Slow, High-Speed Chase

By John McCormick  |  Posted 2001-09-10 Print this article Print

I wasn't surprised to read in this week's ISP/ASP Customer Satisfaction Survey that something like 70,000 people per week sign up for Internet access

I wasnt surprised to read in this weeks ISP/ASP Customer Satisfaction Survey that something like 70,000 people per week sign up for Internet access. In fact, I just joined them. But it was slow going to the Internets fast lane.

Day 1: I take my modem out of the box. I follow the installation instructions and load the software. A startup screen appears. I click on a hyperlink and . . . nothing.

I call my provider. "All our representatives are busy, please stay on the line." I hold for about 20 to 25 minutes — not long. A rep comes on. Yes, its plugged in. Yes, Ive attached the Ethernet cable. Yes, the coaxial cable is attached. And, yes, of course, the cable modem lights are . . . off. Im told thats a sign the modem isnt getting a signal. A service rep needs to come out, but can be at my house in two days — which turns out to be Labor Day. Now, Im a friend of labor and believe the working people of the world — present company included — deserve a holiday. "Would you guys really send someone over on Labor Day?" I ask. "Yes, sir," comes the reply. "We can be there by 11 a.m." Great, I say, send em over. (OK, Im human.)

Day 2: On Labor Day, at about 3 p.m., the truck rolls up. The cable guy checks the line and tells me the line needs more power for a good signal. Dont worry, he tells me, pulling out various tools of destruction, he can string a new line from the street, make a nice hole in my siding, snake a line into the office and have me going in no time. He can tell Im not crazy about the idea. Or, he says reluctantly, we can see if the line is hooked into a three-way splitter, which would zap the line. Switching to a two-way splitter, he says, might boost the line. To his dismay, I tell him to holster his drill.

We find a three-way splitter, replace the device and hook up the modem, which comes to life. He gives me a there-ya-go look and tells me to enjoy the rest of the holiday. I do.

Day 3: I power up the machine, get back to the start screen, click on the link and . . . nothing. I try hitting my keyboard — hard. This doesnt help. I dial my provider. I hold for about 20 to 25 minutes — not long. When I get the help desk guy, he asks what operating system Im using. I reply: "Its a Mac." His "oh no" was barely audible. We spend an hour trying different configurations before he decides we need "the Mac guy." I hold for 20 to 25 minutes — not long. The Mac guy and I play with a couple of things, I wind up downloading Outlook 5, and after a few hours of try-this-try-thats, Im on. But something doesnt seem right.

Day 4: I try to get connected. Nothing.

I call the cable company. I hold for about 20 to 25 minutes — not long. I get another oh-no-youve-got-a-Mac person, who transfers me to another Mac guy, who sets me up in a totally different way. This time, the settings hold. Im on.

Our ISP/ASP special report says churn is a big problem for the access business. Seems about one in four users is switching providers — many because of poor technical support. Im not surprised.

Before joining Baseline, John was the editor of Inter@ctive Week, another Ziff Davis publication. He was the editorial director at SIGS Publications and the editor of both the print and online editions of CMP Media's InformationWeek. At CMP, he wrote a popular column, 'McCormick Place,' that focused on technology and business. He also served as the editor-in-chief of InfoDaily and appeared as a regular analyst on CNBC's Technology Edge program.


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