By BEN R. WILLIAMS
Dear My Terrible Internet Service Provider,
I am faced with a dilemma in writing this column. I want to shame you in a public forum, yet it feels petty to call you out by name. As a work-around, I have cleverly hidden a clue in the following paragraph which will allow you to identify yourself while leaving readers none the wiser. Let’s see if you can figure out my puzzle:
Your internet service is so bad that it reminds me of using a 56k dial-up modem in the late 1990s. It is almost as though your service provides some kind of LINK to the 20th CENTURY.
Did you catch it? Anyway, from here on out, I’ll just refer to you as “The Worst ISP.”
Anyway, The Worst ISP, I’m a long-time customer of yours, so naturally I’m accustomed to constant disappointment. Here in rural Patrick County, you’re the only game in town, as is evidenced by your company slogan, “The Worst ISP: Where else are you gonna go, stupid?” Since I can’t get cell service at my home, I have to use your internet service for Wi-Fi calling, and I also have a landline phone.
I’m used to my phone and internet going out randomly for hours at a time, usually when the skies are blue and the wind is still. I’m used to having dropped calls while standing mere feet from my wireless router. I’m used to losing my internet connection multiple times every Wednesday night while I’m playing online Mario Kart with friends, thereby preventing me from ever actually winning a game.
However, The Worst ISP, what I’m not used to is having no phone and internet for four days in a row and counting.
It all began at noon on Thursday, August 27. I was preparing to enjoy my lunch break. I had a ham sandwich in my hand and a video cued up on my laptop, a walk-through on how to discharge an arcade monitor as hosted by Todd Tuckey of TNT Amusements in Pennsylvania, my favorite YouTube star.
I’d had a single bite of my sandwich, and just as Mr. Tuckey was talking about how to ground a screwdriver on the monitor chassis, the video stopped. I picked up my landline and was met with a busy signal. I was left to eat my sandwich in boring silence like some kind of animal.
I drove into town to report the outage, and your website (also terrible) said that my internet outage was a known issue and service would be restored by midnight on Saturday.
That seemed like a pretty long time to me, but I figured that your estimate was erring on the side of caution. Of course, I was wrong. I’m currently writing this column on Sunday night and the latest estimate for service restoration is 12:30 p.m. on Monday. I ain’t holding my breath.
I soon found out that this outage was actually affecting a big chunk of Patrick County. My neighbors were also without phone and internet. One neighbor said that he heard it was some kind of scheduled maintenance, while another said that a fence being constructed somewhere had messed up the phone line.
Now look: I have never been a phone line technician and I don’t know what exactly goes into repairing a phone line. However, I am of the firm belief that if a technology was considered pretty well-established during the presidency of William Howard Taft, it should be possible to repair it within less than five days.
“Jeez Ben,” you are perhaps saying to yourself, “you’re being pretty hard on us. Is it that difficult to go a few days without watching your precious little internet videos that we generously deign to sometimes provide you with, you scum?”
Ah, but here’s the rub, The Worst ISP. You see, I am fortunate to be able to mostly work from home, and that requires me to have some way, any way, to communicate with the outside world. I would try smoke signals, but my boss lives too far away to see them.
In fact, The Worst ISP, a bunch of students in Patrick County are doing their school work at home as well, and they also have to use the internet service that you (occasionally) provide!
“Dang Ben,” you are perhaps saying, “based on the profoundly terrible level of service we’re providing, we are clearly unaware that people work from home and children attend school from home. We don’t have time to keep up with the news because we’re too busy counting the piles of money we collect from suckers like you. What’s going on? Why can’t you just leave the house and go watch a movie or something?”
Brace yourself, The Worst ISP, because I have some terrible news. You see, there’s a global pandemic happening. I read about it in USA Today, I think. It’s pretty bad. Really mucked up a lot of people’s plans.
There is one thing that I want to make clear, The Worst ISP: I’m not blaming your technicians. I’m sure they’re doing their best. I’m blaming you for not paying to maintain your decrepit system of tin cans and strings and taking on more customers than your ramshackle infrastructure can support, which causes my internet to run slower than an asthmatic snail during peak hours. I have no beef at all with your boots-on-the-ground employees; why, they’re probably more disappointed in you than I am, and for reasons I don’t even know about!
Let me drive this home for you, The Worst ISP: on Saturday, I had so little in the way of entertainment options that not only did I watch my Blu-Ray copy of Critters 4, I watched the MAKING-OF DOCUMENTARY about Critters 4. How do you sleep at night knowing that?
Anyway, The Worst ISP, I hope you see this column. I’m not sure if it’s going to make it into the paper as I had no choice but to tie the longhand draft to the leg of a pigeon. I’m not sure if it’s one of those carrier pigeons, but I gave it directions to my editor’s house and it nodded its head a bunch of times, so hopefully it’ll get there.
Yours in acrimony,
Ben R. Williams