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ATPM 8.03
March 2002




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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Paul Fatula,

I Hate When That Happens

My ISP’s customer service has become increasingly nonexistent as it’s gotten bought out by increasingly large companies, and sadly, my search for a small company that cares about its customers only turned up one option. Minutes after my request, I was given a free two-week trial. When it expired, I asked to become a paying customer. I never got a response. A few weeks later when my phone bill came, I found that the number they said was a local call actually wasn’t.

Being stuck with an enormous phone bill really got me thinking about Internet through some other means. AT&T had been barraging me with junk mail (postal, not spam), two or three times a week, begging me to sign up for cable Internet. I was promised my first three months for $19.95, and Premium installation (when they say it on the phone, you can hear that capital P) for $9.95. So I called.

The purpose of this article is to document my experience, for what it’s worth. In case that sounds too dry to hold your attention, let me add that my experience was pretty much a worst case scenario.

The Call

My initial call to sign up for service was undoubtedly the most professional part of the whole experience: AT&T wants you to feel comfortable with signing up. I talked to a fellow named Jimmy, who had a slight accent but was perfectly understandable. There was decidedly some pressure from him to make me sign up; in spite of what it says in the brochure, you’re not calling “with questions” about the service; you’re calling to sign up. If you hesitate about something, they will push, gently. (Nothing like Ameritech; I called them about the phone bill, only to get transferred to an extremely hard sell on their Internet service. I was a piece of raw meat to Ameritech’s starving wolves. Eventually, they got sick of me saying no and hung up on me.)

Jimmy was able to answer all the questions I had about the service. I was asked, among other things, which browser I used: Internet Explorer, Netscape, or other. I said other; I use iCab. He said, “No problem.”

He only asked me four or five times to buy a cable modem (from AT&T of course, for $150, or about $20-40 more than I could find it for online). Then there was the strange detour around discounts off the Internet service if I had cable, and upgrading my cable to digital cable for even more of a discount, and some trick mathematics that left my head spinning. You get only five dollars off regular cable, compared to ten off a digital package. No thanks. OK. It would take two weeks to send out a technician, who would come sometime between 8 AM and 8 PM. They couldn’t narrow it down.


Two men, each approximately the size of a bear, showed up around 11 AM on the day of installation. Neither was in uniform, though one wore a baseball cap declaring him an “AT&T Contractor.” I later learned that they aren’t AT&T employees; they’re paid by the job.

The first thing they did was ask to see my computer, so they could look for Internet Explorer. When I said I didn’t have it, they said there was nothing they could do, and they would leave. Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher was required. I protested that that wasn’t what I’d been told; they were unsurprised I’d been misinformed but there was nothing they could do. I didn’t want them to go, leaving me to wait another two weeks, so I suggested downloading IE over my modem while they ran the cable line. Nope, they wouldn’t go for that. Then I remembered Apple includes Internet Explorer with their system software. I grabbed my 8.5 installation CD, and sure enough, it had IE 4.0.1. The contractors were satisfied, so they went to work.

Within half an hour of their arrival, they had split the cable line coming out of my wall and wired up the cable modem to the computer. Then the fun began.

Internet Explorer returned error messages about security certificates being out of date when they tried to connect to a Web site to register me, through a proxy, but they could click through them. So they got to the registration page, typed in the registration number, and hit submit, but instead of going to the next screen, it just cycled back to the registration page. The installers didn’t have a computer with them, which really surprised me, so they kept trying the same thing, countless times, and getting, predictably, the same result.

They called in for help. More failures. Oops, one technician noticed the other was entering the wrong number. But the right number didn’t work either. I dug out my OS 9 CD and suggested a newer version of Internet Explorer. OK. So I installed version 4.5. There were no more security error messages, but the registration page problem persisted. By then, one technician had left, moving on to another job. Both had called AT&T “incompetent,” complained that they get paid by the job rather than by the hour, and blamed the trouble they were having on AT&T. They also predicted AT&T would blame the trouble on them. While I can sympathize with their sentiments, it’s neither professional nor reassuring when contractors kill time by bashing the company that hired them.

In the end, the technician never got around the problem. After trying for some two hours total, he left, leaving the equipment behind, along with a phone number I should call in 24 hours. Then, just before leaving, he said he had a CD in the car he wanted to give me. OK. “I think it has Internet Explorer on it,” he added, suggesting that I install the latest version, from this CD he would give me, and try the registration again myself. When he came back in with the CD, he gave me the numbers I would need to register, and described how the process should go from there, if it worked. Then, apologetically, he left.

So, three rather colossal screw-ups here:

  • They were going to leave because I didn’t have software installed on my computer which I was told by Jimmy I didn’t need, and which they had in the car all along.
  • The technician left rather than trying to get the registration to work with the current version of IE.
  • The technician wasn’t properly equipped to do the job in the first place: he should have had a laptop with him.

Trying Things

The CD-ROM I was given, labeled “Virtual Technician,” had, I was told, come out only the day before. There was a manual, with a section on installation for Macintosh. It was very clearly written, designed so a user could insert the CD, run the installation, and it would put software on the computer and go through the registration process, all as documented in a series of pictures.

I installed Internet Explorer from the CD, version 5.0. It gave me the same problem as ever, cycling back to the initial registration screen after I entered my data. So I ran the installer. It looked like everything worked OK, but it skipped a bunch of steps, namely, the registration process. After I clicked “Yes” to installing Outlook Express on my computer, a few more screens went by, and I was told installation was successful.

Not only was I still not on the Net, but Outlook Express hadn’t been installed—not that I’m complaining; I didn’t want it in the first place. The dialog box had given me the choice of installing it or cancelling installation of cable Internet. So I’d figured OK, I can always delete it later.

Using my dialup account, I tried the registration page, and it gave me the same problem as I’d had through the cable modem. Well, at least it’s consistent. I also downloaded IE 5.1; it took about 20 minutes, meaning if the technicians had let me download it in the first place, it would have been done about ten minutes before they were ready for it. But it didn’t make any difference; whenever I submitted my registration numbers, it just cycled back to the same page.

The Second Call

The next day, I called the number I was given, and, after navigating through a rather confusing system of button-pressing (1 was for “trouble with your cable service”; when I finally got through to a person, I was told that option was just for TV cable, and you have to wait for options 4 or 5 if you have problems with cable Internet), a recording told me to call a different phone number. I did. More button-pressing.

Finally, I got through to Joseph. When I told him the problem, he replied, “I hate when that happens.” Finally, someone who knows what’s going on. The technicians yesterday had said this had never happened before. Joseph knew it had; he’d seen it.

He transferred me.

Shilo had not seen the problem before. He tried walking me through basic setup, putting me on hold several times to check on things, because he wasn’t familiar with Macs. He screwed up by telling me it was safe to trash my TCP/IP preferences, assuring me nothing would be lost, that all that did was make a new copy of them. I was concerned about losing the preferences because if this didn’t work, I’d still want to be able to connect to my dial-up. He repeated that there wouldn’t be a problem with trashing the preferences, that I didn’t need to make a backup copy. I did anyway.

Of course, Shilo didn’t get me anywhere either; he never even had me configure proxies in the Web browser, nor did he ask what version of Internet Explorer I had, or check any of its preferences. He only knew I had a Mac because I volunteered the information.

He did ask about the installation. Basic installation right? Someone just comes over and drops off the modem. Nope. I tell him I got this deal with Premium installation for $9.95. (Its regular price is $99.95.) He was astonished, and very apologetic. You had premium installation, and you haven’t been online yet? That’s right. Wow. The technician shouldn’t leave until you’re connected. He’d transfer me to schedule another technician. I wouldn’t have a long wait, he said. “This should never happen.”

The hold time for scheduling the technician was the longest yet, at 10 or 15 minutes. Three songs worth, or enough time for my cat to eat breakfast, puke up a hairball, and then for me to clean it up and start reading the paper.

My conversation with Angel didn’t last long; if my situation was at all unusual, you wouldn’t know it from her. A technician was scheduled to come the next day, within a two-hour window. I specifically asked her to make a note that the technician should have a computer with him (Shilo had said they’re all supposed to have a laptop with them) since this problem likely wouldn’t have happened if the technician had a computer on which he could go through the registration process.

If You Want Something Done Right…

Yep, I did it myself. I tried getting to the registration page from my computer at work, just to see if it was possible to get past that initial registration screen. My old machine has a copy of Internet Explorer, and when I loaded the page, it asked if I would accept cookies. Aha! My browser at home is set to always reject the suckers. I clicked Accept, and got through to the next page, no problem. Deleted the cookie, restarted IE, tried again, and rejected the cookie, only to return to the registration screen after I entered my data. So I’d duplicated the problem. I must at one point have had IE installed at home; and after I deleted it, the preferences, set to always reject cookies, remained behind.

So when I got home, I set IE to accept cookies, went through the registration process, and voila, the cable Internet was finally working. I decided to be a nice guy and call up to cancel the technician, explaining that I’d gotten it working myself.

They weren’t sure, when I phoned, whether it would be possible to cancel the technician, but they’d try. (No technician ever showed, so the cancellation must have worked.) Saying that I’d solved the problem myself didn’t prompt the simple question, “How?” This level of indifference is astonishing. The problem has been encountered before, and doubtless will be encountered again. A few seconds of someone’s time to ask how I solved the problem, and make a quick entry in their internal tech support DBs, or add a note to the front registration page saying that cookies are required, would save AT&T (and its contractors) many hours of failed troubleshooting, and hold off a source of unhappy customers.


A week later I got a “courtesy call” asking how things went. When I said that the technician had failed to get things working, but that I’d gotten it working myself, the heavily accented gentleman on the other end of the line was apologetic, even suggesting that I call and ask to be credited for the cost of the installation. But he showed no interest at all in finding out what the problem was or how it was solved.

Two days later, I got another “courtesy call.” “Again?” I asked. Oh. Sorry. Polite, maybe a little embarrassed. I get the impression this happens all the time.

Anyway, I’m happy with the Internet service. It works well, and I’ve had no problems with it in the three weeks since I got it working. The speed is hardly “blazing” (I’m spoiled by a T1 at work) but it easily beats a modem. My phone bill’s back to normal, and I never have to worry about getting disconnected, or someone phoning me only to get a busy signal.


You didn’t really think this story would have a happy ending, did you?

When the bill for my cable Internet service showed up, it didn’t reflect the deal I’d signed up for; AT&T had charged the full price for a month of Internet, completely disregarding the first three months for $19.95 deal that I’d signed up under.

So I went back to the phone, with more fighting through a labyrinth of button-pressing. Eventually I was shuffled through to Emily, who listened patiently, put me on hold for a very long time, and came back saying she couldn’t fix the problem; she would have to fill out a form and send it to billing. She gave me the form number. Meanwhile, she said, don’t worry about paying the bill, and billing should have it taken care of in a few days. I’d get my next bill long before my account became delinquent, and everything would be cleared up by then.

A week and a half later, I called back to check on the credit. The problem still hadn’t been fixed. Carlos told me a credit will be placed on my account, two months from now, to make up for the error, but that I’m still expected to pay the bill—even though they acknowledge that it’s wrong. There’s nothing Carlos can do about it. It’s how their system works. I asked to speak to a supervisor; Carlos agreed and put me on hold. After fifteen minutes and counting on hold for a supervisor, the line went dead. I guess the supervisor wasn’t interested in helping either.

I waited a few minutes, in the vain hope that, hey, they have my phone number, maybe they will realize we were cut off, and call back. It didn’t take long to realize how unbelievably stupid that was. So I called back, and asked for a supervisor. After only a few minutes on hold, I was talking with a lady named Ray. She’s in Ohio, and likes to ski, but strongly prefers real snow. After hearing my problem, she proposed giving me a $78 credit (three times the difference between what I’m being charged and what I should be charged). Emily, it seems, had completely screwed up.

My new balance, meanwhile, had been updated with a new month’s worth of charges (Ray couldn’t understand why my billing cycle went the way it did), plus a late fee for not paying the bill Emily told me not to pay. There was nothing Ray could do about that. She was really trying to be helpful, so I let it go. After some 45 minutes of complicated discussion, it finally came out that what I should do is pay my next bill, minus $78.

I repeated this intention back to Ray, more than once, to be absolutely clear; she assured me that this would be fine, it wouldn’t generate any more late fees for me. The only possible problem is if the credit doesn’t go through, though she couldn’t see why it wouldn’t. I can call back in a week (“at least a week”) to find out about that.

Meanwhile, it’s well past the deadline for getting this article in, so there you have it, complete with cliffhanger. I’ll post a comment about how all this turns out. Meanwhile, readers, please post comments about your experiences, good or bad: however painful my experience with AT&T has been, it’s just one person’s experience, and should only be taken as such.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (13)

Lon Argabright · March 2, 2002 - 17:25 EST #1
When I ordered DSL from Verizon, they assured me that they were familiar with the Mac. The installer couldn't get the service working and I spent dozens of hours talking to the Verizon help desk with no success. The technician had left me a CD which he said should help me get the DSL to work. It may have helped if I had been using a PC, because that's what it was for! It took me two weeks of trial and error before I was finally able to get on line. I had decided to use Verizon because of an attractive introductory rate that gave me free installation and a free modem. When my first bill came it included charges for the modem and regular installation. It took hours on the phone to get these charges straightened out. That was four years ago and I must say that the service has been troublefree, although the download speed has never been much more than 25 percent of the advertised rate. Still, it sure beats a dial-up modem.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 2, 2002 - 17:56 EST #2
Lon - the advertised speed by a broadband provider is usually the maximum you can expect. Reality usually has it quite a bit lower, though this happens more with cable modem lines than DSL. A recent tip from Bob Levitus mentioned Broadband Optimizer for OS X which makes TCP adjustments to tweak the best performance out of the networking. They indicate that it usually works better for cable modem connections, but DSL customers should benefit, too. I installed it and the only thing I can say is, "WOW!"
Jerry W. Wilson II · March 3, 2002 - 18:58 EST #3
DSL in Corpus Christi with SW Bell, and then Cable in Savannah with Southern Bell. The techs came and complained as I did all the work concerning my computer myself. None of those semi-literate contractors are touching my baby!
Matt Fosberg · March 3, 2002 - 21:05 EST #4
As a former employee of a company that provides both cable and DSL services, I can say that this situation is not that atypical, and that the company I worked for is one of the better examples of customer service. I would definitely find a tech at whatever company you use who understands the Mac. Most ISP's have a "Mac guy". They should be able to walk you through any installation problems. Then watch the billing carefully. Most errors are simply that. Billing systems can be incredibly complex and both human and computer errors compound this complexity. Know what you were supposed to be charged and, if you can, get a copy of it in writing. I wouldn't change back to analog phone internet connections for any reason, but I still watch my bill and monitor my connection carefully.
Pete Ruksakiati · March 3, 2002 - 21:41 EST #5
I had a better experience with my AT&T cable install. Though the tech wasn't Mac-savvy, we were able to muddle though (IE only--not just for the initial installation but also to access your account online). Still tinkering with Eudora to get e-mail (Outlook Express only).

If you'd like to tweak your settings and don't have OS X, try IPNetTuner from Sustworks Software. It's a control panel that's a bit complicated but their tech support is very good (they helped me a lot, though I'm only using the software).
anonymous · March 3, 2002 - 21:55 EST #6
I was one of the first people to ever sign up with Rogers Cable in Toronto. Two guys showed up. The actual cable jockey was so fat he couldn't fit in my attic, so I ended up actually crawling through my attic running the cable. The computer guy had never seen a Mac before, so I did the install.

That, and I got a useless D-Link Ethernet card.

All in all, an excellent use of $200.00.
Russell Coleman · March 4, 2002 - 00:26 EST #7
Like Lon, I ordered DSL service from Verizon (about a year ago) but didn't have a bad experience. The deal I got was for a free modem with a self-installation kit. Once I got it all unpacked and physically connected via the written instructions, I called the number for installation support that was given in the literature I had received. The person I talked to was able to walk me through it without any problems and I was up and running within 20 minutes. I have also had trouble-free service and my download speeds have been between 20-50 times faster than they were with my 28.8 modem. So, I've been very happy with the service.
Jeff · March 4, 2002 - 00:44 EST #8
I had a fun experience with AT&T Broadband turned AT&T@home turned Mediaone Express. It's a long story, but it's all true:

One of the reasons I chose the apartment I now live in is that I was assured that cable modem service was available. So after I was settled, I ordered MediaOne Cable Modem service.

A couple of weeks later, 2 guys show up, one to test the line and one to install the modem. I took it as a bad sign that the line tester had an "FTW" tattoo, but it takes all kinds, right? So he hooks up his equipment to the jack in the bedroom upstairs, and announces that he's got a "zero signal," which, according to him was right where it should be. So he packs up and leaves.

Then the modem guy starts - he's never done a Mac before, so after the standard "Yes, it has on-board ethernet," and "The TCP/IP control panel is simple to configure," the modem is set-up, plugged-in and turned-on. So he calls the office to tell them we're ready, I configure TCP/IP and reboot, and we wait for the connection light to come on. It doesn't. So he calls his office again, and says that it'll take 10 minutes to negotiate a connection. Well, 2 hours, 5 calls, and with a growing sense of frustration, it's still not up. So the modem guy decides that he can't do anything, and they'll send out a technician in a week or two.

About a week later, the technician comes in and heads straight to the wall jack. I tell him what the FTW-guy said, at which point he begins to shake his head. He hooks up the same equipment, and gets a zero signal. He explains that this means that the jack is connected to the building's TV antenna, not the cable line. He also makes a comment under his breath about stupid people. So he tells me that there's nothing he can do, I'll have to wait for another installer to show up. In about 3 weeks.

Three weeks later, an installer shows up and can't understand why I have no access to the building's attic, where he's sure the cable line is located. He tells me that he'll have to send someone else out once they figure out where the line comes in to the building.

In another 2 weeks, MediaOne talks to the building management about getting into the attic. They find that there is an entrance a few doors down, so I ask my neighbor if MediaOne can come over and get into the building attic through her apartment. She says fine, so I call back MediaOne, and schedule an appointment for a week from that day. The appointed day comes, and guess what? No cable in that side of the attic! But, there is a firebreak wall separating her section of the building from mine, so maybe it's on my side. So we have to find a neighbor on my side who will let them in to check the attic.

Someone in the building management office finally realizes that the cable doesn't come in through the attic. He says he'll check the plans and get back to me with it's location. He calls back a few days later, and sheepishly explains that not only does he have no idea where it comes in, neither do the maintenance people or MediaOne themselves! At this point, I was convinced that I'd never get a cable modem, but I'd continue with the farce and hope for the best.

So I call MediaOne and tell them the bad news. They say, no problem, we'll just use a splitter off the existing line downstairs. This was something I had suggested to one of the previous visitors to my house, but I had been told that a splitter introduces too much noise into the line to be able to use it with a cable modem. Whoever I was talking to on the phone said no, a splitter will work fine. So we set up another appointment, for another couple of weeks.

This time, two installers come in, we move the furniture, and they hook up the splitter. Now the problem is how to get it upstairs. One guy goes upstairs, drills a hole in the wall and starts feeding a wire down to where the existing jack is. Suddenly, the line is yanked through his hands, cutting his palm badly, and there is a terrible pounding on my front door. Turns out, the installer had drilled through the wall into my neighbor's apartment! Now, my neighbor didn't take kindly to drywall dust falling into his several-thousand-dollar stereo, and was threatening to kick someone's butt - and he didn't care whose.

So the installers beat a hasty retreat, saying they'll send someone else in a week or two, and I apologize to my neighbor, telling him to talk to MediaOne about the damage, which mollified him somewhat.

Still with me? Good.

So about a week and a half later, two new installers show up, and this time drill carefully up from downstairs, without incident. They install a jack, and are on their merry way. At this point, another modem guy shows up and - guess what? I still had no connection light. Turns out the modem was bad. Arrrggghhh! He promises that someone will be over the next day with a new modem.

Surprisingly enough, the next day an installer did show up with a new modem which he plugged in. I twiddled the control panel, and voila! I now had huge bandwidth! And it only took six months! The ironic thing was, they had been charging me for my (nonexistent) cable modem service for the whole six months. I had been refusing to pay (and telling them about it), which led to my cable being shut off about a week later!

Finally, I got someone in billing to sympathize with (and understand) my dilemma, which she cleared up with about 5 keystrokes. And I got two week's credit to my account!

How's that for a story?

BTW, no, the service hasn't gotten any better with the switch to AT&T; in fact, after the @home debacle, my bandwidth has been about halved! Once I win the lottery, I'm just going to get a dedicated T-1 and be one with it!

Pio from Switzerland · March 4, 2002 - 07:42 EST #9
I am most puzzled by these horror stories.

I subscribed by fax to a cable ISP (the same who supplies my cable TV) and 2 weeks later I received a cable modem (with coax cable, T-extension, AC-Adapter...) together with a CD-ROM (that I did not use), a RJ-45 Cat.-5 patch cable and a very thin user's manual.

I followed the physical installation then went into TCP/IP control panel to set it to Ethernet and via DHCP and was on the net in a few minutes. (I tried to plug the cable modem via USB but it did not work.)

I use Opera or Netscape Navigator 4.6 but nobody ever asked me what I use. Apparently the system does not care what browser you use, and that is rightly so. It should work with any browser. It is a whole internet experience: no waiting, always on the net, no bother with the phone line, no dialing in and very quick downloads.

Cheers, Pio
Steve G. · March 5, 2002 - 18:01 EST #10
About 1 1/2 years ago, Time Warner Cable in our suburb of Kansas City upgraded their cable system to digital and offered Road Runner service. I called about a week before it was to be available and set up an installation date for the same day it was to be turned on (a Monday). Monday came and went with no installer showing up, so I called first thing Tuesday morning. The lady told me I'd been scheduled for Tuesday, but agreed to give me one month's credit ($40.00) because they missed the appointment. On Tuesday, the installer showed up on-time and seemed very glad I had a Mac. He even set up my router, too! He was here about two hours, mostly correcting cable lines/splitters, etc. in the basement (at no charge).

I've had excellent service and bandwidth (average real download speeds, reported by the browser, of 150 to 245k/sec! Service hasn't slowed except when I tried to use IE for downloading in OS 9 (bug in IE 5.x). I use OS X 10.1.3 and Omni Web browser most of the time anyway with excellent results.

I was going to get DSL service when it first came out (much sooner than digital cable), but live 22,000' from the Central Office, so no joy.

Long story short: no horror stories, just excellent service.

Pat · March 5, 2002 - 20:33 EST #11
Bell Sympatico in Montreal.

The less I talk to these guys, the happier I am. Not only have I done my own setup, but did many for clients as well. I've had reports of installers trying to get their D-Link PC cards into iMacs, and other such absurdities.

I don't blame the answer desk clerks for their usual lack of intelligent answers - they are phone operators, not technicians, and most of what they know comes from The Book. Talking to a second level tech is as easy as winning the jackpot on a slot machine.

During one installation, I actually had one lady simply hang up on our conversation: She was convinced that I was "making up" answers to he questions ("have you installed filters on all phone jacks?" "Yes." "Is there an alarm system?" "No.")

How hard can that be after a few repetitions?

In other cases, they were very quick in blaming the user's installation - that's when I get called in to consult - when a simple analysis shows that their switch was not configured properly, or even not yet activated. That happens often.

Speed is within acceptable parameters.
John O. · March 31, 2002 - 23:34 EST #12
Computer networking is my day job, so getting cable internet access was interesting. I was very early in getting cable internet in my area. It was one-way cable with telco return. The installers didn't know much about the Mac, but I made sure to have both Internet Explorer and Netscape available for the installer. They were polite and stayed until the job was done.

Three years later, my neighborhood was ready for two-way cable. On the first visit, the installer determined that the external sync wasn't ready. That was solved a day later and the installation went very well. Speeds are great, of course things vary since the internet varies once you get a few hops away.

This past weekend, I assisted a relative installing their cable modem. They purchased the basic installation that didn't include an installer visit for the PC configuration. The automated installer CD worked well and properly configured Outlook on this PC and configured the basics as well.

It's a shame the author had lousy installers. I've learned over the years that I often have to make fewer modifications to my environment to fit in easily.

Dave · April 24, 2002 - 18:58 EST #13
I used to work for the cable company which became my provider. When I ordered my installation I worked in a support area of a University for server administrators, computer lab people, and some of the brightest Mac users on the planet.

When I put in the order I told the woman I would be just getting hooked up and that I would set up the machine myself. When she learned it was a Mac she said they would send a special Mac person to help me.

The "contract" installer tried to split my line (as I already had cable TV) and then ran some RG59 up to my study. I connected the modem to my G3 with ethernet and I thought I was ready to go.

The Mac expert arrived with the installer (separate vehicles) and told me to watch the young man closely. As I know a thing or two about installing cable from when I worked there I saw the young man install the splitter and then go up to add the modem. Close inspection showed he put the splitter in backwards.

When I showed him how my TV was no longer providing me with cable channels he was determined not to take any blame for it. My Mac specialist suggested I let the young man go away and he would fix things up.

Actually, he and I talked Macintosh and shared some tea for about 2 hours while waiting for some staff technicians who showed up later on. I knew one of the guys and we grinned together as I showed him the reversed split. They called it in as a tweak of the pole amplifiers and then they fixed my cable and split. In minutes I was connected and logging in for registration while my Mac expert looked on approvingly.

At the time, I was node number one on my area's switch and speeds regularly exceeded 256KB per sec. Now, I share it with my neighbour across the alley and speeds are still in the 200s most times.

Phone support for small outages and hitches (when I was trying to connect OS X Mail program using their online instructions) has been cordial but not helpful.

I sympathize with Jeff and others who waited weeks and suffered the outrage of contracted installers. My billing has been totally straight up. I got the whole installation for $50 and because I did my own configuration, there was no additional charge. I don't own the modem but I don't rent it either.

It kind of makes me appreciate the federal regulator in Canada (CRTTC) who keeps these companies honest about their service.

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