I am whole again. I have a broadband connection once more in our home, from which we were displaced last fall as part of a rebuilding project. When we moved back in early March, the interior of the house came together slowly, since it's our job to do the interior finish work. First we got heat, then the electricity moved off the temporary power pole. A lotta paint, some carpet, a bathroom completed. We moved in the stove and refrigerator in the dead of night after work one day. With the exception of several pre-hung doors and wood-plank ceiling, the house was functional.
Except we had no broadband. It was like trying to walk with one leg. Broadband is as essential to a home as electricity. It's our scheduler, communicator, entertainer, informer, buyer, seller, reserver, and its utility is only going to improve over time.
So why wasn't this the first or third thing we got up and running? Bangalore.
Our carrier, SBC, has outsourced most of its service call center operations to India, so at the end of the day or on a weekend, when I'm trying to have our DSL activated, I'm on the horn to Bangalore. More Indian call center operators are on a first-name basis with me than members of my family are. Polite, yes. Excellent recall when repeating my problem? Yes. Low labor cost? Certainly. Helpful? As boobs on a bull.
It took more than a week to get my fully paid-for and provisioned line up and running. In the end, it took me to an almost-screaming point with a poor woman before the problem was shoved past dead center. "This problem will be fixed today, not tomorrow, and my service will be activated today," I demanded. "Let me make sure I have that, sir: Your problem will be fixed today and your service will be activated today, is that correct?"
My case was kicked up to a woman in the states who discovered that while the DSL line was active, the ATM switch had not been set for our account. Minutes later, the solid green light came on the modem, and life was golden.
The moral of the story is that we're an increasingly connected and dependent world, but our service providers don't fully get it yet. The capture costs for new customers are simply too great if it takes hours-even cheap-labor hours-to get them lit.
Oh, and Lou Dobbs (see March 22 editorial, page 58) doth protest too much.