Sonera does not block any ports in their consumer internet-connections... Or do they?
And what about the technical support?
On July 5th, 2012, I moved my mail handling from my hoster to my own mailserver at home. After some testing, I noticed that there are no mails coming in and I quickly figured that the SMTP port of my connection was not reachable from outside the Sonera network.
The Finnish Communication Regulation Authority (FICORA) has issued a directive in 2004 that ISPs must block outgoing traffic from consumer internet connections to port 25 for security reason. ISP may offer open subscriptions but then must inform the customers about the risks. What risk there might be for the customer in outgoing connections to port 25 is a different question...
Anyways, this directive clearly states that outgoing connections to port 25 must be blocked. It doesn't say anything about incoming connections.
So - I called Sonera's technical hotline.
After I explained my issue to the agent, the first reaction was "we don't block any ports - did you check with another modem?"
It is noteable that "Did you check with another modem", followed by the threat "if the problem lies in your equipment, we will have to charge you if somebody went out to trace the problem and that can easily be several hundred Euros" is somewhat of a standard procedure at Sonera's technical hotline.
Well, I have internet via TV-cable. Also noteable and symptomatic for Sonera's hotline quality is that it is technically impossible to just check with another modem because in cable-TV connections, the user-authentication is done via the modem's MAC address. So if I would just use another modem, the Sonera POP couldn't authenticate it and it just wouldn't work.
So - I explained to the agent that it's not the modem and that my internet connection is otherwise working fine and that Sonera is blocking ports because they are required by law to do so. The answer was "I have never heard of this port-25-thing, you must be wrong, Sonera is not blocking any ports."
I gave the agent the reference number of the FICORA-directive, told him that I know what I am talking about and that he should kindly open a ticket for the Network Management Center because also port 25 incoming is blocked and I want this block removed because it's not in the directive.
About half an hour later, the agent called me back and told that the NMC already answered and told that they will not open the port because the directive doesn't say they have to. I explained to him that the law only requires outgoing connections be blocked, not incoming connections and that blocking incoming connections in my opinion is a violation of the service agreement. I asked him to reopen the ticket and make clear to the NMC that I will not let the issue rest.
Being not very optimistic that the agent understood the issue, I also sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org... And I received an automatic reply, saying:
Hyvä asiakkaamme, Lähetit yhteydenottosi osoitteeseen, joka ei ole enää käytössä. Jatkossa voit hoitaa laajakaista-asioitasi ympäri vuorokauden osoitteessa http://www.sonera.fi/24 Sivuilta löydät vastaukset useimpiin ongelmatilanteisiin sekä kattavat itsepalvelut, joiden avulla voit mm. tilata lisäpalveluita ja hallinnoida liittymääsi. Usein Kysytyt Kysymykset tarjoavat vastaukset yleisimpiin ongelmiin. Ohjeita ja Vinkkejä -tietopankki taas auttaa laajakaistan käyttöönotossa, ongelmatilanteissa, laitteiden asennuksessa ja monessa muussa Laajakaistan käyttöön liittyvässä asiassa. Keskustele ja Kysy -palstan kautta tavoitat Soneran asiantuntijat joilta voit kysyä mieltä askarruttavia asioita. Sivuilla on kattavasti tietoa ja ohjeita myös laskutukseen liittyvissä asioissa ja esimerkiksi maksuajan muutokseen sekä laskun tulkintaan on sivuilla seikkaperäiset ohjeet. Sivujen kautta voit myös jättää meille palvelupyynnön tai laajakaistaasi koskevan vikailmoituksen. Tavataan verkossa! Sonera Asiakaspalvelu
In English: no more email-helpdesk - go to the website... Just great...
This "support"-website is the most insane customer-deflection I have seen in many years. The customer has to go through an "assistant" which asks "very simple questions" and makes suggestions what you should check or do before it lets you one step further. The whole system and also the tone of the questions and suggestions are impudent and patronizing to the highest degree. Most important - it takes forever until the customer comes to a point where he can actually enter any kind of problem description.
For somebody who has even only basic knowledge of computer-stuff this is already totally inacceptable.
After leaving my ticket there, I called again to the technical hotline to get a status update.
New agent, new - umm - worse luck... The agent I reached now in my second call tried to force me into a predetermined question and answer protocol and was very persistent unless I finally lost my patience and told him rather unfriendly that I am an IT expert, know what I am talking about and that I'm not interested in his Q&A but want a status update for an existing ticket. The update was that there was no update... Just great.
The next morning, a guy from the NMC called me back. Finally, I could talk technobabble and after a few minutes, everything was communicated and he promised to check and call me back after an hour. I went to my admin terminal and did some testing again. I noticed that there have been mails incoming and I checked the system to find out that my SMTP server was now reachable. After a little bit over an hour, the NMC guy called back and said he was testing with his systems and he couldn't find any incoming blocks. I told him that somewhen in the night, the block magically vanished. We were then discussing some technobabble and Sonera's support system. All in all, the NMC guy was really cool and competent.
So... Bottom line...:
Support hotline: 0/10 points... or maybe even negative points... I don't know... Really crappy quality!
Support website: I don't even bother to think about points. Totally ridiculuos - impudent and patronizing!
Network Management Center: Friendly, competent, effective! 10/10 points! That's how it should be!