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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Silicon Valley is a horrible place for Internet access

When people think of Silicon Valley, they probably think of vast seas of bits flowing around. After all, so much of "the Internet" physically lives somewhere around here and sits on top of gigantic pipes to various peering points both public and private. There are entire blocks which have thousands of computer residents and the only living thing is an occasional security guard or NOC monkey.

So, given all of that, you'd think the Internet access you can get around here is pretty awesome, right?

Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. Oh my gosh. You are funny!

No. It's actually rather bad. When I first moved out here, I had a cable modem installed, and promptly discovered how bad it could be. There were stretches of two or three minutes where all outgoing traffic would die. Basically, I could not get any bits out to the Internet, even though plenty of them could get to me.

What's worse is that their "CDV" voice service also had the same problem at the same time. If I was talking to someone when this happened, they'd stop hearing me for 30 seconds, a minute, or more, depending on how long it decided to be stupid. I had to tell my friends and family about it so they'd stay on and wait it out instead of hanging up.

When this happened, I couldn't even "break the dialtone" by dialing, since, again... the DTMF digits couldn't make it upstream to the switch.

What was really amazing about this is that it wasn't anything too close to me, since I could still ping other similar IP addresses. That made me believe that my own cable modem and connection was just fine, but it was something on their end eating traffic trying to exit this immediate area. ping and traceroute died a couple of hops away, at least.

Every time I reported it, they would want to do a "truck roll". The guys who came out somehow knew about this happening, but didn't have anything they could do about it. They'd plug in, measure a good signal, say "yeah, it does that", and leave again. Thanks for wasting my time!

Here I was, brand new to Silly Valley, and I was expecting awesomeness, but I was getting worse service than my parents had in the middle of nowhere in Texas! This was no good. So, I decided to try Speakeasy DSL. I had heard good things about them in the past, and could finally be a customer, so why not, right?

Wrong. They screwed things up so badly. Yes, they shipped me the equipment and turned up a line, but it was even worse garbage than what Comcast was giving me. It wouldn't sync most of the time, and when it did, it was barely better than a dialup modem. Now, I'm not living in the boonies here. All of the wiring around here has to be newer than the crazy old junk my parents had, too.

I opened tickets to have this fixed, but they wound up being "closed for inactivity" without actually fixing anything. Later, I would find out that they were about to be sold to Best Buy, and their current levels of service were not matching those older stories I had heard.

So, finally, I decided to just call up and cancel it. That's when the weenie on the other end said that he was going to charge me a cancellation fee. I took a deep breath instead of screaming at him, and then calmly said that "... you guys never delivered a stable circuit - see tickets X, Y and Z - so it was never actually installed. I'm not going to pay any cancellation fee."

This actually worked. He cancelled the service and that was that. I never heard from them again. They didn't even want the equipment back. I guess that just goes to show how much they cared about things.

Happily enough, around this time, Comcast stopped doing the "upstream? what's an upstream?" thing to me, and so I stayed with them. It's not like I had much choice in the matter anyway. There's only one cable company around here, and any other DSL would probably be just as bad as what Speakeasy put in.

I can drive five minutes and be in front of a gigantic Hotmail data center with pipes to match, or any number of other sites with similar connectivity, but I can't get any kind of competition into my own residence.

Don't say sonic.net. I already looked. All they'll do where I am is resell ATT DSL to me at awful prices. None of their whizbang offerings exist in my part of the world. For that reason, I've filed them under "last resort". I'd probably buy a yagi (antenna) and start poaching wireless from nearby homes or businesses before I'd resort to that.

You'd think everyone around here would have more bandwidth than they knew what to do with, it would be super reliable, and it would be sold by numerous providers with healthy competition.

Yeah, right.