a Boy and his Newsletter, and an ISP
March 19, 2002
By Karen Capel
I am a freelance editor and I live in Champaign, Illinois.
Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, is the home of the main campus
of the University of Illinois, from which has sprung a great
deal of innovative computer hardware and software technology.
Occasionally I have worked on hardware and software documentation--some
of it from members of the U of I community, but, I admit,
it is not my favorite subject. In fact, it is accurate to
say that only by virtue of my work did I allow myself to be
dragged "kicking and screaming into the computer age."
In the mid-90s, when most of my work began arriving by diskette
or modem, I went searching for my first internet service provider.
It seems like so long ago now, I do not even remember the
acronym "ISP" being popular yet. Nevertheless, back then,
I found myself in the office of a small company in Champaign
Advancenet was owned and operated by a friendly, helpful
computer whiz named Mohammed. Mohammed, or one of his small
staff, sat and patiently explained things like "modem" and
"port" and even "Control + X." Wonder of wonders, Mohammed
even answered the phone on Saturday when "technical support"
was off for the weekend but he was still putting in time in
his 80-hour week.
I believe I was customer no. 178. The most I ever had to
complain about was the short hours that technical support
was available for connecting or online problems. I was a night
owl. Where was everybody when I needed them? But, if I called
the next day, or put the computer in the car and drove to
the office of Advancenet, I was always helped--either by a
member of the staff or by Mohammed himself.
In 2000, I was still subscribing to service with Advancenet.
They helped me graduate from 486 to Pentium. Also in 2000,
I began editing an online political commentary written by
a man who lives "next door"--in Indiana. Sag (say "Sadge")
complained mightily about his computer--he was used to and
missed his old IBM Selectric, and he also complained mightily
about his ISP, which operated out of Indianapolis.
I tried to be helpful and I researched ISPs that might cover
the service area that Sag lived in. Huzzah--I found that Advancenet
was joining forces with a still smaller company called IEI
that operated in central Indiana. I do not remember, now,
whether I noticed at the time that both companies would be
under the umbrella of a larger organization, a corporation.
I had no reason to take note--hey, we're talking "email" and
"surfing the internet" here . . . items of minutia . . .
As soon as Sag switched his service over to IEI, he had fewer
hassles, a more reliable service. I still called Champaign's
Advancenet for help, Sag called Indianapolis' IEI for his
help. Between the "four of us" we got the political column
Within a year, however, Mohammed the entrepreneur had sold
Advancenet, either alone or together with IEI, to a larger
corporation, and he had moved on. The larger corporation had
built its reputation in telephone technology--not computer
technology, and it originated in central Illinois, and it
was . . . and is . . . named eGIX.
As soon as eGIX sent out their "welcome" letter to all the
former Advancenet and IEI customers, Sag noticed his service
became terrible. My service only got "worse"--it was still
usually fair to pretty good--but Sag's was terrible. He couldn't
log on in the morning, sometimes for two or three hours. If
he was able to log on, he was disconnected repeatedly--three,
six, a dozen times.
Calls from him to eGIX technical support netted him various
"techs" with various descriptions of the foundation of the
problem--usually that the fault lay in his computer and that
the "settings" were wrong. I know this because I usually heard
about it in an email--soon after the problem was "fixed,"
or later on in the day, or . . . two days later or the following
week when eGIX and their "innovative technology" might finally
deliver the email. Sometimes I didn't hear at all. Sometimes
whole swaths of emails went missing. I know this too, because
I would ask him editorial questions that were never answered--because
either my email was never received by him or his response
never delivered to me.
One of the last calls to eGIX technical support that Sag
made he made last week--the workweek that ended on Friday,
March 8, 2002. The tech support person led him through a series
of instructions that failed to correct the problem and then
said "well, there's one more thing we can try . . ." and then
he hung up the phone on his customer, Sag.
Other things happened--too many, in fact, for another person,
not directly involved, to keep track of. I will probably never
understand why some things on Sag's computer simply do not
work at all--despite that it's now a brand new computer. The
only common denominator between the previous computer and
the new one, however, is the directions and advice of the
"technical support staff" at eGIX.
On March 7th, Sag got a new ISP and finally canceled his
"service" with eGIX. I knew he was looking for a new company
for service, but I didn't know he had canceled service with
eGIX that day. Late Thursday night, I opened my email program
and found a strange looking email, which I have copied herein,
as the entry appeared in my In Box.
Anyone can tell that the email is timed at 12:35 AM on March
8, 2002, the sender appears to be an entity named "Heehee
Haahaa," and the subject line of the email is "Sayonara."
The "To:" line (not copied) was filled in with Sag's former
email address and my email address. I have copied and pasted
the email in its entirety except for the salutation ("Dear
. . ."), which I have omitted because it is derogatory. I
am the "Netsuke" referred to by the writer of the email. The
word "netsuke" is part of my email address.
Sag says that he sent about a half-dozen editions of his
newsletter to only one member of the eGIX "team," and that
person is one of the executives named and described on the
eGIX website. I have no reason to disbelieve Sag--I had communication
with this person as well. I am familiar with his "style."
I am an editor--it's what I "do."
The reason I have written this long description of events,
as they occurred, is because this is no joke. This is serious.
And this is more than just a little something about a relationship
gone bad and "hurt feelings." Let's forget "human decency"
and "common courtesy" for a minute. Sag spent around $1000
on computer repair and then a new computer. He lost business
contacts and communications, and he lost contact with friends.
He lost a lot of time. I lost a lot of time.
As the final coup, eGIX had disabled Sag's ability to retrieve
his own email once it arrived. Another party had to intervene
by using his username and password to access his webmail,
retrieve the emails, and then forward them to a different
account that he was able to access. All this was because Sag
was the butt of a "company joke."
Are you laughing? I'm not laughing. This email demonstrates
how an internet service provider can encroach on personal
freedom of expression and invade privacy and commit theft.
It is not only unethical but also illegal to conduct business
in this manner.
The writer of this email is certainly "no dummy" (though
evidence of his ignorance is plentiful), because the email
was sent from an anonymous Hotmail account. The anonymity
of Hotmail, however, does not hide the factual admissions
in the text--nor does it hide the disingenuous cowardly persona
of the writer. The writer of the email has also violated the
I hope that everyone who reads this takes heed and takes
the time to investigate and examine every single company,
every corporation and every staff member, all executives singly
and executive "teams," all service agreements, technical supports
and "providers"--all of it, all of them, bought and paid for,
understood and seemingly guaranteed by the exchange of your
Anyone wishing to communicate with either Sag or me may do
so at: SagmeisterVTOL@hotmail.com
Thank you for your time.
(The In Box entry and email follow)
[ ] Heehee Haahaa 12:35 AM 3/8/02 +0000 6
I am most
saddened to hear of your departure from your ISP. Of the thousands
of account holders, I have to admit, you will certainly be
remembered. All the lunch room laughter pondering your next
dilemma, the quips we discover in our email boxes after a
"BAD" night at the SAGGY house, and the mundane "blah, blah,
blah, I am too stupid to operate a toaster, microwave oven,
or remote control TV, let alone a high-tech computer." The
best thing you could do is to box up your PC and donate it
to AMVETS for someone who can actually use it. I understand
that this has been coming for some time now and the final
straw must have arrived. For so long now, that straw must
have been used to pry the pork from your three teeth. But
now, you have effectively tossed it down. I can rest assured
now that the daily banter and slander will now cease from
please remove me from your humorous, but simple-minded, right
wing, anti-AMERICAN, I-am-proud-to-be-a-pinko-commie newsletter,
"The Sag Something News!" I have never found it to be anything
but trash fodder and feeble-minded ravings. I know why you
hide with all your email aliases and psuedo-user names. You're
too damned ashamed to be pointed out in a crowd and you certainly
understand that SPAM is illegal. Most ISP's strictly forbid
it, but we have never terminated your service as a result
of your breach of the service agreement. I do think it is
funny to witness your plight. To be in your shoes and wonder
where has my life gone and why have I been reduced to this
existence must be of extreme torment to you. Agony enough!
occasions, I have been baffled by the gender and identity
you pose to be. I do hope that you find greener pastures elsewhere.
Try not to step in the same material your newsletter consists
of when waltzing across the cow pastures of Internet service.
I insist you frame a copy of this email and use it as a tool
to remind you of the moment your next Internet issue arises,
that you were the DUMBASS!
I am sure
this will only prompt you to volley more tirades my way, but
now I can simply block, ignore, or delete this account to
remove your rantings. I insist that "Netsuke" puts her two
cents in as well. I now know what "birds of a feather" means.
If each of you makes a living at this cutesy, newsletter thingy,
I know I will need to accept your I.O.U., as the two cents
will certainly be hard to spare. Speaking of spare...spare
me the vomit of how you are some elite, highly trained, formally
educated scholar. I happen to know it takes each of you two
hours to watch 60 minutes on TV.
As I sit
back in my black leather chair, I breathe a deep sigh of relief
and exhale all of this bad karma each of you have festered
in me for some time now. Will we miss the revenue from your
account? No! You soak this out of the technical support team
weekly. We will most certainly show huge gains in profitability
and server-load efficiency. Matter of factly, I believe we
will institute a "So Long To Sag Day" here at technical support
and celebrate it annually. I apologize if this isn't the response
you were expecting. Polling all your contacts, at your ISP,
of your soon demise and they resoundly say, "SAYONARA!"
to vote Republican," our kids deserve a future.
(End of email)