Behind me lies one of the most annoying weeks in my whole life. And ironically, that's not because something of real consequence has happened in my life but simply because my internet stopped working and getting access to it again has been an odyssey in way too many acts. Living in a major city in Germany, supposedly one of the most advanced countries in the world, you'd think something as simple as getting access to the internet shouldn't take much time at all but boy would you be wrong with this assessment...
In this article I'm first going to share the whole story of what happened and what I had to suffer through in order to finally have it fixed. At the same time, I'm going to discuss what this whole thing tells us about our reliance on the internet and how important it is to take measures and be prepared for such a thing happening. Let's get right into it!
Photo by Andre Hunter
Two weeks ago I started to notice that most sites I tried to load took a bit longer than what I was used to. Every now and then, my streams started to buffer mid stream, and so on. I didn't give it too much thought at first and it was only temporary and only happening every now and then. I only realized something was wrong when I found out about Doctor Who Worlds Apart 9 days ago. The site has a lot of images and animated stuff and no matter what I tried, I failed to load it. After some testing around, I realized that my downstream was to blame as I only had about 1 MB of downstream left and even with that, download rates would drop below 10 KB/s at times.
Things got increasingly worse over the weekend and by last Monday, it had finally died completely, not loading anything that consisted of more than a few lines of text. I called my ISP's service hotline and after a lot of time spent waiting and listening to awful music I finally got some decent service from a friendly lady. She told me that it was a known issue, my node has been under way too high load because of Corona recently and they were already in the process of fixing it. To do so, they'd do an emergency node-split and afterwards, everything should be working again. While this all sounded rather good, the actual fix was scheduled to take place on February 26th, until then things should be expected to work rather bad, if they work at all.
Obviously, this was kinda unacceptable, yet the young lady only claimed to be sorry but that there was nothing she could do about it. It took me actually canceling my contract to even get them back to me and offering to not charge me any fees for the whole month. I pay 45€ a month for a business connection, so that's quite some money, but that money is not nearly as important than having actual access to the internet. So I looked into switching my ISP and as crazy as it might sound, there's exactly one other service available that wouldn't take several weeks to get it even running.
I wanted to make sure everything would go smooth from there, so I called their hotline to get some more information. I was greeted by a computer voice telling me that the expected wait time would be approximately 1 minute. That's not too bad, is it? Well, 15 minutes later I was still waiting (and again listening to awful music) when their system decided to just hang up on me. Great stuff. 5 minutes later I got a SMS asking if I was satisfied with their service. Surprisingly, after that episode I had lost all interest in switching to them.
Photo by Markus Spiske
So I went back into discussions with my current ISP. I have a mobile contract with the same company, so I had the great idea that they could just keep their money and instead provide me with enough data volume so I could use my phone as a hotspot as long as my internet wasn't working. At first I was told that that's not possible because obviously, their mobile services are completely different branch of the company and they can't just have them pay for the issue. Right.
It took me an unbelievable 6 rounds of discussions with (seemingly) increasingly important members of their support personal until somebody decided to actually provide me with a so called "Giga Box" - basically a device that provides Wifi - and "gift" me 150 GB of free data to operate it for the month. Today I've received said box and so far, it seems like it's working and I'm back on the internet.
Everything considered, this whole charade cost me at least 6 hours waiting in line and discussing with sometimes pretty clueless support personal with questionable German skills. In short, it was utterly annoying. A week without proper internet also means I can't follow most of my crypto routine and I've probably lost somewhere between 50$ and 100$ worth of lost opportunities because of that.
The whole thing made me realize just how dependent we are on having unhindered access to the internet. I obviously can't surf the web without internet, so I can't properly post my articles, I can't trade. But there's a lot more to it. I can't play my games, I can't watch TV, I can't listen to music, I can't access my banking. In short, without access to the internet, I can't do anything. It's a wonder I was able to turn on the light without internet. Hadn't I had access to my companies internet during working hours and access to my mobile, I wouldn't even been able to determine the hotline numbers I had to call or the customer ID they asked me for.
Now I can only hope that things are better elsewhere in the world, but this is something to really think about. All the decentralization, the immutability, it all means jack if you can't access it. At least here in Germany, there are exactly two ISPs that control more than 95% of the net. There are a lot more providers, but they mostly rely on the net built by these two ISPs to provide their internet access. If they would willingly choose to disconnect you or are just utterly incompetent like in my case, there's almost nothing you can do. If something crazy had happened in the crypto world that would have required my immediate attention, there would have been almost nothing I could have done about it.
The aforementioned Giga Box is a good first step and I'm certainly going to keep it even after my normal internet connection is working again, but after last weeks experience, I don't think this will suffice. Turns out, having access to the internet is coming right after having my basic needs fulfilled and I'm not prepared to leave that to the whims of some incompetent morons running my access. As a first step, I'm getting data sim cards from different providers so I'd at least be able to create a hotspot with my mobile through different nets if I had to. At the same time, I'm looking into alternative ways of accessing the internet like satellite access. Ultimately, if we want to truly be immutable, we'll have to be as independent of any single ISP as we possibly can.
And that concludes my little rant, at least for now. Just writing down this hole shit-show helped to make things more bearable a lot. Now it's time to look ahead again, I've got plenty of catching up to do and BTC is just trying to get across the 40k $ mark again. There are fun times ahead of us!
Thank you all for reading and see you next time!