ISDN and the Art of Line Monitoring

The last couple of days have been spent helping Erin get up and running on ISDN. She lives in an area where DSL is not available and she’s got a terrible quality analog phone line that prevents a good modem connection. You’d think by now that the phone companies would have ISDN down to a science but we ran into an unbelievable number of problems.

The worst was that her ISP, SWBELL, is a long-distance call from her area. She had metro service on her analog line but apparently this sort thing doesn’t work on ISDN data calls. SWBELL was apparently well aware of this problem but didn’t think it worth mentioning until after she’d gotten ISDN installed, the analog line disconnected, and we’d spent hours trying to determine why things weren’t working. Needless to say, she’s no longer using SWBELL as her ISP. After finding a local ISP she discovered the next problem – the same physical wiring was used for her ISDN as had been used for her unusually noisy analog line. The ISDN line is now suffering from a variety of intermittent problem that have so far prevented reliable use and allow only minimal use of one B channel. SWBELL (the phone company, not the ISP) is now “monitoring” her line.

If you’ve followed the saga of NCC’s T1 problems you’ll probably know that “monitoring” never works. The last attempt by SWBELL to monitor our T1 for 24 hours took over a week. First they monitored the wrong line, several times they scheduled the right line to be monitored but later claimed no one had carried out the monitoring. Eventually they claimed to have found the right line and actually monitored it but did not log any of the data. “Monitoring” as used by SWBELL apparently means that someone just wanders by from time to time and checks to see if your line (or perhaps some other line nearby) is up. No automated logging is done and they never provide any evidence that they’ve really done anything. They claimed that no errors were detected during a 24 hour period. During the same 24 hour period our router log showed around 100 line drops pretty evenly distributed over the entire time period. Hopefully Erin will have better luck with her ISDN. Hmmm…

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