Title :DSL
Platform :High-Speed Internet Connection
Publisher :Covad & Verizon
Rating :Not for the Faint of Heart
Review by :Ken Gagne

I'd like to begin by apologizing to my neighbors, who, after being awakened at 3:00 AM by the sound of breaking glass, found their lawn littered with computer hardware pieces. I assure them that I did what I had to for the sake of my mental health. 

Being a college student moving to a new apartment, I was excited to learn that we'd been equipped with DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line — a high-speed, 24/7 connection to the Internet. My flatmate, Jurg, enjoyed a month of late-night sessions of Diablo II before I moved in to share the bandwidth. But it was not meant to be. 

Perhaps the DSL was so happy to see me, that it shorted itself out. More likely, it foresaw the gigs and gigs of strain I would cause it; that, coupled with the idea of having a Macintosh on the network, left it with no option other than digital hara-kiri. 

We called our Internet service provider (ISP). 

"Your call is very important to us. Strangely enough, so is everyone else's, which puts us in a bit of a jam. Anyway, a representative will be with you in fifty… three… minutes." Muzak. "Thank you for waiting. All our representatives are busy. Please wait for the answering machine." Muzak. "All our answering machines are busy at this time. We have dispatched a homing pigeon to your location. Please use the attached leg case to deliver your message. Give all relevant information, including computer make, model, age, width, temperature, saturation, and gender. If you are using an Apple computer, please disconnect. Immediately." 

I asked Jurg to try. He was on hold for three minutes. 

We scheduled an appointment with Covad, the DSL installation company, to come look at our phone box. Covad was so fastidious to attend to our troubles that they arrived an hour before the scheduled time, when no one was here to let them in. We tried a few more times and, several calendar-clearing waits later, encountered the Covad technicians, who said they'd never seen phone cables that old. 

The ISP had redirected us to Covad. Covad blamed it on Verizon (the company formerly known as Bell Atlantic). Verizon said we should talk to the landlord, the local college. The college accused Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick. I suspected one of them was looking for a scapegoat, but I wasn't sure which. 

Finally, I was awakened one morning by a very Covad-sounding knock. Two technicians descended into the basement and, a moment later, after announcing everything was fixed, disappeared. Jurg tried his computer. Success! We moved the router into my room to try my computer. Success! There was much jubilation, for after six weeks, our troubles were at an end. 

We bought a longer Ethernet cable to connect both computers to the router simultaneously. 


I stood there with my arms akimbo, glaring at the router, waiting for it to learn the error of its ways. Jurg took the more fantastical route of calling tech support. My eyes were quickly drying while Jurg learned that our router hardware was — similar to our relationship with Covad – dysfunctional, and that our ISP would call us in 20 minutes to report on the error. 

I always knew that router was meant for lawn decoration. 

Five games of Perfect Dark later, we called back to see what the problem was, and were told we had to schedule another appointment with Covad. 

Several hundred games of Perfect Dark later, a technician replaces our hardware, and we're back on the Information Superhighway. 

So, to recap:

  • Weeks without DSL: 6 
  • Number of pictures of Sarah Michelle Gellar that could've been downloaded in that time: 420,941 
  • Technician visits to my site: 7 
  • Calendar days cleared to accommodate technicians: 15 
  • Time having a high-speed Internet connection is likely to "save" me this year: 14.95 days 

But, hey, at least it's working. 

For now. 

(be sure to read the official response to this article) 

This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 09-Oct-00