The Need for Speed
Whatever Happened To…?
Ah yes…before we continue, we should answer the question of whatever happened to all of the Bell companies who promised a fiberoptic information super highway? It still has not been delivered…and it will never be delivered. Why? *further information* Because in the phone company’s eyes, it does not need to be. The Bells have received exactly what they have petitioned for, and without having to do anything for it.
The DSL saga
Through this tumultuous period of fighting for local phone competition, enforcing telecom regulations and a failed ISDN deployment, there was an emerging technology which held great promise for the future. It’s name was Digital Subscriber Line or “DSL”.
This situation alone could fill volumes of reports, however it will be described here via a case example that occurred with Pac Bell, and then briefly discussed afterwards:
Count Ted Olson, cofounder and CEO of Oacys (pronounced like oasis) Technology, among the skeptics of the RBOCs’ version of events. Mr. Olson’s low-key demeanor belies his past as a military and commercial helicopter pilot. After he and his wife, Asih (pronounced like Aussie), started Oacys as a computer dealership in the early ’80s, it became Porterville’s first ISP in 1995.
Mr. Olson says that in late 1999, when Oacys owned about 85 percent of the local dial-up market, his customers began asking about DSL. At that time, he says, his Pac Bell account manager assured him Pac Bell wouldn’t offer DSL in Porterville because of its relatively weak demographics (a small population and little industry). One week later, he discovered by accident that Pac Bell, in fact, would begin selling DSL in Porterville within a month. Unoffended, he ordered DSL line provisioning for Oacys. “They gave me some price quotes verbally that they later backed out on,” he says.
Thus began a 15-month ordeal that left Mr. Olson sworn off DSL forever. Pac Bell originally claimed it would have the Oacys DSLAM running within a month but didn’t deliver service until November 2000, one year after Oacys filed its application. The delays included everything from simple stonewalling to technicians hooking up the DSLAM to the wrong power panel, according to Mr. Olson. The Keystone Kops quality of the situation might have been amusing had Oacys not begun losing customers during the delay. “It was definitely an ‘egg on our face’ situation,” Mr. Olson says.
After Pac Bell finally got the service running, Mr. Olson used himself as a guinea pig, ordering DSL for his home through Oacys. This triggered another fiasco, one that included inexplicably closed work orders, buck-passing by Pac Bell engineers, and attempts by various technicians to get the service running. One technician finally told the Olsons — three months after they placed their order — that the telephone lines in their neighborhood were unfit to carry DSL.
By this time, with the loyalty of its remaining customers stretched thin — many of its small business accounts had switched to Pac Bell’s DSL service — Oacys abandoned DSL. The company now offers a fixed wireless broadband service for $40 per month, plus a $600 setup and equipment fee. Mr. Olson says because of the ongoing business he might have had, it’s impossible to estimate how much overall money the DSL debacle cost Oacys, but he figures the 2000-2001 shortfall to be about 25 percent of the company’s approximately $1 million in revenue. “All we wanted was a level playing field, but instead we got a death by a thousand cuts,” he says.