Friday, July 01, 2005

Connectivity, from bad to worse?

My home ISP is Comcast. It makes sense since I also have Comcast for my cable TV service. This would be all find and dandy except that, for reasons unfathomable, the 'net connection will occasionally lose it's mind. It's happening more and more. For at least half the day I will be unable to access anything through their service. The cable "modem" will show all green for everything and that there's activity but nothing will get in or out through it. Calling their tech support is, on a good day, useless. Here's some history to show how we got to this broadband, high-speed semi-useless connectivity to the 'Net.

Back in the olden-times, the primary online world consisted of dial-up bulletin boards (BBS's). A BBS would run connected to a phone line and wait for a user to call in. The users would use a simple comm program (my favorite was {COMMO}) to dial through their modem into the BBS. You could only have one user on per line. Multi-line BBS's would need more lines and more modems, as well as BBS software that was multi-line capable. The speeds weren't anywhere near what is available today. But due to the software being optimized for this kind of connection the user experience was generally very good.

The some guys had an idea to create something that would allow BBS's scattered all over the country, and the world, to share messages and files in a way that would be relatively seamless to the users. Thus Fidonet was born. There were other technologies that linked BBS's up, like RelayNet and the thousands of QWK networks, but Fido was the best.

Then the web exploded onto the world. Back then there were all kinds of ISP's for people to use. Mega sized ones like UUNet and PSI all the way to the mom'n'pop ones. For about 6 months in 1996 there was a wonderful growth and advancement of the net. Then the greed set in and things got more and more difficult. The smaller ISP's were being bought out by larger ones, who were in turn being bought out by the bigger ones, who were themselves being bought by the global communications companies. Today there are really only a small handful of providers; cable companies or phone companies.

The Internet was created by the sharing of resources and open standards. Today it's just a commodity/product that a hand full of global corporations run with the sole purpose of making a profit. And what do we get for this? My home ISP is Comcast cable. They brag all over the place that they are the best, fastest, most, everything. You know what they are to me? The "service" provider that doesn't give me service at all for half of the day. In the morning through early afternoon I have no connectivity. The cable "modem" is all green but there's nothing going out or coming in. Tech support you say? Right.
"Uh, please reboot your computer. That didn't work? Uhm, try power cycling the modem. Still no access? Well it reads good from here so it's got to be your problem."
I've been dealing with network connectivity for over 15 years now. I know what the hell I'm doing (most of the time). But with the giant corporation there's no time for just one idiot complaining.

I am an idiot. I'm staying with Comcast. Verizon can't get a DSL line working in my area to save their life. So I bitch and moan and just live with the connectivity disconnect. Just remember that I'll be answering email later in the day.


  1. Comcast has had in the past massive DNS problems. It was big news a couple months ago (well, not the nightly news, but online) when every night for a week, you could not access the net, unless you happen to have the IP numbers of the site you wanted, or changed your DNS server. It was really easy for me to tell what the problem was, as I could not get email or web sites, but my P2P Bittorrent's kept right on going. Of course, calles to Tech Support would never get you the real answer, but you might want to see if this is happening in your area too.
    But in the long run, your right, big business does not care about their users, only that you pay ontime.

  2. No, that's not it. I can't even connect to anything by IP when this happens.