Short-circuited: Verizon's hurry up and wait

When carriers hold your business hostage, all you can do is shake your fist and yell at the sky

If Verizon's data services were a restaurant, the menu would have a half-dozen vague choices, there would be a single waiter for the whole dining room, and the food would take three months to arrive -- and you'd be served something you didn't order.

I've been doing WAN designs and build outs for more than half my life. I've assembled more frame-relay networks than you can shake a stick at, alongside point-to-point WANs, MPLS, fiber, whatever. The constant problem throughout all those years and all those networks was the carrier. Place an order with Verizon for a T1, you might get an install date a month out, which I suppose could be reasonable. However, carriers appear to treat those install dates as the day to start -- not finish -- the installation.

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Case in point: I have a few 100Mbit circuits that I need dropped into data centers in two different states on the East Coast. Verizon is the carrier for both sites, though the local offices are presumably run by different managers and different working groups. However, both sites are already a month behind their installation dates, with no promised end. At first they couldn't find their own gear in one building, then they invented a problem in another building regarding a wiring closet that didn't exist. In that same building, they couldn't find the conduit that had been there for years and already carried a half-dozen Verizon circuits from the demarc to the data center.

They followed this up by claiming the necessary hardware wasn't available and it might be a month or more before they could install it. Keep in mind that I'm writing this at the end of June and the orders were placed at the end of April. At this rate, I'll be lucky to see functioning data circuits by Labor Day.

Yet there's no alternative. There's nobody else to call. There is simply no other option than to shake your fist at the sky and decry the de facto monopoly granted to Verizon and the other regional carriers. They have absolutely no interest in providing better -- or, some might say, even adequate -- service. Why should they? There's no competition. What am I going to do -- run the fiber myself?

The upshot of all this is that projects get pushed back continuously, existing contracts expire, leading to budgeting problems, and progress is hampered. While it's not incumbent on the carrier to move heaven and earth to get circuits installed as soon as possible, it should be incumbent on them to at least give the appearance of trying.

Sometimes, they actually do. Of course, those are the times when they shouldn't, like during an ISP build I orchestrated many years ago. Initially, an order was placed with Verizon for six PRI circuits to handle dialup customers. A few weeks after the order was placed, it was cancelled when the owner of the ISP negotiated a deal with a wholesale dialup provider. Verizon was immediately contacted and the order was vacated -- or so we thought.

Imagine my surprise two months later when I was building out the data center and a Verizon box truck pulled up to the loading dock with a full fiber termination rack and a few techs. I explained to them that the order had been cancelled several months ago, and there was no need or desire for these PRI circuits. They pointed to their work orders and the fiber rack and said that there was nothing they could do. Despite my protests, they proceeded to install a $75,000 rack of equipment in the building demarc -- for no reason whatsoever. For all I know, that rack is still sitting there, waiting for someone to order a PRI or two.

It's expected that any sufficiently large company will have bureaucratic problems here and there, and that red tape exists even in smaller organizations. However, you'd be hard-pressed to find such a wide and lengthy track record of problems than with Verizon in particular, and most regional carriers. (Note: Qwest has consistently provided the best carrier interactions I've ever experienced.) If there were any competition in their markets, they'd have been kicked out long ago.

But all the wailing in the world isn't going to change anything. Verizon folks will read this and laugh, probably forwarding it to their colleagues for a little levity at the expense of their long-suffering customers. I get the feeling they put customer orders up on a big corkboard and occasionally throw a dart in that general direction. Whatever order it hits either gets thrown away or processed, depending on the day of the week.

If you're reading this for insight on how to get Verizon to deliver on its promises, I regret that I have none. Every tactic I've tried has failed miserably. Once your circuit orders disappear into the black hole, all you can do is wait with bated breath. If you're listening, Verizon, a few of us business customers would like an explanation.

This article, "Short-circuited: Verizon's hurry up and wait," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com.

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