I’ve been with my ISP for about 8 years. For all of those years, this one included, the internet service conks out frequently. The standard routine goes like this: I call them up to let them know. They blame your network. They blame your computer. They explain things that they themselves don’t understand. It takes some doing, but eventually I succeed at convincing them that the problem lies with their company, not my home equipment, and they respond by sending out a tech. The tech shows up between 1 and 5 days later. The techs tend to be, by and large, competent people, but by the time they arrive the service is working again. So the tech scribbles a few notes, leaves a document, and departs. Within a few days the service is down again.

This has been going on for years. Every so often TWC does something dramatic to fix the problem: replaces a cable, replaces a line, checks a connection on the pole. Every so often that results in the service becoming reliable for a few weeks. Once it was even reliable for a few months. Inevitably it breaks down again.

I’d be glad to switch to a better ISP. The only alternative in my neighborhood is AT&T. My friend uses AT&T. She has the same problem — intermittent service — and endures more or less the same routine when she calls tech support. As for options to get home internet, that’s about it — unless you’re willing to hurl the rest of your wallet at this problem and pay for corporate quality internet service. But I frequently work for a company that has that corporate quality service. They have the same problem as I do at home. It sucks just as bad, only they pay 12 times as much.

There are a number of books and articles pointing to the root causes that gave birth to the abomination that is US ISP, most notably the regional monopolies and duopolies, the squelched competition permitted nationwide. A good anti-trust movement is long overdue. But there’s perhaps another more insidious monopoly undergirding the glaringly obvious one: it’s the monopoly, or more accurately, a monomania of low quality and poor choices that’s a taken-for-granted staple of corporate culture. No matter what company is offering what, for the most part they’re pressing their bottom line so hard that quality and pride of product have long sense left the building. That’s how you get fast food that isn’t even really food, fancy restaurants that charge an arm and a leg to serve low-grade crap with lipstick-on-a-pig grade garnish. There’s the monopoly of vision by corporate culture in general that accommodates a huge plethora of options around packaging and branding but almost none when it comes to actual quality and functionality. It’s what happens when after years of focus on spin, branding, packaging, and PR, at the expense of actually doing what it takes to produce genuine quality.



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