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Welcome To Your High-Tech Nightmare
A number of my friends sneered at me for sticking with my land line instead of signing up for Vonage. In time, they had to do their sneering in person after they had an increasingly hard time getting through to me on their telephones.

And then there are those like France-dwelling Brad Spurgeon, one of the privileged few to be offered a fiber optic connection to his home. And boy is he ever sorry. Spurgeon writes in the IHT:

It took three months after signing up to have it installed, but only one day for the regrets to begin.

In fact, the original offer of two months free was increased to six, but I still dread March, when we have to start paying and we no longer have our cable television or old-fashioned telephone.

Here are the promises and realities of this program:

Telephone: Free, unlimited telephone calls — kill your land line.

The reality: We invested in a pod of Internet compatible telephones, only to find that the fiber optic system haphazardly cuts out without signaling if it is working or not. We may pick up the phone and find we cannot call, or that we can make calls, but without knowing it we cannot receive calls. We often receive a busy signal calling a phone that is not occupied, or we are told the number does not exist, although it does.

Television: High-definition image, all our regular channels on both of our televisions, video-on- demand, and on our computers, a Web-based television access.

The reality: Forget the high-definition television. We did not invest in one because we cannot even depend on watching at low definition. The television signal cuts out constantly and we must reboot the modems and decoders, often for hours on end. Nor can we receive all channels on both televisions, as the service provider permits only one master television a subscription.

Video-on-demand simply does not work. We may buy a film, but not watch it because it cracks up, eating swaths of dialogue, and requires rebooting. After a technician encouraged two more downloads, he finally said that the problem was the server and that it affected all users. The Web-based television has never worked, despite repeated promises.

Internet: High-speed Internet on a network of home computers.

The reality: The fiber optic goes only to a central decoding box that transforms the light signal to an electrical one. From there it is spread throughout the apartment as in any classic home network. Although I was led to expect a power line network, the installers proposed Wi-Fi. It was inadequate, so at my behest they installed unsightly ethernet cables from room to room.

The Internet service itself? While my ADSL connection broke down about three times in nearly a decade, the fiber optic Internet connection is constantly switching off. It often requires rebooting the three boxes — the fiber optic transformer, the modem and the router — and sometimes the computers, too.

As Gregg always says, "Wait 'til it's out of beta." I did still try to download the new (still in beta) version of AOL for Mac to my old laptop (fortunately or unfortunately, it requires OS 10.4, and that old one only goes up to 10.3, so I still have yet to try it). Anybody had any experience with it, or with any other good new stuff?

Posted by aalkon at December 30, 2006 5:17 AM

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Netflix- best product I found in 2006. They have everything and the service is excellent.

Posted by: eric at December 30, 2006 10:06 AM

Just curious - what does AOL offer that motivates you to use it? I'm not trying to disparage AOL with this question, I'm just kind of ignorant about AOL these days.

Agree with Eric about Netflix. It's a great product for keeping a good rotation of interesting movies on hand.

Posted by: justin case at December 30, 2006 3:46 PM

Had my e-mail addresses since the early 90s, no desire to change, ease of use, have email that isn't webmail, but I can use webmail in a pinch, and I have dialup for backup in case the cable goes down or I'm stuck in Namibia on deadline day.

Considering trying Netflix, although I have and love Dish TV. Can't wait for 24 to start again. Jack in China! Chloe holding down the home fort. We love our geeky girls.

Gregg and I both think it's hilarious, though, that Jack is always barking "upload from the D.O.D. database to my PDA!" or something along those lines, and it always works, and pretty much instantaneously...where synching my Palm to my Mac sometimes takes multiple tries and a couple of restarts.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 30, 2006 5:15 PM

I have my cable companies' (Wide Open West) equivalent of Vonage, and it seemed to need to "warm up" for a couple days (phones wouldn't ring when people called, strange dial tones, etc), which is similar to how my broadband acted when first installed. Since then (about two months) it's worked with no issues. No compatibility issues with my alarm system, either.

Posted by: Jamie at January 2, 2007 10:35 AM

I have vonage, but no phone/cable line. Calls automatically forward to my cell.

Posted by: gary at January 2, 2007 10:51 PM

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