Internet Withdrawl

Too much of anything can form an addiction. This is true for food, sex, alcohol, television … and even internet.

I live in a very connected state. I am typically on the internet in one form or another 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Recently, these forms expanded to include a simple eggdrop bot, and this simple website. I have the ability to connect to the internet with my PDA almost anywhere in North America and Europe, and of course, I'm connected while at work and at home.

This level of connectivity keeps me in touch with my digital and physical surroundings. When disconnected, I feel almost lost … mute, if you will. I no longer have the answer to the unknown. I no longer have access to the various places I work. I no longer have the ability to talk to some of my friends. And more importantly, I can lose the ability to easily talk to my Reiko.

For the past few weeks, Telus (my internet provider) has undergone several changes to their systems. Unfortunately, these changes often bring several days worth of unstable net connections. With these instabilities I find it difficult to collect the several gig worth of information that I enjoy every night after a day's work. I find it frustrating when I cannot chat on IRC with friends and aquaintances all over the world. And worse … I find it painful when I can't communicate with Reiko either in text, or with our webcams.

I do have backup methods to connect when Telus fails. However, these methods are often slower and more expensive than my main internet connection. I'm charged a premium by Telus because of the package I use, as well as the service level that I demand. Yet it seems that Telus consistently fails and never reports the reasons why. It has always been up to me to find the reason for the constant outages.

And unfortunately, my tools can only say so much.

Typically I cannot reach Telus during these outages, as their phone systems are over-loaded (pretty scary, since they're also the primary phone company in this province). Nothing is ever mentioned on their website afterwards. And it's equally difficult to find other power-users explaining why an outage had occurred.

Several weeks ago, Telus had upgraded their DNS servers. When this occurred without notice, I changed from Telus' servers, to those offered by OpenDNS. A week later, they stress-tested some of these servers for the Vista release, again without notice or warning, knocking tens of thousands of people offline.

Not one email or apology.

Phoning customer service never resulted in any decent answers, as often they're the last to know why things fail here and there. I can't really fault these operators either, because they could be thousands of kilometers away and have no way to access the local server statuses due to these failures.

I'm really at a loss about which direction to go with Telus. Their biggest competitor in the area is Shaw, and I refuse to go with that company. The remaining ISPs are little operations that would cost more than they're worth. So what option do I have?

I sometimes wonder if it would be worth moving to a commercial package. I could try to force information out of the company should their service be sub-par, then, as a business line is expected to have a higher Quality of Service. If they weren't five times more expensive than the residential packages, perhaps it would be worth it.

So come on, Telus! Give your customers some credit! We understand that things break, or need to be upgraded from time to time. But if you're going to knock us off the internet for the better part of a day, give us the courtesy of a generic email. Let us know what you're doing and when we can expect these things. Your competitors don't seem to have a problem doing this. Many people buy the premium packages expecting better service. But it seems that ever since this package upgrade, I've had nothing but problems.

At Telus, "Enhanced" Means "Less Reliable"

I've had the Telus Enhanced 1.5 DSL service since March 2005, and it's shared across a few PCs. On a good day, the maximum download speed would be around 140 KB/s, and it would usually average around 80 KB/sec unless I was getting the latest episodes of Daily Show and Colbert Report (my fastest downloading Torrents). This package has certainly had it's problems over the last year and a half as my landlord and I share this connection, and we both love to download (only about 10% of what we download is of similar interest, and these files are often put on a single networked storage device so we don't double-download).

Two weeks ago I noticed that the Enhanced 2.5 DSL package cost the same as my current service, and was being offered for $10 less for the first six months. Considering that my landlord and I had been fighting each other quite a bit that week regarding bandwidth usage and who could use how much during what times of day, this was a perfect solution. Although it would only be an extra 1 Mbit of bandwidth, that translates into roughly 120 KB/sec throughput.

I couldn't refuse, and signed up for that package.

The service was active less than 24 hours later, and I was thrilled to see my downloads were moving not twice, but three and a half times faster than they had been previously. My landlord reported that their internet experience was remarkably better even when downloading large files, and we were all happy. Alas, it was not to last.

Three days later, the internet speed dropped to about 40 KB/sec and stayed at that level for almost a whole week. This is a painful speed for anyone that has to share a network connection with someone who wants to see everything on 4chan. On a Sunday our connection started working properly again, and we were able to download at several hundred K per second. I thought that perhaps there was an upgrade going on at the local switching terminal, but no … because two days later the net connection dropped once again to 40 KB/sec.

According to Telus, there's nothing wrong with the switching station, and nothing wrong with their hardware. They want to send a technician over to my home to examine this, but I'll be charged $100 if they don't find anything. More often than not, I'm charged this amount because the technician doesn't find anything seriously wrong at any given time. Of course to add insult to injury, last Saturday the internet went out completely for about an hour and a half. From what I could gather at the time, the DNS servers not only slowed down, but died completely.

One of the things that has always bothered me is the amount of time it takes to load web pages. Even at 40 KB/sec, it shouldn't take 10 to 15 seconds to load a simple HTML document without any PHP, Javascript or what-have-you. This is typically due to DNS issues for sites that don't have heavy traffic demands. To test this, I switched my primary and secondary DNS servers to the OpenDNS servers.

What a difference.

Within the space of an hour I had noticed that all the sites I typically visit would load quite a bit faster, and several of the issues I had experienced with MSN Messenger and Java-rich websites had gone away. Unfortunately, this doesn't really solve my problems. My net speed is still terribly inconsistent. Some days I'm fortunate to get 100 KB/sec bandwidth capacity, and others I'm reduced to near-dial-up. I'm almost afraid of what the service will be like in a few weeks when all those new gifted computers come online with Windows Vista.

Vista will be hitting the DNS servers twice as hard as the current computers. With the wide-scale deployment of IPv6, Vista will be sending two requests whenever looking up a website or other internet address. If Telus can barely handle the traffic they have now, how will they handle this substantial load increase?

Sure, Vista will not be widely deployed for another 8 months to a year … but will Telus, a massive telecommunications corporation be ready in time? Considering their track record, I don't think so.

Prove me wrong, Telus. I don't mind.