ISPs with US-based Help Desks
January 10, 2004 1:41 PM   Subscribe

I just found out that Earthlink, whose customer service I've always loved (they stay on the phone as long as it takes, and are always patient and nice), is moving those jobs overseas, so I want to drop them and switch to somewhere else. Is there any way of finding out online or otherwise if another provider (or any company in general really) is using US labor? (a little more inside)

I've been with them since '96 (mindspring), but hate the fact that people are being fired, especially when i pay a lot each month for DSL, and before that for dialup service. I only found out about it from Lou Dobbs on CNN, who I don't like, but am glad he's focusing on all the jobs being lost.
posted by amberglow to Computers & Internet (27 answers total)
Amberglow, do you use this criterion to select all the companies you deal with, including buying only products completely manufactured in the US? Anyway, I have no idea how you'd find that information.
posted by billsaysthis at 2:14 PM on January 10, 2004

Check with your local ISPs, depending on what city you live in. Most of them have support staff, as well as equipment and services, set up locally.

Your cable company will also be using local staffing instead of overseas support, do to various regulations that control them.
posted by benjh at 2:16 PM on January 10, 2004

Yup. Cable Internet through Comcast is US based, without an overseas customer support staff.

Billsaysthis, I think the reason amberglow would like to buy from within is because outsourcing company support centers takes away jobs from Americans, and damages our economy with the trickle down effect.
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:22 PM on January 10, 2004

Response by poster: I don't either, bill, so that's why i'm asking--I've resigned myself to the fact that goods are almost entirely made overseas, but services are different--too many people I know are out of work, and I think I should put my money where my mouth is...I don't buy domino's pizza because they support anti-abortion groups, so why should I support companies that send jobs overseas to save money and don't even pass the savings onto the consumers? My bill is not going to go down because they're using cheaper foreign labor.

I will check out local isps, benjh--Thanks--I know there are tons here.
posted by amberglow at 2:26 PM on January 10, 2004

Earthlink suxx0rz.

I use BritSys, a tiny global U.S. DSL provider which deals with the megacorp owning the local lines so you don't have to. Their support is awesome (the person on the line actually knows everything about the system, which means you can converse on any technical level, not just the entry level of Earthlink drones). I believe checking for your area and selecting the smallest company offering a plan in the most competitive tier is the best way. Small companies probably don't have the logistics necessary to outsource the labor, if you're worried about that, and are not in bed with giant telco/media holdings, even if the local carrier may be.
posted by azazello at 2:30 PM on January 10, 2004

Response by poster: And it's not that i'm incredibly noble or principled, but this got to me--I might stay with them if they passed the savings on to me but they're not. Investigating it after Dobbs announced it on his show made me go look, and I found out that they had already been outsourcing billing and sales already.

I'll definitely look for a small, local isp.
posted by amberglow at 2:33 PM on January 10, 2004

FWEIW.. the most recent time I talked with Earthlink's support was less than six month's ago. The conversation was with one very polite Newfoundler who could accept that I was not a total newbie, and he did not stick to the script. I am still with Earthlink, partly because of this encounter. Overseas may not mean offshores, but there was no false Iowa accent on this one.
posted by vers at 2:38 PM on January 10, 2004

Response by poster: I've always spoken to people in Atlanta in the past, and they never followed a script (maybe because i'm mac?). I guess that'll also determine who i can use for phone DSL.
posted by amberglow at 2:49 PM on January 10, 2004

A'glow: I see you're in New York. Does Frontiernet cover your area? They have US based support and, from my brief experience, it has been quite good.

Sidebar: I learned of Earthlink's sending jobs overseas the hard way. They've been at it for a while and it became frightfully apparent when the lower tiers of tech support suggested my dial-up difficulties were because I was not dialing a local number. In fact I was, yet they insisted that the real local number I should be dialing was 1000 miles away.

I exercise a similar application of values for the purchase of goods and services. It is difficult and sometimes I wonder if I am even doing the right thing. /end overly long sidebar

posted by Dick Paris at 2:49 PM on January 10, 2004

Response by poster: Frontiernet doesn't, Dick (they didn't recognize my area code or exchange) give me hope tho : >

I think i'll have to email all of the ones I can find that are options (Verizon is my local phone, but they're out--I know they outsource), and see if they respond.
posted by amberglow at 3:13 PM on January 10, 2004

I don't buy domino's pizza because they support anti-abortion groups

Sorry for posting this, but since the original poster brought this up, according to Snopes, Tom Monaghan has sold Dominos so he's no longer affiliated with them. So it looks like it's safe for you to eat their pizzas again.
posted by gyc at 3:22 PM on January 10, 2004

Response by poster: thanks for the update, gyc.
posted by amberglow at 3:25 PM on January 10, 2004

At work, I've had to deal with Earthlink support on numerous occasions in the past several weeks, and I can confirm not only their shipping of support jobs overseas, but an astounding decrease in the quality of support as a result.

In a recent effort to create an online store (using Miva Merchant, an experience I similarly do not recommend) I discovered that all links pointing to pages on the secure server were 404ing, due to an obvious misconfiguration on the server. An attempt to have the problem corrected via their "Live Support" function resulted in the following excerpt:

Phil S: Please provide me the URL link name that you are referring to.
Me: You can access our Miva store by going to [address]
Me: Clicking "Checkout" from there will demonstrate the error.
Phil S: Yes, the click event may not be called or written improperly. It is a coding issue.
Me: The link in question is automatically generated by Miva Merchant, however.
Phil S: No.

At which point "Phil" ended the chat. I decided to pursue an actual answer via e-mail, and received a response that failed to address either of the problems I had documented. When I responded as such, I was told my request was being escalated, and never heard from them again. Luckily, I was able to resolve the issues myself shortly thereafter.

As an IT professional for more than ten years, I have dealt with (and have been) tech support countless times, and have come to expect the following:

1. An ability to comprehend and use the English language
2. A degree of technical expertise greater than my own regarding their software and their hardware
3. A willingness to both understand the problem and work toward a solution with the customer

If my recent experiences with "Phil" (and "Gurunath" and "Rakesh") are any indication, Earthlink has decided its bottom line is more important than any of those requirements. Sadly, they are not alone.

amberglow: You may want to determine whether Speakeasy serves your area. I've heard nothing but good things from friends in Seattle, Philadelphia, and elsewhere.
posted by Danelope at 3:58 PM on January 10, 2004

Response by poster: Speakeasy does--now I have to see if they outsource. Thanks, Danelope.

And, apparently, I'm a racist for posting this question, according to andrew. WTF?!?
posted by amberglow at 4:03 PM on January 10, 2004

AIT is an internet service provider whose drones work right down the road from me. Their dialup service isn't so hot (thank God for DSL) but they seemed nice enough.

Their lobby gives me the creeps though.
posted by konolia at 4:53 PM on January 10, 2004

You're not a racist. This is a real issue. I especially dislike it when someone from a call center is instructed to lie as to their whereabouts.

I asked a mellowly-accented CSR recently where he was, just out of curiosity. "North America," he answered - rather strangely, I thought. I mean, who answers that? Where in North America? "Uhhh...outside New York." Really! I'm in New York! Where outside New York?" Silence.

Reprehensible. Just tell the friggin' truth.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:57 PM on January 10, 2004

The guy at Netgear tech support was very honest about his whereabouts, in Madras, India. And then he gave me some of the worst tech support ever:

1. "Can you just install it on another computer that has Windows ME?"
2. "I would take it back to the store"
posted by inksyndicate at 5:27 PM on January 10, 2004

My brother works for a large US telecom services company.
He was given an urgent last minute assignment about 9 mos ago.
A large American insurance company had spent millions to relocate their CS call center to India.
They didn't hide that very well, and panicked as more and more customers dropped them in protest.
They were scrambling to bring the call center back to the US.
I find a lot of hope in that.
If properly protested, this awful trend can be turned reversed and made obsolete.

As for the large companies defending such overseas relocations as a necessity of staying competitive, I would suggest that the same cost reduction can and should be be achieved by reducing executive compensation to be in line with exec packages worldwide.

Grossly excessive US exec compensation has been discussed at least as much as offshore relocation. Why the two issues are not linked is quite baffling to me.
posted by Fupped Duck at 5:59 PM on January 10, 2004

FWIW, amberglow, I'm a long-time Earthlink (previously Mindspring) customer too. Two months ago I had to chat with Earthlink's technical support. "PraveenV" in EarthLink LiveChat started my chat session, then passed me off to "NeelimaP," a Broadband Technical Support Representative, who then passed me off to "SujathV" in Broadband Customer Support, who then passed me to "AsraS," who was, said SujathV, the "best suited site operator." "AsraS" gave me a link to download a fix, and then abruptly ended the chat session without waiting to find out whether the patch worked (it did, but if it hadn't, would I have had to go through all those people again?). Getting this far took almost an hour. (I am not making this up; I am copying this information directly from my transcript of the chat session.)

Their answer to my initial request ("I have DSL but my computer is in the shop and I have to use an old one that isn't configured for DSL, so can I have more than 20 hours of dial-up this month?") was a flat "No." This is not the Mindspring to which I was once completely loyal. I have an order in with my local cable company, which is merely the least ugly of my options. My new service should be up and running on Tuesday.

My objections to Earthlink's policies regarding off-shore outsourcing and premium pricing are exactly the same as amberglow's. And I'm glad to get the update on Domino's, too.
posted by Alylex at 6:19 PM on January 10, 2004

Reminds me of a recent call to Dell I had. I spoke with someone with an accent thicker than molasses on a cold day, and it wasn't a southern accent. It was Indian.

So I get a follow up letter, of course with a return address of Texas. My name, my address, and my city, were all spelled wrong. Despite the fact I spelled them on the phone 5 times.

Really, how many of the letter S are in Cincinnati? Dell thinks several, as I apparently live in Sinsinati.
posted by benjh at 6:24 PM on January 10, 2004

Response by poster: So I've been investigating, and, Covad, and Speakeasy are so far the 3 frontrunners--any good/bad stories about them?
posted by amberglow at 7:24 PM on January 10, 2004

I'd recommend Speakeasy, Speakeasy, Speakeasy. I've been getting DSL through them for years, and they've always been pretty ruling with the service and whatnot.

However, if you're actually in New York, I'd be remiss if I were to not tell you that the folks at are beyond awesome, and you should definitely check them out, as well.
posted by majcher at 9:21 PM on January 10, 2004

Response by poster: I emailed all 3, so whoever gives me the best response is it..I'm in manhattan, so is the small, local option. All the prices are really the same, altho covad has a cheaper option.
posted by amberglow at 9:27 PM on January 10, 2004

Had trouble with Covad in the past.

But that was back in the 1997-1998 shakeup (nice euphamism for nearly all DSL providers except the babybells going under). And it was in Chicago. I honestly don't think my experience is systemic, but I pass it along in the interest of full disclosure.

Note: This is not your question, so maybe you definitely want DSL. But I've had both DSL and cable modems for home use and I've found cable to be faster and more reliable. It'd be worth exploring, since I know Comcast serves NYC and has good service (I can't answer the "do they outsource?" question).
posted by zpousman at 1:01 PM on January 11, 2004

Comcast does not, as of yet, offshore their broadband tech support. In fact, after buying ATT's cable/bb ops, they've been opening some large call centers right here in the South Bay (Morgan Hill or Gilroy).
posted by billsaysthis at 2:49 PM on January 11, 2004

U.S. Comcast (among other companies) customers are also supported in Canada. And yes, we were instructed to be as vague as possible when asked where we were based.
posted by deborah at 10:05 AM on January 12, 2004

Response by poster: I'm not sold on cable--I have friends who always have a slow connection, and people say that the more people in your area that have it, slow it down--sharing the pipe or something...
posted by amberglow at 10:16 AM on January 12, 2004

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