Computers are hard, and so is technical support

My favorite part about being The Computer Answer Guy was that I got a chance to help people out with what seemed like simple questions, often had complicated answers, and needed to be addressed in terms that mattered to the people asking them. I saw things like puzzles, and I got paid to solve them!

Of course, that’s what business is, and we all deal with that kind of thing every day. But to me, being The Computer Answer Guy was just plain fun.

Here at Answer Guy Central, we try to do the same thing I’ve always done. Call it marketing, design, influency*, or whatever; we put pieces together so your business can get ahead. Simple, right?

One of the side benefits of the way we do business here is that I still get to answer what amount to technical support questions. I prefer when they show up in comments against the things I write because then they benefit our Search Engine Optimization efforts, but sometimes they land in email when people use our contact  page. I answer as many of those questions as I can; after all, you can’t build a business unless you watch out for the ‘social crash’.

Last week, this question landed in my in-box:

Can you tell me if there is any real difference btwn 15/5 and 25/50 for ordinary internet use? I am about to switch to verizon from tw (ohhhhh–the WORST!!!) and noticed that the standard and high speed from tiome warner were not functionally different for me. So I wonder if the verizon will be?

It made me think about the story I told you when Verizon started selling FIOS Quantum. Take a look. Read the comments. There are lots of  people all asking pretty much the same thing: Are these Speeds For Real?

The answer, sadly, is “maybe”.

Having once had Time Warner for Internet myself, I have a reaction to the question that’s skewed. Our Time Warner Internet Service was terrible, but I believe that one of the variables in that wasn’t Time Warner’s fault, at all, and also that there wasn’t anything practical we could do about it. We lived in a very old building made of very heavy (don’t try running new wires in the wall, please!) materials, and so we had two separate Time Warner feeds into our home, neither of which ever really operated at “full capacity”. Plus, the only spot that made sense for placing the Internet Access point was in an extreme corner of our coverage zone, meaning that there wasn’t great coverage anywhere.

On-demand TV was a joy, let me tell you.

Verizon FIOS, on the other hand, works for me at exactly the speed we’re paying for. Again, there are lots of variables. but I get pretty much what Verizon promises me, even using a wireless connection.

And none of that “matters”. It’s an endorsement of Verizon Internet over Time Warner Internet at some levels, but too many thing go into the equation for the end recommendation to be that simple if you want a technical answer.

And that’s the point.

My first answer to that reader’s question was this:

It depends on what you mean by “ordinary”.

If ordinary means you have a half dozen or more devices accessing the internet at the same time and all using big bandwidth (big downloads, video, etc.), then yes. And IN THEORY if you are downloading a very large file having the boost can help one user, too.

But it won’t matter for most other applications, and still won’t matter if the router—and every other device standing between you and the Internet—that you use can’t handle the speed boost.

My point was that “more should feel like more, but your mileage may vary. And then, I got this follow-up:

it’s my understanding that the fiber optics system goes to each home and so speed is reliant upon what is going on in your home, not in your building or neighborhood.  Am I wrong?

Now, we have no simple answer. I tried, anyway:

It’s reliant on all of the above, and more. If the fiber (assuming it’s that) is not continuous and reliable from the ISP’s switching office to your building/home/whatever, and then reliable into your home, through the walls, and right up to your router, you likely won’t get high speeds. And even the router itself can the break things; I use Verizon FIOS, at 15/5 (which ALMOST always is plenty, thanks), But I’ve had it for a couple of years, and since then Verizon has introduced FIOS Quantum … which offers speeds my router probably won’t support. So If I upgraded and failed to procure a NEW router, it wouldn’t even matter that FIOS rocks because IT WOULDN’T ROCK FOR ME.

Thankfully, the questions ended at that point, because ‘simple’ had gone off the rails. So here’s simple:

And even the simplest things are still tied up with Influency.

Oh yeah: And this one you want us to help you navigate all that.

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