But muh speedtest!

In my experience, 49.9 percent of the people who complain online about their Internet speeds are pirates, plain and simple, and I give less than a tenth of a damn about their problems.

For the rest, please read on:

When you signed up for service, you were quoted a speed. It was a number somewhere between the IQ of people who own the Jackass DVD boxed set and the age Ray Kurzweil imagines he’ll achieve with a proper diet and reasonable advances in cybernetics. This number was followed by “Mbs.” Knowing what this stands for won’t help you.

What will help you are radioactive isotopes. Remember reading about them in high school? How they decay over time, at a rate known as a half-life? Remember that sad little isotope’s life curve, sloping downward, ever-shrinking but never quite disappearing entirely? That’s your internet speed over time. You have no more hope of stopping its decay than you can preserve cobalt-60 in a coffee cup.

So what do you do? You dial up customer service, of course. (And I do mean “dial.” Online help, when you can barely get online, is a contradiction in terms.) And after seven or eight climbs up and down the phone tree, you get an actual person:

He’ll introduce himself as “Tom” or “Frank,” or “Jake.” This is not his real name. Take the last letter of the middle name of every person in your immediate family, mash them all together, and this is closer to the name his mother gave him. She is, by the way, very proud of him. He supports her and nineteen of his siblings on the pittance your internet megalith pays him to sap the very marrow from your bones.

Jake grew up in a village without a reliable source of clean water. He doesn’t give a shit that you can’t watch The Americans when your kids are playing Fortnight. But he doesn’t mind being polite, because he knows that your grandchildren will cut the lawns and service the pools of his grandchildren.

What’s more, Jake is a genuinely nice guy. He would love to help you. Unfortunately, he cannot. Taped to his monitor is a list of factors that affect internet speed. Things like router age, computer processing power, wind shear, earthworm activity, sunspots, Russian espionage.

And after that, it gets complicated, so you may as well read the whole thing.

1 comment

  1. McGehee »

    12 March 2018 · 3:34 am

    I know which of those factors affects how quickly my secondhand Acer laptop loads websites, because I have a firsthand, much newer and much less cheap Toshiba to compare it to.

    Obviously, it’s the phase of the moon.

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