I am one of the subscribers to high-speed cable Internet service who found himself with a new e-mail address this weekend: nobody@home. Early Saturday morning, AT&T pulled the plug on @Home, leaving many Bay Area subscribers without access to the web or their e-mail. On Tuesday, an automated phone call from AT&T told me the new network was ready for me to log back on.
I am back on-line now after being off for three days. AT&T has promised to credit customers with two days of service for each day they were down. That’s nice, but what about all that e-mail directed to our accounts with @Home. Our new domain is attbi.com. What will happen to all those messages sent to us through @Home? How will the rest of the world be able to reach us, especially those nice folks who want to tell how to get a free college degree on-line, access to Natural Viagra, or sure-fire ways to increase the size of a certain part of our anatomy? Not many of us are going to miss those or other spam messages that seem to love @Home subscribers, but I know people who have been using @Home as their primary e-mail address. Letters from friends and family members are also lost, and senders need to be informed of the domain change. How will AT&T compensate us for that loss?
With such turmoil in the Internet provider business, it is no wonder that web-based e-mail has become so popular. Yes, it is great for those who have no personal access to the Internet, but can log on at public terminal such as at the library. It is also a form of insurance for people with Internet accounts who are not sure if their provider will be in business tomorrow. It is common for small Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to be bought by larger ones.
An example is Berkeley’s LanMinds. Their service was gobbled up several times before being gobbled up by the giant EarthLink. LanMinds was able to pull itself Jonah-style from this whale, but the Lanminds domain is still in the EarthLink belly. Subscribers’ new e-mail address is @lmi.net. That is a minor nuisance to the subscribers receiving bills from EarthLink for service that they did not want and did not order.
We could also give in and just sign up with the Internet giants such as EarthLink, AOL, or Microsoft. Tell that to the people who prefer having the personal service a small ISP like LanMinds is able to provide. In the meantime, the Information Super Highway continues to be a rocky road.