PLDT – Why Do You Make Me Hate You So Much?

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks and I’ve been meaning to write an update but I’ve just been that busy. I was in Hong Kong for 8 days and meant to write something about that but the time has eluded me. Also the company I work for has been bought and it’s not immediately clear what that means for my future.

Anyway, last month, I was a little bit late in paying bills – sheer laziness, no other reason. I paid my monthly PLDT bill a couple of days after the due date. But here’s the thing – it was due on a Thursday, I paid it on Saturday, the payment registered on their system on Monday, and then they still cut my service on Tuesday because essentially their systems are so fucking shitmongous that they couldn’t cross-process the information on time.

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Cignal TV Customer Service Is Such a Joke

Cignal TV is one of the satellite TV providers in the Philippines. They are owned by PLDT, the largest telecommunications company in the country.

Today we wanted to change our service from prepaid to postpaid. We were advised by the agent in our village to send an email to their support email – care@cignal.tv – together with the scanned application form and supporting documents.

So I did that.

Except the email was rejected. “Mailbox full.”

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Finally An Answer From PLDT

From @PLDT_Cares via Twitter:

We would like to inform you that based on the updates from our support group, you may experience some congestion, particularly during peak periods, in accessing international websites due to technical issues with our international cable links. Repair work is being undertaken by the international cable consortium. This involves sending specially-equipped vessels to the affected undersea facilities. We apologize for the inconvenience that this has caused. Thank you for bearing with us.

There’s no “may” about it. I’ve hit periods where things are so slow that domain names don’t get resolved, pictures on Facebook don’t load, and download speeds are slower than dial-up.

There is no word on how long these repairs are expected to take and, not surprisingly, no offer of a service credit for the extended periods of reduced service.

But at least it’s an acknowledgement that my issues are real and are being addressed.

UPDATE: Phone call from PLDT. Projected date to complete repairs on the cable is December 27th. And I will receive some type of service credit, from the date I reported the issue until the date it is repaired. So I’m less pissed off today.

Hey PLDT Your Internet Service Seriously Sucks

My internet service from PLDT is Fiber To The Home, supposed to be 100 Mpbs. I don’t know what’s going on lately but for the past week or two, it’s been horrendously bad between the hours of 8 AM and midnight every day.

I realized just how bad when the other day I was updating iOS apps through iTunes. The Facebook app update was 75 meg and it was showing me it was going to take 2 hours to download that.

I’ve heard of latency but this isn’t merely ridiculous, it’s bordering on obscene.

I ran a few Speed Tests just now (Sunday, December 6th, 2015, starting at 3 PM Manila time).  Any time of day, testing against a local server is just fine.

phil

It’s when I check my speeds against servers outside of the Philippines that things start to seriously degrade.

Let’s go around the world, slowly ……

Hong Kong:

hongkong

Singapore:

singapore

London:

london

New York City:

nyc

Don’t forget the Motor City:

detroit

Let’s end our tour in San Francisco:

sf

I suppose it would be funny if I wasn’t paying for this. Can’t wait to spend an hour on hold with PLDT and then trying to explain to them why this sucks. Right now I’m not terribly optimistic about receiving any sort of useful answer.

Back in the Saddle Again

pldt20151020a

Well it took a month but my internet speed is back where it should be now. I hope this is not just a temporary thing.

And without going into a lot of details, when using a VPN with a US west coast IP address, my download speed is 43.83, upload speed 42.07 – quite reasonable I think.

So that’s all sorted. At least for now. So now I can go back to dealing with my 99 other problems….

PLDT, No

Sigh.

After spending six months to get internet and a landline in my home – and only accomplishing that thanks to some personal connections – I feel like a bit of an ingrate when I complain about PLDT publicly. And yet, the service from them isn’t cheap and I think it’s only right that I should get the service I’m paying for, right?

So here I go again ….

I have Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and a contract for “up to” 50 Mbps. On September 20th and 21st, my speed was averaging around 2 Mbps. I called the hotline, complained, got a ticket number. And then ….. silence.

Over the course of the past 8 days, I’ve resorted to sending emails to their customer service address and tweets to their @PLDT_Cares Twitter account. On average, it takes them a day to respond through either channel.  But I do not want to spend 30-60 minutes on hold being told every ten seconds how my call is important to them. If my call is so important to them, then hire enough staff to reduce your call waiting times!

Since I run a global helpdesk, I know what’s involved in doing this kind of work, and the biggest surprise is that I never receive any automated “we have received your email blah blah blah” acknowledgement. I have no idea what system they are using to manage their tickets but they do not have an online portal.

Twice in the past 8 days they have responded by telling me, “However, we regret to inform you that as of now, the tools that we are using are currently under maintenance. Please bear with us, as we guarantee you that we’ll have this checked once our tools are up and running.”

The other responses have all been variations on this one: “We have endorsed this matter to the assigned team for special handling. Rest assured that your request for repair will be handled with utmost attention. Kindly keep your lines open for any possible feedback.”  That one was seven days ago.

Five days ago I got this: “We sincerely apologize for the delayed response. We have forwarded this concern to our designated support group for checking. Be assured that all efforts are being exhausted to process your request at the soonest time possible.”

Four days ago I got this: ” We understand your discernment regarding this case. However, despite prevailing circumstances, it is not our intention to let you feel that way. Thus, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you. In response to your concern, please be informed that we have forwarded it to the assigned group for checking and immediate rectification. Be assured that necessary actions are being exerted to address your concern.”

A few days ago I was so frustrated that I tweeted a poem to be sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Caroline No.”

Where did my internet go
Where is the speed I used to know
You made me lose my happy glow
Oh, PLDt no

Yesterday, after one week of getting just 20% of the speed I am paying for, I filed a complaint with the DTI, copying PLDT on that complaint. So far, the only response back from DTI has been an automated acknowledgement of receipt of my email. (DTI has an automated response system but PLDT doesn’t?)

(Want to know how to file a complaint with the Department of Trade and Industry, which seems to be the group that has authority here? Check this page.)

So this morning another email from PLDT: “Our sincere apologies for the length of time it took us to resolve your concern. Please be informed that your concern has been forwarded to our assigned group for proper handling. Rest assured that this is going to be treated with utmost priority.”

And this afternoon a phone call from them, telling me the exact same thing, that they’ve forwarded this to the proper department and that I should wait for a call from a technician to investigate.

I’m still waiting. And I’m still getting less than I’m paying for. Here’s a speedtest from 5:45 PM tonight.

speedtest 20150929 1745

(Also, before you ask, I also run the test at 2 in the morning, when everyone is asleep, no one is using the internet and the TV is turned off, and I get similar results. And yes, I disable my VPN before conducting the test.)

Now, to be absolutely fair to PLDT, 12 Mbps is much faster than the service I had from PCCW in my last few years in Hong Kong. And it’s much much much faster than the six months in Manila when I had no service and was relying on LTE tethering and internet cafes. I can get by on 12 Mbps. But if I’m paying for 50, I want 50 (or at least something in the 50 neighborhood).

If I’m only going to get 12, then I only want to pay for 12.

(I was going to write more about the quasi-useless modem/router they’ve given to me. For now, I’ll just say that I’ve been told that I can only use LAN port 1 for internet, ports 2-4 are reserved for Cignal TV and cannot be reconfigured. I am – now – running everything through a VPN to keep what I’m doing on the internet anonymous as I don’t know what PLDT’s policies are towards net neutrality, government cooperation, censorship, etc. I’ll save the details for another post in the near future.)

 

If You Use PLDTHome Fibr, Please Read

So I’ve now been using PLDTHome Fibr for week. 50 Mbps plus VOIP “landline” plus 94 channels of Cignal IPTV.  I am of course completely thrilled to finally have decent internet at home. This past Thursday, for the first time in months, I was able to do my night-time conference calls from home instead of staying in the office till after midnight. I think in terms of price, it’s not that far off from what my mother pays in New York for a similar package from Verizon (though she gets about 3 million cable channels).

The service is not without its quirks or annoyances. Dealing with PLDT customer service to try to get answers is an exercise in total frustration.

Or you can try going to the PLDTHome Support page. Does it tell you how to solve problems? No. It answers questions like “what is Fibr” and “what’s the difference between Fibr and DSL.”

The web site is pretty horrible in almost every aspect. If I click on VAS, which I am somehow supposed to know stands for Value Added Services, all it tells me is that I can subscribe to Cignal TV or get a web cam from them. The support page tells me I have the “option to avail of IDDSL” but nowhere on the website does it give any explanation of what IDDSL is or how to avail of it. The web site appears to be 100% geared towards signing up new customers. Even after logging into the web site under the “My account” link, there is virtually nothing worthwhile that one can do. It’s simply astonishing to me that the largest phone company in the Philippines in 2015 can have such a useless web site.

So I’m putting my experience here in the hope that some other PLDTHome Fibr user will stumble across this page and maybe even be able to answer a question or two for me – which basically comes down to this: if you’re a PLDTHome Fibr subscriber, are you just toughing it out with the equipment they’ve provided to you or have you done some upgrades on your own?

The Modem/Router

Oh I am hating this. It is a Fiber Home AN5506-04FG. The interface for this thing offers very limited options.

I can name my home network anything I like as long as the name starts with PLDTHOMEFIBR. Why? Why do I have to have the name of my ISP as part of the name of my home WiFi network? I have never heard of anything like this before.

I cannot change the login name or password for the router. I am stuck with the default. Granted, I have to be on the network in order to log into the router, but if Elliot Alderson from Mr. Robot comes into my house and I give him access to my WiFi, he will be able to pwn me within seconds.

I cannot set DNS at the router level. So I cannot use my Roku box to access Netflix since you need to set DNS or a proxy at the router level. (I can still watch Netflix on my PC but I’d like to be able to watch it on my TV. Yes, I know, first world problems.)

I can view a list of WiFi clients but cannot knock any of them off the network, nor can I place speed limits or quotas on them.

Most important – each time I reboot my PC or reboot the modem, it’s a frigging nightmare. It comes back on, the lights all light up, I get internet – for one minute. Then it loses the internet connection. I try everything I can think of (terminal window, various “ipconfig” commands), nothing has any effect, until 5 or 10 minutes later when it just decides “okay, I’ve had my fun, I’ll let him have internet again.

So my big question is: If I go out and buy my own Fiber to the Home (FTTH) modem/router, one that is theoretically more configurable and more reliable, will I still be able to get an internet signal, or is PLDT using some sort of configuration that requires this specific modem in order for me to connect.

Incidentally, I’ve got 50 Mbps, but on Thursday, when there were heavy rains, speed dropped down to well under 2 Mbps. According to the guy who installed the system, this should never happen.

I’ve sent individual questions to the PLDT customer service email address. Each question gets the same answer. “This is in response to your inquiry on DNS modification. Our sincere apologies for the delayed response. We forwarded your account to the department in charge for handling. Rest assured, necessary actions are being carried out to address the matter.”

VOIP Phone

Yes, I know I can use Skype or other similar programs for cheap international calls. But just for the hell of it, I thought I’d enquire about IDD packages from PLDT. They told me about their “Plan 50” that gives me 15 minutes of “free” calls (how could they be free if I’m spending 50 pesos) to 5 different minutes. What’s 15 minutes? That’s less than one call to my mother. So I asked if they have any plans with larger allowances. I asked that question 8 days ago. The response I’ve received so far?  “We have received your email which pertains to your inquiry regarding IDD plan. In this connection, please be informed that we have already forwarded your concern to the assigned department for proper handling. Be assured that all your queries will be accommodated. Please keep your line of communication open for any update.”

I’ve also asked them to tell me how much per minute to call the USA if I don’t sign up for one of their plans. “We forwarded your account to the department in charge for handling. Rest assured, necessary actions are being carried out to address the matter.”

PLDT provides just one VOIP phone with the account. There are two phone jacks on the back of the modem. There is no way to add additional wireless handsets to this. PLDT will rent you a wired phone for P500 installation and P250 a month. Or you can get some poorly explained wireless deal with some sort of SIM card that means you can receive calls to your landline or place calls from your landline anywhere in the Philippines. It’s also P250 a month. And I don’t want to receive calls from my landline anywhere in the Philippines, I just want to receive them at home.

So I can buy a DECT system and then have two base units (the PLDT one and the one I buy) sitting in the same room, or shove the PLDT one into a box and into a closet.

No questions on this one.

Maybe I’m wrong to expect perfection on all of this or even any of this. But I’d at least like to know what my options are.

UPDATE: Posting this jinxed me. I woke up at 2 AM, couldn’t fall back to sleep, sat down at the computer, no internet. Rebooted the modem, rebooted the computer, “internet state down.” But curiously enough my VOIP phone was still working. Called PLDT hotline. Had to listen to a list of things to try when my DSL isn’t working. Had to listen to the entire thing before I could punch in a number to talk to a live person. On hold. “Your call is important to us, please hold.” One hour of listening to that same message every 10 seconds. If my call is so important to them, why am I on hold for an hour?  Finally gave up.  Sent an email to customer care (via phone, LTE), back to bed. Woke up this morning, internet is restored, no reply from customer care, not even an auto reply with a ticket number.