07 August 2014

Yes, they can hear you now - they just don't give a shit.

Let me tell you a story of a day in happy land where internet providers were your friends. They were. Now wake up to the world where they don't care.

There is the obvious Comcast hatred, with their Hotel California attitude toward departing customers. We have the AT&T Death Star that is all too willing to show their loath of consumers is fully operational. Then we have the never-ending Sprint Suicide Watch where customer support and quality products committed Hara-Kiri years ago.

It is passe to despise whatever pipe you use to veg on Facebook. The individuals that actually defend the bill collector delivering the most important communication and media tool ever made are a rare breed. Yes, you might like the fact that you were one of the chosen few with a blazing fast connection, but actually liking the company behind it? Don't be ridiculous.

Why should anyone like them? They are like Scrooge McDuck - except greedy. Fighting the NSA costs money so there you go, Feds - you can now map every step of every person every moment of the day in the United States thanks to cell tower and GPS tracking. Buying new routers is expensive, so they purposefully slow down traffic to make Netflix, Google and the rest pay for the same thing consumers already bought. Good customer service requires people who actually care about giving people what they want, so they will ship it out to Pakistan where employees (rightfully) could care less about our first world Snapchats.

There was a day, long ago, in approximately the year 2005 AD, around lunch time, that most of the internet and mobile internet carriers were good guys. Sure, they wanted to make a buck to pay living wages to good employees providing excellent customer service, but their mission was to give consumers what they wanted - even when it meant occasionally taking a loss to their bottom line.

For example: Verizon.

Verizon is second only to Comcast on the middle-finger salute list in the tech world. But back in 2005, Verizon used to be building warp speed data pipes to consumers on their mobile side (rockin' 3G, baby, with LTE on the way!) and fiber optic cable (I got my gigabit, bitches!) to your home front door.  Yes, they made a profit, but they were also taking losses on building this infrastructure - all while protecting their customer privacy by telling the Feds where to stick their data warrants. Verizon was never the cheapest, but they were always the best.

No more. Verizon halted new FiOS installations long ago and sold them to the highest bidder. Locked down devices with pre-installed crapware all packaged in two year contracts. Throttled service to blackmail internet company bank accounts. Now happily hand over any and all customer data to any BlackBerry wielding D.C. resident without question. So, maybe Verizon is no longer the "best" at anything but at least they still have the most expensive service around.

Despite the gloom, there is a small ray of hope. As consumers cut their monopoly home providers in favor of an all-mobile universe, there is finally a degree of competition hitting the landscape. Companies like T-Mobile, who are only too willing to take a hit on profits to bring in the masses, may actually succeed in bringing quality service and products back to consumers while ending customer-cheating contracts. But how much that alters the landscape, or how long it lasts, remains to be seen.

So, we have hope. Right now, when it comes to having a happy relationship with an internet provider - at least we have that.