Alice DSL support is atrocious.

Rant time children.

For the last few weeks my DSL connection to the internet has been having some pretty annoying problems. Very specifically, the WAN (The connection from my home to their servers) is dropping intermittently and comes back again after a minute or so. How often it will drop varies. I’ve seen it do it 3 times in 10 minutes and I’ve seen if happen once a day. I do know it’s the WAN specifically because I have a router with DD-WRT which can show me exactly what the connection is doing. I also know because I’ve had this exact same problem 2 years or so ago, and after a lengthy investigation back then, they eventually realized the problem was on their end. The problem back then was resolved after 3 months and a dozen support calls or so.

The nature of this problem is likely to be almost invisible to the average user, but for someone who likes playing games online, this is a show stopper. I can tolerate being disconnected once from the game, but once it happens 3 times in 15 minutes, I give up in frustration usually.

So you can imagine my dismay when the same exact issue cropped up a few weeks ago, because  I remember last time getting Alice DSL (My ISP) to fix this took an enormous amount of effort on my part, just to convince them to look in the right direction. The reason for this is because their first and second line support is atrocious and it becomes even worse when one does not speak good German.

The first problem one encounters is that they will actually refuse to speak english on their standard tech support line. It’s not like you happen to always fall on the odd person who hasn’t learned a word in english. It seems to be a company policy not to speak to customers  in english. After speaking to at least 12 people in their first line support, I find it impossible that not one of them knew even bad english, especially given that every other german I’ve met does, and that all Ggermans learn them at school. There can be no other explanation than that they’ve been instructed not to speak english at first line support.

This is obviously very discouraging for their non-german customers which brings me to my main suspicion that Alice DSL does not care about solving your problems, but primarily about getting rid of you. If they can do that quicker by fixing your problem, all the better, but if they can get rid of you by not allowing you to even report your problem, fine as well. Btw, if you mention that you do not speak german, then your only option is to have some of their english tech support people call you within 1-2 hours via phone appointment (and I think, only during business hours). Good luck if you have stuff to do in that time. Better drop everything and wait for the call.

But even broken german is usually not enough. Much of the time I can somehow speak well enough to make my point and  get someone to look into it, but then they will start using some fairly complex words I’m not familiar with and half the time at least, I’ll have to ask my wife to take over.

If you somehow manage to get past the hurdle of language, then you still have to deal with them not knowing what the hell they’re doing.

So as I said, I’ve got a problem on the WAN. This is the first thing I mention, as well as the fact that I’ve had this exact same issue before and it was on their end back then. I also mention that I’ve called before and we’ve gone through basic and advanced troubleshooting. Much of the time, they don’t care so back to basic troubleshooting we go.

Basic troubleshooting of course means that you’d better not be running anything other than MS Windows and Alice-approved hardware. Anything and everything else is absolutely not supported. GNU/Linux? Not supported. Third party router after their modem? Not supported. It doesn’t matter that the problem might be entirely unrelated to the hardware or the desktop, if you have anything that is not MS Windows connected to your network, your Alice support is liable to be revoked. So before you even think of calling Alice support, reboot to windows (reinstall if you don’t have any) and connect their modem directly to your computer and run their crappy installation disk. Otherwise, no support for you.

One time, at my 4th or 5th call to Alice support in 2 weeks or so, after I’ve already replaced modem and had some backend troubleshooting done by them, I called to report the issue persisting and got transferred to second line support again. There was a guy who refused to speak a word of English (of course) and demanded to know if I have a direct connection from my PC to the Alice modem. I told him that it didn’t matter because the connection was working just fine until now and I had already tried connecting directly to the model without success. He insisted in learning if I had anything connected and I said I had my own third party router. After some back and forth in German that I couldn’t really understand well, I passed to my wife to talk to him. He had her go look at the router, which I’d already told him is third-party, and tell him if it had “Alice” written on it. After that, he denied helping us further until we disconnected everything and connected only Alice hardware. And of course then we’d have to call Alice again and get a different technician…

Not all support techs are like that, but there are enough that are, and what inflames the issue is that Alice support refuses to open a ticket to track the progress. I’ve asked multiple times for a ticket number or something so that I don’t have to explain the same thing again and again, or go through the same basic troubleshooting steps every time, but they tell me it’s not necessary. Rather, I would call, and if I managed to get to someone who realized the problem was on the WAN connection, they would do “something” (They wouldn’t tell me exactly what. Usually they mentioned “restarting this connection” or “initializing that line”) and then call them back if the problem happened again. The problem would happen again, I would call, and then there was a high probability I would end up with a tech who just didn’t want to work that day, and start looking for excuses to avoid looking at my problem.

The latest of such excuses was that I was running Windows 7 English. I had my wife on the phone and the tech had her go on my workstation to check the windows settings. This is after we explained that this is the 9th time we called and we’ve already checked all that. Due to there not being a ticket open of course, he could just choose not to believe it, and rather have us check the same basic things again. Unfortunately, the settings the technician wanted to check on my workstation were in English and he couldn’t give my wife the correct instructions. His solution? “Call us back when you’ve had Windows 7 German installed”. At this point my wife hang up the phone in frustration after telling them that we’d rather switch ISP first.

To add to that, apparently the tech support was extremely patronizing to my wife, as if talking to an idiot, so there’s that as well.

And if you think that’s a one-off case, I will note that I’ve had the same exact troubles 2 years ago. Back then, they even sent a tech to my home who finally acknowledged that the issue was on their end. This after replacing virtually all Alice DSL hardware and making me run through hoops with my LAN.  After that, finally the problem was fixed (and I got a ticket number), but this time I couldn’t even get this far.

After 9 calls to Alice with no success to even to get them to listen to the issue, we’ve had enough. All those “call us back if the problem persists” wouldn’t be as bad if we didn’t have to explain the same thing again and again every time, and then still get a few techs that insist on taking us through basic troubleshooting in order to find an excuse to deny service. I should also note that calling Alice support is a charged extra (Yes, you pay them to have them fix their own problems) by the minute and the minimum wait on hold is 5 minutes.

Aaargh.

So I’m still with the same shitty issue. My wife refuses to speak to Alice DSL support anymore (and I don’t blame her) and would rather switch providers altogether. And after 9 calls to support, I doubt we can get Alice DSL to even look at the issue.

The problem is that we don’t know what ISP to go for. I’m excluded some obvious bad choices such as Telekom, but there’s still a lot of options left. So if anyone is in Germany, perhaps you can offer some advice. I’ve been thinking of checking out Cablesurf.de which is a small provider that seems to have the highest speeds and rating on Speedtest.net but my wife is not liking this idea because their small size might mean even worse support from Alice (doubtful but who knows).

If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

And any other fellow expat: if you’re not a good german speaker, stay the hell away from Alice DSL.

 

8 thoughts on “Alice DSL support is atrocious.

  1. I used to work for a small DSL ISP in the UK. Is your line resyncing when the drop out occurs? Also check what speed the line is syncing at. Are you using DSL filters? If not, get them and install them on every line in the house that has something hooked up to it. Also check for noise on the line. Hook up a phone and listen to it when you take it off hook. If you hear crackling it means a noisy copper pair. A line technician from the company who manages the copper infrastructure should be able to diagnose the line from the point it leaves your house to the telephone exchange. It's this "last mile" of copper where most of the problem occur.

    1. Cheers!

      I used to work for a small DSL ISP in the UK. Is your line resyncing when the drop out occurs?

      I'm not sure. Sometimes the WAN connection drops completely (I see a new uptime for it on the router) while on others, I simply get no incoming data for 1 minute but then continues.

      Also check what speed the line is syncing at.

      Any idea how to do that?

      Are you using DSL filters? If not, get them and install them on every line in the house that has something hooked up to it.

      I don't have anything like that. Any names to look for? Or should I just search for "DSL filter" on Amazon or something?

      Also check for noise on the line. Hook up a phone and listen to it when you take it off hook. If you hear crackling it means a noisy copper pair.

      Will do, but I'm guessing the tone signal might make this difficult.

      1. Not sure where on DD-WRT you find it. When your DSL connects, first the line has to 'sync' at a speed both the exchange & your DSL modem can handle. This speed is variable and can change from day to day depending on conditions (weather, electromagnetic interference, technician moves your copper pair to/away from a noisy "trunk" etc..)

        Next, a PPP connection is established which travels from your telephone exchange through Alice DSL's (more likely the company who does all the copper infrastructure.. would that be Deutche Telekom?). If, during the PPP connection, it can't establish, that means Alice DSL would have to trace the problem. More than likely, Alice are a reseller of DSL from the company that does all the copper/network infrastructure. (Here in the UK that's BT)

        Dig around your DD-WRT. See if you can find PPP logs from when it drops.

        Oh and yes put ADSL filters on everything. You can find them at computer shops or online. They make it so that voice or other frequencies on the phone line are segregated from the data frequencies on the line so you don't get interference. Hope this helps!

        1. Something to add here…

          If you put DSL filters on everything, your telephone and internet will simply stop functioning. They have a slightly different DSL format here along with a different phone system. Essentially, once you have DSL, you can only use 1 filter and connection (regardless of how many sockets you have around the house). This drove me insane when I first got out here…firstly trying to find DSL filters and secondly the time to work out that they don't work here.

          With regards Alice. I was relatively lucky, but I did have similar dropouts occasionally and always required them to re-initialise the line on their end (I think they have some crap, underspecced hardware that locks ports up).

          Best thing I ever did…switch to Vodafone DE. I know, I know…I was shocked too. But VFDE is offering VDSL 50mb

          They provide telephone over SIP, so if you want to use your own router…you need to buy the advanced package (another 5 euro a month), but I have managed to get through to English speakers each time I have called…albeit being put on hold for them to find one for me. Oh and their support is freephone to VF customers.

          I couldn't recommend them highly enough athough, as the saying goes, YMMV.

          Cheers

          1. Ah. My DSL filters are a Y-jack with one end for DSL (where DSL modem plugs into) and another end for a phone. Perhaps, in Germany, the frequencies are different? In which case the filters won't work at all?

            Aren't Vodafone the ones who did all the tax dodging, offshore tax haven stuff?

  2. Why is everyone getting Alice DSL in the first place?
    They don't even exist anymore (where the website?!) yet people are still opening new accounts with them!

    They're the worst internet I have ever seen in the last years, and I was living in the "developing country" before which supposedly had one of the worst internet infrastructures in the world!

Comments are closed.