RealTime IT News

DSL Providers Get Failing Grade

International research firm, ATLANTIC-ACM, Monday released a report slamming the customer service record of many of the nation's top DSL providers.

In its xDSL Market Sizing: Provider Report Card, ATLANTIC-ACM said while most DSL do an adequate job at customer service, their efforts fall far short of the level customers expect.

However, Judy Reed Smith, ATLANTIC-ACM chief executive officer, said DSL providers still have a chance to rectify the situation since the market for copper-based broadband offerings is expected to continue growing rapidly.

"The robust market for DSL services will continue to expand at an increasingly rapid pace in order to meet the exploding demand for high-speed Internet access," Smith said. "The report projects that DSL business and residential market revenue will exceed $10.5 billion by 2004."

"This do-or-die market, what will really distinguish the top-notch DSL providers from the rest of the pack is the extent to which they are able to remain focused on the customer's needs," Smith added.

ATLANTIC-ACM's research was based on 92 evaluations of DSL providers by their ISP customers. It found that Rhythms NetConnections, Inc. slightly outscored NorthPoint Communications Inc. , and Covad Communications Group, Inc. .

Regional Bells such as SBC Communications Inc. and its subsidiaries, Verizon Communications Corp., among others, scored much lower than the new data-based competitor carriers.

Despite the fact that DSL rivals to telecom companies received impressive scores in network quality and network availability, the study revealed that, in most other categories, ISPs are receiving mediocre DSL service from upstream providers.

For example, the average scores for all wholesale DSL providers fall below average in the areas of responsiveness of customer service, less than 4.9 on a scale of 10.

Eric Rabe, Verizon spokesperson, said customer services improvements are being made daily and DSL service is a new technology that is experiencing natural growing pains for every provider.

"You can always improve customer service," Rabe said. "We keep trying to do just that, and we've made great strides in improving customer service to commerce clients and consumers."

"When you rollout a complicated services like DSL access, it's a huge project," Rabe added. "The technical problems are comparable to when wireless phone services we're first made available. Customers complained about dropped calls, static, and limited service areas. But that's all changed now."

Rabe said the rush to beat cable modem providers to the broadband marketplace should also be factored into the ATLANTIC-ACM customer service report.

"We're heading in the right direction for improved customer services," Rabe said. "We've been lagging behind the cable rush to deploy broadband services. Now, we're reaching far more customers than cable. That can't be accomplished without a few growing pains"

Rabe contends that Verizon is at the top of the DSL supplier chain, so it's a natural destination for ISP complaints.

"ISPs in general complain a lot about big phone companies, seeing their services as a starkly independent resource," Rabe said. "While no one will argue that there isn't room for improving customer service, data carriers and ISPs would not have broadband services, were it not for incumbent providers."

For ISPs, it's more a frustration to resolve services issues, than bad customer service. The only recourse for slow or non-responsive service from an up