The Cox Cure

Had a nice long talk yesterday morning with Cox’s top tech guy here in Santa Barbara, and work continued on the poles and wires outside my house, according to a note left on my door by a field tech supervisor.

The service has now been up, without failing (far as I know) since then. Most of the day I was out having a great time with my kid and one of his buddies from Back East, as they say here.

It’s nice to have it working, and getting serious attention to a problem that was around for far too long. Hopefully it’s fixed now. We’ll see.

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  1. Brett Glass’s avatar

    Doc, I guess the puzzling (and perhaps telling) thing here is that even though your service was awful for more than 24 days, you put up with horrible service from Cox instead of so much as placing a query with either of the alternative, competitive Internet service providers in your area. Why? Given that at least one of them could have had you up and running with better, faster service in a day or two, why did you resist doing this so very strongly? And what does it bode for the state of competition in the industry?

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Brett, the reason is that we’ll be renting the house out for much of the next year, and we want to simplify matters for the tenants and the rental agency (which insists on Cox). I haven’t wanted to mention that, but since you bring it up, that’s the answer.

    That said, you’ve done a great job helping your industry; but they need to be doing a better job helping you. The wireless ISP industry needs to look more like an industry and less like a form of carrier bypass.

    When I look up wireless+internet+santa+barbara on Google I get three WISPs in my first page of results: Infobahn (monthly minimum of $149), Turn Wireless (like Infobahn, only for business), and

    That search also brings up wi-fi and other off-base results, mostly stories from local media. “WISP”, a an english word, als brings up unwanted results.

    So yes, a motivated person could find wireless providers, but it ain’t easy. It should be.

    By the way, I love wireless. I’m an old broadcast engineering freak and was a ham radio operator back in the eariest 60s. We’ve been using Dish Network for television since it was Echostar. (We’ll be dumping them for Cox, which is too bad because I actually like Dish — as much as one can like a faceless utility, anyway). I was one of Ricochet’s first customers, and still have some of their gear (utterly useless at this point). As a customer I desperately wanted to be an early adopter back when we lived in Emerald Hills, overlooking most of the Bay Area. I tried to engage with two different WISPs at the time. (They were the only ones, far as I could tell). One used analog TV channel 22, which was co-obliterated by an actual TV station, KRCB, on that channel in the North Bay, thanks to lame FCC channel assignments. The other operated out of San Jose, came out to my house, pronounced it an ideal distribution node (since we had line of sight to pretty much everything on the shores of the South Bay), and was never heard from again.

    Anyway, maybe now is the time to help WISPs get their act together as an industry. I’d be glad to do that.

  3. Patrick’s avatar

    Besides your rental agency agenda, the Verizon alternative is not their state of the art FIOS, but POTS lame and neither faster nor cheaper much less competitive.
    Am in a much older infrastructure Cox territory not far from Doc, and the protocol is always whats wrong at my house first. Their house is full of oxidized ancient stuff out in the weather, but I have to have my stuff evaluated ad infinitum before a guy goes up even the pole near me, much less down the street.
    They wait you out, even if its unintentional. Once things work stable ‘good enough’ for a while, we go on about the rest of our lives, and they go on to the next squeaky wheel. Doc will be gone when the next weather pattern disturbs whatever is the weak link to his house, and his tenant won’t care probably. The tv will work, and they’ll get their email and so what if occasionally things are really slow. They’ll be busy enjoying Santa Barbara too much to bother with Cox.
    Cox will keep ringing up the register.

  4. Brett Glass’s avatar

    Doc: Some of your observations are right on. The term “WISP” (which I did not coin) makes us difficult to search for; it’d be nice to have an acronym that was not also an English word. (Ideas?) And WISPs are very fragmented as an industry. There’s no effective trade association, though there’s a group that claims to be one. Alas, it has made FCC filings that are rife with inelegant arguments and grammatical errors — not a very good showing for our industry. It has only a fraction of WISPs as members. And its board of directors isn’t exactly setting a good example when it comes to collegiality or professionalism. (Because some of the board members are competitors of mine, they won’t even let me join their mailing lists!) The group has also taken many stances which I see as shortsighted and/or actually counterproductive.

    I’d like to change this, and have been thinking about founding a new organization that overcomes these shortcomings. The challenge is that WISPs tend to be very independent souls; organizing them or getting them to agree on anything is like herding cats. Many of them have their heads down and are working so hard that they don’t have time to participate or much money that they’re willing to pay as dues. And quite a few of them shun politics, even though they are deeply affected by them. (I can hardly blame them for not liking politics; I despise them myself. But I recognize the need to participate in them as a matter of self defense. That’s why I show up at telecom policy forums.)

    I’d love to brainstorm with you and others about how to make a difference.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Patrick, you’re probably right.

    And Brett, yes we should brainstorm.

  6. Brett Glass’s avatar

    E-mail me offlist, then.

    By the way, I’d be interested in finding out what it would take to convince your rental agency not to insist upon cable. I have several very devoted rental agents as clients.

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