It’s very rare — almost never, in fact — that I praise a company. It’s just that so many companies seem to treat their customers as if they’re simply an annoyance rather than their reason for existence.
By way of preface, here’s a bit of an article by Cory Doctorow talking a bit about how companies hobble their products:
I love the Internet because I can plug anything I want into it. No ISP tells me what computer I can use or what software it can run. Contrast that with the phone networks. Until 1968, it was illegal to even attach a non-Bell phone. Even today, phone companies charge for services like Caller ID. Imagine if your ISP charged you for seeing the “From” line in your e-mail.
Mobile-phone companies have inherited this arrogance, building their business models around nickel-and-diming customers. They sell you phones that can play musical ringtones and then force you to buy the song snippets you want to use, even if you already own the CD. They give you color screens for better gaming but charge you $7 for Tetris. They give you data but lock you into their Web browsers and charge you by the second to use them. Unlike my PC, there’s no freeware and no choice.
I have to differ with Cory on one important point: every ISP I have ever used was heavy-handed about what computer I could use (they always say they don’t support Macs) or what software I could use. The big broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon make it quite clear: you can’t use any server software on their networks, you can’t run a mail server or web server — in fact, they often block the ports. The terms of service from these companies are horrifying reading — almost anything you might want to do on the internet is a violation.
Anyway, the good news.
My soon-to-be-installed broadband connection comes from Speakeasy, whose terms of service quite sensibly (thank goodness) say:
Speakeasy believes in the right of the individual to publish information they feel is important to the world via the Internet. Unlike many ISP’s, Speakeasy allows customers to run servers (web, mail, etc.) over their Internet connections, use hubs, and share networks in multiple locations. Any service that causes a disruption in the network integrity of Speakeasy or its vendors, whether directly or indirectly, is strictly prohibited and could result in termination of service.
In other words, it’s a simple “do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else” admonition, something I wholeheartedly endorse.
In addition, Speakeasy not only allows you to share your broadband connection with your neighbors, they actually have a system that allows you to bill them!
Lastly, their website is fantastic. From the moment I ordered my new line, the website was set up with all the information I need: from my IP address to step-by-step updates on my order. It gives me complete up-to-date information on the status of my order in plain English, options to add or change features, real-time network status, and — get this — Mac-centric instructions and tips. These people not only support Macintosh, they put it first in their menus.
Here’s an example of the kind of information they give you. It’s what is on my order page today:
2005-01-31 09:00 AM
Your Speakeasy hardware has been shipped! To view shipment status, please visit www.ups.com/content/us/en/index.jsx and enter the following tracking number: [XXXXXXXXXXXXXX]
2005-01-29 03:15 PM
COVAD: Telco Date set: 07-FEB-05 for order XXXXXXX
2005-01-29 02:58 PM
We received a firm order commitment on 2005-01-29 14:58:41.0 from our vendor for the delivery of a new data line.
2005-01-29 02:17 PM
The installation address for your order was verified on January 29, 2005 02:17:39 PM.
2005-01-29 02:15 PM
COVAD: Order accepted for order XXXXXXX
Can you imagine getting that level of detail from, say, Verizon? Hell, you’d be on the phone for 3 hours before they’d even acknowledge you had an order.
And all this before my loop is even installed. I hope this bodes well — a company that puts the customer first. Amazing!
(Speakeasy has a customer referral program — if you should sign up for Speakeasy internet, please consider using me as a referral! Use the email address speakeasy at genecowan.com. Thanks!)