Almost since the word 'Internet' first made its way into general discourse, there has been another phrase mentioned along side it - "high-speed access." High-speed access was the promise of the future. Business on the Web would really take off. We could download movies and games at the drop of a hat.
You would think getting decent high-speed access in a city like Boston would be easy, right?
Wrong. In a process that has lasted several frustrating weeks, it might have been easier to get access to Pentagon secrets.
Two and a half years ago, when I moved to Windsor, Nova Scotia, population 3,800, I made one call to the local phone company and ordered DSL service. A man arrived three days later, installed it in my office, and showed me how it worked.
When I moved back to Boston several months ago, I ordered MediaOne's RoadRunner cable high-speed access. A man took my order and set up an appointment to install the software and hardware.
A few days later, someone from MediaOne called to move my appointment to a different date. The technician arrived on the new date. He installed the equipment, but it didn't work. When he inspected the cable line into my house, he informed me it was "too small" and that we would need to install a new one for something like $120. At no time before this moment did anyone inform me this was even a possibility. I said no.
MediaOne started billing me as if I had the service, and so I had to spend another hour or two getting that sorted out.
Next, I tried Bell Atlantic (or Verizon, as it is now called) for DSL service. I spoke to a woman who took all my information and told me a self-installation kit would arrive in the mail. But under no circumstances, she warned, was I to set up the service until July 18, when it would be turned on. I later received an e-mail confirmation.
No kit came. Finally, July 18 arrived, but still no self-installation kit. When I called Verizon, a woman told me - "oops" - they had lost my order. Did I want to do it again? Nope.
Finally, a friend told me about Teleocity. This past weekend, my kit arrived, three weeks early. I installed it in about ten minutes, and I now have high-speed access again.
I was willing to wade through all this because I need high-speed access to do my job. But what will the average consumer do? It does not bode well for the Internet industry.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society