Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mediocrity and Internet: Comcast, ATT, et. al.

Well, lookee here...the Internet is up today. Comcast worked the kinks out of the wire and today, lo and behold, the little electrons are running through it as slick as if the cable had been RotoRouted.

I think RotoRouted is a verb. Anyway you know what I mean.

Comcast had no idea what the problem was, or even if there was a problem. The techie on the other end of the phone said there weren't any outages and everything was fine (oh yeah, says you) but what I learned from previous encounters with Comcast is that the customer service people, despite what's on their screens, have no idea at all what's going on in the field. And the field and the customer service people don't talk, much less get along. Customer service will just tell you to unplug the modem, count to fifteen, then plug it in again. Oh yeah, reboot the computer. That might work. It's all pretty lame.

Yesterday we couldn't log on, couldn't print, couldn't do much of anything except look at files stored on our disk. Vacation pictures can get a little worn after awhile. Which got me to thinking--agai--about how much we depend on the Internet and technology in general for the day to day doings of our lives.

It's bone-breaking cold out there. I wonder what the temp is. I'll just hit that little button that brings up the local weather and...doh!

Look up a book I heard about. Shop for shirts. Look for a replacement part for the blender. Get my homework for class. Apply for a job. Check my bank balance (kinda important when you're low on funds and you have to write some checks.) Research the two artists I have to interview this weekend. Network with colleagues to further my job search. Send some people who said they'd be my references an email letting them know potential employers will be calling them and I need the work so please don't tell them I'm an axe murderer. These are just some of the things I wanted to do yesterday and for which I needed the Internet.

Trivial and important, we depend/rely/count on/stake our lives on technology and the providers. And the thing about it is, when the Internet goes down, we always say the same thing, It always craps out at the absolute wrong time. That's because, now, there's no good time for the Internet to go down. That's how much we've come to depend on it.

We use the Internet to support vital parts of our lives like our jobs and our work. We use it for the not-so-vital but just as important personal aspects like keeping in touch with our friends and family.

The last time I blogged about this topic Universal Hub picked up Action Bob and I got slammed by the geeky little audience there because I was "whining"--their word, not mine--that Sue needed the Internet to find a location when she went out on the Hotline. The comments came fast and hard. Don't be an idiot and rely on Comcast for something as vital as your job. (Just accept mediocrity.) Get a GPS. (Invest in even more technology.) Get a map. (Get off the technology wagon immediately.) Get a life. (I'm not sure what that angry diatribe was about, considering it came from people who had no lives themselves except to use the Internet to post long-winded diatribes.)

I'll say it once, and I'll keep saying it. The service providers today, particularly ISPs but also cell phones and cable television, don't seem to realize or care that their services are more vital and important to us than they ever have been. And I'm not talking about the importance of watching the Super Bowl or American Idol. I'm talking about the dissemination of information in a democracy.

My cell phone provider, ATT, but it was Cingular at the time, actually ran an advertising campaign once that said, We have less dropped calls than the other guys." You're not supposed to have any dropped calls at all. What if a brain surgeon worked on that principle? I have fewer slip-ups than the other docs? And Comcast and ATT and all the rest aren't doing brain surgery.

I guess thank God for that.

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