When I had my first experience of the internet in the pre-Windows, pre-GUI days, I used to marvel at how I could navigate through a series of menus and submenus to arrive several minutes later at the details of a book held in a distant library. Like everyone else though I now expect more – higher speeds, rapid returns from searches, quicker rendering graphics and a good tracking and response system from the provider when I have a query or problem.

But delivering this requires investment and this has brought to a head in the US the issue of net neutrality. It will follow in the UK before long. As more bandwidth hungry content like video is supplied by the likes of Google and YouTube, a Congressional Committee is debating if telecoms companies – which own the internet infrastructure – should be allowed to apply differential charges for delivering faster or more consistent services. This is a highly charged discussion (see photo of a video still), with many people arguing, along with web founder Tim Berners Lee and companies like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! that this would violate a fundamental feature of the internet – open access. Ultimately though someone has to pay for the costs and the issue will not go away.
Still from YouTube video.

Generally you get what you pay for, but two stories this last week have made me realise this does not always apply! The first broke at the weekend when the New York Times carried an article about a blogger, Vincent Ferrrari, who had spent 21 minutes trying to close down his AOL email account. An everyday story maybe, but this was different because the whole 5 minutes conversation with a highly uncooperative telesales rep had been recorded and was distributed on Vincent’s blog. The site was bombarded with 700,000 hits and when I looked this evening was still temporarily down.

The second story concerns me and started the day after the New York Times article. To my consternation I logged out of my WordPress blog after posting a story and then was locked out, though I tried every permutation of username and password I could think of plus a request for a new password to get back in.

Having slept on it, I sent an urgent email to a wordpress email support address I found, but feared that at best I would have to wait until the National holiday and Independence Day celebrations were over. But no, I had a reply from Podz in under 24 hours! What did he say? That he could help; that he was as stumped as me; that he had checked all the information and tested my details; that I should now try to log in again and if I still had problems I should contact him again. And he apologised. That’s what I call “quality of service”, so thanks to Podz and WordPress (who provide me with a free service). AOL (who didn’t want to stop charging Vincent) and a lot of other companies could learn a thing or two from them.

And yes I forgot – it all worked fine and now I’m back blogging again!