By Greg Holden
You sit down to check your e-mail, expecting Net access to be there like water from a faucet, and poof! No connection. Usually, a quick call to your Internet service provider (ISP) sets the tech support wheels in motion, and your ISP fixes the connection in no time.
This time, though, a cold wind is blowing. Your ISP may be dead and buried. In recent weeks, a number of major ISPs have succumbed to the slowing economy, lack of revenue, or shaky business models. Companies that provide high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) connections, such as NorthPoint Communications (which is essentially dead) and Covad (which the Nasdaq plans to delist) threaten daily to disappear, and cable-modem service providers such as AT&T Broadband amass huge losses. Meanwhile, many small ISPs have been purchased by larger competitors or have simply disappeared. Formerly free providers, including Juno and NetZero, have recently switched to fee-based models.
Where does this trail of dying ISPs lead you? If your service provider croaks, is there anyone to complain to? What are your rights? We've compiled a survival guide to help you through the five stages of dealing with ISP death, from Realization (your ISP is gone, and it's not coming back) through Anger, Bargaining, and Complaint to your ultimate goal: Reconnection with a new, and hopefully more reliable, service provider.
Lost your high-speed connection? You're not the only one. Here are some disconnection scenarios.
How can you tell if your service provider's condition is terminal? Here are warning signs and a few suggestions for protecting your connection.
Your own defense
It's not your fault your ISP went belly-up. Use these resources to air your grievances and perhaps to get your money back.
If you find yourself out in the Internet cold, where should you turn? We can suggest more stable and possibly more reliable ISPs.