Yesterday morning I was irritated when I woke up to find that I had no internet at home. This is an occasional experience but not a terribly common one, and I figured I would check it out when I got home. Much to my relief, when I got home I was able to restart the router and see that welcoming sight of bars on the wifi, but my relief did not last long, as when I found myself still unable to connect to the internet a bit of investigation (late-night investigation no less) produced the following unwelcome message:
When I discussed the matter this morning with my roommate/landlord, he commented that he had seen some kind of message in the mail, was irked at how expensive it was, and was generally a bit irritated as to how it was that a new internet provide had purchased our old one. Having sold the problem of why it is that we were without internet, albeit not very happily, I then went off to work.
Having thought a bit more about the matter, though, I am still a bit irritated about it. Why is it that we have such terrible internet service in the United States? I do not know if this is a problem everywhere, but it is certainly a problem here, in that even though the oligarchical internet service providers spend a lot of money on advertising to try to promote their internet as being cheap, fast, and reliable, the experience of the customer is seldom up to this standard. On the contrary, the performance of routers is frequently dodgy and often during holiday weekends it becomes necessary to call the isp to deal with prolonged outages (which tend to occur with regularity around Memorial Day, for example). This is an unpleasant experience as there is a lot of waiting involved given the customer service capabilities of the company. Ziply Fiber advertises itself in the following way: “Special Offer For 12 Months For New Residential Customers. Shop Online or Call Today. Quality Internet from a Local Company. Learn More. Gig Speeds. No Data Caps. Fast Fiber. No Annual Contracts. Great for Streaming. No Throttling. Great for Browsing.” That said, the experience for existing customers is not quite as pleasant, as prices increase whenever one massive internet company buys out another, with the existing customers expected not only to pay for their internet but also to chip in for the cost of a leveraged buyout to create an even larger and even more incompetent and inefficient isp than the one we were already complaining about before.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given my own experiences, Ziply Fiber has not gotten great reviews. At present, broadbandnow.com reports that Ziply Fiber has received one-star reviews from 74.3% of respondents, and another 14.3% gave it two stars. This suggests that quite a lot of people are not particularly happy with the service that they are receiving. Indeed, a great many of us have noted that our happiness with our internet has decreased markedly. What began with such promise when Verizon started updating the infrastructure for internet has become a place where there is a wide gap between the pronouncements of a big company that has bought out one of its few potential competitors that internet is about to get better while the experience of the user is that internet is only getting worse. And if that may seem a bit unfair to companies who provide what is nearly universally seen as a necessary utility in the early 21st century, it appears there is a wide gulf between the perceived need of fast and reliable internet for streaming movies and music and games and the uneven performance of the internet that is being provided by these companies, all of which are trying to advertise to build a better reputation without doing the hard work to improve the dodgy infrastructure of the internet itself in a meaningful way, behaving more like beer companies than the technology companies we would want them to be.
It is almost enough to make me feel nostalgic about the experience I first had with the internet during my teenage and early adult years. My first internet service provider was the long-defunct Suncoast FreeNet, which offered quirky e-mail addresses to its users and a decidedly low-tech internet that was text only and required us to look at our e-mail through Pine. Still, it was internet and it allowed a text-based experience that I enjoyed, allowing me to become familiar with MUDs and with bulletin boards and e-mail-based textual roleplaying games. After that, there was an experience with relatively slow dial-up internet that dropped out whenever someone called on the phone, and then going off to college where the high-speed internet there was immensely enjoyable. If I did not take advantage of that to the extent of some of the people I knew who downloaded pirated materials on a near-industrial level, I was by no means unfamiliar with the massive theft of intellectual property that was taking place in the days before there were legitimate streaming services. Still, the internet was fast, I had music and games to enjoy, and the service was immensely reliable and offered what I wanted. The performance of companies in providing internet has not kept up with expectations, to the point where I cannot even listen to Pandora on my computer while doing work at night and have a reliable internet experience without getting throttled to ridiculous levels. And that is simply unacceptable. For all of its claims to provide a better internet experience than before, Ziply Fiber is simply fibbing.