While the main reason I had been idle from blogging the first half of this month was due to my spending all of the appropriate energies in preparation for an interview related to grad school admissions. The past week, however, has been obstructed by the general shittiness of Comcast cable internet service. These days I am living in my hometown of Montclair, New Jersey in the house where we have had Comcast’s cable internet service since shortly after moving there in 1998. While Comcast seemed insanely fast back then, after years of never having used anything faster than a dialup 56k modem outside of a school, it was never perfectly reliable, and feels like it has only gotten slower and less reliable over time. This feeling is of course aggravated by my experiences with far superior DSL service in both Japan and Taiwan, but the biggest insult was discovering that cable internet service provided by Optimum Online to my apartments in New Brunswick (I went to Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey), not even one hour away from home and in the same state, was dramatically superior in both speed and service quality.
On Saturday, following a period of off-and on flakiness, the connection from Comcast stopped working completely. All right, I thought, on Monday we (I and my father) are going up to his house in Cape Cod until Friday, where there is a working net connection I can use to get some work done. And there was, at first. But unfortunately, the formerly existing Adelphia which once served up here was laid low by corrupt and incompetent executives and their network was bought by, yes, Comcast. So naturally it went out Wednesday afternoon, and after an afternoon of waiting to see if it would come back on and a lengthy tech support call in the early evening, nothing is fixed.
So how am I posting this? Well, I found a backup plan. A couple of days after getting back to the US from Japan I went out to buy a cell phone, and I opted for the Windows Mobile Samsung Blackjack ($50 after rebate, with 2 year contract that I will most likely break with an early termination fee next year) and the $20 a month unlimited data plan. With the cable net out, I simply plugged my Blackjack into my PC with the included USB cable, executed the Internet Sharing application (note that this program does is not listed on any of the application menus, but can be found in the Windows folder on the phone using the File Explorer), and pressed the “Connect” button on the phone, and I was online! The speed is nowhere near broadband-at around 140kbps down and 50kbps up (according to Speedtest.net) closer to the dialup speeds of the bad old days-but it sure beats nothing.
Luckily, it looks like I won’t be stuck with Comcast’s putrid service for much longer. Verizon’s FiOS (fiber- optic service) is now available in Montclair, offering significantly higher levels of speed for the same price as Comcast. And while I am cynical enough to feel no surprise if I’m still getting arbitrarily disconnected for at least a few hours a week, I hold out a ray of hope that the same people who provide the never-failed conventional phone service might actually have a clue how to run a network that stays online.