Getting the Personal Treatment
I don't usually like to write blogs about personal experiences, because I'm not sure a sample of one is something from which general conclusions can be drawn. But in moving my daughter from our comfortable, well-connected Chicago suburb to a downstate town of less than 20,000 people in the middle of rural Illinois, I had a couple of eye-opening experiences that are worth sharing.
Experience Number One: What digital divide?
Weeks in advance of the move, I started shopping for broadband services, thinking they would be hard to find. Wrong. Not only was there a cable company offering 6Mbit/s Internet access at a reasonable price, there was even cheaper DSL service from the phone company and the choice of four different satellite Internet providers. That's six broadband options, for the math challenged, which is about five more than I expected to find.
And that doesn't include the free W-iFi coverage at the small college two blocks from her apartment and at most of the fast-food places in town. Granted, this is a town, but it is very well-connected.
Experience Number Two: But I didn't bring my passport
The other side of that coin was the unpleasant surprise that our wireless carrier not only lacks 4G coverage in that rural area -- okay, that shouldn't have been a surprise, I know -- but generally lacks coverage altogether. That led to a Darth Vader-like message from our provider warning us that our plan didn't cover service outside the U.S. and we would be hit with extra charges if we continued to use our phones in this mode.
I grant you that rural Illinois can seem like a distant land to those accustomed to the 'burbs -- I mean, businesses close at 4:30 p.m. and the SUVs show signs of actual use off road -- but it didn't occur to me that my wireless carrier would view my daughter's new home as foreign turf.
One quick call to customer service -- well, it wasn't actually quick because the three-digit customer service number went to the wrong carrier -- and my husband had instructions on updating our phones to properly acknowledge their new location.
Then came the magic moment: Seconds later, my daughter received a text message on her smartphone from our carrier telling her how to do the update. It seemed like a standard message but it ended thusly: "If you need further explanation for this action, ask your dad."
And there's me thinking big wireless companies were so impersonal.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading