Days of Our Lives

DSL vs. Dixie Cups and a string

Though assured we wouldn't be billed until everything worked, during the windows when we could check our online billing, it showed charges double the $124.99 rate, and we could never get anyone in billing to return our calls or e-mails.

"Sprint Ion's a great service," pleaded one of the Atlanta techs. "Please don't give up on us." And we didn't, having already invested so much time and frustration in it. It was sort of like American involvement in Vietnam, except Vietnam had working telephones.

Another reason for hanging in was that many of the Sprint techs and service folks we dealt with were genuinely nice people who strove diligently to solve our problems and who remained enthusiastic about the service. I suspect this enthusiasm was due to Sprint Ion wisely putting its headquarters in a state where its service wasn't available. A couple of the California-based techs who were spending two- to five-hour slabs of time at the house, however, told me they used other Internet providers in their own homes.

Usually, they'd leave defeated. I considered opening a tourist attraction, the Sprint Ion Mystery House, where DSL techs from around the world could come to be baffled and amazed.

One thing techs and others in the industry told me is that there is considerable antipathy between these newfangled services and local service providers because they were taking away the local companies' customers. Sprint and others would contract with the locals to provide lines to our homes, but it was alleged to me that in many instances, local providers would sabotage the service so that customers would give up and return to them. Little did I know that I was signing up for the digital version of Manon of the Spring.

In September, the Sprint techs finally determined that there were impediments on the line of my local service provider, Pacific Bell—impediments that had to be removed. Problem solved? No, because the communications giants disagreed over which of them would pay to fix the problem. Meanwhile, of course, we still had no service.

Finally, on Oct. 12, some 95 days after the service was installed, it was fixed and started working like a charm. You see how standing up for your rights pays off?

There is a postscript: three days later, via our now-working DSL, we received word that the entire Sprint Ion system was being killed. The corporate honchos didn't want to wait for the enterprise to become profitable and were giving loyal, diligent Jeanette, Margie, Kiewan, Shavonne, et al. the old heave-ho, while we now get to scramble for a new service provider.

But first, I'm putting our DSL hub in the fridge for a few weeks to see if that sorts things out.

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