Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Ordering LUS Fiber Service

When my blue fiber announcement came in the mail I immediately rang up the new LUS call center to sign up and lay claim to an installation date. A comfortingly local accent answered the phone, was overwhelmingly solicitous and had clearly been trained to explain what he was doing and why in patient detail. I'm the sort that likes understanding every little bit so I enjoyed the experience. YMMV. :-)

The order didn't go overwhelmingly smoothly. They've just started up the ordering process, and clearly have in place an elaborate computer database setup to methodically walk through the necesarily complex details involved complex services—getting you registered, address, identity validation, phone numbers, porting, 911 service, email address, passwords, confirming question (like mother's maiden name), multiple channel packages, and other seemingly endless bits and pieces. I managed to find oddnesses in the software. (My street name has a St. before it & a St. after & my name has a St. before...that software can be confused by such I know from long, unhappy experience with university databases--my guess is that the software designer didn't live in South Louisiana...)

I didn't buy a simple bundled package, but broke it up into high end internet, a middling channel package, and a minimal landline phone order. The folks on the other line handled all that quite easily and when you order you should know that you can unbundle almost anything...including buying phone services a la carte. Just ask. One thing I forgot to ask about in my eagerness was static IP addresses--a beta tester told me that he's got one and that it is supposed to cost $5.00 a month. If you want such just ask. My experience was that the folks on the other end of the line either actually know all the details or when they are uncertain just ask...a good norm in a service center.

At the end of the afternoon after a couple of callbacks all was done, and I was and remain an exceedingly happy man. (Who now has to take that Cat 6 out of his trunk and actually finish rewiring the house.)

For those who've asked for the nitty-gritty details...remember you did ask...here is the long version:

The Process:
  1. You get a nifty sheet folded to make it into a two page (4 page front and back) promotional brochure. The brochure comes folded in half to make a mailer the size of a large postcard. It's sealed with tape and tucked inside you'll find two informational sheets with all the prices and the most current channel lineup.
  2. You eagerly tear it open
  3. Get with your significant other/s and decide on what you want
  4. Call the number on the flyer (99-Fiber)
  5. Transverse the phone tree to get to hold of one of those new LUS service reps. Punch 1 and then 1 again... I got a very nice guy with a distinctly local accent who was both methodical and very solicitous.
  6. They go through a process to verify that you really are in the area that is currently open for service. This verification apparently is separated from the sign-up process so they ask for a few things a second time later on. (But my guy told me he was going to be asking again and apologized in anticipation. I was in no mood to worry about such.)
  7. Once you are confirmed as a potential location they want to know who you are. You get to verify your identity, in my case by SSN, and get an identity in their system. I provided a password and the answer to a standard security question.
  8. Then you get to give your address and billing address. That should be easy. But in my case having a "St." in front of the street name caused problems. We eventually hit on a series of letters that the database acknowledged existed. (Saint needs to be spelled out.)
  9. Part of confirming your address is that you need to have one that the 911 system acknowledges. So the address needs to go in and be accepted in that database. We wrestled with that a bit too...as it turns out that field doesn't like the other "St." —the one that denotes "Street." (That one needs to be left off entirely.) Coming out of that series of retries we got a "unexpected error" error. —Another of those ever so informative computer messages. He couldn't get unhung and asked to call back.
  10. He got unhung and called back. We managed to duplicate the error. Great for bug tracking. Frustrating to my service guy. He let me go again.
  11. My callback was from a nice, brisk, and apologetic woman who apparently was the supervisor. Anyone who has hung on technical support lines for hours recognizes that I'd had a level upgrade... She muscled past the buggy screens and finalized my setup.
  12. At that point I "just" had to specify my order. That was complex. Even the most minimal land line has to go through a lot to port a number and set up all the required 911 details. I asked a lot of questions (being who I am) about service details on the internet side, got the fancy 50 meg symmetric package, and a digital DVR box with one premium channel...That involved a lot of talk.
  13. She set me up on the spot for an inside install and let me know that the outside installer would be coming but would ring us up first.
  14. She apologized for everything one more time, checked my particulars and let me go. Done!
It's a lot to get hooked up with, validation details, all those services, myriad supporting details, and to setting up two appointments all at one blow. Especially since I was so eager. But my experience with folks on the other end were that they were methodical with and unfailingly helpful toward even for an over-eager beaver like myself.

I eagerly await.

9 comments:

monkeyboy said...

Maybe I missed it in the details but how long did they say it would take for them to install?

John said...

Hi Monkeyboy,

They didn't say and I didn't think to ask.

There are two stages from the customer's point of view: outside and inside installation.

First, outside installation (pulling fiber, splicing it at the "bullet" on the street, installing the boxes on the house, electricity hook up, splicing in the box, connection testing up and down the line) At my house this took about 2 hours with some time apparently spent training a new guy--my install didn't run into any glitches. No doubt some folks' will. I'd guess it would take 1 1/2 to 2 hours when they are rolling. You do not have to be there for this stage to happen.

The in-house portion, for which someone does have to be there, will probably be VERY variable and depend on what services you purchase, whether you want to use the older connections from AT&T and Cox or want new entry points...and whether you are going to pay for above the minimum interior wiring installation. The accessiblity of your house to retrofitting will also vary enormously.(My house is a one-story almost 4 feet off the ground (an old creole cottage style) with an accessible attic. 2 story, slab built homes with a low or inaccessible attic are much more "challenging." Presuming you get internet (and I do so presume. ;-)) LUS will have to at least drill a hole of some kind to get your ethernet cable inside. In short, I don't expect there to be much predictability on this part of the install.

Speed said...

Congrats John. I honestly think I'll do a little dance when I get my announcement in the mail :-)
I really look forward to hearing some things about the service, like the claim from Huval on how much better even SD channels look than the competition. I've also been calling 99-Fiber to try to find out information about their DVR service. They couldn't tell me much about the DVR as they said it was a system designed for them (although I'd still like to know if it's based off of Passport Echo or some other DVR software).
Also, one thing I just thought of is what LUS considers local calls. Cox has made it to where anything 337 is considered local and I wonder if LUS is the same.
Again, congrats on getting the ball rolling on your service!

John said...

Speed,

I too will be curious to get my hands on the actual setup and software. Commercial DVR service is usually junky by my standards--I've had TiVo since TiVo 1 and can't for the life of me figure out why other companies can't do half so well with that example in front of them. So I hate the Cox DVR. I suspect I'll hate the LUS DVR too...but am getting it for the HD capacity. I'm hearing from friends of friends that TiVo is supposed to work with LUS...but it is unclear to me just how. Cable Cards?

I also don't know about phone service. But I haven't paid much attention since I don't use my landline for any sort of long distance anyway. Anybody out there know? It'll be an issue for folks with relatives in Broussard or Sunset.This is always an issue for folks with smaller companies. I know that folks out N. University at the interstate (near Grand Coteau) who are with CenturyTel have to buy a long distance package to call Lafayette without long distance charges.

Speed said...

John,
I started Tivo with the series 2, and then my 1 year of prepaid service ended right when I got a HDTV. I then went with Cox's DVR as I didn't want to spend 600 bucks on a series 3 and fight with cablecards when I could rent a box and not have to worry about buying another one if it dies. However, I'm in the same boat as you in that I hate the Cox DVR. The only thing that has kept me sane using it recently is that they updated the Passport Echo software and now it runs a lot quicker. However, I am still baffled that any DVR doesn't give you the season option to not record duplicates.
Also, when I was calling LUS about the DVR a few weeks back, I spoke to someone there that deals with the technical aspects and I asked her about cablecards and using Tivo and she said that since it's IPTV, it probably wouldn't work. I seem to remember some article somewhere quoting Huval as saying it should work with a Tivo and they were going to do testing, but I guess that never happened.
And I don't care much about using my phone for long distance either, but I was just curious about whether their phone service will be a better option than Cox's phone as they seem to be around the same price.

John said...

Speed,

TiVo 3 HDs should work...anything that accepts a cable card should work. The IPTV aspect should not be a factor differentiating the service as far a secondary recording device is concerned. Confirmation of this is that folks are using TiVo 3s with Verizon which is also IPTV. But... there have been some issues with these TiVos having trouble with the higher power that the ONT (box on house) put out. The solution: _Attenuate_ the signal! Make it weaker. :-)

Course maybe I don't understand something crucial. Maybe LUS is using some other flavor of IPTV. Wouldn't be the first time I wasn't in the loop.

This is one of these places where LUS would be well served to talk a little more.

Speed said...

John,
I hope you're right. And I must be confused about how their TV service works. If it's IPTV, wouldn't the digital box have to communicate using IP technology to receive the channel? Or maybe TiVo would work with their analog service. If you don't have digital, don't they convert the signal to analog and distribute that throughout your home like regular cable works?

Speed said...

Oh I forgot to mention...these last few days they have been marking the underground lines/pipes down our neighborhood. Could that mean...

John said...

Bout TiVo: I hope I'm right too...:-)

And yes, marking the underground pipes was the first thing I saw 'em doing back when the started the underground portion near the mall...look for LOTS of little flags. Good deal!