Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tales from the dark side of the digital divide, 95709

Nearly seven years ago, a postcard arrived in the mail from Internet Service provider EarthLink announcing that DSL was available in my El Dorado County, California neighborhood. That turned out to be premature — very premature. Seven years later and two years after a promising community meeting with a regional manager for the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), then-SBC Communications and now AT&T, DSL is still not available despite fiber optic cable less than two miles away on a frontage road for a major U.S. highway. Nor is Comcast cable, which recently declined to extend its existing cable plant located a mile and a half away, citing a franchise agreement that allows it to skip neighborhoods that aren’t set up like densely developed common interest developments with zero lot lines.


Today, another postcard — actually the size of a flyer — arrived in the mail. This one from HughesNet satellite Internet and addressed to:


DIAL UP INTERNET USER AT
ADDRESS
CITY, STATE, ZIP

"Been overlooked by DSL and cable?” it asks. “Your high-speed Internet solution has arrived."


Judging from a neighbor’s experience with HughesNet, I hardly think so. It’s maddenly sluggish and not surprisingly so considering each keystroke to load a Web page must make a 46,000 mile round trip up to the HughesNet satellite and back down to the surface. For months, about 20 percent of his inbound email wouldn’t download to his Outlook Express program. So we installed Thunderbird mail as an alternative. The emails came in OK, but nothing would go out.


We spent two hours on the phone with some incompetent HughesNet support guy in Bangalore who couldn't solve the problem. So my neighbor is now relegated to using HughesNet’s crappy Web-based mail program. That’s not all. About a month ago, his granddaughter downloaded a TV program and HughesNet responded by throttling down the throughput to dialup speed as punishment for using too much bandwidth since it has too many ex-dialup desperados trying to cram onto too little HughesNet bandwidth. Many of these ex-dialuggers including my neighbor — large numbers of them seniors simply seeking a viable Internet connection to share pics with the grandkids — have been sucked into signing two-year contracts for what more aptly should be dubbed “MolassesNet” on steroids.


I imagine in another two years, another postcard will arrive in the mail addressed to:

DIAL UP INTERNET USER AT
ADDRESS
CITY, STATE, ZIP

No comments:

Web Analytics