An open letter to metro Detroit ISPs (Internet Service Providers):

Dear Sir or Madam,

Can you please help me? I want to join the broadband revolution. I want high-speed Internet access. And I want it now.

For years, I have suffered the agonizing sloth of crappy dial-up access. I have sat helpless while cool-looking Web pages take ages to load. I have watched. I have waited. It has been horrible, and I am ready for some speed.

Will you help me? All I want is to save MP3s instantly to my hard drive. And to hear Web radio without those awful stuttering sounds. Plus, I want to download games and other software without waiting all night. A friend of mine told me there are Internet porno movies now. I’d like to see them. OK?

I have money. I will pay for this service. Just tell me where to send the check. Do you take Discover? That’s OK, ’cause I have a Visa card too.

But, you see, I live in Detroit — “south of Eight Mile,” you might say — and none of you seem to want my money. I’ve called around, so I know. You don’t even offer what I am craving here. I want to know why.

I know that high-speed Web access exists in other towns. My sister in Ann Arbor has it. My techie friend Tom in St. Clair Shores has had it for years. Even my buddy Al’s got it. And he lives in Hamtramck, where they can barely afford a police department.

Please bring high-speed Web access soon. This is getting ridiculous.

Lord knows, I’ve tried to find the speed I seek. My first choice, of course, was a cable modem. I’d heard the radio commercials, seen the fancy billboards while driving through the suburbs. “Broadband makes life better.” It sounded so cool.

I called Comcast, my local cable provider. They’re the only cable company available in Detroit. (There was once a guy named Barden who offered some channels, but that’s another story.)

Anyway, I called Comcast. This was last year. A nice lady answered. She told me I could get a cable modem at my address by August. “After we convert our system to digital,” the nice lady said.

She was wrong. August came and went. I’m still waiting. I call back every month to check. But it’s not looking good.

I’ve tried other options too. Sprint sent me a flier. They were all excited about bringing “Sprint Broadband Direct to the Motor City!” They wanted to mount a little satellite dish on my roof. It picks up the Internet from the air — just like a TV antenna.

It sounded amazing. But by the time I got around to calling, another nice lady (they’re always nice) told me that Detroit residential service is on hold. For an indeterminate time. “Technical problems,” she said.

But the worst were the DSL guys. I called every company offering these high-speed digital subscriber lines — BigNet, Flashcom, Verio, Earthlink and many others. No one was even accepting orders for new service.

But then finally, last January… success! Telocity, a national DSL company, would take my order.

It’s such a nice name, Telocity. I imagined an entire city flying at the speed of sound. No, an entire country. This would be great.

The kindly gentleman on the phone explained it would take four to six weeks. First, the phone company would install a new telephone line. Then, a contractor would come and set up the actual DSL cable. Finally, they would send me a special modem in the mail.

“It’s taken this long,” I said, “What’s another month?” I sat back and waited. And waited.

First, the phone company missed their appointment (nice job, Ameritech). Then, my order got mysteriously canceled (good going, Telocity). Then finally — after a dozen phone calls and two months of e-mails — a guy shows up and installs a DSL cable in my house.

I was almost done. Or so I thought. Turns out, the company that Telocity uses as its wiring provider had just filed for bankruptcy.

“There’s nothing we can do,” said the nice lady from Telocity. Darn.

Folks, give it to me straight this time. Is there something wrong with where I’m living? Seriously, I can handle the truth. Ever since I moved here, I’ve assembled a long list of painters, handymen and window installers that won’t make the trip to my neighborhood either.

“Not in my service area,” they all mumble. Is that your excuse too?

In closing, I’d like to say one final thing. Please consider expanding your reach. In my neighborhood, a whole bunch of us use the Web. I know, because I’ve asked. We hold regular community meetings down here. Really. We even have a Web site.

Please get back to me soon with your reply. Meanwhile, I’m setting aside some cash to pay you. But don’t take too long. Time is money. And there’s nothing I hate more than waiting around. You know what I mean?


Adam Druckman

P.S. I write an Internet column for a local newspaper. Please let me know if that qualifies me for a discount.

E-mail Adam Druckman at [email protected]
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