Sunday, October 14, 2007

Still no ADSL - the state of the software industry


We are now in week 4 without ADSL. Things have improved a little, we have a 192kbp (yes kilo, not mega) link most of the time but it can disappear at any time. If I unplug the router I probably won’t see it again for several days. If we stretch the bandwidth too much it will probably collapse and it will be absent for some days.

The combination of BT, or rather their wholesale unit BT OpenReach, my ISP (Eclipse) and some unknown supplier who sits between them seems to make resolution impossible. As far as I can tell the fault is just shuffled between them. Eclipse would like to get the fault fixed I’m sure but they are, as far as I can tell, quite powerless.

I phone Eclipse just about every usually there is no progress. Sometime I have to reboot the router or switch it off altogether for a day. The it takes about 48 hours before BT do the next thing. Then we’re back to square one.

Turns out BT offer no service level agreements for broadband. It is provided on a ‘best efforts basis.’ For something that has become so essential this isn’t really acceptable.

It seems to be another sign that for all our technical progress the reliability of services is decline. Take digital television, my Philips digital box regularly crashes and requires a reboot. At other times it just goes unbelievable slow.

Fixed line phones are still as reliable as ever but mobile phones can still be poor quality, lines can get dropped and messages lost. While Skype offers superior sound quality its reliability is even worse.

Increasingly we (the population as a whole) seem prepared to trade reliability and quality of service for new features.

Unfortunately I take this as a failure of my own industry, software development. Our ability to developer fancy software is far greater than our ability to produce reliable and bug free software. Our solution to this dilemma seems to be to change the entire world, instead of fixing our quality problem we will just persuade people that this is as good as it gets and they can live with the bugs.

That is what I find so very very sad.

I’m doing what I can. Fortunately in my area I have a choice. To my disbelief I’ve now contracted with NTL to install cable broadband and telephone to replace BT and Eclipse. NTL are now branded Virgin Media but they are traditionally a by-word for poor customer service.

If it works - and it is two weeks before they can install - then I’ll get a faster broadband connection and pay less. Hard to believe, I hope it works. For once the devil I don’t know seems preferable to the devil I know.