Internet in Belgium still sucks

Recently some of the larger ISPs in Belgium decided to finally open their eyes and increase their ridiculously low traffic limits. They even announced to entirely drop these limits for the more expensive ones. About damn time they did that.

Unfortunately, if you read the small letters, they still mention "$ISP maintains the right to lower the bandwidth for customers who have a higher traffic usage than the average for that particular product". Sounds pretty vague to me. I'd rather have a connection with a 250GB traffic limit, then signing up for something like this, which is totally unclear... Typical ... They really couldn't come up with anything better, after the big publicity stunts they organized? Belgacom, Telenet, you both fail once again.

On the other hand we have Dommel and Scarlet, who are offering Internet subscriptions with true unlimited traffic. But ... There is a big but ... I've got a Dommel subscription myself, actually their most expensive one. Since I live too far from the LEX, ADSL2+ isn't available for me, so I took a speedconnect plus, which is a VDSL2 connection. When I ordered it, the specs mentioned speeds of 18Mbps downstream and 1200kbps upstream, no traffic limit. The normal speedconnect was only 12Mbps, with a 500GB limit. I don't remember the upload speed.

I never even got to 250GB of total traffic in one month, but I wanted the highest possible speed. Hence I decided to go for the speedconnect plus. And then the trouble started. It took Dommel three (!) weeks to figure out if I could actually get that line at home, while it wasn't a problem according to their website. After finishing the administrative part, I had to pay €300 ASAP. When they received the payment, they sent me the Sagem modem, and I received an email saying this:

All services included in this proforma invoice will be activated or prolongated within the next 3 workingdays.
Please note that activations of internetaccess products can take up to 10 workingdays.

Until, another week later, I received an email with the installdate of my new subscription. Which would be another three weeks further ... What about the 10 working days in the previous mail? Disappointed with Dommel's way of treating (new) customers, I sent them an email with my complaints. They just denied the problem, saying they never make promises for an activation date. If that's so, they shouldn't mention any periods in their mails at all. But since there was very little I could do, I decided to accept the fact that I would still have to wait another three weeks.

And if that wasn't enough, two days before the actual planned installation date, I receive an email with subject "rescheduled: installation date of your dsl line" ... Again, ten friggin' days later. What the hell? I wonder if they treat all their customers like that... Oh yes, and meanwhile they even sent me a second invoice, to pay for the second month, while I hadn't been able to push a single bit through the line.

So, still lacking an Internet connection, I decided to stay away from home as much as possible, since about everything I do for living requires me to have an Internet connection. Then, two days later, being at a friend, about 30 minutes from where I live, using his Internet connection, I suddenly receive a text message on my mobile. The Belgacom technician that would install my line, would arrive in ... 20 minutes? WTF?! Lucky I was there with my bike, so I was able to arrive in time. But really, WHAT THE HELL?!?!?!?!?!?!

Oh well, I was still somehow relieved that I didn't have to wait for yet another 10 days. Until the technician connected the line, and installed my modem. Guess what ... The Sagem Dommel sent me was broken, it did not sync. DAMNIT! Couldn't they friggin' test it before sending it to me? The Belgacom technician tested with his Bbox2, which worked fine.

Since Belgacom only came to install the line, his job was done after proving the line was OK. He told me to contact Dommel for replacing my modem, and left. So I call Dommel, told them the modem they sent me was broken, and that I needed a replacement. And I couldn't believe my ears. "Since the line has only been installed today, we are unable to test it. You will have to call us back, on monday." So, on monday I would have to call them, to hear that the modem was indeed broken, that I had to send it back to them, so they could test it, and if it really was broken they would send me a new one. So I would still not be able to use my connection, until somewhere the end of the next week. Fuck that. Jumped on my bike, drove to the nearest Belgacom shop, explained my problem to the friendly redheaded lady, and asked if I could buy a Bbox2. She checked a few things, and then told me the Bbox2 wasn't for sale. Some nerve cracked.

But then finally something positive happened. She simply told me "if it isn't for sale, then here you go". She packed the modem, gave it to me, and wished me a nice day. Whoa? Was I dreaming? I guess she had heard the cracking nerve :-)

Hurried myself back home, connected the Bbox2, and was online within minutes. Finally. And since the Bbox2 is actually the same hardware as the Sagem, I couldn't care less for the Sagem to get replaced. Nor did I feel like putting effort in sending it back to Dommel. Until I noticed several disconnects in a few days. So I contacted their support by email, saying I got a Bbox2 modem so that I could finally enjoy my new connection which I had mor than two months back, but that I had frequent disconnects.

At first, some guy over there almost insulted me for getting a Bbox2 modem rather than sending back the Sagem and waiting for a replacement. Yeah right, my experience with you guys in the last few months learned me I would be better of finding my own solution. Then he told me that the Bbox2 was also an ADSL2+ modem and because of that, my line wasn't a VDSL2 line but the modem would sync ADSL2+ rather then VDSL2. YEAH RIGHT. So they effectively blamed the problems on the use of an incorrect modem. Sure, sure, sure.

Fortunately the problems vanished after some time, even when using the Bbox2. So the explanation of the Dommel guy was total bullcrap. I wasn't surprised, to be honest. They seriously seem to lack any clue at Dommel. So after some more time I decided to finally send back the Sagem, so that I could replace the Bbox2 with the new Sagem (and open up the Bbox2 to try to get access to it's serial console. to prove it's running Linux, but that's another story).

While the DSL line quality seemed to have improved (I had a disconnect only every 36h, which is *normal* for several DSL products in Belgium - not to me, if they disconnect me every 36h it isn't always on, but I can live with that, although I'd prefer to have them every 24h or 48h, so that they are always during the night, when I'm asleep and don't notice it), the quality of the IP network seemed to have become worse. It seems that Dommel no longer peers on BNIX, and their transit providers didn't become any better either.

And whenever they seem to have issues on their network (like packet loss, or routes being completely unreachable), and you notice this when you got home from work, after 18:00, so you can't even call them to inform them about the problem. Add to that they are closed the entire weekend, so in worst case, you have a crappy connection for three days.

IMHO, if they can afford to organize a new years party in one of the more expensive Belgian clubs, and even spread that in the media, they can also open their bloody offices during the weekend.

So if you happen to do remote management, like streaming audio or video, or love online gaming, the only thing I can advise anyone is NOT to get a Dommel connection. You will end up being very disappointed.

And for Scarlet, since they have been bought by Belgacom, they'll probably use the same small letters allowing them to slow down your connection to speeds that are even worse than my first ADSL subscription ever, it's unlikely to be a better solution.

So right now I'm sitting at my desk, looking at the shitty Belgian weather, unable to play any game that involves online multiplayer, unable to use VoIP, unable to contact my ISP to ask them to resolve the damn problem, ... Just great, Happy Easter.

We still have a long way to go in Belgium :-( This is really getting frustrating :-(

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