Sunday, July 15, 2007

The History of My ISPs: Part 2

After confirming that Bell doesn't have policies that would kick you off if you "downloaded too much while using unlimited Internet", I signed up, for a 1 year contract. There was a promotion at the time were the first 3 months were only $25. When I was still with Rogers, the download speed was 1.5 mbps. It was fast, but not super fast. Once the equipment for Sympatico came in the mail, I did a speed test and realized it was 3mbps!! Wait there's more!! When I still had Rogers, I would share the Internet to my brother's computer using Windows Internet Connection Sharing since I had 2 NICs, which means for my brother to have Internet, my computer would have to be turned on (well, it 'is' on all the time) but if I had to restart my computer, my brother would lose connection - what a hassle. With Sympatico, I had a hub, and you could make multiple PPPoE logins! That means my brother wouldn't have to depend on my computer anymore, something that would not have been possible with the cable modem. Could I have asked for more? I was really happy. The ping times were low and reaching the max speed was quick. The only issues I had with DSL at the beginning were that installing filters for a first time user like me was a bit of a hassle and once you do install filters on all lines, you could still hear a quiet buzz and/or ring of the DSL modem while you're talking on the phone. Luckily, I found out that you could just simply add more filters on the line to completely filter out the noise. On a side note, I read that a DSL modem (of which you're not supposed to filter) could still operate with a filter on it's line, but the connection speed would be dumbed down. Whenever I'd have a tech question, I'd simply call 310-SURF and wouldn't have to wait in a queue. Someone (knowledgeable) would just answer and not have the long, formal and unnecessary greeting and goodbyes, just straight to the point. I stuck with Sympatico for a long time, I never really had issues with the service for years. Then came the time for me to leave home for a 16 month internship.. I changed the service to Sympatico lite for 12 months since I know that my brother wouldn't need to speed or exceed the 2GB cap. Now it's time for me to come back home, and Sympatico is not the same Sympatico that I knew many years ago when I signed up.. All the tech support is outsourced. This is partly to blame on the fact that Rogers has stolen much of Bell's customers and is dominating the ISP, wireless (cell phone) and television spaces, and is now making it's move onto the home phone space. On top of the outsourcing, Bell has made many deals with Microsoft - , the Xbox 360 Christmas bundle, and the thing that really pissed me off was the push on selling MSN Premium to a tech-savvy person like me. I called tech support just so I could have the password for my online Sympatico account (where I could see billing and usage stats) reset. I'm sure it doesn't take long to reset the password, but the tech support rep (who was in India) was asking me about the snow in Canada, while the "system was loading", and then went on to sell me MSN Premium.
Sir, we have something called MSN Premium, it contains a virus scanner, anti-spyware software, junkmail filter software, and pop up blocker! Would you like to sign up for this service for a low monthly price of $6.95?
No thanks. I think I can manage without those things.
Sir, I highly suggest you sign up for this service, it is really good! All that software for just a low montly included on top of your Sympatico bill.
Um.. no, I really don't need it.
..Sir.. I think you should sign up for this deal. It is very useful! I use it myself and I know it is really good to have this. Antivirus, antispyware, junkmail filter and a popup ad blocker!
NO, I absolutely DO NOT need it...!!!!!!
That got me a little worked up. When they finally reset my password, it was all the mumbo jumbo - "Thank you for using Sympatico". The next few times I called back to possibly renew and upgrade my service back to Sympatico High Speed, there were disagreements as to what my contract end dates were and the possible pricing. Different reps gave me different attitudes and different deals and different dates. I asked for a supervisor or manager and was put on hold indefinitely..... great service! (/sarcasm). Since Sympatico wasn't giving me good service and not giving me a good price on 5mbps internet, I decided that I'd just sign up to Teksavvy. I heard really great things about them on DSLreports/BroadbandReports. On top of that, there was the Nortel discount that I could apply since I still work for Nortel. 5mbps broadband Internet for less than $30 after taxes? How could I say no? So far the service is great. Calling them for anything is simply calling them, and talking to someone. The rep handles tech support 'and' sales/billing questions. When you call them, they pick up, you tell them their problem and they fix it. Unlike Rogers and Bell where you'd call a number, go through and automated phone service, get in queue, get told how how long you'll have to wait, have them read you a script like "did u try unplugging it and plugging it back in?", etc etc, and then having them tell you that they'll open a ticket for you. Hopefully I'll stick with Teksavvy and I won't have to switch again in the future, but I think it's only a matter of time before WiMAX becomes affordable and attractive enough for everyone to switch/upgrade, but that'll be after I get a WiMAX enabled laptop.

The History of My ISPs: Part 1

This is the 2nd time I had to leave a broadband Internet Service Provider. At first I had Shaw/Rogers cable, back in the mid 90s. They were nice enough to do all the installation: Drill holes at the side of my house and string the coaxial cable from my basement, out the side of my house, and then in to the side of my house into my room. This got me cable TV into my room which was an awesome bonus. This was way back when broadband cable internet was first introduced and there was no such thing as a speed or bandwidth cap, because the adoption rate was still slow and they figured that no user could possibly hog all the bandwidth just by browsing. Most people still lived with dial-up instead of paying $20 more for broadband. There were no (manually imposed) limits, other than the limits of the technology. I remember watching a download of Netscape, about 40mb. I went as high as 1000 kBytes/sec, which, at that time, could have been the limit of the entire neighborhood "server". I started logging into BBSes less often.. I was really happy with the service, up until I started getting really horrible ping times, which affected my ARC games. There was not enough bandwidth to go around for everyone in the neigborhood, even with an imposed 1.5mbps speed cap for all users. Everytime I'd call Rogers, a TSR would just be reading a script to me. "Did you plug in the power?" "Is the cable connected?" "Is the modem connected to your PC?" "Can you power cycle the modem?" "Still not working? I'll have to open a ticket for you..".. I noticed that I'd get different answers and different viewpoints from reps every time I called, and that's when I noticed the big flaw that all big corporations face - with more people in the company, the percentage of tech-savvy representatives drops. Those who absolutely knew the technology inside out and knew the truth of what exactly the problem is.. If I was lucky when I called, I'd get to talk to these guys, who diagnosed everything, on my side and on their side, and knew that something had to be done - Rogers had to upgrade their hardware to eliminate the strain. If I was unlucky, I'd get one who say the problem was that the game servers I'm playing on were giving me the bad ping times and that Rogers does not provide support for games so they wouldn't be able to help me with my problem at all. After several weeks of my bickering, they upgraded their hardware and had reps check the connection in my house. Finally, they did something right. My internet was fast again and the ping times were less than 100 - good enough to play ARC properly!! It wasn't over though - a few months passed, and got an e-mail telling me that I was flagged as one who is "downloading too much" and that I'd better stop download or they'll cut my service. Absurd! I'm paying for unlimited internet usage. What kind of a corporation sells an unlimited internet services, yet limits their users to how much they can use? I called them and asked. They explain that unlimited is defined as "unlimited to the point where you don't disrupt the browsing experience of others". That's bull, and Roger's problem, not mine. Apparently I was not the only one and there was some media coverage over the issue. Ted Rogers marked us as "some kind of terrorist, thief or at the very least a 'system abuser' and 'bandwidth hog' who is threatening the peaceful internet usage of all Canadians." I did limit my downloading a bit, but not enough for them to be happy. They cut my service and I was really pissed. I decided that Rogers was not the type of corporation that deserves my money, so I switched to Bell Sympatico.

The History of My ISPs: Part 0

Before there was the Internet, there were BBSes. Those were really fun and exciting times. Everything was text based - the navigation, the text messaging and even the login and logout screens were coloured ASCII pictures of dragons, skulls, flames, etc. You could still download files of course, text documents, pictures, midi songs, and downloading an mp3 song was as big and massive tasks as it is downloading a high def rip of a movie today. Once you start downloading, you couldn't do anything else, except wait and watch the lights on your (external) modem flash. You would pray that the download would stay at the max possible speed all the way through (14 400 bps) so that the download would in fact finish in 15 minutes and no longer. When the Internet finally started becoming more mainstream, my official first dial-up ISP was outer-net. It's really good to see that they're still in business. I still recognize their logo as well. Most of the time, you would still get more optimal speeds from BBSes than from the Internet - navigating and loading times were a lot more favourable on BBSes since everything was text based. After outer-net, I moved onto FREE AOL accounts. There was a hack that allowed those 30 day AOL accounts to last forever... Hm..... ya, those were really exciting times. Then came cable broadband Internet..