Moving house: diary of a dial-up user (part 2)

Moving house: diary of a dial-up user (part 2)

Summary: As you know from my previous post, it has been an absolute battle to try and get broadband connectivity to my new house in Canterbury. All the other seemingly complicated "hardware based" products like electricity, gas and water supplies have been easy to set up and continue flowing.


burn-dialup-small.pngAs you know from my previous post, it has been an absolute battle to try and get broadband connectivity to my new house in Canterbury. All the other seemingly complicated "hardware based" products like electricity, gas and water supplies have been easy to set up and continue flowing. So why is it so bloody difficult to get an Internet connection?

Saturday 5th July 2008 12:20am I fired off a text message to my brother back up north, asking him to do a quick Google search for free dialup Internet numbers. He text me back a few minutes later with the phone number, username and password, and this is what I'm using at the moment to write this.

You see, dialup Internet is underestimated nowadays. It'll go at maximum 56kbps, roughly 15-20 times slower than a 1mbps connection. It'll take a good while to load up any average webpage nowadays because, as dialup has decreased and broadband increased over time, entire web sites have been designed to show more content of greater file size.

Yet when broadband breaks, and more often than not, something seems to happen, good ol' dialup is there to rescue you. It's reliable, it's on-demand to some extent, and it works no questions asked. If your computer is old enough to have a modem still (my laptop is brand new yet still has one), a 5 minute dialup connection will often allow a full download of your email inbox(es) and maybe a quick look on Facebook if you're lucky.

The UK is currently undergoing a major analogue turn-off, finally turning off the last set of analogue broadcasting transmitters in mid-2012. During this time, the dialup Internet will be turned off and we'll all be reliant on broadband. After this last couple of weeks, I'm not so sure that's such a great idea - at least keep a couple of ISP's with dialup providing capabilities just in case; can't harm, can it?

Monday 7th July 2008 This morning had no productivity involved in getting the Internet sorted; I was in London "by compulsory request" of the past "employers" to attend the 7th July bombings memorial which is held every year. Poignant and quite sad, but am I a bad person for my mind being elsewhere, more specifically in getting my broadband setup?

Alright, granted, I'm a bad person. Having full blown Tourette's during the two-minute silence isn't exactly easy either.

Got back home at about lunchtime and rang the customer services number the lass on the phone gave me before the weekend. I got through easily enough and explained the whole situation. I thought I was finally going to catch a break and have it all dealt with and sorted. I should be so bloody lucky.

Another woman spoke to me, and told me due to the previous tenants of the house also having a Tiscali account, it had to be wiped off the system entirely, as opposed to just having the account closed if it was with another provider. Again, it's paperwork and procedure, more and more crap the customer shouldn't have to deal with.

I was told I needed to provide proof of current address, that I was in fact living in this house. Because all of my bills are "paid" by the landlord, I told her I didn't have any bills coming through here so I couldn't provide proof of address. Through quick thinking, I said, "I'm ringing from the house phone, I'm jingling my set of keys for the house...", I was jingling my set of keys for the house, by the way, "...surely that's enough proof that I'm living here?" It seems this isn't the case.

She suggested I ring the landlord and ask them to write a letterheaded page explaining that I live here and this will do as proof of address, and with it send a covering letter to this random farm building in Milton Keynes. This baffled me, but after ringing my landlord, she's sending a letter which "is being put in the post this afternoon."

Friday 11th July 2008 Letter from the landlord still not here. After 4 days of waiting now, there's a chance she didn't put a first-class stamp on it; failing that, a stamp at all. Because of this, I can't progress with getting my broadband set up. I've been relying on walking up to the university campus to mooch off their wireless Internet. I feel like a broadband thief.

On that note, a few days ago, I thought I'd take a pop at breaking the WEP key for next doors wireless router. I downloaded an array of probably highly illegal software's, but none of them worked, so once again I'm writing this with, what says, is a 31.4kbps connection. Life as a student is hard.

They'll be more in a few days, hopefully once I get the letter from the landlord. Fingers crossed it arrives this (Saturday) morning otherwise it's a wait until Monday morning at the very least.

Topics: Browser, Broadband, Networking, Telcos

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  • feel the pain

    I can relate to your struggles in two ways. I had a similar bureaucratic nightmare trying to get my local telecom to come out and fix a faulty phone line, which had the disturbing effect of disconnecting the internet once every 2 minutes for about 1 second. While it sounds like a minor inconvenience, I was unable to download virtually anything for over 2 months while the behemoth of a company I was dealing with tried to get both its incompetent feet moving in the right direction. As for your dial-up experience, I was sent off to school with my families old computer, a speedy 200Mhz Pentium MMX box, which refused to use the provided broadband at the institution. Its amazing that being on dial-up changed my internet habits, in that I unconsciously avoided sites with gratuitous flash content simply because I could go out for tea while the pages loaded. Youtube was the site that would cripple my box.
  • I live in a complex where I can usually find a wireless router

    that has no protection. I would only consider using one in a pinch though. Maybe instead of trying to hack into the router you could work something out with the owner for the short term.
    Mac Hosehead
    • Easier said than done...

      [i]Maybe instead of trying to hack into the router you could work something out with the owner for the short term.[/i]

      Most people don't use their name and/or address as their SSID. So, depending on how dense his neighborhood is, he could find himself spending all day looking for the owner of the router.
      • with some decent software...

        he could walk around and figure out where the signal is strongest, then knock on that door.
  • Mobile broadband?

    How about mobile broadband - and when your main line is working T-Mobile do a 'pay as you go which will be useful when your main line is ... er ... not working.
  • RE: Why Are We Saying "Goodbye" To Analog?

    To echo Zack's sentiment, dialup is indeed under-rated. In this gullible stampede towards a supposed golden digital age, we are ignoring the value of our existing analog infrastructure, especially the good old switched analog telephone network. Digital packet switching and VoIP are wonderful, yes, and so is the upcoming shift to digital TV here in the states. We get lower cost telephone service and better pictures, in the short run.

    But we seem to be forgetting that this lovely digitalization can be undone by viruses, fiber cuts, or maybe one good EMP. Maybe it's just because I'm rapidly approaching old-coot-dom (being more than twice Zack's age) and having cut my techno-teeth on vacuum tubes and AM radio, that I see the older, analog technologies as more fault-tolerant and robust. They tend to degrade gently, where digital tends to have a rather sharp "knee" to its failure curve.

    If there's one thing to take away from Zack's experience, it may be this: there is no one solution to a problem. When we focus on a single option to the exclusion of others (broadband access or a petroleum habit) we make ourselves more vulnerable than necessary to infrastructure failures.

    We need to maintain a variety of options & solutions. We humans need to have as many tools in our kits as possible. That's the lesson of history. Learn it or repeat it.

    Dave at
    • I can get behind that

      There is a lot about various analog technologies that is being overlooked these days, aside from robustness, graceful degradation, and the diversity of using more than one "school" of technology.

      Even the old analog computers had their extremely good points, especially for engineering or the sciences. Not particularly good for data processing or 'net surfing, so here we are...
  • keep it comming

    man your posts are like a daily soap on tv, i keep waiting for the latest installment, keep them comming , really enjoy them - which is not to say i enjoy your misery, - i really do feel for you bro- having just got my first broadband connection just two weeks ago, i kinda understand what you must be going through. chin up like they say.
  • RE: Moving house: diary of a dial-up user (part 2)

    Yer lucky!! There are many parts of the United States without 56K dial-up. Yessiree: 2400 baud and pulse dial.
  • "...random farm building in Milton Keynes."

    Seriously? Do they have an office there, or what?

    Hmm. It's a box for Customer Service at the Post Office, I see (after much mucking about). I do like the idea of a random farmhouse better. I should have never peeked. :D
    • RE: "...random farm building in Milton Keynes."

      I can think of a few intelligence officers who may or may not have, in this very hypothetical situation, of course, used police/non-civilian databases to vet their little sister's boyfriends.

      No names of course, again, if this story was in fact not hypothetical... :)