Verizon: Sorry, Our DSL Is Full.

Laurel writes in to ask what Verizon means when they say their DSL is “full.” She’s trying to transfer her existing account to a house in the same zip code, but Verizon is saying “No.”

Hi Consumerist folks,

I just had a very strange conversation with Verizon and thought this was the kind of thing you only read about on Consumerist.

We currently have Verizon phone and DSL service. This is because we live in a town where Verizon is the only phone provider. We’re moving from our apartment to a house in the same zip code.

I call Verizon to transfer our service. Once I get through the hideous phone tree to a human being, I speak to the CSR, who is pleasant and helpful. She checks to confirm that we can keep our existing phone number (we can), arranges for the service transfer, gives me all the information about how long the transfer takes and when I can expect service, etc. Then she tries to change our DSL service over.

She tells me something’s very strange, as the new address is in their service area, but her system shows that DSL is unavailable there. She puts me on hold to go check with a supervisor.

When she comes back, she explains to me that DSL is not available at that location, even though the previous residents did have DSL. Something about the local center being “closed” and that area being “full” as far as DSL connections. Why they would run out of DSL in a residential neighborhood, especially when all we’re doing is MOVING our existing DSL, is not explained.

We’re checking to see if we can get another ISP, but since this is a ‘company town’, we may be stuck getting high-speed internet through Comcast (ugh. ugh, ugh ugh). Has anyone ever heard of anything like this before?


Well, Laurel, we have no idea what this means, but we’re sure our commenters do. Can anyone explain why Verizon’s DSL is “full”?


Edit Your Comment

  1. hypnotik_jello says:

    Probably no more connections in the DSLAM at the central office until they upgrade the hardware?

  2. Jaysyn was banned for: says:

    It means the DSL Amp (DSLAM) down the road from your house is at maximum capacity. They need to place another one before they can service you or anyone else in your area.

  3. Jaysyn was banned for: says:

    @hypnotik_jello: Damn. Ninja’d again.

  4. henrygates says:

    It probably means however many houses they planned to service have already been filled.

  5. we’re sorry, the switchboard is full. please try your broadband again. This is a recording. 203-34

    we’re sorry, the switchboard is full. please try your broadband again. This is a recording. 203-34

  6. johnusaf says:

    you mentioned that they are closing their office in that area. if that is the case then they are losing a dslam or rt connection (what supplies the DSL signal) therefore this will limit the number of connections they can have. seems like a pretty bad move on verizons part.

  7. DashTheHand says:

    I’m surprised they didn’t try to upsell FiOS to them.

  8. fostina1 says:

    wonder if you will have to pay an early termination fee. this is clearly your fault. jk

  9. Andr0 says:

    I have to admit this is actually a good thing from a best business practices standpoint – Verizon actually doesn’t want to add any more users to their local trunk, as that’d degrade service for everyone. Of course, it’d be better if they had sufficient capacity to fully satisfy demand in the area, but still…

  10. Toof_75_75 says:

    Seems likely that FiOS was unavailable in their area. I know it is unavailable in my town…

  11. am84 says:

    Great – I’m moving soon as well within the same city and want to take my Verizon internet with me. I hope I don’t get this same BS. It’s either this or Comcast….

  12. johnva says:

    @Andr0: Agreed. I’d rather they not sell service to new customers in an area until they can upgrade their infrastructure to support that at an acceptable level. This is better management than most other companies, like the cable companies, who will happily let a particular area get totally overloaded before upgrading.

  13. HalOfBorg says:

    Sounds like exact same thing we had when we first applied. Service is available, then the install gets cancelled. Turns out no room for new customers.

    We just kept applying each month, told them not to send new setup box as we had one. Took a few months but we got on. Maybe someone quit/moved. Maybe they upgraded.

    And – we have loved it for 2 years now. Almost never a problem.

  14. kathyl says:

    But…but…but…the previous residents in the house she’s moving to had DSL! It’s not going to increase load if they turn on DSL for Laurel there, it will maintain the very same load that there was before that.

    Now, if they are actively trying to DECREASE load there, then I guess I see that, but it still seems like a head-scratcher to me.

  15. evslin says:

    I guess all those “the internet is full” jokes were no laughing matter after all. :(

  16. Lucky225 says:

    Well there’s 2 things that could be happening. Even though it’s the same zipcode, it could be out of a 2nd C.O. in a different location or a different Switch that serves her house at the other address. Without details tho, I can only speculate that it is the other excuse that ALL the DSL circuits in her CO are in use, which is sort of an invalid excuse, seeing as how if she transfers it, the 1 circuit for her house right now could be used for her new house. :X

  17. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    “we may be stuck getting high-speed internet through Comcast (ugh. ugh, ugh ugh)”

    And Verizon’s any better? You have to use one evil or the other. It shouldn’t matter, really. Comcast provides phone too, and usually much faster speeds than DSL… just stay below the invisible ceiling!

  18. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    (P.S. No, I’m not being a Comcast fanboy; I’m just saying…)

  19. MikeHerbst says:

    Before anyone praises Verizon too much for “load management” and being good operators by limiting the number of customers on a trunk, its important to realize that unlike DOCSIS (cable modems), DSL is a 1:1 connection, which means that the DSLAM has to have a dedicated connection for each customer. (DOCSIS can multiplex thousands of users onto a single CMTS, dividing the limited bandwidth between them.)

    You can damn well bet that hypnotik_jello and Jaysyn above hit it on the head: the DLSAM is full. This isn’t about whether or not Verizon has “enough” bandwidth to have a good customer experience, this just means they haven’t ponied up the tens of thousands of dollars to install another DSLAM at that CO location.

    Its true that the ultimate limit is shared bandwidth, and too many users on a plant can make for a crappy user experience, but in this case knowing something about Verizon I think its safe to say that if they had open DSLAM ports, they’d be happy to subdivide the available bandwidth a little further.

    Oh, and for the record, ZIP code is far too coarse of an indicator for locale in this case. Distances from the telecom’s CO are measured in kilofeet and some zipcodes can be quite large (and densely packed). Here in SoCal its not uncommon to have several CO locations per zipcode, so its entirely likely that the author is changing CO’s in this move. “CO” used to mean “central office” since all this equipment was originally stored there, but these days its more common for the “CO” to be one of those steel boxes on a street corner somewhere with a DSLAM or two inside aggregating the local users, and fiber of HFC connecting it to the operators backbone.

    /CableModem and DSL Modem engineer

  20. donnie5 says:

    Maybe they need some lottery balls to clear the poker chips out of the tubes…

  21. bonzombiekitty says:

    @kathyl: And it’s possible that a totally different person is already scheduled to take the current home owner’s place at the DSLAM.

  22. graymulligan says:

    Verizon is un-comcastic.

    Oddly, I find myself thinking that it’s kind of cool that Verizon didn’t tell her that “yup…it’s all set”, and actually let her know there would be an issue.

    How terrible is it that I expect the dsl/cable/phone companies to lie to everyone, and I’m almost accidentally impressed when they don’t?

  23. kenboy says:

    I actually have had much better luck with my Comcast cable modem than I ever did with DSL; the lines in my area are terrible, and since FIOS is now here, I guess Verizon had little incentive to fix them.

    As far as I know, DSL runs over the local telco’s lines and through their CO equipment, regardless of who you buy it from; my ISP was Speakeasy, the DSL provider they used was Covad, but it was Verizon’s fault that it never worked correctly. Or so I was told.

  24. boss_lady says:

    @kathyl: There also exists such thing as a ‘waiting list’ for people who want broadband and were willing for a DSLAM assignment to open up. Those people likely got the spot the vacancy left, first, which is fair.

  25. boss_lady says:

    @kenboy: Why would Verizon fix the local telco’s shitty cable?

  26. Warbrain says:

    Possibly BS. ATT tried to tell my family the same thing. In actuality the tech hadn’t reported to customer service that there were openings for the neighborhood. Inquire and force…they’ll budge.

  27. lotusflwr says:

    When I worked at Verizon High Speed’s East Coast customer service call center, the most frustrating thing was having to explain why some people couldn’t get DSL even after they received promotional materials from Verizon.

    The tools we had to work with weren’t very precise either, because a lot can be going on at the neighborhood, street and even individual house level, especially with new construction. We did get a full month of training on how POTS/DSL works though which is why you at least got an answer that something is “full.”

    No room in the DSLAM at the CO is the reason, previous commentors are correct. Every DSL subscriber gets their own card at the CO, so when DSLAM is filled up, they can’t provision anyone else. There is literally no room left!

    This is much better than cable who just signs people up and the pipe gets split further and further until your neighborhood is bogged down from the sheer volume.

    You might be able to get the issue escalated if you called back to ask if they’d be expanding capabilities to handle more customers, but when I worked there (granted several years ago), emails we sent to the provisioning dept. rarely got answered and us call center jockeys didn’t have much time to return phone calls, unfortunately.

    Maybe it’s better now, I dunno!

  28. macdude22 says:

    My DSLAM at my Co-op was full for a while when I first moved to town. Eventually I got them to patch me in on the other DSLAM back at the home office, it’s a stretch distance wise but I gots my DSL.

    I live in an Apartment on a hill with corn surrounding it, the phone company has a DSLAM onsite that services the building, a nearby micro sub division, and a few farms up the road with fiber running back into town to the home office. They are running Occam 6000 series BLCs, which seems to be pretty cost effective letting them offer a multitude of services in the middle of bubkis nowhere. I gotta pay through the nose but in the same regard I can usually find the tech if need be, and it’s always the same guy.

    Verizon cant physically give this person DSL, though their explanation was thoroughly insufficient. The question they need to ask is Verizon going to add more capacity in that area?

  29. stuny says:

    Just hack into your neighbor’s wireless router!

  30. boss_lady says:

    @macdude22: You’re right- I never thought of that. The customer here could ask if there’s another Central Office/Exchange that they could possibly route to for DSL. Their ‘loop’ would be longer and service might not be steady 100% of the time, but it’d be something.

  31. Laffy Daffy says:

    No more internet for you! Next!

  32. ViperBorg says:

    @stuartny: How about go to your neighbor and politely ask them if you can bum off their connection. Even offer compensation. I do that with 3 of my neighbors, and my high speed internet is paid for completely by them. I don’t pay a dime for my connection anymore. :)

  33. Greeper says:

    THey told me this and I called back a week later and signed up fine. Someone will drop off.

  34. Trai_Dep says:

    Whoa. Color me impressed, Verizon!

  35. thomas_callahan says:

    You’re probably better off with cable anyway. I have verizon DSL at work (no cable service in our building…) and cox cable at home and the cable is noticeably smoother and has far fewer outages and slowdowns.

    Every couple of months I notice that everything seems pokey, do a speed test and get 600kbps intead of 3mpbs. Then I have to spend an hour or so on the phone while somebody does something to our connection just to get us back up to the low 2mbps range (still short of 3 but way better than 600k). Then a couple of months later I’ll have to do it all over again because apparently whatever they do doesn’t stick.

    I think both companies are the source of all that is wrong and evil in this world, mind you, but I have to grudgingly admit that Cox’s service is better.

    Also have had nothing but horrible experiences with Verizon ‘service’ like losing our business internet for a few days because a CSR switched it off by accident instead of moving it — luckily one of the techs had like 20 years experience, knew what he was doing, and drove over to the local DSL center or whatever it is and undid it all himself, bypassing the normal process that would have meant waiting two weeks for reactivation.

    Of course now that I say that I’ll have no internet at home tonight… oh, and “your mileage may vary”.

  36. rioja951 - Why, oh why must I be assigned to the vehicle maintenance when my specialty is demolitions? says:

    @Lucky225: I work in the area that would give the answer to this (If I worked for verizon, wich I dont). You might be 100% correct, but we would need more info.

    It’s likely they are limiting the loads on the DSLAM and switch at the office. so they need to expand with new hardware to service more users but will degrade for all of them, or upgrade and allow the service for all within their minimum margin of service, but that cost monnies.

  37. revmatty says:

    Note that if you live in an area where the infrastructure hasn’t been well maintained (think areas that are now hip ‘transitional’ neighborhoods) you may run into a problem if an unfortunately placed loopback is on the line. In that case the CO could have plenty of available capacity and be a mere 1000 yards away from you and you still couldn’t get service. Or even more frustrating I’ve seen a few cases where someone lived within sight of a CO other than *their* co. Too far from their CO to get service, and can’t get service from a different CO even though they were only a few hundred feet away.

  38. mythago says:

    Thanks for all the (really!) helpful comments. It seemed very weird because

    1) the previous residents had DSL (and no other phone companies have service here, so must have been Verizon)

    2) we’re in a town of around 50,000 people, moving two miles away to a LESS populated/dense area, and

    3) Verizon rep was helpful and courteous! Egads!

    I think we are changing COs even though we’re keeping our old #. It just seemed very strange because I currently live where there are a LOT of DSL subscribers (many apartment buildings) and the new place is in a burby neighborhood near an uninhabited open space.

    Will try and see if they can squeeze us in, if not….Comcast.

  39. packerman says:

    They may have already ran fiber to house and wont undo work unless some threats are heard higher up in the company. I tried to get dsl from Verizon after I had fios. They told me the same thing about being too many people but tried to upgrade me to fios which I didnt want to pay the higher fee for bandwith I barely used.

  40. weezedog says:

    Personally when I signed up for DSL, they had a hard time finding a line that was 100% copper from the CO to my apartment. they said that some of the lines had fiber optic sections and they couldn’t use those lines for DSL. This was almost 5 years ago, so maybe things have changed. I went on a waiting list for like a month or so, till they could swap some things around to get me a 100% copper line. This was SBC DSL that is now AT&T.

  41. xamarshahx says:

    they dont want to degrade service for other customers and they have too many signed up to the current local hub, so until they expand it, they wont add you. i think this is actually quite good that they did this instead of like comcast where they just overload it and tell your whole neighborhood their computers are slow.

  42. Ryan-L says:

    This isn’t unreasonable, I went through the same thing just a few months ago when I moved. I was told that the DSL switch was full and I could either switch to dialup, or cancel my contract without having to pay an ETF.

    At the very least, it’s great that Verizon caught that. They could have just as easily given you the runaround and had you without internet for days. At least if you know that you can’t get your DSL, you can look for another ISP.

  43. SacraBos says:

    @stuartny: Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Someone in the neighborhood could offer a WiFi connection (you can get exterior antenna masts at Fry’s/etc) and essentially get free service.

  44. ctnice says:

    The same is occuring in the rural parts of NC. Although Verizon offers DSL service here, my wife and I have been told by line-men in the area that Verizon will “no longer be adding any additional DSL services in the area” and that instead they were ramping up the cellular card service for the area…

  45. locustfist says:

    Verizon is pulling this in our area too. only they give a reason. they say they are in the process of running fiber optic. lame

  46. Jorel says:

    Listen to this guy. He knows what he’s talking about. This has nothing to do with Verizon choosing to not to “degrade” anyone’s service. This is DSL NOT cable.

    It’s really not that weird just a bit technical. 2 miles is 10,560 ft which would definitely put you on a different CO or RT because typical Verizon DSL only goes ~17,000 ft in the first place. It has everything to do with the amount of ports/cards they have left on what would be your new DSLAM, which apparently is zero.

    Lastly, anecdotal comparisons on speeds/quality between cable/DSL are irreverent because speed/quality with DSL has mostly to do with distance and copper quality. And Cable quality/speed with how many people are hooked up to that CMTS and how much bandwidth they are using.

  47. FLConsumer says:

    Be glad you didn’t have to change your #. I moved from one location to another in the same ZIP code on the same main road and Verizon refused to let me keep my phone #. The irony is that I could port it to a VoIP provider clear across the country, but for some reason Verizon’s incapable of doing the same within the same city.

    Very likely the DSLAM in your area is full. Shouldn’t be a huge issue for them to bring out an additional one, ‘though it can take some time for them to make it happen.

    As much as Verizon sucks as a company, their DSL service is reasonably good. Usually stable, with outages usually happening overnight (2a-6a). I only wish they’d be more forthcoming with announcements of maintenance outages or even finding out if an outage is maintenance or something else.

    Forget calling Verizon DSL’s tech support for any of this ‘though. It’s all farmed out to India and they’re 99.9% useless. Their CSRs don’t even know how DSL works! I had a hell of a time trying to get them to understand that a sync light on the modem doesn’t mean everything works fine. Just means the modem sees the DSLAM. Packets weren’t passing. Couldn’t even reach the gateway. After 2 hrs screwing around with them on the phone, one rep finally said it was a “planned outage”. Shouldn’t they have told me that before I wasted 2 hrs of their time and mine?

  48. FijianTribe says:

    At least they didnt sign you up and make you pay all the while getting super slow or non-existant connections taking your money only to have you spend all the time investigating the issue and finally switching.

  49. fever says:

    What’s so bad about Comcast broadband, in terms of Verizon DSL? Unless DSL has just radically in the last two days, it’s still gonna be faster. As far as throttling, my bittorrent uploads are now capped at about 150 Kbps, but I regularly get 2.6 Mbps upload otherwise.

  50. whoareyou says:

    can we just get to the final round of worst company in america: COMCAST vs. VERIZON

  51. Same thing happened to me when I was helping my in-laws to get a DSL connection. I used Verizon’s website to see if I could order them DSL. I couldn’t, because “DSL was full” in their area.

    Then a week later there was a special offer on a newspaper the in-laws read for Verizon DSL. Same exact plan, but with a better price than on Verizon’s website. I tried Verizon’s normal website again…sure enough DSL was still “full”. Then I typed in the URL for the offer in the newspaper. It’s going to the same website, just on a web page with details about the particular promotion. The order goes through, and the in-laws have had DSL for a few months now.

    It turns out the DSL wasn’t “full” after all. Verizon just decided not to sell us DSL one way, but was perfectly fine selling it to us another way.

    Makes no sense to me, and caused undue aggravation to us for a while.

  52. mythago says:

    @fever, problem is that the Comcast contractors in our area are less than stellar. We tried Comcast a while ago at our current location. It never worked right. When we called, they explained that because we had a router with more than one computer, that was “home networking” which wasn’t included in our plan, but they would be happy to sell us their “Comcast networking” package and that would supposedly fix it.

  53. JohnMc says:

    jaysyn has it right. The DSLAM switch is full subscribed. ie no more ports at the in. Here’s the bad news — Verizon ain’t buying no more. The Network Ops folks on the POTS side have had their budgets cut to the bone so there is no budget for equipment upgrades — anywhere.

  54. Consumer007 says:

    @hypnotik_jello: BINGO – The server room people just told the CSR that to get them off their case. Hello, Verizon server room network tech start running wires to the next switch over…in the next cabinet? You know, the one with all those open ethernet ports in front of yo face? Yeah – it’s for that PAYING customer. Thanks…FULL refered to the current switch / hub / router the moron was looking at was full of ethernet cables going into it.

  55. lalatech says:

    Maybe this will help:

    1) Zip code means nada to the telcos. Keeping the same number is very easy no matter if you move a block away or a continent away. These mean nothing here. Many urban zip codes could be served by 3 or 4 C.O.s, or even more. You might be changing to a different CO that’s really full up.

    2) That previous residents of the new place had dsl now only means the cable their qualified for it. If their DSLAMS counts are that tight, the previous resident’s DSLAM was reused for someone else immediately. Turn around on reusing dslams is often less than a day.

    3) Placing an order as a NEW service might be a whole different thing than a CHANGE order. Check with the rep on if that’s why. Also realize that there may be no choice either due to various policies and systems so she/he may not be able to do a thing about it.

    4) Never heard of “each customer has their own card”. The very earliest DSLAM equipment I ever saw carried 2 customers. Newer ones have something like 32 per card? 64? I forget now but it sure as heck isn’t one customer per DSLAM card. That would be an incredible waste of floor space for such a popular service anyway.

    5) DSLAMS in the C.O. are connected inline usually using 22ga twisted pair. No ethernet cable. There is no way to “change it to the next cabinet” if there is no cabinet where changes can be made. Customer connections are all all done on the frame blocks. And yes, those blocks do get full up!!

    6) It’s a local situation that’s extremely unlikely to be be improved on without new equipment changes of some kind. Which requires forcasting, engineering and workorders. So, the planning, or lack of it, is what really screwed this person up by not ordering enough dslams or network facilities or whatever to begin with, for stupid whatever reason.

    So don’t cancel your order if they’ll take it at all, at least you’ll then be in line for an avaialable dslam as other people move and theirs gets disconnected.

  56. freejazz38 says:

    The clowns try the same thing with Caller ID. Try and get it on a new phone installation, and they say there is a “waiting list” hahahahahaha ANOTHER reason to go to another company

  57. i work in the verizon office and can actually explain this. Verizon build a certain amount of capacity in their central offices. Once they have a reached their maximum number of customers, no one else can get DSL until someone else cancels. Because she already has DSL, the system sees no availability. Once she cancels it on her existing line that will free up the capacity but the system can’t see into the future and know this. All the system does is look to see if there’s capacity NOW.

    which there isn’t

    That said, all someone like me has to do is override the rejection and send a request to an engineer and I guarentee you it will work just fine.

  58. krom says:

    Zip codes don’t have anything to do with telephone service.

    It may not be relevant, but the OP makes a point repeatedly of saying “in the same zip code” like that’s supposed to matter.

    In a dense area, there could be multiple COs in the same zip code, and that’s what would actually matter. You could move within the zip code but to a different nearest CO. Or in a less dense area you could change zip codes but have the same CO.

  59. Anonymous says:

    I had the same response from Verizon. I wanted them to provide dry loop DSL; they said DSL was not available so I asked if they could provide FIOS and they said no.

    So I filed a complaint with the FCC and the PA utility commission; both agencies took the complaint and in two weeks I got a call from Verizon that they had modified the central office equipment and they could now provide DSL. (Historically, the telcos take FCC and state commission complaints very seriously.)


  60. Anonymous says:

    I had Verizon DSL for years and I am using my 2nd Verizon provided router. 1st one stop working after 2+ years of constant residential use. I noticed about 2% of the time now we lose service for a few minutes. It could be the new router but I much more strongly believe it is the DSL service itself. I live 0.5 miles from the phone system hub. I wonder if Verizon isn’t maxed out somehow and having to share time among all us dedicated, direct line DSL users.