Welcome to the ISDilemma Network

Francis Vale

No matter what happens to the Telecommunications Bill in this dyspeptic Congress, the regional telephone companies are already well on their way to doing a self-inflicted Kervorkian. To see what I mean, try installing an ISDN line.

Recently, I contacted 3Com, and arranged to get a review unit of its ISDN Impact modem. The Impact features dual 64KB/sec B channel capability, so you can scream along at 128KBs. Next, I called TIAC, my local Internet Service Provider (ISP). TIAC offers its users dial-up ISDN service for just $10 more a month. When I started my ISDN saga, TIAC had a dedicated staff to help you get ISDN installed. A dedicated staff just to get a new phone service? (Oh-oh!)

First up, I had to get my phone number 'loop qualified.' I am located in downtown Boston, at the Prudential Center. This is one of the City's major nerve centers. The Pru Center has office towers, a hotel, several high rise apartment buildings, and is also host to the Hynes Convention Center. In other words, this is not East Podunk. Sure enough, our phone number was rapidly canonized as ISDN loop qualified. But then the NYNEX phone rep started telling me that TIAC had an unusual ISDN arrangement. (Oh-oh!) Nothing direct, mind you, but there was a kind of veiled, McCarthyite tone in his voice when he said it.

Turns out, in order to save its customers from rapacious NYNEX ISDN billing rates, TIAC, as have a number of other ISPs around the country, set up their ISDN lines as circuit switched voice B channels, or, as it is sometimes called, 'data over speech.' No wonder NYNEX had an edge in its voice. This carrier sleight of hand saves the ISDN customer money, but there is a catch. (Oh-oh!) It only runs along at 56KBs on a single B channel. TIAC did not support dual B channels.

Already, we are thrust on to the horns of the IS Dilemma Network -- Save money, or go for the gold, and find an ISP that gives dual B channel capability. Hey, wouldn't Mad Max spend a few more bucks to nitro down the Information Highway? Besides, at that time, 3COM did not support TIAC's voice over data scheme.

Per a NYNEX recommendation, I called up PSI, a national ISP. Sure enough, dual B channel service was available in Boston. However, if you wanted dual channel 128KBs, it cost more than twice as much as PSI's 64Kbs service. The reason? Why, because you are transferring data twice as fast! (Now there is a money making idea for State toll roads, now that the 55 MPH limit has been repealed.) I was also told that my domain for e mail could not be used on PSI. (Oh-oh!) Only PSI domains, thank you.

But what about my e mail? Well, says PSI, why not keep TIAC, and have them forward my e mail to PSI via a gateway. Let' s see now: TIAC has a kludged arrangement to save its customers from NYNEX raptor rates; PSI charges more than double rates for going faster; and now I am supposed to have two Internet providers to make it all happen. Sorry, PSI; all the little gray cells have not yet been completely irradiated by my CRT.

So instead, we wait for the 3COM software patch to let me to hook up to TIAC. It finally arrives (almost three months have now gone by). Call up TIAC. Sorry, NYNEX has taken over all ISDN interfacing work. Here is their number. (Oh-oh!) Hello, NYNEX? "You want what? Huh?" Sound of keystrokes madly clicking away in the background. "We will get back to you." Three more weeks go by. I am then told by NYNEX there is a 'cabling problem". (Oh-oh!) 3COM's excellent ISDN provisioning service now gets involved.

A 3COM fax finally comes, nearly four months after Francis 's marvelous ISDN adventure began. It states, "At this time, there are no facilities within your building to allow another phone line." The local NYNEX switch serving the Pru Center, the gleaming high rise capital of Boston, has been completely maxed out. No voice lines, fax lines, nor ISDN lines are available. Maybe Burundi has a line I can borrow.

So next time some vendor pitches you on the wonders on ISDN, just smile, say oh-oh, and reach out and crush someone.

The Bottom Line

Home Users: Forget about it. Try using two Minute Maid frozen orange juice cans strung together with a long piece of string, instead. You will experience less aggravation, and probably get a better connection.

Business Users: You are better off sticking with the rapacious TI rates your friendly TELCO is currently gouging you. Besides, ISDN is a subset of T1; but you knew that already, didn't you?

Power Users: You know you want ISDN bragging rights, so why should I discourage you, and let the cold water of TELCO reality dampen your spirits?

Copyright 1997, Francis Vale, All Rights Reserved


21st, The VXM Network,