Upgrading Qwest DSL Line to DMT

I upgraded Badger Hall's DSL line last week from CAP to DMT. Painless? No (this is Qwest, after all). Worthwhile? So far, definitely.

The saga began with a line on my phone bill saying (in effect) "Upgrade your DSL to 1.5 Mb/sec for free." OK, I like free. And we were capped at 684 Kb/sec. Spoke with customer service who told me I needed to buy a new DSL modem from them because "you have old technology, and to upgrade you need new technology." Ok, I say. What is the new technology and are you sure I need it? "It's new technology, and you need it to upgrade." Are you sure I need a new modem to get the speed boost, I ask. What exactly is the new technology? "Yes, you need a new modem because you have old technology and you need the new technology." Round and round we go.

I ordered the new modem (an Actiontec 701) and went to see what I could find about it.

I have a Cisco 678 modem which has been rock solid for years. The Badger Hall network is fairly complex, but the DSL uplink is a simple router/gateway and I really didn't want to have to change it. The Actiontec has a whole raft of features I didn't need like 802.11b, firewall, NAT, 4 port hub. And apparently it doesn't support VPN pass through well. Since my wife and I both work at Microsoft simultaneous VPN sessions are a hard requirement.

I discovered a great resource for DSL users along the way: http://bbrcs.clanspace.com/forum/ilec,uswest is a forum for technical discussions (and rants) about broadband telco providers. Much complaining about the Actiontec and Qwest and a fair amount of solid technical information.

Discovered that the new/old technology delta the CSR was obliquely referring to was CAP (carrierless amplitude/phase -- the old) vs. DMT (Discrete MultiTone -- the new), and that there was a firmware update that would turn my old reliable Cisco 678 into a DMT modem. Indeed, Qwest provided the firmware update and upgrade instructions on their support site


A call back through the Qwest phone tree later I had cancelled the modem order and retained the CAP to DMT switchover at the CO (or so I thought). "We'll switch your service sometime Monday between 8 AM and 5 PM. You'll know when we've done so when your service dies" says the friendly Qwest CSR. 


Monday night I start in on the firmware update. All goes well, the firmware update even keeps the NVRAM settings I had previously. Retrain the modem and . . . . . . . . . . PPP authentication fails. And fails. And fails.


I call Qwest tech support and, after 35(!) minutes in the support queue, get a really great tech who tells me my account was switched over to DMT and, wait for it, is in the process of being cancelled. Come again? Appears that the CSR who cancelled my modem order put in a service cancellation request too. So far all that's happened is that my login was disabled. My static IP addresses hadn't yet been returned to the pool, nor had my DNS records been purged or my POP3 account been deleted (but they were in queue to have been done by morning).


Another hour later the tech has managed to restore my account (through decidedly non-standard means) and cancel the cancellation of my account. And walked me through the errors in the firmware update instructions that would have prevented the modem from working had my login not been disabled. Qwest's CSRs and business processes in this case were atrocious, but this tech was good enough to offset the pain.


So now we're plugging along at 1.5 Mb/sec down and 896 Kb/sec up (upload speed is capped by Qwest's DMT configuration at the CO).


If you're a Qwest customer with a Cisco 678 CAP modem and want to upgrade to 1.5 Mb, don't believe the hype. You CAN get a firmware update that supports DMT (from http://www.qwest.com/dsl/customerservice/downloads/678DMTcbos2.4.6.exe). You DON'T need a new modem (with New Technology (tm)). The Caveat: by default the flash update will keep your old nvram settings. You'll want to erase them and start afresh from the DMT-specific defaults. There were a couple of CAP-specific settings that were retained and which you don't want. The documentation here doesn't mention this.


Oh yes, the new modem that I wasn't supposed to get arrived Tuesday. What are the chances they billed me twice for it?