Product Review: Charter DSL

Dial-up service was good enough, as long as all I wanted to do online was submit notices to the church newsletter. But when a friend needed to use the Internet for job hunting, I realized we needed faster Internet access. A company called Charter was advertising DSL access plus one year of free long-distance calls for about $70 per month in our area. Relative to our previous household phone and Internet bills, this was a good deal, so I signed up for Charter DSL service.

This meant installing an extra phone cable and moving the computer into a different room. No problem…until the weather warmed up and the air conditioner started working. In its new environment, the computer is too close to the central air conditioning unit. As soon as the air conditioner comes on, the computer started freezing up.

We tried several of the little tricks everybody recommends to solve this problem – clearing the computer “histories,” deleting cookies, moving the CPU from the floor onto a wooden shelf. Nothing seemed to work, until a big storm blew up last week. Worried about power surges and outages, I did what everybody always recommended not doing: I unplugged the computer along with everything else I could reach. Surprise – when I plugged it back in, the computer worked all day without a crash! We then spent a few days testing the theory that the problem had something to do with temperature or humidity inside the wall socket. Sure enough, the computer is now working all day provided that it’s unplugged all night. Whether this is an electrical problem or a DSL problem, we don’t know.

Meanwhile, as long as the outside air temperature stays below 72, we’re pleased with the faster connection…and enjoying the free calls. An extra bonus is not having to listen to the beeps and buzzes of dial-up service.

Phone connections seem to be a little better than they were, too. Not only can we talk to people in Florida for the same price as if they were across the street; we can hear them as clearly as if they were across the street. One of my children, who has a virtual office in Washington, D.C., is having a good time with this. During the recent heat wave and violent storms, she’s been enjoying cool sunny days, mild rain, air conditioning, trout fishing, bird watching, her nephews, and small-town life in general. Friends and clients who might feel envious don’t even know she’s not in the city!

Of course, the unlimited free phone calls will only last for a year. With luck, some of our out-of-state friends and relatives will be able to sign on for similar services then…

Good or bad, depending on how you look at it, we’re finding ourselves surfing more, with unlimited Internet access and fast connections. (That’s how we found Associated Content.) More online “zines,” more job offers, more e-mail chat…more fun, more wasted time…I’m sure you all know how that goes.

The only problem so far has been that once last week, when the air conditioning was off and the computer seemed to be behaving itself, we lost our AOL connection for about ten minutes, for no obvious reason. AOL problem or Charter problem? We don’t know.

Overall, all the computer-literate members of the family are enjoying Charter, and we recommend it to everyone in the service area.

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