Tales from the IT desk – Level 3, CenturyLink, Lumen fails

Thought I’d document for people what IT folk go through. Got a full answer, but no satisfaction, while writing this so there’s a near complete story here.

TL;DR – 19+ months of a project torpedoed. Days wasted at this point. Business as usual at every level.

The year: 2019, near the end of the year I got a call from Level 3 telling us we were maxing out our pipe and perhaps we’d like to consider fiber with them. We had an old bonded T1 for reasons that you’d have to be in the film production industry and have dealt with ISDN 128K voice recorders to understand. BRI v PRI. Ancient tech that somehow got standard and we had to maintain.

Should be noted I’m pretty sure the company we signed up with was Time Warner/ TW Telecom, which got bought out by Level 3. So for this article: Time Warner -> TW Telecom (rebrand) -> Level 3 (acquisition) -> CenturyLink (unknown) -> Lumen (rebrand).

I talked with two guys AM, KS about this and they attempted to figure out how a phone system was pulling 3mbit constantly when it was sitting there doing absolutely nothing. The L3 it guy circled in to investigate, basically the assertion that we were maxing out a T1 for the phones was dropped and the sales pitch for a gigabit fiber run with our phone system on it was proposed. We get handed off to JW.

The savings would have been quite a bit. BRI was costing us a lot (think studio recording early 2000s you’ll understand,) and fortunately we no longer needed it. We sat down and made a plan in January of 2020, they did the surveys, we were not in a rush because we had a contract on our current AT&T fiber, and L3 made a plan to install fiber, put our phones on it, then start charging for bandwidth at the time we started using it.

L3 goes away and becomes CenturyLink at some point here.

March 2020 we expected to have details and contracts but crap happened March of 2020 and that pushed us back. I think I was in the office a total of once a week for two months and that was entirely to reboot stuff and remotely work on a couple of computers that were in the next rooms. We’re talking Nashville Tornado that killed our building for a week and also Covid-19 lockdowns.

Things are a bit more normal and we’ve gotten things with CenturyLink worked out because we’re not letting them trench our parking lot. They say their install team is experts at it, I say they’ve got two poles and I have watched their install teams so go on a pile or no. May 2020 we’ve signed the contracts.

We get handed off to RH. I get an IP justification form for our class C and explain that since we own the class C through the company that was before Level 3, they own it there is probably no reason they have to have a justification form. We’ve got the C. No big, whatever. We have everything planned for a November fiber install, a December phone cutover, and a January data turn up date as February our AT&T fiber goes away.

Over the next two months they ship me boxes of customer premise equipment, I receive updates about various settings they’ve loaded regarding our phone system, status of orders, etc. They attempt to push trenching our parking lot again – the fiber would come on a pole across the street, trench across the street, through our parking lot, over our gas and water lines, before coming up onto a pole that then goes back into an access pipe – no, tell them it’s got to be the same path as the current fiber because I know their installers and I don’t want the building to be down for a day when they knock our water and gas out. I also don’t want a parking lot of 120 cars blocked as they trench.

Plans fixed, we move on.

October 2020, things start kicking in to high gear, I’ve got the IP assignment on our CPE, we’ve got a verification of all the phone transfers, we’re ready to send AT&T the cutoff notice for our fiber, and then things go silent. October 7, 2020 is the last I hear from anyone.

CenturyLink has been bought out or rebranded and is now Lumen

I start calling Lumen mid November to get a status update. I’d seen some AT&T subcontractors working on poles outside, figured they were ours, but wanted to verify. Guess what. They weren’t ours.

December 1st comes and goes, I’ll stress I was not in a huge rush here as our phones work and we had three months until the AT&T cutoff. I’d also had emails and calls in and did my side.

I called three times if I remember correctly to customer care and was given each time someone to leave a message for, which I did, and was never contacted back. Eh, Christmas… whatever

December 14 I email the customer care, it bounces around through a couple of steps and I get the incredibly helpful reply the next day to contact L – I email her and call her and that’s the last I heard of that.

I take Christmas off, and I also don’t bug them for the next few days due to the Nashville Christmas Bombing. We can’t even make calls in the city so my methods of communication are emails that are never returned.

During this time I’m contacted by a Lumen sales person C who doesn’t know what the deal is in Nashville and also gives me a couple of people to try and contact.

I contact a P, said fellow never calls back or responds.

I make some more calls to customer care and am told to talk with a woman we’ll call M. Call, leave a a detailed email. No call back, no response.

I forget how but I learn that a couple of the people from the start were working other jobs… maybe I stalked them on Linkedin or something, but pretty much everyone who had started was gone, or not on LinkedIn.

January I’m told to contact a YF, do, and bam it’s a human who responds and directs me to a man we’ll call H. I email him, get a Mansfield Care Inquiry response (I think he’s forwarded it and finally someone has contacted me) whoo hoo… contents of this were they don’t have any information and I need to contact my team… yes, they read the history of everyone I’ve talked to and told me to contact my team.

I contact YF who had directed me earlier and get the same thing “contact your account team” along with that JB is my account team manager. At this point from phone calls I’ve been directed to the Portal, which just does not load in any browser for my account.

I contact JB and H and JB is an auto responder for the rest of this. H asked AskCTL team to contact me and they told me to contact the Pooled Services Delivery Team and I’m given an address. Nobody responds.

Monday 1/4 I am promised by a CSR on the phone after 10 minutes on bad jazz music that I’ve got a person P2 who returns phone calls and will work this and I leave him a message and that’s the last I hear of that.

Given M again as a contact, didn’t realize I’d contacted M before. No reply.

Jan 11, 16 minute phone call on my cell (I’d been going into the office to call usually because my mic is garbage on my Note 8 for some reason lately) I’m directed back to YF who contacts H and JB again. JB’s out evidently. AskCTL tosses me a helpful note that I should contact them and reach out to the chat team.

H loops in W, J3 (neither of which reply other than an office auto reply.)

Wednesday January 13th, roughly two months since I’d started attempting to get a status update I get a random note from AskCTL that “Unfortunately your order was identified as a high cost order, meaning that the cost for the onsite work exceeded our approved threshold. Our engineering team was unable to move forward.”

I call in again on January 14 and spend 13 minutes explaining the epic and that I need to speak to someone because 1) they cancelled our order and didn’t tell us, 2) I’ve got several thousand dollars of CPE sitting in my office for the past 8 months, 3) we were down for nearly a week and need credit on that, 4) what the actual how do you have customers?.

I’m given a person’s email R and assured she ALWAYS responds but she’s away from the computer for some reason and that the CSR had been talking with her twenty minutes before. No chance of not responding. Yeah. 23 hours later. I CC’d H as I’d gotten a response there before.

I call up today and spend 21 minutes talking to someone who can’t pull up any of this epic history. I’m given an email address R2 and assured that’s who I need to fix this. There’s no direct number for this R2. I email off to R2 and within 5 minutes I’ve got a bounced email.

H hits me and three other people up and I get two out of office auto replies.

And finally after months of this, probably 9 hours of meetings, back and forth to get the contract, probably two hours wasted just on the phone to get a status update, I get an email that the whole thing evidently is after everything signed and orders put in, 4 or 5 months after contact signing they decided to cancel it, shot an email over to the sales guy who had left months before, nobody on his team picked it up to relay the message.

Checks how many phone calls I’ve gotten from them in 2.5 months with that many contacts… well, I do have some from when the Christmas bombing went on but excluding those I’m going to estimate with a high degree of certainty 0.

Update: 2:37pm – January 15, 2021, 45 days since we were supposed to be live, I receive my first return call on this issue. It’s R. 25 hours 1 minute from when I contacted Customer service and was given R’s info.

At this point we’re getting it documented that under no circumstances are their legal and contract teams to give us any problem leaving, which is happening anyway, that they’re going to provide a timeline of when it was cancelled and who dropped everything, and a service credit for the time we were down (which is a separate issue that I wasn’t as ticked about).

Update 11:36am January 19, 2021: no response on request for credit for time down, no documentation provided for the “we screwed up.” No letter of exemption from and termination of our contract clauses. Basically got a call back after months and that’s about it so far.

Update: August 25, 2021 – it’s been a while, back in May I talked to someone who was trying to sell us business fiber and I laughed at them. Talked a bit about the equipment I had sitting in my office for over a year and contacted the returns department. As with all things prior to this I never heard anything from them until I got a bill for over $10,000 on Monday.

Yup, they’d charged $10K for equipment they abandoned when they abandoned the project. Rather than sending an RMA thing, or having anyone call me up, they just sent a bill. Another 9 minutes wasted in a phone tree to find that customer service couldn’t do anything other than give me an email to write to and note that I’d called.

Emailed, this time got a response back. Got RMA printable, shipped the two boxes equipment that’s been sitting unopened back, still unopened. As I fully expect every possible thing to go wrong here, I photographed everything, did this in front of a security camera, saved the video, and have video of UPS picking up the packages.

September 2nd, 2021

As expected Lumen has gone silent. I wrote asking if they were going to fix that bill and would acknowledge the receipt of merchandise, and they have not responded, pretty much like every contact prior to this.

Holy crap, all I had to do this entire time was just update this article and they get around to responding. Nice to know there’s *some* way to get something done. Got a response 6 days after they received the returns that they’re going to take care of a credit sometime around the middle of the month. We’ll see about that one.

September 23rd, 2021

I’ve got email acknowledgement from a couple of weeks ago from the returns team that they have the equipment and that a fix would be on the bill. Got another bill dated a couple of days after that for 10K again. While I’m still probably within the timeframe of the credit being applied I decided I’d go ahead and proactively open a case with Lumen because literally not one thing has worked out here.

I’m at 2 days and nobody is working the case evidently with customer care. Typical.

October 4th, 2021

We got a notice that we’re going to be shutoff for non-payment. Have opened up yet another ticket.

During this call (37 minutes and some seconds) we learn that their threatening letter, because they haven’t applied the credit to the account still, is a threat to cut off the internet service we don’t have from them and not our phone service.

October 14th, 2021

Thought I’d mention that during the last interaction I had them assign me an account rep and said we had a need for a different service. We’d been running obviously without anyone for a long time. The helpful person on the line said she’d get one assigned, did while I was on the phone, and she said they’d be reaching out in a week.

Yeah, no… as with every other thing with Lumen that was the last I heard of that.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts