XMission's Company Journal

Qwest, XMission, and DSL

Please note: As of January 1, 2017, XMission no longer sells DSL services.

Fiber OpticsIn 1997, XMission first started providing service over Qwest’s DSL.  We have literally paid millions of dollars of revenue to Qwest for the privilege, all the while relieving them of the difficult task of providing excellent customer support.  In 2008, Qwest launched their “Fiber-to-the-Node” product which is usually falsely advertised as just plain “fiber”.  Unlike the UTOPIA system which runs fiber optics all the way to the home, Qwest FTTN runs fiber to a neighborhood, then copper DSL lines to the customer.  Because of the subsequent shorter distances on copper, they are able to attain download speeds of up to 40Mbit to the customer and 5Mbit from the customer.  This is normally referred to “download” and “upload” respectively.

There is one key difference in the FTTN product.  Qwest is not not allowing 3rd party ISPs like XMission to sell their own service over it, as we traditionally have with their first DSL product.  In addition, Qwest has been notorious for disinformation and service problems that motivate customers to drop their current ISP and change over to Qwest.  Technical problems exist, such as radio interference that degrades existing XMission customer DSL speeds, sometimes making their Internet connection unusable.  The solution offered by Qwest was not to shield the radio interference, but to switch customers off XMission and to their own product.  We have also had reports and in one case, a recording, of Qwest sales representatives telling customers that Qwest’s intent is to “eliminate” 3rd party ISPs.   Today, I received an email from a customer who was told by Qwest that XMission’s equipment is “too slow” to handle FTTN service.  Considering that we service customers on fiber and in our data center with up to a gigabit in solid bandwidth, one has to wonder why Qwest feels the need to lie to sell their service.  There is no technical reason why Qwest could not allow 3rd party ISPs like XMission to provide service over their FTTN network.

XMission has been hemorrhaging DSL customers for the past year, and I really don’t blame them for looking for bigger Internet connections.  I personally can only get 3Mbit download and 500Kbit upload to my own home and it is not enough bandwidth for me.  With Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and other services demanding more and more bandwidth, homes will need larger and larger connections.  Unless they’re in a UTOPIA connected city, chances are that they are going to choose from two companies to buy Internet from in the future, neither of them stellar.

As I have long advocated, the solution for this is not only to build municipal fiber networks like UTOPIA, but to regulate all data, telephone, and television providers that would otherwise run their own lines to your house, into using these systems as well.  Incumbent telephone and cable companies wouldn’t otherwise spend millions lobbying and suing municipalities that take networking into their own hands if they had no choice but to use these systems as well.  In addition, problems like “net neutrality” become moot when you can dump your limiting ISP for another who gives you more freedom.  This is not where we are currently headed.  I have had a chance to listen to and question FCC representatives about the national broadband initiative.  It continues to be too little, too late.  If XMission can only provide limited Internet service to residential customers in the future it will continue to survive on its business class services.  Yet, it will be all of us who lose when local ISPs are run out of business, or can no longer provide service to the home.


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38 thoughts on “Qwest, XMission, and DSL

  • This is why I detest Qwest and give them as little of my money as I can. sighs I would almost literally kill for some other way to get Xmission service into my house, but right now there’s nothing, and no sign of anything on the horizon. Springville seems to have no interest in Utopia or other similar projects.

    My only hope at this point is to build a house somewhere that does have Utopia, but that’s years away still.

  • John Brooks says:

    As customers of Qwest and XMission, is there anything we can do? SLC won’t be paying for UTOPIA any time soon, and the only real alternative to some Qwest-derived connection is Comcast.. which may be worse. I hate being limited to 3mbit/640kbit, but I would rather keep XMission.

    What about legally? Is this activity from Qwest a violation of antitrust and anti-competitive laws? There is certainly no doubt about their status as a monopoly over copper lines in the area.

  • Alex Esplin says:

    I agree. As a XMission/Qwest DSL customer in south Provo, there have been numerous times I’ve really wanted to switch to a faster internet connection. The fact that I pay QWest $33/month for copper in order to have my XMission DSL connection makes it even harder. Every time I almost jump ship to fiber (the much-juggled iProvo is supposedly available in my neighborhood), however, I hear another horror story about Veracity/Broadweave.

    Is there any hope of XMission being included as an ISP on the iProvo network? The choice between substandard ISP’s for fiber, or paying QWest for copper, or Comcast (not really an option for me) is a pretty crappy choice.

  • Pete Ashdown says:

    John, because DSL is an unregulated service, Qwest can choose to shoot themselves in the foot. Unfortunately it is going to take a decade or so of bad service until there is any regulatory action on this.

  • Pete Ashdown says:

    Alex, we haven’t heard anything from Veracity regarding opening iProvo up to other providers.

  • […] Xmission has called them on it with a recording of a Qwest agent saying flat-out that the point of FTTN has been to eliminate […]

  • Jonathan says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. You have my vote.

  • Utahcon says:


    What can we as users do? We are blocked by Qwest and Comcast.

    I am moving to Daybreak — can I use Xmission on the fiber out there?

    I abhor Qwest, I think they are no better today then they were a few years back when they got slapped on the wrist for screwing up contracts and falsifying agreements.

    I am in fact currently fighting with Qwest over a $200 ETF where they claim I agreed to a 2yr contract, but they are not willing to produce a contract for me.

    If I could I would be free of Comcast and Qwest today, however, as we all know, this is not the reality we live in right now.

  • Alex Langshall says:

    I was a subscriber to Xmission from 1994-2007, when I switched to Comcast after Qwest baldfaced lied to me about the speed available in my new apartment. Qwest uses deceptive business practices and outright cheating to steal customers away from Xmission… who are already their customers.

    Is their any chance of a wireless municipal solution, something like a 3.5ghz community network? I know the hardware is expensive, but could neighborhoods set up their own mesh networking solutions?

  • Pete Ashdown says:

    Alex, a wireless mesh sounds like a great solution on paper. However there was a good reason we switched from outhouses to a sewer system. We found the latter more convenient. If everyone in your neighborhood is a techie this might work better than if you have to maintain the mesh with a few dedicated volunteers.

  • Alan Fullmer says:

    I, too, would do anything for Xmission service where I live. I am stuck with wireless. Comcast is finally in the neighborhood, but …. nuff said.

    We have no intention of moving since we love our home and our location. My wife and I play games quite regularly, but it’s frustrating that our ping is 80-100ms and we are less than 30 miles (as the crow flies) away from the datacenter’s game servers.

    Qwest, keeps calling us guaranteeing we can get service in our area “finally”. #1 it’s false, #2 after reading this, it upsets me that I may not be able to get Xmission as my ISP if I did switch.

    I feel everyone’s pain and frustration.

  • Ronald D. Hunt says:

    Second problem with wireless is that the wisps(wireless internet providers) that do exist(digis,txox, etc) are all using the same radio bands that microwaves, baby monitors, portable phones, bluetooth, etc etc etc… use. They also transmit at illegal power levels as they try to muscle through all of the interference and out power each other. The rules for the 802.11y (new 3.5ghz band being opened up soon) will help only slightly with this, Even if you can get a stable connection its going to cap at around 2-3mbit within a band that provides maybe 35mbit of bandwidth in best case scenario but will be bandwidth that is shared by all customers in range which is far to limited to be practical.

    ” I have had a chance to listen to and question FCC representatives about the national broadband initiative. It continues to be too little, too late.”

    Not only is it to little to late, its a “reform” of the universal service fund, which means that muni’s won’t get any help and at worst the telco incumbents will use the additional tax payer provided revenue to fight muni projects. Muni projects can count on incumbents rolling out network upgrades just before they turn service on, undercutting them by charging below their own cost to provide service, continuing attacks on them legislatively, nonsense lawsuits, extended contracts preventing customers from being able to switch, etc.


    “when I switched to Comcast after Qwest baldfaced lied to me about the speed available in my new apartment.”

    The problem with any copper service is that the speed degrades with distance, line quality, local radio interference etc. That is to say Qwest can’t actually guaranty any speed, all they can do is give a estimate based on the age of the line and the distance from the dslam. This is the fundamental problem with copper line service and why we need to move to a optical fiber based system.

  • Alex Langshall says:

    “That is to say Qwest can’t actually guaranty any speed, all they can do is give a estimate based on the age of the line and the distance from the dslam.”

    Except that’s exactly what they did do. Their sales department guaranteed their 7mbps service would be available in South Salt Lake, when the actual modem speed was 640kbps. The actual tech that came to look at the line after I complained stated what you are saying – age of the line and distance from the dslam (plus Qwest not willing to upgrade their own infrastructure) resulted in the low speed. Even with a good line and being close to the dslam, the tech stated that 1.5mbps would be the maximum speed possible. In short – their sales department lied. The service that they signed me up for in that neighborhood didn’t even exist in their neighborhood. On top of that, they told me that Xmission was not an option for my ISP, and that I had to have MSN (back then) as my ISP.

    Point being, we desperately need some sort of infrastructure (I don’t care if it’s copper, rf, laser, fiber or high-speed drum banging) that will support honest and customer focused ISPs like Xmission.

  • RP Bostick says:

    What can we do about this? Can we start up some sort of grassroots movement, or attach to a larger one, to begin to fight the telecoms, maybe see them get broken up like what happened to Ma Bell back in the day, or go with the communications infrastructure framework that you’ve talked about?

    Lots of people are needed to make change like this from the ground up, but it can be done. Qwest sucks, and so does Commcast. Maybe even some aggressive lawsuits against them for anti-competitive and deceptive practices? Set the bounty % high enough to get some powerful lawyers on board?

  • Arvilla says:

    For years now, I have spent two to three times for internet over what Qwest as my ISP would cost, in addition to losing their other “bundling” savings.. But, I learned years ago that, in the end, I have to put my money where my mouth is. I give Qwest as little business as I can and I tell them precisely why–their immoral and, I believe, illegal monopolisiic use of their lines. I explain their lack of ethics as I can to as many as I can and I call the Public Service Commission frequently, despite knowing what they’ll say.
    I was there for the Civil Rights Movement, during the Vietnam War protests, and the “your hands don’t belong there even if you are my boss,” era. Qwest is just one more battle to keep fighting in every peaceful way we can. Class-action suits seem to me more than viable on any number of counts and would, given the displeasure I hear about Qwest, gain followers.

  • Wes F says:

    To be entirely, and completely honest – I’d nix Qwest if I could (and probably would go so as far as to NOT pay their contract termination fee). I’d much rather have Xmission be my ISP from the datacenter to my doorstep. I’m a senior level IT professional of 13 years, and when I call Qwest they treat ME like I’m an idiot. When I deal with XM, I always get a very well trained tech who treats me with dignity and promptly resolves my issue – doesn’t try to fix it, or thinks about fixing it. He just does it within seconds.

    I think policies like that are entirely un-neutral, and they really are. The “Baby Bells” are loosing out to metropolitan fiber networks (like Utopia, iProvo and the Google Fiber project), WiFi/WiMax ISPs AND cellular providers bundling near broadband services with their plans. Of course they are going to be vicious. Qwest isn’t going away anytime soon, at least not on the business or enterprise levels, but I think on the consumer level they are hurting pretty bad now that consumers realize we don’t live in the 1960s and have CHOICE in how we receive our communications services. It sickens me a good company like XMission has to be stomped on – it’s anti-competitive and anti-consumer. NET NEUTRALITY NOW!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jesse Harris says:

    To respond to the question “what can I do”, it’s simple: support municipal projects like UTOPIA. Building a fair platform for all ISPs is not just a worthy goal, it’s about the only realistic way to get out of the duopoly mess.

    If you live in a UTOPIA city, make sure your city council knows that you want them to get on board with the new plan to hook up more customers and get as many people as you know to register their interest in service on UTOPIA’s website.

    If you don’t live in a UTOPIA city, make sure your city council knows that you (and your neighbors) want it. Bad. If you have to, start a grassroots effort to form a special assessment area and get the service yourself, with or without the city council.

    At the end of the day, we’re reaping the just rewards of not demanding adequate oversight of the monopolists. Now it’s time to do the hard work necessary to undo the mess.

  • Alex Wolf says:

    Pete’s comments about the importance of UTOPIA are right on point. Everyone asks about “grass roots movements,” which is exactly what UTOPIA is — the most locally-oriented form of government responding to a market failure to provide a common infrastructure needed by all. Remember — 16 Utah cities are the owners and controllers of UTOPIA.

    The solution (although not easy) is to have non-participating cities follow suit. If your elected officials haven’t investigated how, they should be receiving phone calls from each of you to find out why not.

  • Bob B says:

    It is to bad the Utopia has been so mismanaged. Why there are only 10,000 subscribers in the entire system is just incomprehensible. My service through Xmission has been flawless and speeds are fantastic. The problems have been the content providers cannot provide the streams fast enough without constant buffering. Both Comcast and Qwest can out-spend for advertising for inferior products. People just get suck in at the teaser rates. I never have had Comcast service and never will.

  • Chris says:

    You know, it is ridiculous to imagine putting in yet MORE physical networking, considering that it has taken DECADES to put in hundreds of thousands of miles of copper and coax cable to just about every standing building in this continent.

    It is ridiculously inefficient to put yet MORE physical networks down when these exist already. The copper Ma Bell lines were all laid during monopoly years. There was only one phone company. People cant expect for a startup company to somehow realistically even imagine putting in there own cables. In keeping with the spirit of the original reason for breaking up Ma Bell, the present-day telco’s need to provide access over “their” lines. Look, they may technically own them, but in a way they belong to the country as part of the legacy of modernizing in the 20th century. It is unfair to let the TelCos continue to enjoy monopoly status, thats no different from Ma Bell except you have 20 monopolies nationwide instead of one.

    Same with cable. Yes, these guys have a right to be reimbursed for their costs, but that money has been given to them over the years by the government/FCC and their own Profits.

    So, for a fair price, companies need to be able to lease the networks. Hell, AT&T owns like a huge portion of the nations phone lines, and leases them out to even big boys like Qwest. Especially when it comes to international connectivity.

    So, why not create a infrastructure-cost pool, wherby people contribute x amount based on their percentage of leased bandwidth to fund new infrastructure and share the cost?

  • Achmed says:

    i had a really helpful qwest tech come out and fix wiring at my place, and at the end of our visit his equipment and the modem both say I can get 46Mbit by 6Mbit between me and the DSLAM, now. when i called qwest customer support to try and get access to the new billing codes so i could get faster service, they refused with different reasons. now they are even trying to get the tech in trouble for helping me! they said what he told me was resulting in a ‘very poor customer experience’. one rep told me that it was illegal for them to increase the speeds without going through their internal process to requalify and report the new speeds (i.e. they couldnt do it at my insistence and with my evidence). they called it ‘parity’ and he told me it was part of their utility status. they are completely unregulated in this matter – that was a bald faced lie.

    if they ever turn up my rate limits, i will only be crippled by the fact that they are about 10ms slower than comcast to every site i care about and that all my traffic is subject to pppoe slowness. screw those guys. if the telcos had their way we’d all still be renting each phone and paying out the nose for the most basic set of services they could be persuaded to provide.

  • Achmed says:

    if they ever turn up my rate limits, i will only be crippled by the fact that they are about 10ms slower
    than comcast to every site i care about

    i should have mentioned, that this is despite the fact that comcast has a nasty habit of sending all my traffic to georgia and back. by way of an example, where comcast is 70ms to level3 in los angeles, qwest is 80ms.

    they must try really hard to be this bad.

  • Chris says:

    Interesting story. Post it or dslreports.

    Maybe they thought you meant that the tech had already activated the higher speed? Maybe the tech discovered a technical problem they didn’t know about, freeing up a whole OLL to better service?

    They OUGHT to give him a raise and a pat on the back.

    Call back in a few days AND DONT MENTION ANY OF THIS. Just say you want a higher speed tier, and if they say 1.5 max tell them you and several of your neighbors would like faster service and would they mind sending out a tech to certify the lines anew?

    Be nice to them. Be persistent. At some point you can forward your emails to and get a support specialist. They can help you.

  • Achmed says:

    I’ll try that, and everything else under the sun, if my new support avenue out of their main office in Colorado dries up.

  • Hook says:

    Rather than always trying to get the government to solve problems, why not get together with other ISPs and start your own consortium to lay your own fiber to the home. That way, you can give people true fiber speed. Plus you can reap the profits yourself instead of giving them to Qwest.

    I realize it would take a lot of capital, but Verizon and Qwest are laying down fiber, so they must belive that it is economically viable. If they can get capital to do this, why not you?

    If you belive that it would never pay for itself, then obviously it is not economically viable. Which means that Verizon and Qwest will lose all kinds of money in the process since they are not above the laws of economics. In this case, they will eventually price themselves out of the home market, and you will get most of your DSL customers back.

    Using the sledghammer of government should alway be the last resort to fixing problems.

  • DLJ says:

    Is Xmission a CLEC? Why not deploy next gen ADSL2+ in CO, as is common in Australia and Europe? The FCC took away wholesale, time to build!

  • Dave Weis says:

    We are in a similar situation and submitted comments to the FCC earlier this month regarding their attempts at re-regulating Internet service. I’m not sure how much benefit there will be but had to do something.

  • Chris C says:

    It’s a double-edged sword with Qwest’s new fiber optics deployment. I just got off the phone with one of the techs because of abysmal DSL signal problems and he tells me that the new fiber optics equipment they’re installing affects traditional DSL customers because it adds interference to the lines, and that the standard protocol is to suggest that customers dump their 3rd party ISPs for MSN (“you get a free modem!”) so customers can utilize the new equipment.

    So not only are 3rd party ISPs being excluded from the fiber optics networks, the fiber optics networks are also degrading the performance of the services the 3rd party ISPs do have access to.

    Is there any way a lawsuit could be brought against Qwest for this anti-competitive behavior?

  • Chris C says:

    Achmed: Did you contact Qwest and ask about their “Fastpath” setting for DSL (search on Xmission for it)? It knocks off 32ms straight off the top by eliminating the interleaving.

  • Achmed says:

    Achmed: Did you contact Qwest and ask about their “Fastpath” setting for DSL (search on
    Xmission for it)? It knocks off 32ms straight off the top by eliminating the interleaving.

    i talked with a tech on friday who said turning off interleaving was not an option.

  • Chris C says:

    Achmed, the tech probably lied to you and you should find a different tech that will be more accommodating. I asked a person through the live chat to turn it off, and despite having very poor lines they still did it. With your higher quality connection you should be able to turn of interleaving without any signal quality problems.

  • Peter says:

    [QUOTE] If XMission can only provide limited Internet service to residential customers in the future it will continue to survive on its business class services. Yet, it will be all of us who lose when local ISPs are run out of business, or can no longer provide service to the home. [/QUOTE]

    Why is this only a problem for “residential customers” and not businesses as well? Do businesses pay for a dedicated line to be installed between them and Xmission? Does the higher rates they pay allow Xmission to lease dedicated lines from Qwest? Are we assuming they only use colocation servers? Are we only talking about businesses in the busy downtown areas instead of the Mom-N-Pop shops starting up in old converted residences?

    I would like to read about the differences and why it is only a problem for the residential customers. Thank-you.

  • Pete Ashdown says:

    When I speak of our business class services, I am talking about services that require no “last mile” connection to the home and/or business. Like web hosting, email, and colocation. So yes, Mom-N-Pop shops and home offices will be subject to the Qwest/Comcast duopoly unless municipal networks are embraced.

  • Peter says:

    So “last mile” is the actual problem here. Thanks for clearing that up.

  • Grahame Leach says:

    As a Qwest hostage here in Sandy, I am limited to 1.3 Mbit download. The US speeds are way low on a global scale of internet speeds. Sadly this article and comments tell me I am stuck with monopolization of the services through Qwest or Commcast. My Verizon wireless is not even worth a picosecond of thought. Whatever happened to the concept of a free market in our society? Maybe Xmission can get a federal bailout for all the millions of dollars they have invested with Qwest blocking the return.

  • […] such ISP, XMission, has blown the whistle on the anti-competitive practice, noting they could potentially be run out of business if Qwest […]

  • peter birch says:

    I have quite a history with QWest. I had 7Mbit+local phone bundle using MSN and it was working great. Got the advertised speed and everything. A friend lost their job and started selling ACN phone service so I decided to switch from QWest to ACN for my local phone to help her. The switch went perfectly for the phone but QWest dropped my DSL and charged me an ETF. I called QWest and explained what had happened and that I still wanted DSL. A tech came to my house and didn’t talk to me or come in, he just switched the wire pairs on the outside of my house. Now I had DSL and no phone service. He could have come in and just switched the wires at the one jack the modem was on. I called QWest and was told that DSL and another carriers phone line can’t come over the same line. Duh, anyway… I decided I didn’t need a home phone and let it go. Several months ago my DSL would get very slow every single afternoon. I called QWest and they told me it was probably someone’s lawn sprinklers getting the line wet. Whatever. I switched to XMission as my ISP and lost my internet for several days, I think Qwest forgot to do something. Still slow internet in the afternoon however. I called QWest last week and they said it was XMIssion’s problem. I called XMission and they checked and said my line was over saturated. They called QWest and QWest agreed and said they would fix it by moving me. My internet went out an hour later. The next day I called QWest and they asked what I had changed. I told them it was them that changed, not me. They sent a tech to my house. The tech told me they put me on an unprovisioned line and that he could not fix it and put in a call to get it fixed. two days later my internet came back on. I would pay three time what I am paying now to be rid of QWest. Waiting for UTOPIA or death, not sure which will come first. Xmission support has been very nice and very helpful through this!

  • JS says:

    I’ve been with Xmission since 2001. Dial-up, then 256k DSL, then 1.5M DSL… now with multiple kids on multiple computers, Netflix, large video files to back up and share, etc., I really want a faster pipe. Disappointing that I can’t do that without leaving Xmission. Qwest told me that higher speeds require using their own ISP. (Unfortunately, they also told me that my line is maxed at 1.5, even though I have neighbors with 7M or faster Qwest DSL. Whatever. Meanwhile, Comcast does something new and evil every week; I can’t in good conscience support a company that performs DNS hijacking and assaults net neutrality.)