Let's play the ISP Game|
John Holstein, Cotse Help Desk Coordinator
So you want a reliable dial-up Internet Service Provider? Unlimited access? Usenet Discussion Group access? 10 MB of Homepage Space? 5 Email addresses? No busy signals and great tech support? Well good luck!
I have been around this game for a very long time now. I've been through Prodigy, AOL and CompuServ. Been through the route with local College providers and spent my time with commercial accounts through small, locally owned operations and the larger ISP's like Earthlink, Mindspring and others. Of all the accounts that I have had, through the providers that I have contracted for services, and the one provider that I worked for, I have yet to find an "Ideal" ISP that provides you with EXACTLY what they say in the advertisements, or better yet, what they lead you to believe they will provide.
Some ISP's refuse to carry Usenet Service. Other's limit bandwidth, online time, homepage traffic, availability of static IP's (would you believe that some ISP's charge $75.00 a month for a static dialup IP???), and the list continues. In the past, every ISP that has provided me with service has also provided me with some type of restriction on service. Sure, it may be in the fine print (and I highly advise you to read the fine print) but who reads it? If you call their "Toll Free Sign Up Number" and they ask you a few simple questions (almost as bad as giving a kidney) where you can get connected in minutes (if you are lucky) when do you get to read their Terms of Service? Oh, "...it's on our web site." Well how do you read what's on their web site if you don't have ISP service? "...when you sign up, you can go to our site and read the ToS." Well that's nice. After the fact. I have already signed up. Incurring sign-up fee's and the first month of service fee.
Another thing that gets in my crawl is calling up for tech support because you have been getting "kicked offline". The first thing the six-dollar-an-hour tech support person tells you, "...your modem isn't setup properly, let's change a few things on your computer." Yea, that's what I want to hear... I need to do something to my computer when it's been working fine for months. Like there's no chance something is wrong on their end. It's always easier to pass the buck. Especially if your ISP doesn't have an onsite System Administrator. Tech support people are fine for helping solve real problems, but their first line of communications should not be "let's check your settings."
Recently, an ISP hosting one of my domains changed their services around. Now I don't know the specifics, but let me attempt to fill you in with what I know: They were changing physical locations and their Class "C" IP Range. Their old DNS servers became antiquaited in the move and thusly, my domain that was registered to these DNS servers could not be contacted from outside their network. Anyone attempting to contact my domain at their.DNS.number from another ISP, couldn't. Therefore, I was out of touch and out of reach by some of my customers. They didn't inform me that the change was coming nor did they tell me the change had occured. I figured this out on my own when I attempted to dial in to the old phone number and found that I couldnt connect to the net. To make a long story short, I figured out the problem, copied my backups to a new hosting service and made appropriate changes at Network Solutions. Needless to say, they will not be getting any of my business in the future. I would like to add that this ISP, for exchange of services, was providing me with free service. Actually, I haven't paid for Internet service in over two years, that is a fact, but no excuse for their lack of service. In return for my free account, I happily advertised their services to customers and pass along their info to potential clients. A nice even trade. Not any more.
I have a solution to this problem, but not everyone can take advantage of it. I am going into the ISP business myself. If only for a few friends, but I am planning on setting up my own service where we can have reliable internet access that doesn't kick us offline for being idle more than 20 seconds. If it does, the only people we can blame is our "up-pipe" and ourselves. It's much easier to forgive yourself than it is it to forgive someone you are giving your hard earned money to.
As cheap as "up-pipe" services are becoming, I may in the future offer "free internet services". Granted, until I can afford more, it will only be for a limited number of people. However, I would like to make an effort to punch a tiny little hole in the massive balloon that the ISP industry has become and show what "freedom of information" can be.
The "Middle-Man-ISP" is on the way out. When rural America can be connected to the internet via broadband services such as Cable, DSL and Satelite, dial-up services will be a thing of the past. As of right now, most (all that I have seen) dialup services are, well frankly, a ripoff. I will never, and I mean *never* sign up for another 56k Dial Up Service.