We have been extremely unhappy with our ISP for the last 18 months that we've been with them, and especially tormented over the last 6-8 months. In our defense, we've been with them for this long for lack of other options. Neither DSL, Satellite nor Cable can provide service to our location, leaving Wireless as our only option. It's costing us USD 40/month -- which is more than we've paid for DSL in the past. The connection is supposed to be a 1Mbps connection however our bandwidth tests usually only go up to 150kbps, 300 rarely. What's worse, is the connectivity is extremely intermittent--often timing out when doing even basic things like web page loading with only one of us using our systems. If we're both using our computers? Forget about it.
The reason we got the Internet, foregoing our thoughts of going offline for a while, is that my wife needs to be able to VPN for her job... she's, obviously, been unable to and as such we've lost gas money on her having to commute when it shouldn't be necessary. Additionally, I do a significant amount of free lance web development these days. . . it usually takes me several tries over 20 minutes to upload a 3kb file. Three. The situation has been very frustrating.
For the first several months, we called them at least every couple weeks--often weekly. Generally, they'd ping our radio and assure us we had an "amazing" connection, tell us to reset our radio and be done with it. Other times they'd send tech teams out (whose actions and fumbling did not instill me with confidence in their knowledge of the job) to "fix" our connection--which would strangely often lead to even worse connectivity.
Eventually, it got to the point where we'd call and conveniently no techs would be available, but we could leave a message. Our calls were never, not once
returned. I distinctly remember one incident when the woman answering the phone submitted a ticket on our behalf. A week later, when we hadn't heard from them, my wife called--and that same woman found the ticket, denied having been the one to submit it, and insisted it had already been closed. Furiously, we managed to get in touch directly with the owner.
Shortly after sharing our grief with him, late last Autumn, they finally tried moving our radio up higher on the roof--and for a brief time, we had a decent connection. Still nowhere near the 1Mbps promised, closer to 400 or 500k but at least a reliable connection. Then the radio suddenly stopped working early on in the winter. Not wanting to grave our high roof with ice and snow as factors (I cannot fault them for this) they "temporarily" installed another low level radio, reducing our connection to the worst it had been to date. Our experience has been one that started poorly and systematically was reduced to a service I would honestly qualify as inferior to a middle of the road dial up connection.
We've spent the entirety of this summer calling them to get it fixed. Same old story. No one there to talk to us, no one to return our calls -- we're billed for awful internet, helpless to contact anyone who will help. We'd already contacted the competing wireless providers but their tight schedules (short summers means high volume, low time to do aloft installs) left us perpetually waiting for a consultation.
With little else we could do, we submitted a petition through the Better Business Bureau. We know they have no real legal teeth, but we hoped that our provider cared enough about their reputation to resolve the matter in light of our taking these measures.
In the mean time, we did manage to get initial "surveys" from the two competing wireless providers. The first didn't have a tower near enough to provide us a *satisfactory* connection and wasn't going to do an install. I'd rather be turned down than sold a can of shit. Amusing note: He saw our dual radios strapped on the house, asked if we were with AINOP, and chuckled saying that they do a *lot* of installs for unhappy customers. The other company said they could provide us with service, also noticed the radios, and said 3 out of 4 of the houses he visited that day were existing AINOP customers. Stellar record.
Two weeks passed and we'd heard nothing. Through random chance, I learned that a man who works at the gas station at the corner works at AINOP and he called them for me. It not being me who called, they answered the phone! The next day, they sent someone out while we weren't home. They left a note on the door assuring us that moving the antennae higher wouldn't help matters, that the tower was having problems and they'd fix it immediately. Struck us funny that their tower was broken for 8 months and no one noticed... but what do we know?
Not surprisingly, the connection did not improve. Instead, we were finally greeted with a response:
Mr. and Mrs. Day,
It has come to our attention that you have complained many times about our Internet service being slow and unusable. However, I have investigated and found that the situation is, in fact the opposite from what you described. Your IP address is consistently consuming the majority of the bandwidth available from our tower. From my point of view, your connection to our tower must be excellent, and indeed, you are receiving better service (and more bandwidth) than most of our other customers that are on the same tower.
It is a sad commentary that I need to tell you that we are no longer going to provide you with our service. As of August 31st 2008, we will be terminating your service and picking up our equipment. We have providing you with excellent service and tech support. If we were to move your radio as you requested it would not improve anything, as your speed and connection are both amazing. I have looked back on your connection and can see huge amounts of traffic passing through. We don’t feel that you have any reason to complain about what you have received. Unfortunately we are unable to please you as a customer therefore we are giving you these couple of weeks to find another provider.
Assistant Wireless Manager
Netherland Office Products & Aroostook Internet
Upon receiving this, my wife was livid. It was them who'd told us we'd need to move the radio back up, not us; their "investigation" never came into our home to see what we were enduring. Their "excellent" service consisted of ignoring us and blocking us out constantly. An altogether false letter of termination their plan to keep the BBB from faulting them?
Unable to contain herself, my wife took time off work. She left the office and came home, picked up the letter from the technician indicating the tower was "broken" (Excellent service or broken tower, what is it?), printed out 5 bandwidth tests, all but one less than 300k, and stormed into their office. Initially, they put down her printed bandwidth tests saying they wouldn't look at them until they could confirm we weren't doing other things to throttle our bandwidth for those tests. What would we have to gain from such a scam, I don't know! All we want is... Internet for our Money! They confirmed *nothing* else was happening, saying "If this is true, this connection isn't satisfactory"... no shit.
The sender of the above letter then took my wife into another room, to illustrate our excessive bandwidth usage. My wife admitted to me, she was nervous--afraid my late nights were consumed with some pornography fetish--making her look like a fool when our bandwidth was in fact through the roof--but lo! and behold! Our massive bandwidth amounted to a 300 megabyte download, once, over the course of 2-3 hours -- otherwise, we had almost no throughput. Did they not check this *before* they sent the letter illustrating our excess? Or are they foolish enough to think that 300 megs is abuse of a *broad band* connection?
After a time of shooting down their baseless claims, they finally asked what exactly we wanted them to do... which was simple... come to our house, look at our connection
The man in charge, perhaps still not altogether convinced of our authenticity--perhaps in disbelief that they served such a lousy connection for such a long period? He sent the author of the above letter to my house the same day--I was instructed to unplug my xbox, disconnect my wife's computer from the LAN and let her use a single computer to test our connection. I obliged. She immediately came to the conclusion that we had a really lousy Internet connection. Tomorrow, a team of two technicians are coming out and I was strictly instructed not to let them leave until I'm pleased with the bandwidth test--1M being the baseline, but she said up to 4 are possible with a proper signal. Here's to hoping. But if the last 18 months have taught me anything, it's don't expect a bit from AINOP.
Supposedly, in the time we've been with them, there has been a complete change of hands and a significant change of bodies in the web providing departments. So who knows, maybe they're on a path to amend their ways. Stranger things have happened.
What really bothered us wasn't the bad connection. I respect technical limitations and can forgive human error. But having had this problem for *this* long and never
being given the benefit of the doubt, just immediately dismissed as malcontents is offensive. To spend over a year accusing us of having a stellar connection while I can barely check my gmail is absurd.
Tomorrow is the big day. Having spent a couple hundred dollars for the initial install and 40 dollars a month for a year and a half... will we finally have padded their pockets sufficiently to be granted proper access to the Interwebs?