I’m on one of the oldest DSL installations in New York City—you should see the copper in my closet. It is also one of slowest DSL connections still in active use in the world, I believe. Maximum throughput never exceeds 32 KB/second.
The syrup-slow pace keeps me honest as a web designer: if our page weights cause pain, I feel it and we fix it. Still, when every YouTube video stutters, and every emusic.com preview times out, maybe it’s time for a speed boost.
After An Event Apart Boston, I ordered a DSL speed upgrade. I should have harpooned myself repeatedly in the thigh. It would have hurt less and been quicker.
No matter who you choose for an ISP (I use the Mac-friendly company Speakeasy), upgrading DSL service in New York City almost certainly means working with Covad and Verizon. Those two companies installed my original DSL network back in the go-go, dot-com 90s, and it was up to them to flip the switches once again.
It’s been an amusing two weeks of reboots and service calls—of voice mail that never hangs up, and an internet connection that never connects. For your pleasure, I will share two conversations that actually took place:
The phone call
Two weeks in, the DSL technician from Verizon phones me.
He asks what the problem is.
I say, doesn’t he know what the problem is?
He says nobody tells him anything. This turns out to be true.
He doesn’t know I’m a Verizon customer.
He doesn’t know Verizon works with Covad and Speakeasy to provide DSL.
I ask if he is the guy in charge of DSL for Verizon and he says yes.
He asks what the problem is.
I explain that the modem isn’t getting an IP address, and there is no internet connection—not even when you manually enter all the IP data.
He says, “So you have a synch problem.”
I say, because he seems to want this, “Yes. I have a synch problem.”
He says he’ll be right over.
This really happened
Using my phone, the Verizon technician calls Covad to initiate tests. The Covad operator tells the Verizon technician to hang up at once.
“No wonder he doesn’t have the internet if you’re using his phone,” the Covad operator says.
“What are you talking about? That’s a feature of DSL, that you have an internet connection even when you’re on the phone,” the Verizon technician explains to the Covad operator.
This conversation really happens. I’m right there.
Adam Greenfield has famously said, “The age of ubiquitous computing is here: a computing without computers, where information processing has diffused into everyday life, and virtually disappeared from view.”
I believe him. But meantime, I need to use computers and phone lines.
During the blackout of 2003, when there was no electricity in the northeast, and no water in New York City apartment buildings above the sixth floor, Adam Greenfield less famously told me, “Infrastructure’s a bitch.”
Adam Greenfield is right.