Have you ever wondered what life would look like without a phone line, Internet, or electricity? Well, I didn’t have to imagine it – I lived through it. I call it the perfect electronic storm, or “eStorm”.The first sign of trouble appeared when one of our halogen light bulb exploded. You heard me right – it blew up into pieces and its socket cracked. In order to safely clear the socket from the debris, I flipped off the main electric circuit breaker. Using a long nose plier I removed the glass and metal fragments, plugged in a new light bulb, flipped back on the main circuit breaker and voila: let there be light!

My happiness lasted but a few minutes. The Internet connection didn’t come up after restoring electricity. AfThePerfectStormter a bit of probing, I concluded that the DSL model “died” in the process. The off-on electricity cycle didn’t do it good, and must have burned its power adapter. But no worries. I knew my DSL modem was covered by my telephone service provider – Bezeq.

[Sidebar: Historically, Internet service in Israel has been delivered through a combination of a ‘connectivity provider’ and an Internet service provider (ISP). There are only two connectivity providers in Israel: the phone company (Bezeq) or the cable company (HOT), but there are multiple ISPs. As a consumer, I had to deal with a connectivity provider and an ISP for my Internet service, and you can imagine the finger pointing. However, a recent government reform allowed the ISPs to package and resell also connectivity services, which means that consumers can now deal with a single provider for their Internet services.]

I drove to the nearby Bezeq store and asked they replace the bad modem. However, since it was an old model, they replaced it with a newer D-Link Modem/Router. Well, the change forced me to abandon my beloved Linksys router, but so be it I thought.

I returned home and connected the new D-Link device, but my Internet connection didn’t work. I called my ISP, Netvision, and asked for their support. “Hey” said the rep, “heard about the recent reform? Why don’t you switch over to us and drop Bezeq?” I asked a few question about the price and the speed and thought to myself “why not?”

Switching the service was easy. But as soon as I switched, Internet connection problems surfaced. I called the Netvision technical support, but since I had a Bezeq modem/router they wouldn’t troubleshoot it. I called Bezeq, but they said that since I am no longer an Internet customer of theirs they can’t really help me. I realized I just fell through the cracks.

In the midst of the conversations with Netvision and Bezeq, our phone line started making strange noises, and shortly afterwards went dead. I called Bezeq and reported a phone line problem. The support rep said that everything looks fine on their end, but when I insisted that nothing is fine on my end, they scheduled a technician visit.

The technician showed up in a couple of days, and after a few tests said that the problem is probably within the junction box, which is mounted on a pole outside our yard. He apologized that he cannot access the junction box, since it was covered by bushes, but promised someone would come by and trim the bushes.

Sure enough, a couple of days later a guy showed up with trimming tools and cleared the bushes around the junction box. I called Bezeq again, let them know that the coast is clear and asked they send a technician over. The third time was a charm. The Bezeq technician came by, used a ladder to reach the junction box and fixed the phone problem.

So now I had my phone line back, but the Internet connection was still acting up. Since neither Bezeq nor Netvision would troubleshoot my D-Link device, I tried reading the user’s manual and see if I can figure it out myself. But if there ever was an over-complicated device, the D-Link router must be it. There was only one way out: replace the Bezeq D-Link device with a Netvision supplied router/modem. I called Netvision and haggled a bit, and they offered me a router/modem for roughly the same price I was already paying them. I paid a visit to the Netvision store and returned home with their modem/router. Installation went rather smoothly (not without a couple of reboots of course), and Hallelujah! Internet service was finally back.

While wrestling with my Internet connection and phone line, I felt as if I was almost thrown back to the 20th century. Luckily I had my cell phone work, so I could communicate with the outside world and continue to work on the problems with the various service providers. I thought I’ve seen the worst of this eStorm, but turns out I was in for even more trouble…

While sitting at the dinner table on Friday night, we felt a smell of burning plastic. I jumped off the table and started searching for the source of the smell. It took a couple of minutes to find the culprit: white smoke was blowing out of our electricity cabinet. A quick inspection showed that the wire connecting the utility meter and the main house circuit breaker was overheating and the plastic insulation around it started to melt. Not good. Actually quite dangerous, considering that our electric cabinet is very old and made out of wood.

We had to “survive” during the weekend by significantly reducing our electricity consumption: no water heater, no air-conditioning, no stove… We waited till Sunday and called an electrician first thing in the morning. He took a look, and said that the wires between the utility meter and the circuit breaker look really old. But he couldn’t replace them because they are the responsibility of the electric utility company.

I called the electric utility company and when they heard my story, they dispatched a regional inspector to the house within less than 2hrs… I suppose that when you report white smoke puffing out of your wooden electric cabinet they consider it an emergency… The inspector took a quick look and said the meter wires must have been put in place in the 1950’s, when electric consumption was significantly lower. These old wires simply couldn’t support the life style of the 21st century.  The inspector cut off the burned wire and put a temporary patch so that we have electricity for now. He promised that a repair crew will show up a few hours later to replace all the meter wires with newer, thicker ones – and they did.

The inspector’s parting advise was that we should seriously consider upgrading the single-phase electric utility hookup, and replace it with a modern three-phase one. This would also involve replacing the wooden circuit breaker cabinet with a new, fireproof one, and inspecting all the electric wiring in the house. Not a cheap endeavor by any means, but perhaps it’s time…

What have I learned from this ‘Perfect eStorm’? It is clear to me that in the 21st century our lives depend on utilities such as Internet, phone and certainly electricity. I can’t imagine how I would have handled all the problems without a functioning cell phone all along. Other than during short camping trips, we simply cannot survive, let alone thrive without these modern services.

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