Internet Connections

April 14th, 2011

When you tell a Japanese ISP that you want a connection, they give you the same predictable response: it’ll take three to four weeks to hook it up. It’s as if there is an eternal backlog, as that is always the lag time. Why, I cannot guess. It should not be backlog of previous orders, as it is always in effect, no matter what the season; if they were always three weeks behind in orders, all they would have to do is hire some extra people to catch up and then there would be no more problem. Or else, hire a few more people for the long run.

As a result, I can only figure that there is either some regulation causing the delay, or else the ISPs just don’t give a damn and this works for them financially.

I keep forgetting about this, and so in this current moving process, I waited until just after we closed the deal on the house to make the arrangements. Now, that’s what they tell you to do–technically, they are not allowed to start the process until you have officially taken up residence. In the past, when I remembered and planned ahead, I lied about living there and they never knew the difference. This time, I contacted them after we closed on the house, a few weeks before we moved, and kicked myself mentally when they reminded me of the 3-4 weeks thing. I was looking at at least a few weeks without Internet. I was not too worried, though–I had considered doing the 2-week trial for WiMAX during the transition anyway.

Apparently they have learned from customer complaints, however–they have given us a loaner. It’s a USB dongle which seems to use CDMA, but when you use the utility to connect, it claims it’s WiMAX. Huh. So far, in testing I have only gotten 2 Mbps from it–enough, but not exactly what you would expect from WiMAX. KDDI didn’t explain very clearly what the connection is, but whatever.

The problem is, it only gives an Internet connection to one computer–and Sachi and I have four devices that need a connection, one (the iPad) requiring a WiFi hookup. Fortunately, it’s possible to turn your computer into a WiFi hotspot. From what I can tell, to do so with Windows requires that you download and install software called “Connectify.”

On the Mac, however, the capability is built-in. In System Preferences, you can open Sharing and then activate Internet Sharing, choosing which connection (Ethernet, WiFi, FireWire) to share. Then just use the network menu in the menu bar to create a network, give it a name and password, and that’s it. I tested it at the new house and it works great–I was able to get a strong signal from anywhere else in the house.

For fun, I might also do the 2-week free trial for WiMax anyway; you go in and sign up, and they give you your choice of base station (e.g., fixed or portable), and you take it home. I have a feeling that they won’t make it that easy–there will doubtlessly be a form and I’ll have to register my credit card, and ending without signing a contract will probably be a hassle.

In the meantime, KDDI has picked up on a trick used by cell phone carriers (which, via “au,” they are), and is now hooking customers with two-year contracts by overcharging for setup fees. In the past, ISPs I contract with either offer a free setup, or a setup fee around 10,000 yen which they immediately discount. Now, however, KDDI is telling me that setup fees are 31,500 yen (about $375). When they tell you this, they know you’ll object, so the reps are trained, when they mention this, to immediately, without pause, add that this is spread out of 24 months, and KDDI discounts 1/24th of the fee each month–so long as you stay with KDDI.

In short, it’s an artificial way of forcing customers to stay with their business for at least two years, styled after the telephone companies’ subsidization plans for cell phones like the iPhone.

I’m not fazed by it, primarily because it works out the same in the end–I’ve been with KDDI for some time and their service is pretty good, plus they have English tech support. I was, however, amused by the rather blatant artificial fee and the transparent hook. I am now wondering where else I will see the 2-year “deal” appear, and what fees previously discounted freely will be parceled out to keep customers on the line. I also wonder why it’s always two years; is there some law which prevents companies from stringing it out longer?

Of interest: up until now, we have been using KDDI’s 100 Mbps fiber optic service. When I arranged for service at the new house, they informed me that the 100 Mbps service is no longer available.

The only fiber-optic plan they offer is 1 Gbps. Monthly fees are ¥4,777. With IP telephone services, it’s ¥6,090.

While 1 Gbps sounds nice, it’s also overkill. I am also kind of irked that I am paying not for just one, but for three Internet connections: the home connection, and two cell phone data plans. If I want to get a connection with my iPad anywhere I go, that would be another connection–and each one is up to 5000 yen ($60) a month–pricey, to say the least.

When the iPhone 4’s contract comes up, WiMAX should have its 300 Mbps service going. I will be sorely tempted to terminate our fiber-optic connection, keep using our iPhone 4s without data plans, and instead get two WiMAX accounts. That way, we’ll always have connections for all of our devices, at less cost than we have now.

Ideally, ISPs and carriers will catch on and offer an “Internet everywhere” family plan, which will do the same thing for a flat fee. Not that I’m holding my breath.

  1. April 15th, 2011 at 06:18 | #1

    My guess is that the reason they make you wait for the installation is the same reason why there’s always people ahead of you at the doctor’s office: they want to maximize profits.

    The doctor doesn’t make any money if he’s waiting for patients to show up, so he always over books his schedule. Similarly the telco will always want orders in the queue that they’re waiting to fill. Neither of them really cares if you have to wait a little while to get served.

    Queuing theory is very interesting. Check out Little’s Law.

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