Venturing online in Ireland
A personal journey
Comment I'm flattered by the number of Reg readers who have spotted the change in my byline and taken the time to ask if I've moved permanently. And for the record, yes; I and my lovely wife and dear little boy have emigrated from the USA. And yes, we're very much pleased to be here.
Naturally, for someone in my line of work, a reliable internet connection is a necessity, so that was one of the first items of business I set about dealing with upon landing. It turns out that the apartment we're leasing belongs to a cluster of new buildings that were recently wired by Smart Telecom.
I knew nothing of Smart at the time, but I did think its name, at least, had a decidedly Celtic Tiger-ish tone. So the day after moving in, I rang them on my mobile to arrange a landline phone and a broadband connection. But the call could not be completed. I tried numerous times throughout the day, but there was no ring tone, no busy tone, just static.
"Forget these losers," I thought. "What sort of telecom company can't even manage to accept a call?" So I rang Eircom, the old state monopoly. They had no trouble answering, but they did regret to inform me that, as the flats I lived in had been pre-wired by Smart, they would need €112 to connect me, and this could take four to six weeks due to complications which I rather suspected involved little more than having someone fiddle with a relay.
The charge wasn't terribly high, but I certainly couldn't wait four to six weeks to get online. So the next day I rang Smart again. After several tries, I finally got into its automated, pre-recorded menu system. But when I got through to an actual person in the sales department, I was told to leave my number. Someone would be in touch soon.
That was odd; normally, when one indicates a willingness to buy something, one is set upon and pressured and lied to and promised the moon. So I rang back, and went through the whole business with a different sales person, and sure enough, all they wanted was my number. I would be contacted, soon, by someone.
"A hell of a way to run a business," I thought.
On the following day, Smart Telecom went tits up. Over 40,000 landline customers had suddenly been switched off due to unpaid debts to Eircom, and the company was essentially on life support.
But I was still faced with the challenge of getting online as quickly as possible. Eircom was too slow, and Smart too risky. A friend suggested Irish Broadband, a company that provides wireless access, as a temporary fix.
And that's when the difficulty started.
A call to Irish Broadband's automated, pre-recorded menu system is an experience. One is jolted to attention by the voice of what sounds like a girls' school headmistress with a gun to her head, relaying the combination to the safe. There are mercifully few menu options, and I reached sales quickly, and very much awake.
This was Wednesday, 4 October. I was told that they needed me to be at home because they had to deliver the wireless modem and I would have to sign a receipt. It would arrive within five business days. "That's inconvenient," I said. "Can't I come and collect it, or can't you just mail it to me?"
"No," they said. "We have to deliver it and you have to sign for it. But don't worry; we only say 'five business days' as a maximum. You'll have it tomorrow, or Friday the latest."
That sounded all right. I tried to arrange my days so I could get home quickly in case they rang about the delivery. But I needn't have bothered. On Monday 9 October, a woman rang and said the modem would be delivered the following day, or just shy of the "maximum" which I'd been assured never really applied. "Can you tell me approximately what time?" I inquired.
"Between 9am and 5pm," she said tonelessly.