Friday, January 05, 2007

Offline Awfulness

For the past week, I've been without Net access at home. I returned from my holiday away to no wireless signal. My cable TV was working, and I was getting a full wifi signal from ye olde Airport, but no Web site URL would be recognized or resolve.

The first few days, I tried to do without. I figured it was a momentary glitch, and that once a day or two had passed (It was, after all, the new year.), my service would return. This has happened before. My cable Net has come and gone. I ripped articles out of newspapers and magazines to add to Delicious at a later date -- and I actually wrote no fewer than three letters, handwritten letters, in response to Christmas cards and even emails I remembered receiving. Imagine: A letter in response to an email!

One night, while C. and I were hanging out, I called the cable company to see what was going on. I went through the interactive voice response self-diagnostic test and got nowhere. So I called and called again, continually hitting 0 so I could eventually get a human.

Eventually, I got one. They had me do something the IVR hadn't recommended, ran a diagnostic test, and learned that I was receiving too weak a signal for wireless access. Something had happened between my leaving and returning. So I scheduled an appointment for a technician to come by.

That appointment was for today. I worked from home, offline, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., waiting for the technician to arrive. And when he did, we learned some interesting things. One, I was indeed receiving too weak a signal to use wireless. And two, I didn't even have my own dedicated cable line -- even though I had an active drop off the tap in the back yard. Instead, the technician who intially installed my cable split me off of a cable line running next door -- not even to my own apartment building.

We couldn't just disconnect the guy next door in order to get me my own line. Instead, the technician dropped a new line from the roof to ground level in order to hook up to the active drop on the tap dedicated to my building. I now have actual, real cable -- TV and Net -- all my own.

A couple of things struck me. One, cable billing is not at all dependent on a dedicated line. If you had a cable box, modem, and splitter, you could easily tap into someone else's line -- as far as I know. I had my own bill even though I didn't have my own access; I was just splitting someone else's. And two, people will take shortcuts. Had the initial technician done the right thing, it wouldn't have taken 30 minutes for today's technician to find out why none of the lines for the building wasn't my line.

Doing the right thing has nothing to do with splitting someone else's signal. It has everything to do with doing things a way that those who come after you can easily, effectively, and efficiently see how you did something -- and why.

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