Corporate control takes over again...

If there's one thing that I hate, it's when corporate idiots who know very little about how the decisions they make negatively affect their customers insist on putting in place policies that do just that.  This evening I spent a considerable amount of time talking with my internet service provider, explaining the exact cause of my problem, and asking what I could do to get past it.  We have Verizon FIOS, and generally have had good experience, with the exception of a few minor things.  Tonight proved to be one of those times.

The story usually goes that when I call for tech support (on the rare ocassions that I do), I have to fight through their voicemail system until I finally get to talk to a customer service rep.  I go into the call knowing that the person that answers the phone most likely is not going to have a solution to my problem.  This is mainly because I am a seasoned tech experienced in a wide variety of areas of the computer field, and have dealt with enough issues to be able to solve the majority of the issues myself.  But ocassionally there are things that I can't do, and I need to make the fateful call.  Most of the time is involves escalating the issue to the next level, or simply asking to speak with their supervisor because I'm just not getting anywhere with them.  This was how tonight's call went.

For those of you who are less technologically experienced, information is transferred around the internet using protocols (or rules) and ports (or communication channels).  The following is a list of commonly used ports, and what they are used for:

80 - Used for standard http communication for websites
443 - Used for secure SSL communication on websites
110 - Used for incoming email communication
25 - Used for outgoing email communication
21 - Used for copying files to a web server
3389 - Used for remote desktop connections

The problem that I had was that I could not send email from my work email account while I was connected to my home network. The reason for this is because Verizon blocks communication on port 25, which from the above paragraph you can see is the port that is used for outgoing emails. This is a big problem for not only me, but a lot of other people too who need to be able to send work email from home. I've known about this problem for some time now, and it hasn't really been a big issue until I had to send an email tonight and couldn't. My own personal website email uses an alternate outgoing port to send email on, so I've set up my email accounts on my computers to simply connect to that port. However, I can't change the port that my work email uses since our corporate headquarters controls those settings.

So I call Verizon FIOS tech support, and talk with a lady who obviously doesn't know enough about how the internet works to even be considered a viable option for the position she's been given.  At first she tells me that Verizon doesn't support data communication on port 25.  I told her that wasn't true since I could send email through my Verizon email account just fine.  She then says that 3 months ago Verizon changed things, and that I will need to change my settings at some point because it will quit working.  I explained to her that this still didn't make sense because I could send email through my Verizon account now, but can't send it through any other email account.  Essentially, if it works for one, it should work for others.  My next sentence provided further information as to why I could send email through my Verizon account, stating that it was due to the me authenticating with the server, allowing communication on port 25 to proceed.  She still insisted that Verizon no longer supports port 25, but to hold on and she would do some further checking.

After a brief hold, she comes back on the line.  She the proceeds to tell me that I need to contact the hardware manufacturer of my router so that they can unblock port 25.  In the same sentance she stated that Verizon is the one who blocks the port, but that my router manufacturer could unblock it.  At this point I couldn't believe what she was trying to say, or that she was even attempting to get me to believe it.  I responded with an explanation of what she just told me, and my reasoning on why that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  After listening to me, she agreed that it didn't make any sense.  A brief pause, and she asked me again to hold.  She came back and began telling me that there was nothing that Verizon could do to unblock the port, and that I needed to contact my corporate email server and have THEM allow me to communicate over port 25.  Once again this boggled my mind as to how she could even make a statement like that, and once again I explained it back to her, and she agreed with me again that it made no sense.

Towards the end of the conversation I further impressed upon her the knowledge that I have about computer networks and data communication.  I named off all of the above-mentioned ports, only to get a reply from her that she "doesn't know anything about port 80".  How can someone who is supposedly trained to deal with internet-related issues not know about port 80?  It's only the port that is used whenever anyone goes out to a website, and is the most widely used port on the internet.  I was astounded at the pure ignorance that I was dealing with.

Now, normally it takes a while before I ask to be transferred to a supervisor or someone higher on the food chain.  But as you can see I was getting absolutely nowhere with this lady, and I couldn't explain things any clearer than I already was.  So I asked to be transferred, hoping that the next person would understand what I was saying.  Her reply was that the person she transfers me to won't be able to do anything more than what she has done.  She then proceeds to tell me that during the majority of our conversation she has been messaging a Tier-3 tech who has been providing the answers for her.  Again, I didn't know what to say, other than this.  I told her that not being able to do something was different than having a policy that you're not allowed to do something.  I said that what she and her Tier-3 tech were doing was providing false information to Verizon's customers, with one of them knowingly doing so if what she was telling me was in fact the truth.  I then proceeded to inform her that I knew for a fact that this was indeed the case because Verizon business accounts do not have this limitation...only residential accounts.  Therefore, if port 25 was not blocked on business accounts, it is strictly a policy that it be blocked on residential accounts, and not a limitation that they have no control over.

At this point I again asked to be transfered up the chain.  She put me on hold, claiming that she would transfer me to a supervisor.  I should have known better, and ended up finding out that this was not going to be the case.  Instead, she transferred me to the billing department who had no clue what I was talking about, let alone how to fix it.  It is my belief that this was intentional and not simply a mistyping of the extension, but I obviously will never be able to prove it.  It just seems a little to coincidental that this is not the first time that something like this has happened in one of my calls to Verizon.  At any rate, I immediately asked to be transferred back to the tech support team, and specifically asked to be connected to a supervisor.  He apologized and stated that the best he could do was get me to the tech support department, and I would have to ask for a supervisor once connected.

Once I got tech support again, I again explained he situation.  The guy understood where I was coming from, and proceeded to pull up the notes from my previous conversation.  He then informed me that the lady I was talking with was indeed told by the Tier-3 tech that they were not authorized to unblock the port, and that it was a upper management decision to take that ability away from them, not alimitation of the hardware.  This was considerably different than what she relayed to me, which is the reason why I asked for a supervisor in the first place since I knew that she in fact knew nothing about what trying to convince me of.

In the end, my port is still blocked, I still can't send emails from my work account from home, and I apparently need to clear a block of time out of my day when I can elevate my issue up through the internal chain of command to a VP of support, from what I was told.  It's truly sad that we as customers have to go through this process when, if it wasn't for us in the first place, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, and all the other ISP's wouldn't even be in business.  We spend an enormous amount of money with these companies, but yet we have to deal with someone in a suit who thinks they have all the answers to put policies in that negatively affect so many people.  I could honestly see if I was running a web server or a mail server from my basement, racking up bandwidth numbers that rival Facebook and YouTube.  I can completely agree with limiting service to those types of people.  But to not allow someone to connect to their work email server, preventing them from accomplishing legitimate tasks is completely uncalled for.

11. October 2011 22:29 by Admin | Comments (0) | Permalink