Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Secret to Sanity: 529-0184.

I’ve got a little advice for BridgeMaxx customers in Eastern Idaho. Write down this phone number and keep it handy: 529-0184.

When your service goes kaput, call this number. They’ll get Jake to come fix you up.

I can say Jake because, according to him, he’s the only tech left. That’s right, BridgeMaxx has one tech left in Eastern Idaho, after layoffs, to do all the installations and fixing and such. He’s grateful to have a job but overworked and frustrated with the folks at the BridgeMaxx call center who make wild promises (“Oh, we’ll have someone to your house before noon”) he can’t keep because he doesn’t know they’re making them. He’s tired of getting to people’s homes and having them seethe at him because of some unknown promise the call center has made them. He’s a one-man band. He’s not a slacker. He’s singlehandedly keeping folks like us as BridgeMaxx customers.

Jake is awesome. We’ve tracked Jake down at his house and he’s come to fix our Internet with a smile. No, I won’t tell you where he lives; that’s my little secret. Besides, we’ve told him if he ever needs any verbs conjugated, he can come to our house any time of day or night, and we’ll help him out.

Don’t call the call center. They’re worse than useless. Aside from checking to see if your account is current and asking you to unplug your modem, then plug it in again to see if that fixes the problem, they either can’t or won’t do anything to fix your problem but send in a work order, which you can do directly by calling the number listed above. At best they’ll put in a work order. At worse, they’ll put you on hold, then hang up on you.

Again, call 529-0184. They’ll fix you up. They’ll get Jake on the case. But remember, Jake is overworked. Don’t yell at him when he shows up.

And you know what? I hear a lot of people complain that BridgeMaxx is slow. I have to say “So what?” Slow is what I’ve come to expect from any Eastern Idaho internet service provider. All of my friends in Utah make fun of my “Idaho internet” because if there’s anyone in the group having trouble with Skype when we do our conference calls, it’s me. But it’s okay. I’ve accepted the karma of slow Internet. Clay Shirky kind of explains it:

In the mid-90s, I got a call from some friends at ATT, asking me to help them research the nascent web-hosting business. They thought ATT’s famous “five 9’s” reliability (services that work 99.999% of the time) would be valuable, but they couldn’t figure out how anyone could offer good web hosting for $20 a month, then the going rate. No matter how many eventual users they assumed, $20 didn’t even seem to cover the monthly costs, much less leave a profit.

I started describing the web hosting I’d used, including the process of developing web sites locally, uploading them to the server, and then checking to see if anything had broken.

“But if you don’t have a staging server, you’d be changing things on the live site!” They explained this to me in the tone you’d use to explain to a small child why you don’t want to drink bleach. “Oh yeah, it was horrible”, I said. “Sometimes the servers would crash, and we’d just have to re-boot and start from scratch.” There was a long silence on the other end, the silence peculiar to conference calls when an entire group stops to think.

The ATT guys had correctly understood that the income from $20-a-month customers wouldn’t pay for good web hosting. What they hadn’t understood, were in fact professionally incapable of understanding, was that the industry solution, circa 1996, was to offer hosting that wasn’t very good.
In other words, we’re still in the “not very good” era of Internet service, given the prices we’re willing to pay for it. I’m a cheap bastard. I know there are faster services out there. But for what I’m willing to pay, the service I get is adequate. Maybe some day in the distant future internet service will be more reliable and faster at the price I’m willing to pay. Until then, I’m not going to rant.

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