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Connectivity... Lack Thereof

It's been a short yet long strange trip down the Connectivity Lane here at the Ranch. Ins and outs of making a connection to the Outer World these days are now so varied that it's even hard to compare things to while I grew up at my parents house. Then, One Phone Company ruled them all, and if life wasn't good, it at least was simple and service very consistent and reliable. Then in the inestimable wisdom of Guvmint, the One Phone Company was deemed to be an Evil Monopoly and broken up. Maybe that stimulated competition. Maybe not. All we really know is that communications technology is now a vast hydra. Land-line phones, Internet phones, cell phones, cable and satellite television, and more.

Bit under three years ago I'd gotten fed up with our land-line telephony provider consistently and constantly telling me that DSL connection was not available in our area yet, despite a very good friend living approximately one mile and a bit (shade under two full kilometres) further along the same phone line up the road having DSL from the same land-line telephony provider. A competing company said yes, there is DSL in the area yet they could not provide us with it because we are in a competitors declared (by Guvmint) territory. At the time, we kept two telephone lines to the House with one for telephone calls and the other strictly for dial-up Internet. Really wanted to get off that glacial dial-up too.

So I shopped around. And found an attractive deal with Satellite Internet via Sky Internet Provider. There were only a few doing that, at the time, plus one out of Williston nearby that provided wireless. We couldn't get the wireless without putting up a Really Tall Tower of our own for the antenna. We could get Sky Internet. Picked on as stated, and lo, the connection speed was Stupendous and Marvelous and Wonderful.

My only big concern at the time is that Sky Internet Provider wanted a credit card (or debit card but no way on that continue reading here) for automatic bill payment. They practiced all modern and green business, generating the monthly statement entirely on-line, no hard-copy mailings. In fact, had to dig a bit through any of the User Agreement/Contract paperwork (still had that, almost three years back) to find a physical address for Sky Internet Provider Company. Still, using a card for pretty much this purpose, with a strongly limited max balance and paying it off every month worked.

Until about a year into the contract, in May '11 when I tried logging on and couldn't because our network wasn't available. Called the help number and received the interesting news that our bill was outstanding, due, overdue, not paid.

What? Automatic billing, eh?

Outstanding, due, overdue, not paid.

Well, couldn't even access the on-line banking at that moment because, hey, no Sky Internet service and wasn't using a smart enough smart phone (the NotSoSmart Treo at the time). Paid the bill over the phone with them, service restored right there, went on-line to the Bank and...

No transaction at all on the card for Sky Internet Provider Company. Hm. Next month, watching for that transaction around the correct time of month and then Network Not Available. Called the help number. Outstanding, due, overdue, not paid. A bit more irate (not a lot) with the nice help representative and Paid the bill over the phone with them, service restored right there, went on-line to the Bank and...

No transaction at all on the card for Sky Internet Provider Company. Hm. Told the nice help representative that right then and there (having kept them on the line). They weren't sure what was up yet made a note about this on the account info. Moving along into July watching for that transaction around the correct time of month and then Network Not Available. Called the help number. Outstanding, due, overdue, not paid. Rather a lot more irate this time, because this is now Three Times and Even Buddha, Three Times, and the nice Help Representative says Um, yes, we upgraded our billing system recently (how recently? Three months ago) and it apparently is experiencing glitches passing the transactions across to a few different card providers and we are working on that...

I fixed that problem by cancelling the automatic bill payment and then simply going on-line myself to make the bill payment directly. This works just fine, though on a couple occasions when pay days fell a bit different than the billing cycle and I had to wait a day or two to make payment and at the two day wait, say going on line on the third day to pay and...

Network Not Available. Call the help number. What's with this. We, our account, is on a two-day grace period. Why? Because you are not using automatic bill payment. Right. Nor am I going to be, so now I simply adjust to calling the Help Number on the next occasion it is a three day span between Billing Date and Funds Available and things work fine until May '12.

When I can't log into the web site to pay the bill. I mean I can access the site, and do the UserName and Password and then the Magic Box sits here and shows me the spinning top of login and comes back with a message box: Network timed out, site not available.

WTF? Call the Help Number. Run through the problem. Answer: Must be you changed something in your firewall or virus protection there isn't anything on our side.

Um, no. Same firewall & virus protection program, not recently updated on version.

Well, it must be on your side there isn't anything on ours.

This inability to log in (via the satellite connection here, nor from my above mentioned friend up the road (who, BTW, is enjoying his land-line provided DSL while um, yes, checking with Land-Line Provider they say no, not available in your area...), not even from Hospital's Ethernet Connection, all of them saying Network Timed Out, Site Not Available. I do a bit of digging now, following through in research on the error number in the message box and Lo!

Redirect Error, which occurs when a secure site is accessed through a pop-up window and then can not redirect back to the original window when the secure data is passed along...

Called the Help Number. Wait... right. May '12 and now it is July '12, so three months.

Anyone else see a trend here besides me?

Well, yes, very sorry about that we think we've got that fixed apparently a number of our customers experienced that problem very sorry...

So now I log into the site and what is this, Sky Internet Provider is now part of the Greater Sky Internet Company, providers of Sky Internet and Super Sky Internet. Upgrade your connection now!

Or, in short and less sarcastic wording, a Merger occurred. So I look at the new Super Sky Internet connection plan I am being asked to upgrade to, with Super Speeds* (*not available in all locations actual speeds may vary). And for the exact same monthly price I currently pay of approximately $80 US, I will receive the princely amount of...

Right on the order of 2Mb less bandwidth per month than the Sky Internet current plan.

I don't think so. I'll keep what I have.

Between the start of July and end of August, well middle of August, really, I notice a drastic increase in the time it takes particular web sites to load. Noticeably, secure log-in web sites, at least through the log-in. Some, the slower speeds continue during the secure session. For example, going to my On-Line Bank via the Sky Internet Provider. Which, halfway through August I test by simultaneously opening the SmartPhone app to Bank.

Which loads about two minutes sooner than the Sky Internet Provider connection.

Well. Isn't that interesting. Now, my first thought is actually hardware. See, we've gotten a pretty goodly number of very severe thunderstorms this past summer here on the Ranch in Baja Jorja. Really severe, lots of lightning activity, and our power knocked out on a half dozen occasions. Which our rural electric co-operative is really good about restoring power (longest down time was just under 60 minutes), and still this is more often than previous summer. Just maybe some of the electronics in the loop took a hit, despite being on surge protectors and UPC back-ups.

So I test this. And yes, with the wireless router out of the loop, things pick up a bit. Replace the router with an ethernet bridge. Never was really happy with that router, anyway.

And between the middle and end of August, the Sky Internet Provider connection speeds continue to slow down. So I call the Help Number and say I think we might of gotten a hit by lightning.

It will be a $90 service call fee and a $180 modem replacement fee. If it is our equipment.

Wait a minute. I pay an equipment lease fee on this agreement. Go look up the paperwork because it is a long-ago-enough contract that the paperwork isn't available on line on Sky Internet Provider (Plus Super Sky Internet Provider) Web Site. Why yes, it appears I don't own the box out on the dish antenna, nor that modem. So why am I paying a replacement fee?

Didn't get the service visit.

Called Land-Line Telephony Provider. Why yes, sir, we do provide DSL to your area. (What, it's Magic, OK?) Oh, but we are sorry your particular line is only rated up to (I forget the exact amount, ya ya ya y'all are wondering what it is and are all what this geek doesn't remember the bandwidth allowance) X Mbps. We will be happy to add this service. Monthly it will be --

I did mention how much I'm paying for Sky Internet above. Remember that? No? $80 US. Adding DSL to our land-line bill will cost us an additional $30 US. Less than half the Sky Internet. Yes, please, add the service.

Mind, I've paid Sky Internet Provider for the month of September already toward the end of August. DSL started here on the Ranch about a week and a half ago. Right now, my PC is using that, and Herself's PC is still on Sky Internet. I've noticed a significant increase in connection speeds. Later today I expect I'll power down and swap the Internet connections for a trial (my firewall & virus software calls this Network 3, with the old wireless being Network 1 and the ethernet bridge being Network 2). See what Herself thinks about connection speeds then.

Likely, however, when we near the end of September and Sky Internet Provider bill is coming due, I expect I'll be telling Sky Internet Provider that it's been good and all, BUT.

I don't truly possess any evidence other than this big anecdotal story I've just spun for you, yet I strongly suspect that Super Sky Internet Provider (parent company thereof) really wants to shut down all their customers on Sky Internet Provider, moving them to that new improved service which out here is likely not so improved, and is definitely More Money For Less Bandwidth than otherwise.

And I still wonder, to this day, if we as a society really did ourselves a favour by breaking up the One Phone Company into a hydra.

This entry was originally posted at http://madshutterbug.dreamwidth.org/162250.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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