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ATPM 6.04
April 2000



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Segments: Slices From the Macintosh Life

by Lee Bennett,

DSL and the Mac

What is it that makes DSL the most popular technology not available to most Macintosh users—or at least those of us in the Southeastern states?

Sprint and Earthlink are business partners of sorts. They’ve joined forces to provide people with broadband Internet access; Sprint provides the bandwidth, and Earthlink fills the role of ISP. If that was a true statement, then it has the makings of being the worst business partnership of recent months.

I’ve held my breath waiting for Earthlink to make DSL available to the central Florida area. All they’ve managed to tell me is that it would very likely be a very long time before that happens—probably not even this year.

Yet, last November, Sprint announced DSL availability in the metro Orlando region. Indeed, a coworker of one of my friends actually has DSL service from Sprint, though that person uses a Windows machine. I contacted Sprint to inquire about getting it installed at my home. To my wonderment, the Sprint representative confirmed that my line was good for DSL and began the process of signing me up. Not one minute passed before my excitement turned into disappointment. “Are you running Windows 95, 98, or NT?” the representative asked.

I truthfully replied, “I’m running Mac OS.”

“I see, well, I’m afraid we are not offering DSL service to Macintosh users at this time.”

“Why is that? Macintoshes use the exact same TCP connection that PCs use.”

“I’m not a technician, and I don’t have the details about this, except that we can’t support Macintosh computers right now.”

I was seething, but I did my best not to let it show. As a fellow ATPM staff member confirmed, there is nothing to support with Macs and DSL. The same data is placed into both platforms’ TCP/IP control panels. However, after a number of phone calls, and after a lot of telephone Muzak, the best answer I was able to obtain was that the reason for nonsupport is related to one or more of three issues. These issues may or may not be plausible, but they’re what I came up with:

  1. Many broadband technologies are using authentication software that must run on the computer using the service. Some companies have developed their own authentication software for both platforms, but many have developed it only for PC with a “Mac version forthcoming” claim.
  2. Many broadband technologies are using the new transport protocol known as point-to-point protocol over Ethernet (better-known as PPPoE), and this protocol isn’t as easily implemented on the Mac as it is on Windows (or so they say).
  3. Many broadband technologies not using PPPoE are using DHCP as the connection protocol, and we all know that the Mac OS has had documented problems with DHCP. Not that I’m saying the problems aren’t solvable...just that various broadband providers themselves haven’t solved them.

Totally for my own amusement, I invented a fourth choice:

  1. Many broadband technology providers are full of cr@& and just don’t think the Mac community is large enough or easy enough to service.

Sprint service representatives repeatedly tried to explain the situation to me, but without saying anything that Sprint brass probably considers taboo for discussions with customers (subjects such as the truth). During my last call to Sprint, I ultimately spoke to the director of customer relations. I pointed out that I’d had conversations with Earthlink, and that their tech support people had said that not only are they offering Earthlink DSL over on the west coast in many areas, but that Earthlink specializes in Macintosh support.

When she said that they’re still researching and testing connectivity for Macs, I casually (though I was getting irritated at this point, and again doing my best not to show it) suggested that it looked like a case of the right hand not knowing what the left was doing, and that Sprint should better interact with the ISP they’ve partnered with—i.e., that they should get their heads together and resolve the Mac issue, since Earthlink obviously had accomplished it. At that, Sprint’s director of customer relations said, “Ohhhhh, that’s definitely some information I’d not heard before. I gotta check into that.” She didn’t sound sarcastic, but I could be wrong. Either that lady is a very good actress, or she doesn’t belong in her position.

This rant doesn’t have a closing because the saga isn’t over. I probably made a mistake, but a little over a month ago, Flashcom informed me that they not only serviced Orlando, but also supported Macs. Because they had a very tempting offer that included no setup fee, free hardware, and the first month of service free for a two-year contract, I ordered it. The sales representative said it would take four to five weeks for me to receive a call to schedule an installation date. They also said I’d be charged $100 in advance, but this covered the second and third months of service, and I wouldn’t be charged again until it was time to pay for the fourth month. All this troubled me a little, but I said “okay.”

Five weeks have come and gone without a call from them. Instead, I called to find out what was going on, and was told by a Flashcom representative that he wasn’t sure why I was signed up for the particular package I was signed up for, because that particular bandwidth package was not yet available in my area. Even worse, they’ve already charged me the $100. Even as I write this, I’m planning to pick up the phone and cancel my order.

All I have to say is, come on people! Don’t wave this neat-o technology in our faces and then make us pull teeth trying to buy it from you.

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Reader Comments (8)

Dennis Wilkins · April 3, 2000 - 01:01 EST #1
I live and work in the Pacific NW where, thank G--, we have USWEST.NET. They have implemented ADSL and support the MAC. If you want ADSL you get it within 2 weeks. Except for problems that occur when new software versions arrive, their Techs are AOK! For example, their software install disk has very old versions if Netscape, which you should ignore. If you live in the NW, and have USWEST as your telecom provider, I can recommend ADSL and USWEST.NET as a reliable computing experience.
Bob Steinmark (ATPM Staff) · April 3, 2000 - 01:01 EST #2
As I recall they told me it would take about 6-8 weeks for the service connection. Around the 6th week I contacted Flashcom to confirm service and the date of connection. When I couldn't reach anyone via telephone or Email I got very suspicious about their ability to provide the service, especially since Bell Atlantic wouldn't provide it over the same lines. There was no last Dec. when my problem occured. You're absolutely right, even degraded DSL is better than a modem. They did send manuals for hooking up the DSL. Good Luck with them.
no · April 25, 2000 - 01:01 EST #3
I live in the SF Bay and have the same problem.

The south is not alone.

Chip E. · May 11, 2001 - 13:52 EST #4
Guess I'm "Chip come lately" on this topic, but... I use an Ethernet Hub/Firewall/Router/Switch (many are available for DSL or Cable Modem sharing) and it allows me to plug in a CAT5 cable between it and my iMac. No additional software or setup needed. To enter your ISP info (IP address, username, password, etc) you simply access the device via HTTP (in a web browser). Plus, by using DAVE I'm able to network the Mac with my PCs in the house. Hope this helps. -e.
Al Verigin · May 16, 2001 - 11:06 EST #5
I live in Western Canada and have ADSL on my Mac from Telus. I have a question, can I connect a Efficient Networks Speed Stream ADSL Modem from say eBay or am I stuck with the 300.00 purchase of a 3Com Home Connect from Telus?
Matt Man · November 14, 2001 - 06:52 EST #6
Reno, NV I have had DSL for 1 year on the PC. My new G4 has now arrived. I unplugged the PC's ethernet, plugged in the Mac ethernet, BAM! Done deal. SBC communications through NV Bell. Matt.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · November 14, 2001 - 19:34 EST #7
Matt, I'm not the least bit surprised. For anyone who cares, it would probably be appropriate for me to mention that, after about a year and a half of being a Sprint/Earthlink DSL customer, I'm dropping it. They simply won't even consider being competitive with other broadband providers. I hadn't signed up for Roadrunner in the past because they have no dialup options for when I am on the road with my laptop. Now, Earthlink is offering broadband through Roadrunner, so I'll get RR's 2+ megabit downloads, unlimited modem dialup from Earthlink, and pay about 10 dollars less per month!!
TIM VAUGHAN · April 19, 2008 - 11:51 EST #8
I have Sprint broadband via a Sprint Mobile Broadband Card (Sierra Wireless-AirCard 595(PCMICA) plugged into Linksys WRT54G3G-ST Router, connected an ETHERNET cable into an Apple Airport Express (my printer is pluged into the Airport also via USB).
My "Mac Mail" program will not work, no matter what settings you use, with Sprint service. Sprint blames Mac and Mac blames Sprint. Everybody plays dumb. N.E. Kentucky. Sprint service is lousy.

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