In 2001 I lived in residential Los Altos Hills in a small rental cottage on the edge of a larger piece of property. Other than that tiny cottage, it’s a pretty expensive neighborhood these days, but also pretty remote, and again the only available last-mile Internet connection was DSL, and with a pretty long loop length at that.
I’d heard good things about Speakeasy, so I filled out their sign-up page, gave them my address, and their system did whatever lookups it does and decided it could serve me, so I signed up and scheduled an install. Then just before the install date a few days later, I got a message from them saying (paraphrased) “Er, we know we offered you you a nice fast ADSL connections for $50/month, but it turns out the PacBell “wiring” connecting your house to the phone network is actually just tin cans and string, or possibly rusty piano wire, and in any case is useless for ADSL… but would you be happy with SDSL, 144kbits in each direction, for $200/month?”
No, not really, I wouldn’t be.
Actually, I don’t have to paraphrase, because I still have the email from Speakeasy:
Your order has been canceled due to pair gain on the line and needs to be downgraded to 144k IDSL. Pair Gain is the multiplexing of a certain number of phone conversations (signals) over a limited number of facilities. Basically you have a couple numbers, and so does your neighbor, but guess what? You both use the same CO facilities to talk on. Very bad for DSL. If you are still interested in service, please see[http://www.speakeasy.net/pricing/](http://www.speakeasy.net/pricing/) for the 144k IDSL speed and it’s price difference from the service you originally requested.
They couldn’t offer any way to get my lines upgraded; just the observation that the wiring wouldn’t sustain a modern ADSL connection and changes to the wiring were out of their hands.
Long story short: I signed up for PacBell DSL service, and they delivered it with no drama. It was pretty much the same price and speed as what Speakeasy was offering but found themselves unable to deliver.
Over the same wires, right? Or maybe not. My theory is that PacBell had bad and good wires running to my neighborhood, and they were happy to switch their own DSL customers over to new shiny wires but relegate Covad/Speakeasy customers to the old rotten wires.
(As an aside, looking through other emails from the same time frame, I’m amused to see that before giving up and going with PacBell, I also tried signing up for two different services from Sprint which I’d forgotten existed — “Sprint Broadband Direct” which was a 1.5mbps line-of- sight wireless link, and “Sprint ION” which was some ill-fated ATM-over-DSL technology that was heavily touted for a short period but was never actually available in my area.)