on and off via the Versalink's web interface, and get signal back, but now even that's not working.
So I call Verizon's help line - 1 800 567 6789, for those of you playing along at home.
(Parenthetically, I should explain that I've been a Verizon DSL customer since the week after it became available in my Manhattan neighborhood, and I have generally been quite pleased with the quality of service and the technical support that I have received the few times that I've needed to call.)
I get a very nice technician on the phone. I explain to him the problems that I've been having, and to forestall the ritual first-level tech support script run-through, explain that I have already power-cycled the Westell Versalink 327W as well as all connected PCs, be they wired or wireless, have run internal troubleshooting, and for good measure also sacrificed a chicken and waved it vaguely over the box.
We run through a little additional question-and-answer, and there is a strained silence on the other end of the line.
Uh-oh, I thinks to myself. Here it comes.
"Well," the tech begins tentatively, "you're having hardware problems, all right. Frankly, this is a known problem with the 327W, and in fact we haven't been shipping these units to customers for the last several weeks..."
Fine, I say. Ship me whatever you've got that's decent as a replacement. I hear that Linksys makes a pretty good wireless router these days.
(In the background, on the computer with the working, hardwired connection, I am Googling "Westell 327W problem," which I should have already done, in retrospect. Ah, hell... 4,000 hits.)
It turns out that he can't do that. Doesn't have the authority. If he orders a replacement for me, and they have any of these defective beasts in stock, guess what I'm gonna get?
"But I don't WANT another 327W," I whine.
"Neither would I," he agreed.
He tells me that my best bet is to call Verizon Billing, open Monday-Friday from 8am to 8pm, and tell them that my modem is defective and insist on a non-Westell replacement device.
Because, you know, everybody in Verizon Support knows that the device I have is a piece of shit, but nobody has the authority, not even his supervisor, to authorize the shipment of a non-piece-of-shit replacement.
Here's a hint, guys: When your Customer Support is bright, polite, knowledgeable, and UTTERLY INEFFECTUAL, it's not very good Customer Support, is it? You've got a known problem and a system that isn't set up to deal with it -- in fact, is reinforcing the problem by shipping known-bad equipment as a replacement for known-bad equipment.
So I'll talk to the Billing Weasels on Monday. I wonder how they're set up to deal with disgruntled, technically knowledgeable customers?
In the meantime, the laptop (which I'm typing on now) is tethered to the router by a length of Cat 5 cable that, mercifully, I still had lying around the house. I, my wife, and both dogs have already tripped over the damn thing... only the cat, so far, is successfully avoiding the Cat 5.
Is anybody using Road Runner cable modem service in Manhattan who likes it? (shudder)