Why I Hate Telcos & Cable Companies

The time has come where my fraudulently foisted on me against my will 2 year indentured servitude to AT&T ends.

Oh Boy! Jump for Joy! – not quite.

You see, now I get the unenviable task of finding something less abusive while still functional. This, of course, means looking at 5 x 3 x 5 x 28 x 12 different combinations of all sorts of things I don’t want. Plus reading all the associated Fine Print that makes that great Killer Deal suddenly be a visit from Dearth Vader.

One example would be my present “deal”. As refresher on the story, my ADSL service died. I called AT&T and said “Fix it”. Several days later with no fix in site, they said “How about Uverse with faster speed for the same money and we can get it to you quicker?” Sadly, I said “OK.”, but they did get it to me in a few days more. HOWEVER… Along the way they asked if I wanted to have unified billing on my Internet AT&T account and my DirecTV account (they having bought DirecTV). I asked several times about cost and this was just billing, right? After assurances, I again said “OK.” and then spent about 4 months not having unified billing, having confusion between AT&T and DirecTV as to the payment status of my bill, and more horrors not fit for small children.

Somewhere in the middle of this chaos, about week 3, I got a fat package of Legal Terms, Marketing Crap, and Account Statements in the mail. Looking at it on week 4 plus a couple of days, it had buried in the fine print nobody reads but me, the statement that I had now initiated a Brand New 2 Year Lock In (despite having had both prior services for decades) and was screwed unless I opted out 3 days in the past. Oh, and the actual cost was not going to be the low price the phone person assured me was all it would cost, but about $100 more.

Needless to say, I’m not keen on AT&T and now it’s time to dump them.

But the only other really fast and pretty good provider on the pole behind my house is Comcast / Xfininty – the Cable Company. Looking over their stuff, they have about 1/3 the options on their web site that the sales guy said they had (in Walmart they are pushing this) and they cost more than asserted. Not a lot, just instead of $10 / month more for no contract it’s $20 / month more on any other than the nearly-no-service plan. OK, I can live with that I guess. I can get a 60 Mbps service for $30 / month (no phone, no TV channels as I don’t need them). Then I dive into the fine print.

Pricing & Other Info

Offer ends 05/07/18. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. New residential customers only. Limited to Performance Plus Internet service. 1-year minimum term agreement required. Early termination fee applies if all Xfinity services (except for Xfinity Mobile) are cancelled during the agreement term. Equipment, installation, taxes and fees, and other applicable charges extra, and subject to change during and after the promo. After 12 months, or if any service is cancelled or downgraded, regular rates apply. Comcast’s monthly service charge for Performance Plus Internet service, ranges based on area, from $64.95 to $66.95 (subject to change). Service limited to a single outlet. May not be combined with other offers. Actual speeds vary and are not guaranteed. Xfinity hotspots included with Xfinity Internet Performance (and above). Does not apply to Performance Starter and below. Available in select areas. Requires compatible WiFi enabled device. 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee applies to one month’s recurring service charge and standard installation up to $500. Call for restrictions and complete details. ©2018 Comcast. All rights reserved.

Unstated restrictions apply. No idea what those are. I’m a new customer so get to dodge the rape old customers process. This is the “Performance Plus” package that’s only one step above the bottom dregs. Can’t get out early with the pocket picking operation.

Then that gem “Equipment, installation, taxes and fees, and other applicable charges extra, and subject to change during and after the promo” so to actually GET the service, there’s going to be a load of glue on charges for all kinds of shit, and those charges are going to go up as soon as they can do it. “During” the promo can mean your second month of service…

Change ANYTHING, you get a fee hike and if you do stick it out to the end of the contract, you get a fee hike. About $65/month, but they will let you know later (and likely higher).

Buy hey, you get a single internet spigot so shut up. (Unclear is if I get to attach my own WiFi router and make it more spigots, or what). Oh, and you won’t get the advertised speed anyway. I mean, it’s not like a contract ought to benefit YOU on any terms or be binding on THEM…

Oh, and in their limitation on what you can get back in the “let me out!” 30 day “guarantee” they tip the hand that installation can run to over $500 but you can’t get it all back if they are crap.

And folks wonder why we don’t like the Cable Company…

Buy hey, if you want to know all the rest of the ways they will screw you over and what you are really signing up for, you can call them on the perpetual hold robot nanny line…

Sidebar on Copyright: They put a copyright on the terms so they can sue / scare folks who want to publish it. As I’m educating folks about ISP buying, this is notice that I’m using it under the Educational exemption. Also, as I’m ridiculing it, under the Lampooning and Parody exemptions.

Other Providers

Now the basic problem is that only so many folks can hang wires on a set of poles. This is “regulated” by the government with LOTS of lavish campaign contributions to assure your representative has you in mind (as a lever to use to get more from the “regulated” industry by selling you out to them).

This means that any OTHER service providers that might be mandated to have access must run over somebody else’s wires. You can guess just what kind of fair deals they are offered by AT&T to compete with AT&T using AT&T wires…

In theory, there’s about a dozen here. So far, I’ve found 4 (I think) that claim to actually offer services where I’m located. Exact terms are usually a bit better on lock-ins and opt-outs but with less data rate. Then you also get to find out what data volume limits apply. (So for AT&T I’ve presently got unlmited because they get a big bucket of money, but on their more limited price “unlimited” plans I get a data limit per month… or a slowdown of speed, or both. Similar things get bled over into the other repackager services).

Now, just to make it all more fun, the death of Net Neutrality will mean that AT&T can choose to give their direct buyers more reliable speed and when congestion hits, differentially throttle the 3rd party resellers. You get to discover this by buying the service and experiencing it for a few months…

IF congress really wanted to help “the little people” with fair and equal internet access, they would mandate at least one simple minimal plan without all the crap. HDTV uses about 4 Mb/s and 10 Mb/s is below the bottom speed either AT&T or Comcast is offering at the moment, so it would not be a burden to say a 10 Mb/s plan ought to be standardized without any date caps and with guaranteed actual 10 Mb/s speed all the time. Basically, deliver what you are claiming to sell.

Were there a “By the month no contract” plan for 10 Mb/s actual and guaranteed speed, for about $30 / month; I would be signed up right now and not even think about it. It would run 2 TVs at once, plus be more than fast enough for the computer stuff I need to do. Yeah, no downloads while watching TV but I can live with that.

Then I’d set about deciding if I needed an uplift on any features or speeds. That whole “add a phone” or deciding I wanted to run 4 HDTVs and a laptop downloading the entire library of Congress at the same time.

As it stands, I’m sorely tempted to just shut off AT&T and live on my T-Mobile hotspot. It was a bit slow for 2 TVs when we “tested” it (really, when my AT&T router died and the replacement was ‘in the mail’) but workable.

Oh Well. Once more into the breach…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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23 Responses to Why I Hate Telcos & Cable Companies

  1. jim2 says:

    I tried signing up for DirectTV. The web page died, seems it doesn’t support my OS and/or browser. FINALLY found a way to contact them. They ‘escalated’ my case. Maybe it’s on the Moon? Don’t know. So … screw them.

  2. ossqss says:

    I have had Directv for a couple decades (have spectrum cable for the primary TV, DVR, Phone, and Net service with 200 meg connectivity). I own my own boxes and dishes, and they hate me. I have no base package and only get NFL ticket and Hockey. I also load up my box and backup umbrella stand dish, and go anywhere and watch it. I have no connection for them to my box at all and never have. They have tried to make me do all sorts of things, but were never able to enforced it. Even when I had to upgrade my equipment due to HD sat changes, which was very difficult with their leased boxes now day, I still got around them. I doubt I will be able to again, but will give it a try if needed. I believe there may be some satellite net services out there EM. I think you still need some sort of land line in the mix though. Good luck, I know this stuff can be a PITA!

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ossqss:

    Since one of the “design goals” is “portable” (as we have no idea when, but somewhere between end of this school year and end of next, I hope to have a “mobile residence” of some sort.) I am NOT interested in being anchored to a 1 or 2 year land location contract when I may not HAVE a land location!

    Yeah, I’m trying to get “low cost land location” pricing and service with “no location” flexibility.

    Oddly, had the T-Mobile hot spot worked just a bit better, I’d just get one of their phones and make it a router… The Hot Spot has a data quantity limit, but the phone has none. So for something like $80? / month I’d have unlimited completely mobile 5G data service. Unfortunately, at lest in my location at home, the hot spot didn’t deliver full data rate to the TVs. Having 1080p display to watch 480 or 240 i quality is, er, “not good”… It’s OK in a pinch, but not all the time basic service level.

    It looks like a “few week” process to go through the options and find out what’s real and what’s lies. I was pretty much ready to go for a $40 or so Xfinity service (as described by their Rep and his handout) then checked and saw the real terms above. Oh Well.

    I think I’ll start with a spread sheet just so I can keep all the lies and false promises straight ;-)

    FWIW, I was Very Very Happy with DirecTV as a stand alone company since about 2 years after they first came into existence. Since about 6 months after AT&T bought them, I’ve been ready to dump them. I was in the early batch of “buy your own receiver” folks. 2 very nice Sony units. Then a few years back they demanded I “upgrade” to their hardware. For a couple of years I’d just ignore them. Eventually they threatened to cut me off (the third or forth time) if I didn’t upgrade AND they would send me the boxes for free. I accepted the deal. I liked the Sony’s better. But these were OK. At NO TIME did I EVER connect a phone line. Despite them saying it was necessary ;-)

    Oh Well… It was a nice long run.

  4. ossqss says:

    Mobile dish then EM. I put a dish net setup on a neighbors RV, but that was 5 years ago.

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    I sure wish you would come up with a solution to this TV service provider problem.

    For 17 years we were blessed to have Direct TV service and then AT&T took over management and we are now cursed to have to deal with them. The equipment that we Bought was confiscated and replaced with equipment belonging to AT&T. As the quality of their offerings and service have deteriorated the cost skyrocked. We want out! I keep telling my lady we should end this and go back to “off the air”.and get rid of the Satellite TV. Old analog is now Digital so the picture quality has improved and we have a modern TV now. Just need to set up a real antenna system.
    I fear that Internet service that we have may not be up to it as we are on Hughes.net Satellite and limited to speed, rarely up to 3mps and data limited per month as well.
    On the Fox Business News two days ago AT&T was in hearings and said they were in a hurry to close their deal with Time Warner. Time Warner stock went up and AT&T went down. Wonder why EVERYONE thinks that this is a cursed deal>?…pg

  6. I recently had a slight problem with the telco here. On 23rd March (late on a Friday night) the net stopped working and the phone line didn’t have a dial tone, though the DSL was still synchronised. No phone, no net. There’s a phone number to ring in case your phone line fails…. I don’t however have a mobile phone, or at least not one based in France. The Saturday was somewhat crowded, so on Monday I went to find the telco shop 13km away and found that our phone line had been cancelled – we were told we’d done that but we knew we hadn’t – no-one would want to spend the hour or so on a computerised phone line listening to bad muzak unless they really had to. The cancelled phone line couldn’t however be reversed, and the only option was a new contract and waiting for the “new” connection to become live (estimated as 2 weeks but could be 3 weeks). Because the contract was deemed as cancelled by us (even though it wasn’t), there was no offer of temporary 4G connectivity. The promise to fix a problem in 24 hours was thus worthless. Internet was finally online again on 13th April, 3 weeks after it disappeared.

    Of course here in France there is a de-facto monopoly on the cabling. Take it or don’t have a phone line. I have in the past seen that there is satellite internet available (the beam is “spotted” so there’s around a 2-week delay before the antennae can be adjusted to cover your dish) but there is a data limit and speed limit. OK for me on my own since I don’t run the TV over the net (I have dishes set up for that) and normally avoid watching videos anyway, but the cheap option would soon be inadequate when I have visitors. Still, I’m considering it as a viable option now to get an alternative route to the net. May be a problem when it’s raining and it may be knocked out by a Solar Mass Ejection or other space weather problems, but the local phone line can also get screwed by weather too or by a pole failure. Would they both fail at the same time?

    There’s an underlying pissed-off-ness now that means I’ll be looking for alternatives to the standard offerings for net connectivity that bypass the monopolies here. Not that easy, since I’m out in the sticks so I need to consider somewhat longer links than I’d need in town.

  7. philjourdan says:

    AH, the old “equipment not included” in the deal. Been there done that. And the reason I no longer have Comcast. Unlike most, I do have a choice. FIOS or Comcast. And while I have had issues with FIOS, none were as bad as Comcast.

    At one point, I had an analog phone line from Comcast (I was trying to consolidate my bills). As I have had a cell phone for about 20 years, I was not too concerned about the analog line. Eventually, Comcast wanted out of the analog business and kept bothering me to switch to their “Triple play”. I resisted as I saw no reason to. Then they set a deadline. Move it or lose it. So I started checking out other Analog providers (our state is deregulated, so we had choices there). Comcast eventually came through with a deal where I could get their phone service in the triple play for basically what I was paying for Internet and TV. And they threw in a couple of premium channels as well. If I signed a 2 year contract. As I was not looking to go mobile, I said yes.

    A year later, they said they had to raise the rates. I dug up the agreement (I had the copy as the salesman had come to my abode) and said they could not! They referred me to page 7, paragraph 13, subsection C which stated that the cost of the phone device was NOT included in the contract (even though the quoted over all price was in the contract). They exacted their pound of flesh as, unlike EM, I had not carefully read the fine print. Upon my contract expiring, I switched. I have not gone back. So they got $24 from me ($2×12 months), and lost a customer. I am sure they are still patting themselves on the back.

    The “pundits” claim you should buy your own equipment. As it gets you out of the lease. However as others above have noted, they do make sure to change things on you and force you to upgrade equipment periodically in order to maintain the services you are paying for. Which kind of kills the advantage of buying your own equipment and is their intention. FIOS is no different. But I can play them off against each other (as a ruse as I will not be going back to Comcast unless FIOS gets really bad as their technical support sucks!) and maintain a good price.

    Sidebar: Anyone who has dealt with Comcast Customer service knows that the competency is non-existent. But their commercial side is different, right?

    WRONG! Their commercial side is just as bad! I have had to deal with them on several occasions and they do not know a bit from a byte!

  8. D. J. Hawkins says:

    You know, it’s spring and usually that means a little lifting of the mild depression of winter. But no, I had to read this post while I’m actively looking to switch from DSL. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

    I work from home occasionally and the 3 Mb speed of DSL doesn’t cut it. Especially as it’s really ADSL. Nothing like trying to work on a 60 Mb Revit BIM file with speeds like that. We could get FIOS, but at the relatively low end I’m looking at it’s more expensive than Optimum’s deal. Since we already have Optimum for TV, we’re probably going to go there. Now I’m going to have to download the TOS and wade through that morass. And get depressed. Again.

  9. cdquarles says:

    Hmm, I was a Comcast customer when I was in Huntsville and they were great. True that was before they merged with someone else. I am on Charter and only have internet. Like phil, we have multiple providers. All AT&T can do to them locally is change their wholesale rate and to do that, they’ll have to answer to Montgomery.

    It is $65 per month for up to 100Mbps up/10Mbps down. I am getting that and they’ve announced the roll out of fiber. When that will get to me I don’t know. Meanwhile, a local small city has fiber within its city limits and select areas outside of it. I’m in the sticks between three incorporated areas 3k, 7k, 15k in size. Charter has never given me grief and yes, we do own our own equipment. Given that I upgrade that every so often, it isn’t that big of a deal. I can get a DOCSIS 3.1 modem for about $100. Modem plus router for about another hundred more if I want it. Personally, I prefer separate devices for this and I am more than willing to put a DMZ in between if needed.

  10. cdquarles says:

    Ouch, hit enter too soon. The only AT&T service that I use now is a gophone. It isn’t that bad and no, I don’t use it much for anything other than a few texts/calls each month.

  11. p.g.sharrow says:

    We are saved!
    https://theoutline.com/post/4186/flip-phone-revival-trend?zd=1&zi=7fmok3ly
    A flip phone that is just a phone! or even the hottest new political statement…pg

  12. wyoskeptic says:

    Hey P.G.:
    Apparently I am living proof of the old saying that stay where you are and eventually you be in front of everyone else once again. I never upgraded from my old Rugby III flip phone. 3G but works just fine. All I ever wanted was just a phone. It plays the ring tone when some one calls. It beeps when I enter numbers and then it rings on the other end. What more is needed? Also the battery life is far better than most anything else I have heard people talk about.

  13. p.g.sharrow says:

    @wyoskeptic says:… “All I ever wanted was just a phone.”

    ……….I must be really special, I work off of a land line! Cell phones still barely will work here.
    And We must get internet connection off of satellite as the land line will only support 32kbyte on a good day.. When AT&T wanted to sell us extra services they pinged our line, said they never saw a length number so high and their equipment was unable to provide the services they trying to charge me for.. When we asked about how long it might be until DSL could be provided they said Never!
    Before AT&T bought out PacBell, Pacific Bell was planning to bring in glass and even got ready to start the construction. AT&T stopped that and used the material in other states and used copper in the started upgrade construction for service here. …pg

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @P.G.:

    Don’t remind me… We had fiber installed to the side of my house and the “available next month” early adopter notice in hand when AT&T killed it. I could have had essentially GigE for the next 25 years… Instead, it was only 2? years ago they put active fiber in place for my move to Uverse. For THAT, they had to pull out the OLD fiber as it was no longer the “right kind”…

    And they wonder why I don’t like them. The OLD Pac Bell was nice, tech savvy, and did a good job. These folks are really the Southern Bell from Texas (whichever one that was) who also bought AT&T and then took it’s name. Lots of Texas Attitude, customer centric not so much. Good at buying out the competition and ruining it (so there’s nobody better to choose), delivering the goods themselves, not so much. (Though I do have to say the Uverse internet has been generally good with only one complete failure for about a week in 2 years… )

    Now if I’d just had it for the last quarter century while I was waiting for them to turn on the service that was already built and attached to my house…

    Per “Land Line”: It seems I get a “free” land line with the internet. Just plug in a phone. Want it or not. I’m thinking I might start using that number for all the folks who demand a phone number (and check that it is valid)… The “yes it is mine. no I never answer it.” number.

  15. Richard Bellew says:

    @Simon Derricutt:

    You wrote (April 20) “[…] I’ll be looking for alternatives to the standard offerings for net connectivity that bypass the monopolies here. Not that easy, since I’m out in the sticks so I need to consider somewhat longer links than I’d need in town.”

    You might want to look at SkyDSL (https://www.skydsl.eu/en-FR/Internet-via-satellite). They offer a direct via satellite ISP service. I used their service for some months and it’s pretty good. You need a good clear sky view to the South to get a good signal. It’s set up with spot beams in different parts of France & other parts of Europe. (Fair question: Why am I recommending a service that I’ve discontinued? I was away from home for a while in early 2016. When I got back I found that the speed of my Orange ADSL connection had changed from about 2.0 Mbps at best to about 25 Mbps. How? Why? Beats me! This is La Belle France where things sometimes happen for no obvious reason. Gift horse, etc. The package from Orange included Landline phone (VOIP), mobile phone and Internet. So ditching SkyDSL (for no fault of theirs) was the obvious choice).
    The biggest snag about a direct satellite ISP is the signal latency due to the distance to and from the satellite. A question to Our Host on Tips about this: “Hi Chiefio — This is a request for advice, rather than a Tip. I hope you don’t mind. I live in Southern France where the ADSL connection is of the “two tin cans and a piece of wet string” class. So I’ve recently installed a satellite internet connection via an ISP in Germany. According to Speedtest.net it’s about five to six times as fast as my wet string, but at the price of an extended latency. I expected this, but not (I must admit) as much as it is (Ping of 750+ mS). I remembered your post a while back about a local DNS. So I looked up and read your three posts tagged as ‘DNS’. Based on my reading of these it seems that an R Pi with Pi Hole might be a big win for me. Based on the little I’ve told you above would you agree? Or have I misunderstood what you wrote? Best regards, Richard”

    His reply: “Absolutely! No Doubt About It!!
    Loading a web page with ads in it takes a pause at each DNS lookup. That can be a dozen of them. Each one with a couple of 3/4 second lags. Do the math… Then add in the load / pause / load / pause etc of all those adds. More math…
    The local caching DNS takes out those lags after the first lookup, and the pihole takes them out before the first lookup (and takes out their data load lags). My Pi DNS with just a local nearly empty Apache server on it (It says “It Worked!” to any inquiry… ) speeds things up nicely and I’m on a fast link with DNS very nearby.
    Oh, and the reason for your latency being the distance to satellites in geosync orbit… so it can’t be “fixed”… you must prevent the traffic and bunch things up in larger chunks; so a local DNS then just a big chunk page download without the gaggle of adverts from other servers…”

    I never got as far as trying to set up Pi Hole and a local DNS server on my Pi for the reasons given above. But most of the info you would need can be found by searching the blog for ‘DNS’, ‘Pi Hole’, and ‘Pi DNS’ and most of the software you would need seems already to exist.
    If you decide to have a go at this do please let me know how you get on. Richard

  16. Richard – thanks for the link. I’d remembered the possibility but didn’t have the link. The cost and capacity look reasonable, and is actually faster than my landline. I’d probably need the PiHole but that all looks eminently do-able. Latency stated as 700ms, and current web-design involves a lot of DNS lookups for the adverts.

    Maybe the big thing here is that in a SHTF time the satellite may also get knocked out (solar mass ejection coming our way) and so I was thinking more about some sort of local radio network with some very-directional links.

    The Orange line used to be around 1MB/s up to around a couple of years ago, but then the line failed totally and a very-competent young engineer checked (and probably re-made) all the connections back to the exchange which gave me 5Mb/s which was pretty satisfactory. With the new LiveBox, that has now dropped to around 2.8Mb/s which is still OK for what I want but I suspect that the physical cable I was using was re-assigned during the hiatus and there’s likely some old wires/connections in the mix again. In the past I’ve had a line that only worked up to around 1200b/s (in the UK) so I appreciate having a speed over 2000 times faster than that….

    Having a working system at the moment reduces the urgency of sorting out the satellite system right now, and the initial kit is a little expensive. I have a spare dish pointed at 19.2°E, though (can also be pointed at 9°E pretty easily), and by putting the link on the netpad I have an alternative if Orange screws me up again. Maybe a couple of weeks having to find a local wifi hotspot but then Orange took longer than that to re-assign my landline back again. At the moment I’m still considering the options, since my preference is to go for the lowest technology that will do the job and satellites are not low technology. The satellite link will again give me a single-point failure, where if one bit fails then the whole link is down and you can’t route around that. Possibly a better backup option would be to use the mobile phone network but that tends to have a high rental too. Currently it seems that the choices on connectivity are dictated by how much you’re prepared to be ripped off….

  17. Richard Bellew says:

    Hi Simon — Re your ref to SHTF scenarios in para 2 et seq, if your interest is in continuity of comms you might look at two Chiefio postings about Mesh Networking (search the blog for the word ‘Mesh’). One of them talks about the (free) FireChat app for IPhones & Android. The snag seems to be that FC connects to other nearby FC users peer-to-peer so that a message can trickle through an impromptu network to its destination. Fine if your in a crowd, a city or a football ground and lots of people have the app installed. EG, “FireChat really gained momentum in Hong Kong last fall. Afraid authorities would turn off cell and Wi-Fi access, 500,000 protesters downloaded FireChat in a seven-day period” So the Gotcha is that if you need it and haven’t got it already you probably won’t be able to get it! Despite this it’s still worth reading the Chiefio postings you get by searching on ‘mesh’. Richard

  18. Richard – again thanks, since I’d forgotten about the FireChat app. It’s probably a good time to get it onto the various boxes here for possible future needs.

    This year I’m concentrating on research, though, and I don’t really want to divert time to getting infrastructure sorted out until it becomes absolutely necessary. I used to be a systems programmer at one time, but these days I’m generally taking the easy way in getting a working system since I just want it to actually work. In much the same way, I used to take my car apart and fix it for fun, but now I only fix what needs fixing. Time gets more valuable as you get older….

    Some background may be useful. Though I got a degree in Physics, I spent my life mostly in computers and electronics. Having been effectively forced into early retirement because the job got moved to Hungary (not that I’m complaining) I had time to think about the fundamental axioms of physics and a few years ago I came to the surprising conclusion that there’s a major gap in understanding of thermodynamics and that what is normally regarded as waste heat can be recycled into usable energy again, and that the Carnot limit is not universally applicable but instead only applies to situations where the interactions are substantially random. This is in fact a very wide range and covers most normal situations, but situations where Carnot doesn’t apply can be engineered. Though logically it’s simple, technically it’s quite hard to do in the back shed, so it’s taking me a while to actually get the physical proof. More details at http://revolution-green.com/the-paradox-of-energy/ if you’re interested. Still, I aim to get that proof this year, which would effectively give us the equivalent of solar cells that output 24/7. The maths and physics says that heat transactions are random, yet personal experience tells us that there is a directionality from hot to cold and from high to low, so that personal “knowledge” obscures what’s really happening which is in fact random but can be affected on the very-local scale by fields. The directionality is an illusion (emergent property) because the energy-levels spread randomly to become equal level in all space that energy can reach. The axiom that Perpetual Motion is impossible is in fact wrong, but in order to achieve it we need to use quantum physics and not mechanical systems. First convert the incoming random energy into a form where we can affect the direction using a conservative field such as an electric field, then change the direction of the energy by exchanging momentum without performing any net work, then convert the energy back into a form we can use such as electricity.

    Still, that’s why I don’t want to spend a lot of time/money on the connectivity at the moment. I’m hoping that we don’t get that SHTF moment this year, and apart from emails I wasn’t too much inconvenienced by lack of net for 3 weeks. Maybe the optimum backup at the moment is to get a SIM for the netpad so that I can continue to send and receive emails without interruption (unless the mobile network also goes down). Satellite initial cost is around the 400 euro mark with ongoing costs of around the same as the landline DSL – a bit overkill for something I wouldn’t need to use often. I’ll thus look at best options for that SIM and try to keep maintenance costs down even though when I need it the costs/MB may be higher. Emails don’t in general need a wide bandwidth. One thing that would be very useful here would be a browser that only displays videos and pictures when I want it to, rather than auto-loading everything. Whereas that doesn’t matter on the landline (but still annoys me), it could become critical over a narrow pipe.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    FWIW, I’m quite happy with my WiFi HotSpot. I’m ramping the plan down to the $10 / month low use now that TV is back onto the AT&T box. BUT it WAS enough to run one TV reasonably good resolution (though at peak cell times resolution degraded some – this is silicon valley and at peak cell times nearly 100% of 4 Million people are yacking on their pocket boxes…)

    For general computer use it’s great. I’m using it Right Now from the parking lot. Since Starbucks has joined the “harvest my data and send me email spam” (I got one email already from them…) I’ve decided to try “Thermos coffee & a hot spot”. Just avoiding 2 Starbucks coffees pays the hotspot bill. This is one… (Oh, and the 16 oz Thermos has lost it’s plastic stink after a few washings and is doing just fine as a coffee thermos…)

    So the HotSpot has now displaced Starbucks… ANY coffee stop will do, as will a thermos from home if I have planning time.

    So, Simon, as your data rate demands don’t seem that large, you might want to “run the numbers” on a hot spot. T-Mobile (at least here) has an “all you can eat” no data volume limits cell phone plan, about $80?, so you would just need to tether off the phone. (The Hot Spot has no such completely unlimited plan, even at the $89 level of 20 GB / month)

  20. thor47 says:

    Chiefio,
    I can’t address any of the cable problems, but I can tell you I don’t think you will get a visit from Dearth Vader. He is an interesting commenter on Disqus ( dearth vader ); sometimes funny, always backing up his analysis of anything with links to the appropriate info.

  21. EM – given the cost of that cell connection, (about twice the landline cost) it’s going to be a backstop position rather than daily use. Cheapest satellite option (2GB/month) of around 20 euros with a setup cost of around 300 euros would probably be sufficient unless I have visitors here. Also options of 20GB/month or so for around double the price, and some “unlimited but fair use” (which means if you regard it as unlimited you get throttled) for a bit more. Landline ADSL here runs at about 30-40 euros/month – consequence of the monopoly, since in Germany it’s advertised at around 10 euros/month but they will try to sell TV subscriptions to boost the bill.

    Services do tend to be more expensive in France. Probably a result of the difficulty of sacking people for any reason other than total incompetence (and even that takes a long time) or death.

    The new modem/router Orange supplied gives me very little control over what it does. Until the ADSL achieved synchronisation I couldn’t even log on to it. It’s centrally controlled and also allows log-on by passers-by who happen to be Orange subscribers. Not that there would be many passers-by here who would take advantage of that except for the pilgrims on the Route de St. Jaques de Compostelle. Camino de Santiago de Compostela if you’re Spanish.

    The satellite option gives me a system with a built-in single point failure mode, whereas the 4G connectivity does give the option of finding a cell mast that’s working (and in any case a failed cell mast would be fixed pretty fast). Looks like the 4G will be a better backup option, and I just need to find one that doesn’t cost too much per month. Given the number of packages with various combinations of talk-time (that I wouldn’t use much) or text messages (that I also rarely use except when travelling) it may take a while to find the best option where I’m not paying for stuff I won’t use.

    Still, there’s also the option of setting up a parabolic antenna pointed at my neighbour’s (open) wifi and getting a backup link there.

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    I’m going to be using the T-Mobile for backup and for roving, going forward. Their contract has an interesting feature that you can “roll forward” up to 20 GB of data volume bought. So I’d bought the big fat 22 GB $89 month, then only used about 3 GB when AT&T got the replacement router here fast. OK… I’ve swapped my plan to the $10 / month near minimum ( 2 GB / mo) BUT, I’ll be carrying that extra 20 GB forward for use sometime in the next 12 months. May be TV on the road. Could be during any ISP swap process. Who knows. But I’ve got it available. So for about $200 total for the entire year (carry forward must be used inside 12 months) I’ve got a 20 GB/mo buffer. It is “month to month” so I can stop any time, but at $10 it’s worth it to me just for avoiding the new Starbucks Track Me “feature”…

    Their coverage is most in metro areas and can be quite spotty if rural, so anyone getting a hot-spot needs to look at their coverage map AND test…

    As of now, I’ve found that Comcast has lousy contract terms and a big price bump 1/2 way through. Frontier has max 6 Mb/sec rate and isn’t really cheap. Sonic looks like maybe OK, but also has a long contract lock in. Earthlink is actually an interesting one but rides on top of AT&T, so for their low end service it’s over AT&T ADSL but without dealing with AT&T on my part, but the next one up “requires local phone service” that I don’t have…

    I’m making a spreadsheet of it and will put it up once I’m sure it’s fairly complete. Right now the “Horse Race” is between a low end Sonic, or low end Earthlink (about 10 Mb or 15 Mb – just enough for 2 x the rate measured on the HDTV using Netflix… assuming I actually GET the speed being purchased…) or just keeping the AT&T internet connection ‘as is’ and dropping the expensive DirecTV satellite service (which will depend on the 2 unanswered questions of “New 2 year lock in?” and “What price escalation on the internet link?”. As last time the nice clerk on the phone flat out lied to me (or was just incredibly clueless but convincing) I need to “discover” that ground truth on my own… somewhere verifiable.

  23. ossqss says:

    EM, I have 4 smart phones on Verizon and pay $177.58 with taxes per month with autopay for unlimited data that includes hot spots (throttled a little at about 25 gig use per individual phone). Speed testing shows 25-35 Mbps down and 10-15 up. I could replace my 200+ Mbps home service, but that would be a major PITA to manage with so many devices that connect through my ASUS AC router.

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