Hey, You! Get offa that cloud!

For some reason, when it rains in Los Angeles, AT&T Internet services get wacky. Sometimes an old twisted pair gets saturated in someone’s building, sometimes a substation gets flooded, and sometimes the issue seems to originate well past the Central Office.

It’s almost as if a router or DNS server somewhere in AT&T’s Los Angeles center is sitting in a room with a leaky roof. Or maybe the deluge of rain causes so many people to stay home and cruise the net that the system can’t handle it.

Whatever the cause, any big rainstorm seems to disrupt the network at least temporarily. This weekend, my speed alternated between its normal 6MB and nothing. It wasn’t an issue with my line, I still had VOIP dial tone, which suggests that the connection to the Central Office down the road was good and that my local wiring station was also untouched by rain. It was maddening, not being able to use the Internet on the sort of rainy day best left to staying home.

And it underscored the down side of Google’s Chrome OS. If the Internet’s so-called cloud is taking a back seat to real rain-saturated clouds, where does that leave you? With no software stored locally on your machine, that’s where.

That slick little Chrome laptop that Google is sending out to journalists would be a sleek, minimalist black brick if not for the Verizon wireless service. Verizon’s coverage is very good in many parts of LA, but not everywhere.

As it was, some of the cloud-based services I’ve started to rely on, like Evernote, were not reachable. Fortunately, Evernote will sync when the connection is restored, which is quite a benefit. I couldn’t even go to the local coffee shop and use their wi-fi, it was down there as well. My local Starbucks probably would have had the same issue, being an AT&T hotspot. My only working internet device was my iPhone; AT&T’s 3G service was working well, ironically.

Generally these central office issues get straightened out, though not always automatically. AT&T routes around the failures, but the UVerse modems don’t always get the message. A manual reboot often will set them right, as it did this weekend. If it doesn’t, then you have a maddening wait for phone support, first level, then finally second level, where someone can do a trace and realize that a router still is trying to hit the wet machine (or whatever the problem is), and reset it.

If the problem is more local, things get amusing, and lengthy. A downed line between the local DSLAM and your building could take days to resolve, a ruined line in your house or condo wiring even longer. The folks at AT&T who sell Uverse and the folks at AT&T that repair lines are literally from different companies under the AT&T umbrella, and there can be a lot of finger-pointing on the road to repair.

So, all you companies that keep pressuring me to switch to paperless billing, and all you folks that have your head in the Cloud, keep in mind that when it rains, it pours. At least my mailman has an umbrella.

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