Americans Are Being Ripped-off – and I’m One of Them

Pardon me folks for an intemperate rant, but it’s just about all I can think of at the moment. This is trivial, I know. Somewhere in the world people are experiencing true suffering, but still, I’m mad and I can’t concentrate on anything else. Before I can describe the event which has put me in my current, livid state, I need to give you a bit of background.

Several years ago, I moved to Baltimore. For a time I lived with my sister while I looked for a more permanent place. The summer before last I found one. It was a beautiful apartment in a beautiful building in an okay area. Plus, I could afford it, which was no small thing. It is by far the nicest apartment I’ve ever lived in. It even has a pool. What it doesn’t have, however, is acceptable internet connections. You see, here in the U.S., in most cities, our internet is provided by poorly regulated monopolies who are accountable to no one. As monopolies, they don’t give two hoots about their customers and in our libertarian inspired business culture, the government does little to regulate them. They take your cash and give you as little as they can get away with. The monopoly in my particular area is Comcast. I paid for one of their most expensive internet only plans, because I don’t watch t.v. and I don’t have a landline. From them, I received speeds so low I couldn’t connect to SpeedTest.net in order to test them. It would take about five minutes to load a page of plain text. I know when I said this people thought I was exaggerating. I had my sister come over and tried to open a page that was  mostly text. She sat and watched the clock with me. Trust me, you don’t need a stop watch. Whether it was 4 min. 55 sec. or 5 min. 5 sec. hardly mattered. It was, for all intents and purposes, not functional as a connection. We called customer service a couple of times and got no satisfaction.

Without disconnecting that service, I then signed up for a plan with Verizon to have an internet connection via a mobile hotspot. I know this is supposed to be an expensive way of connecting to the internet, but what choice do I have? I kept the Comcast connection because, while painfully slow, it was rarely entirely down. The mobile connection is variable. The fastest speeds are slower than the fastest speeds promised by Comcast, but at least I see them from time to time. Generally, it’s better. However, the device itself is flaky. It stops working for a day, then I get a notice that it needs a firmware update. That these things have happened in conjunction several times makes me think they’re related. Then, for a while, that device was not working, nor was my Comcast connection working. My sister came over here and loaned me her Sprint wireless internet device, which I’m using right now. I’ve had it for a couple of weeks and every time I say, “Hey, let me give this back to you,” one of the other two connections go down. So, right now I have three means of connecting to the internet from three different companies and I still can’t get reliable service.

So, last night, I was following one of the Maya 3D tutorials online when my Verizon connection, which I had been using, goes down. I get up to take a look at it. The indicator led is a solid red. I try turning the device off. It does not respond. I used my sister’s connection, which I really ought to give back to her one day, for the rest of the evening. Two hours later, when I went to bed, it was still lit up red. When I woke up this morning, the led was blinking green again like everything was normal.

According to an article in the New Republic:

For a while, Verizon challenged Comcast and Time Warner’s Internet supremacy by offering fiber-optic connections. Fiber, which has been widely adopted in Europe and Asia, provides speeds and capacities that cable simply can’t match. But then Verizon stopped extending its fiber network, and, with the acquiescence of Obama’s FCC, reached an agreement with Comcast and Time Warner to buy valuable segments of the wireless spectrum and to jointly market their products. The effect was drastically curtailed competition in both wired and wireless Internet.

Left to their own devices, the big telecom firms have transformed high-speed Internet into “an expensive luxury reserved for the rich,” Crawford writes. A third of Americans don’t have high-speed Internet, many because it’s not available where they live or because they think it’s too expensive. Those who can afford it get service that is pricier and slower than in much of Western Europe and Asia. Last year, Americans paid Comcast a monthly average of $153 for television, telephone, and Internet. According to a New America Foundation study, Parisians paid as little as $34.47 a month for the same bundled services, with Internet speeds five to 20 times faster than Comcast.

As if I needed one more reason to want to move to Paris. Anyway, I have the cold comfort of knowing I’m not alone in my misery.

I went online today to research if there are any other ways of connecting to the internet. There are not. Whenever I read about cloud service, hell, Adobe is even trying to push a cloud version of their Creative Suite, I wonder what dream world the heads of tech companies are living in. Meanwhile, what I want most from WordPress is a little application, a little like the dashboard, that will sit on my desktop and I can compose my blog entries even when my internet is down and upload them when that little window of opportunity comes around. For now, I write them in Notepad or Notepadd++ and copy and past them in, but then I have to futz with the formatting. I wonder where all those people who think the cloud is the future live. Paris, apparently.

Here’s a video of Susan Crawford speaking about the subject. Start it at about the 8 minute mark because it’s preceded by an unusually long and boring, although typically academic, introduction.

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10 comments
  1. AT &T is awesome. I will never leave them. No failures and no problems. Do you have this option? Plus they actually give refunds when there are problems.

    • fojap said:

      What sort of internet connection do they offer? Is it a mobile hotspot? I actually have AT&T for my mobile phone. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile all get good reception here. The only major wireless carrier that doesn’t do well in my location is Sprint, which is spotty.

      Verizon is replacing the device. It will take a few days to get a new one. Unlike Comcast, so far I’ve found them to be fairly responsive to problems.

      • I have Verizon on my work phone and it drops calls 1o times a day but my personal phone with AT & T does not. I also have a mobil hotspot with that Verizon phone that I can use on a ll my devices. They all have pros and cans. Once when I was in Europe last year I forgot to turn off roaming and opened my emails. Well I had a 545.00 bill and AT & T completely removed the charges . I am pretty happy with a company that does that!

      • fojap said:

        That’s good because I read a couple of nightmare stories about that sort of thing. I was extra careful about what I did because of what I read. I’m glad they reversed the charges for you.

      • They did and created an immediate advocate …ring, ring !

    • fojap said:

      Generally, I do. When I’m traveling, I back my photos, and anything else I do while I’m away, to the cloud just in case I get separated from my bag. However, I don’t have much of an interest in doing everything that way. Different jobs, different tools. Seems simple enough to me.

      • I had bad issues with ” the cloud” but glad it works for you!

      • fojap said:

        I’ve had issues, too, which is why I don’t use it unless I have to.

      • I had issues too…that is an understatement.

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