Dial-Up ISP

July 17th, 2007 by Potato

So with the trip to Ottawa and the cottage coming up, we thought it was best to secure some online access with a dial-up account. It was a surprisingly difficult ordeal. Many websites for ISPs would forward us around due to acquisitions and mergers before we found what the new ISP name was, and then many of them made it difficult to find the access numbers needed for all the cities we would (or might) visit. Oddly enough, many also made it difficult to actually order an account.

Take Bell Sympatico for instance. We tried calling them first because we knew that they had access all across the country. We even have most of the access numbers already since my dad uses Sympatico at the cottage (I was tempted to just use my dad’s account and hope that they wouldn’t notice the simultaneous connection). But it took a lot of navigating around their website before we finally found which number to call. Wayfare called to order, and after 20 minutes was pulling her hair out and swearing never to use Bell again for anything.

First, she tried the online chat feature (which sounds like a good idea — the internet support people should know about the internet services). That… didn’t go so well, and she was directed to call the number (310-SURF). She had to go through the frustrating automated menu, then was transferred around 3 times until she finally got a representative who told her that the line was only for high-speed DSL subscriptions and would have to transfer her for dial-up [I may get some of the details wrong here, she’s got them all somewhere and may correct me in the comments]. That transfer lead to her being on hold for something like 5 minutes [after something like 20 minutes had already elapsed], then she was told to call a different number (310-SURF) where she could find someone who could help her. Now, that’s just criminal: a customer should never have to call back to a company to get help, especially when all they’re trying to do is something completely ordinary: order a service and give the company money. And a customer should never, ever have to call the same number back. She pointed this out, and the rep told her that she would have to call back, and then told her which specific menu options to pick to get someone. He turned out to be completely, flabbergastingly wrong. So, going through another chain of reps and hold periods, including being transferred to India (possibly Pakistan, definitely a weak international connection either way), she got someone who was going to try to sell her some dial-up internet access. She was asked for the number she would connect from. She explained that she wanted roaming access while we were on vacation, that we’d be connecting from all over Ontario (and possibly Quebec)… and the rep told her that wasn’t possible. Now, that’s just plain wrong. I know it’s wrong, since the whole purpose of my dad having a Sympatico account is because we can use it while roaming, with access numbers everywhere. So all in all, an hour of Wayfare’s time wasted (more in fact, since the service was so bad she’s going to have to write them a letter to complain).

So we tried really hard to go with Bell, to give them our money and stick with the familiar, but they wanted no part of it. Back to surfing the internet for recommendations for other ISPs. We found a few really cheap ones local to Ottawa and the cottage area, and considered getting one account for each place if we couldn’t find an ISP with access to both. Eventually, I found out that Teksavvy has a dial-up plan (in addition to their DSL service) at a pretty reasonable rate, with access in Barrie, Ottawa, and pretty much anywhere in Quebec we might care to go. Whether or not Barrie was a local call to the cottage was still up in the air, but Teksavvy has such an excellent reputation that I figured we’d go with them for Ottawa/Quebec access at least, and possibly figure out the cottage later [though it turns out Barrie is local]. The toll free number to call was in pretty small print, so I wasn’t hugely impressed by that (what happened to the giant “order now! Call:” banners that used to plague ISP websites?), but the guy who answered the phone was great. He:

  • Spoke english, and well.
  • Knew about the service, and where to point us to get the access numbers for anywhere we might want to call.
  • Was willing to take our money (credit card).
  • Was understanding that we only wanted dial-up for a month since it was just for roaming use, and put a note in the file to cancel it after 1 month (we’ll have to call to confirm, ‘natch).
  • Couldn’t say whether Barrie was a local call from the cottage, but said that if it wasn’t to call and they would look into securing us access there (possibly on a partner ISP’s network).
  • Put up with me being a dork about not knowing my own address (I have too many addresses)
  • Of course, these shouldn’t necessarily be shining examples of outstanding customer service, but simply par for the course. The fact that it’s not is just simply a shame upon the other call centres. Anyhow, now I think Teksavvy will be our ISP for every summer where we need roaming dial-up access.

    One thing I’m surprised I haven’t seen is advertisements for short-term contract dial-up access for vacationers. I believe I saw one once, nearly 10 years ago, for one of the PEI ISPs…

    Other than dial-up, we did briefly look into the possibility of the high-speed wireless modems from Rogers and Bell. However, we weren’t sure of how well they’d perform (cell coverage at the cottage can be spotty), and how cost effective they’d be (Rogers only mentions a purchase option for the modem, as well as setup fees, and they can be a real pain to negotiate with for short periods of time, e.g.: charging for two months if you just want to use it for the last week of July and the first week of August; Bell’s service was excessively expensive and they only listed their “pricing with 2 year contract” — no idea how much it would cost to only use for a month).

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