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'Net Insider


Heading for a fall without the 'Net


By Scott Bradner, Network World, 09/12/05


My Internet link has been down for the last five days. This is not any kind of tragedy along the lines of what has been happening in New Orleans and the Gulf area, but it did bring home to me how dependent I've become on Internet-based resources for my daily life.


I won't go into my frustrations with Verizon other than to say that while many employees there have been working quite hard to get my line back up again, too often that work has involved convincing Verizon higher-ups that the customer (me) actually wanted his service restored.


The pattern was that as soon as one supervisor was convinced to dispatch someone, there would be a shift change and the convincing, first by me of a new customer agent, then of the new supervisor by the customer agent, would have to be done all over again. As I submit this, the line is still down six days after the problem started and five days after the line became unusable. Note that I have a business, not consumer service. I have no idea how bad the response would have been for a consumer DSL line.


I haven't been totally without Internet connectivity. I have been using dial-up since the problem started, but it's a bad substitute for the always-on T-1, and the dial-up does not support mail to my e-mail address or my Web site. It turns out that most of my day-to-day activities at work and at home involve accessing the 'Net in some way. A lot of the use is mundane and personal, such as following the news, looking up miscellaneous information, including phone numbers, driving directions and movie schedules; listening to music, tracking the real-time stats of motor races, exchanging e-mail with my sister and capriciously Googling just about anything.


Speaking of the news, I feel like I'm in the news Dark Ages, having gone from actively seeking news from many sources on topics I find interesting to being at the mercy of the commercial TV news channels. I'm amazed at the random topics that I've gotten in the habit of Googling based on some mention in the news or on some Web page. I seem to be becoming a personification of the adage of knowing more and more about less and less, but maybe that is a feature of the Age of Google that we are living in. I also use the 'Net extensively in my Harvard day job (a job that does not stop when I leave the office). I have to keep up-to-date concerning security topics and threats and monitor university activities. I also need good connectivity for my consulting - researching for these columns, looking for patent prior art, checking out new companies and new technologies and so on.


I'm embarrassed to say that I've been caught not practicing what I preach: I have neglected my back-up Web site for the last six months, so it's far from being up-to-date. I'll be happy when (if?) Verizon gets my connectivity back and, at least for a little while, may recognize my current state of dependency.


Disclaimer: Harvard has no opinion that I know about my T-1 outage, so the above represents my own thoughts.


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