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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Local Incapacity

(Spring forward — into Secondhand SCIENCE.

This week’s nonsense dives into Alu elements. It’ll get you ready for a genetics test — and spring training. Play science!)

I’m being driven into the arms of a monster.

And not a fun monster, either. Like Grover or Mojo Jojo or Kang.

(In fairness, I never found Kang all that appealing.)

No, in this case I’m being driven — thrust, really — into the hairy, wartified arms of one of modern society’s most hideous and notorious monsters:

Comcast

For the entire lifespan of this site — nearly twelve years now; and boy, it doesn’t seem like a day more than eleven and a half — the internet onramp via which I fling nonsense onto it has been provided by DSL.

Antiquated technology, I know. Slow. Copper line-limited. Quaint. But at the time I had it set up — we’re talking year 2000 ancient history here, people — it was fully state of the art.

Way back then, it was all the shit to have in-home DSL. We privileged few would trade notes on our Beanie Babies on Usenet groups by the glow of our gaslight lamps and GIT OFFA MY LAWN ALREADY!

Anyway.

At the time, cable and DSL interwebbery were fairly comparable, speedwise. As in, both were punk-ass slow, like a snail on Valium with a charley horse. But DSL was yours — all yours! — while cable connections were shared with your bandwidth-hogging, vid-pirating, porn-grubbing filthy neighbors.

I don’t know if my neighbors at the time did all that stuff, mind you. I’m just quoting the DSL ads.

I tried getting DSL installed through Verizon. But they turned out to be a bunch of incompetent syphilitic donkey-humping lying jackholes — no ads here; this one’s from experience — and they jerked me around in not-the-fun-way for three months and got me nowhere. As Verizons do.

So I turned to a company called Speakeasy. They weren’t a monolithic mega-corporate utilityco; just a medium-sized ISP on the West Coast that offered services in my area. Good reviews. Snazzy name. I gave them a shot. And I had DSL installed in less than three days.

God, I hate Verizon. Did I mention they cut service on my regular phone line, while they were Abbott-and-Costello-ing their way through not installing the DSL line? Assholes.

(And yes, at the time we also had a landline. Because it was the Middle Ages, we all wore sabertooth tiger skins and worked on discovering fire in the basements of our caves, and I’ve already told you: My lawn. Git offa it.)

For ten years, Speakeasy treated me right. I moved — twice — and the second call I made each time was to my trusty ISP to have a line run and service moved over.

(The first call is for pizza. Always. You’ve got to have pizza on moving day.)

Five years ago, I got a scare. Speakeasy was being taken over by some big company with a name right out of Office Space: MegaPath. I didn’t know these people. I don’t like my bytes and packets being manhandled by strangers. I even looked into cable packages for internet — but not FiOS, because in all honesty, screw Verizon with a grappling hook backwards, please.

“From the reviews I’ve read online, the only thing keeping angry mobs of townspeople from storming Comcast’s offices is the high price of pitchforks at Home Depot.”

But I got some emails, from the Speakeasy people. They said it was okay. MegaPath is cool, they’re friends of ours, and everything’s going to work out. So I stuck around, and for the most part, they were right. People around me had faster connections, maybe. But I had a dedicated line running into my living room, shared with no one, it nearly always worked — and on the rare occasion I had to call for something, it was quick, painless and instantly resolved.

I hear the same isn’t quite universally true of Comcast. From the reviews I’ve read online, the only thing keeping angry mobs of townspeople from storming Comcast’s offices is the high price of pitchforks at Home Depot.

But I didn’t have to worry about that with Speakeasy, or with MegaPath. A little bandwidth always is better than more bandwidth sometimes, I told myself.

(Also, with SpeakPath or whatever they started calling themselves, I got a static IP address. That means I could run a server of my own, from my very own home office.

I never actually did that, really. Once or twice, to move some files around pre-Google Drive. And I might have spent six hours once figuring out how to demo a homemade web site for a half-hour meeting.

The point is, I could have run my own server, any time I wanted. I had the power. Not the need, perhaps. Nor the patience. Nor the resolve, adequate infrastructure nor adequate hardware. But the power, you see. The power is what matters. For twelve idle years. Apparently.

Shaddup.)

So when MegaEasy passed my account along again this winter to yet a third company, I wasn’t concerned. My DSL would now be served by a shadowy Orwellian entity known as Global Capacity, which sounds much more like a marketing bullet point than a company in its own right. But I assumed things would chug along, more or less the same. And MegaPath’s emails assured me it would be so; the friend of my friend said his friend would be all right.

He lied. The friend of my friend’s friend is an idiot.

(Which is not a saying you hear too often, but I suspect it’s true an awful lot of the time.)

Global Capacity officially took over — meaning accepted my money for their services — in late February. And to be fair, I didn’t really notice anything different.

Until this Wednesday morning, when the connection crapped out.

I called Wednesday evening, and the tech rep said there was some sort of failure in an office in New York, which was apparently affecting their whole New England operation. Everyone in New York and Massachusetts, at least, was out of luck, but the problem would be fixed the next day. Sometime.

Not exactly “scrambling” to get the issue solved, it seemed. But I assumed there were other factors at work. They’re Global Capacity, after all. Maybe all of their technical staff were busy fighting network outages on the Iberian peninsula, or snaking transcontinental cables to the Pacific Rim.

I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and patiently waited Thursday for service to return.

On Friday, I waited less patiently.

Today, I gave up, cancelled service — or lack thereof — and called the evil-but-not-as-evil-in-my-eyes-as-Verizon empire of Comcast and told them to come and extract my soul activate cable internet. Because more bandwidth sometimes is better than less bandwidth not at all for four days. I hope.

In the meantime, I learned what I could about this “Global Capacity” I’d been foisted off on, and given the two words in their company name, I’m fairly convinced they’re neither — at least when it comes to residential networking.

For one thing, the tech guy told me on the phone that around 150 people — that’s less than 200, in at least two states — were affected by this outage. I don’t know what sort of “capacity” that suggests, but it’s probably less than the number of active Bronies in the same square mileage. That’s not a pretty picture.

And maybe the company is “global”, in some respect. But the info I could find suggests they employ maybe a couple hundred people in total — fewer than one for every country a truly “global” company would serve. Maybe they put sent one guy over the border to Canada with a walkie-talkie to qualify as international, but otherwise I’m not seeing it.

Likewise, I’ve retracted my optimistic views on where their technical resources might be spending their time during this outage. I’m less convinced they’re solving other problems; it’s more likely they just couldn’t afford overnight shipping for the new networking part at Amazon.

So within a week or so, this site’s going Comcast. You shouldn’t notice any difference — apart from more bitching, possibly, over the state of my local internet connection. But it’s possible any “soul” present in these pages is soon to be sucked out. Probably during a three-hour phone call on hold with Comcast tech support.

It’s been a good run. But the internet’s a bitch, yo.

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