Well, starting sometime last week, the thing that I feared has happened. Service went down, and it's never been quite the same since. It comes, it goes, upload speeds in the dozens of bytes per second sometimes... technically it's more or less working but it's not really satisfactory. And I have finally been bitten by the MMORPG bug, kind of (*cough* Second Life *cough*) which not only uses but requires a high-speed connection.
Well, last night Comcast was on the way down when I got home and shortly thereafter had buggered itself into uselessness. A 60ms round-trip ping time to Google is quite good, actually, but there are very few protocols which can survive 50% or greater packet loss. The only thing that was working to any usable degree was my connection to the MUCKs (which is basically a raw TCP connection) and even that was iffy. I had to give up and switch to my emergency backup connection, low-speed data through my Nextel phone.
As is my wont when faced with a technical problem, I start brooding about how to work around it. I know that there are some genuinely high-speed wireless services coming online, 1xRTT and EVDO, so I looked them up when I got to work this morning. Hey, guess what? I'm in Verizon's EVDO coverage area! Yay! Hundreds of kbits per second! Yay! $80 a month is kind of expensive, but maybe...
Then I started reading the fine print. You can't use it as a replacement for a data line. What's that supposed to mean? They won't sell it to you if you don't already have DSL? I guessed it was probably a CYA and moved on. You can't use it to stream video, audio, or games. Er. After a little thought about the technical aspects, I realized that one person playing a game could probably eat an entire tower, leaving no bandwidth for anybody else. The intended uses they list (email, web surfing) are bursty; you may have to wait a few seconds while somebody else is sucking down the bandwidth, but you will get your turn. I thought a bit more — when SL is idling, it only uses fifteen or twenty kbits, and if I push the bandwidth throttle all the way down to limit it to 256kbits at the high end... Of course, if I were facing a situation like they are, I would have sniffers out looking for game-like traffic (lots of UDP packets exchanged on one high-numbered port) and be ready to cut off anybody who was using it like that. And indeed, they have a clause in the fine print that they can disconnect you if you're abusing the system. Hm.
In the end, my good sense has triumphed. For the stuff that I need, like being able to check my email and contact friends on the MUCKs and AIM and even limited web surfing, my cell phone does the job. While wireless broadband would be cool, $80 a month is just too much for a service that may or may not allow me to do what I'd want it for.
If I get too pissed off, I may see if I can get DSL now. Last year it wasn't available in my area, but now, who knows? If I can get it cheap enough, it would be nice to have a fast backup... but I don't really need it. *sigh* It's sad that I've gotten so addicted to speed.
Edit: If I get desperate enough, I could always go to Starbuck's, I suppose. My good laptop should be able to run SL if I can get around to installing the right video drivers. That would be really, really sad.