Switching from Shaw to Telus

For those of you not already following the story, I’ve sworn off Shaw. As much as I am tied — nay, symbiotically attached — to the internet, I would have been quite willing to end the service at home with the continued lack of service I was receiving from Shaw. It was past “infuriating”, past “mind-bendingly torturous”, and I was way passed “pissed off”. We had to move, or I could have possibly killed someone. Consider that move a public service, folks.

We moved to Telus. Not solely because they’re really the only other option in town, but partly because the new Optik service had proved highly appealing (nicer interface, and free PVR with long-term contract), and a very lucrative introductory offer combined with Shaw’s epic failure really cinched the deal.

Not that it’s gone completely flawlessly…

If you followed the link above, you’ve already read that the install didn’t go according to plan. In fact, thanks to Telus’ internal systems, it didn’t go at all. Telus was almost painfully apologetic about the incident, and has made strides to make up for the oversight. Nearly a month after calling, they did finally arrive, on the 29th, to set us up with brand-new service.

The installer, Glenn, arrived just after 9:00 and proceeded to make sure he knew where everything was, notably the TVs, and the Telus phone panel. The TVs, easy to find. The panel? Not so much. Over the course of renovating the basement and a year and a half abroad, our phone panel had gone missing. And, equally inexplicable, the Telus line outside the house was completely cut. (We had a second cable, yes, but apparently both were Shaw — Shaw told us one was Telus.)

Glenn had to run all-new wiring, which I viewed as a good thing. Sadly, for simplicity’s sake, it also meant running along the wall outside, since there was no easy way for it to enter the house where the Shaw line went in. It’ll be something we can live with for the time being, and when we do proper renovations upstairs, we’ll move it.

Once inside, Glenn set to work removing the Shaw hardware (which is headed back to Shaw tomorrow — I wanted to wait a bit, and you’ll see why in a moment), and hooked up the DSL router (quite literally, a black box) and the Telus wireless router (a special one that allows TV signals to be routed as well). He then set up the PVR in the living room, and the set-top box in the bedroom. The two are networked via the cable and the wireless router (though I can’t see them on the network — the HDPA part of the network is invisible, sadly).

Telus quoted four hours. Glenn was done in under three. Barely before he was out the door, I’d already set up the PVR to start recording every episode of MythBusters and Dirty Jobs. I also lobbed in a setting to start recording some of Monkey’s favourites, the ones Alex and I use when we need 30 minutes of peace.

In theory, this should have been the ultimate end of Shaw. But knowing my luck, I opted to hang onto the Shaw stuff, just in case something else went wrong.

Which it did.

Two days after install. Suddenly, the TV and internet signals were gone. (The phone, now a hard-wired landline, continued unabated.) Alex called Telus, and after a short wait, was told to reboot both the DSL box and the wireless router. Boom, TV and internet were back.

Problem solved, right?

Sunday evening, same thing. Rebooted both DSL and router again, without calling Telus, and all was well. One time, I could understand. Two was beginning to look like a pattern. I swore that if it happened once more, I was calling Telus. Which I did, on Monday evening.

I was talking to a human within five minutes. The problem was already flagged in their system as “reoccurring”, which apparently immediately afforded me a lot of attention. The first tech (yes, first) and I went over the scenario, and reset the system before he transferred me (and did the introductions) to the next guy, who worked with the hardware group. We proceeded to check the router settings and make sure that it wasn’t the problem.

Which, he felt, it might be. Here’s where the Telus setup has a flaw: unlike Shaw, where you provide your own internal router, Telus has to provide one in order to deliver the TV service. The router, made by D-Link, has custom firmware to allow all the fancy stuff (namely the TV signals embedded in the DSL channels, and the PVR network). Part of that requires a bridging of wireless and wired networks. In theory, this is transparent to the user, and you’d never know. In theory. In reality, there’s a weird behaviour where wireless devices (notably Apple devices) are unable to see wired devices. Sort of like, say, an Apple TV trying to wirelessly sync with a wired computer.

I discovered this through the wonders of the internet a few nights earlier, after I became unable to sync the Apple TV. This drove me to re-enable my Linksys router to serve the Apple TV, and routed the desktop computer appropriately. Boom, problem solved. But the second tech thought this could actually be a problem, where the two wireless routers were now fighting, and the Telus router might hiccup and hang. Odd, yes, but D-Link stuff (at least in my experience) has always been a bit “odd”, so I wasn’t surprised.

Telus wireless disabled, and we moved on in life. Which meant tech #3, who worked in the networking group. He wanted to send out a tech to verify that the lines were okay. He felt it might be an issue. Seemed perfectly fine to me, so we set up an appointment. Total call time? Nearly 90 minutes. Very little of it on hold. I’ve been on short calls that had me really, really angry. After 90 minutes, you’d think someone had just given me a million dollars, I was so happy.

Now I should point out that Glenn actually left us his card, with instructions to call if there were issues. In my (crappy) defence, I saw that only as a nice token, and that real work wouldn’t get done unless I called Telus. This was, after all, how Shaw has treated me for the last nine months — why should Telus be any different, right?

J.P., the next service tech, came out and looked the place over. He did a couple of trivial things, checked the lines (and spent an hour doing so), and all seemed to be well. Emphasis on “seemed”. Sure enough, boom, the TV and internet dropped again. We tried calling J.P., but for some reason, we could never connect. Fortunately, Telus was very nice to set up a call for Saturday. Lo and behold, Glenn came to the door.

Glenn was fairly well-briefed with the situation, and having already been to the house, was familiar with the setup. His thought? The card at the other end — the part that our line eventually plugs into to access the Telus network. He swapped it, and that was pretty much it. In my view, this makes sense — it was the DSL modem locking up, and if it was losing sync with the network because the card was faulty, it would explain why we were having trouble. That was almost five days ago, and we haven’t had a single issue since.

And because so many people have asked, here’s how I net out Telus’s offering thus far:

TV: Mildly irritated that I have to get the next package up to get my MythBusters, but the extra channels are kinda nice. The ability to search for a TV show is the killer app, here, and the only real improvement would be to allow recording for a given show across any channel, not just one.

Internet: Po-tay-toe, pah-tah-toe — roughly the same as Shaw, and I’m in no screaming need for insanely fast internet. I just don’t (ab)use it enough at home to need it. 15 down, 1 up is plenty for my needs.

Phone: Landline. Enough said.

Service: Here’s the real deal-breaker, kids. So far, Telus is lightyears beyond what Shaw had offered me. They’ve actually reestablished my faith in the telecommunications industry, and make me feel like they’re listening to my concerns and have a genuine interest in repairing my problems. The issues cropped up two days after install, and were resolved just over a week later (I hope). Telus’s staff have treated me with dignity, kindness, and respect (even talking techie with me once they realise that I do know what I’m talking about), and have been very good with promptness and callbacks. And the two-hour window (opposed to Shaw’s five-hour window) makes planning life a lot easier.

So far, I’m glad we switched. I hope it stays that way…