Sify nullband service

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2009-08-17

Last year, during a particularly frustrating period where our MTNL DSL kept getting disconnected every few minutes, we subscribed to the Sify Broadband service (the only other ISP in the area at the time; this was a few months before Airtel DSL became available).

Sify claims to provide "wireless" broadband, but that's a bit of a misnomer. I gather there's a wireless router of some sort on the roof of the neighbouring apartment block, and they string Ethernet cables from it to people's desks. The people (from the local Sify franchisee) who came to install this giant lightning conductor through our study window cut the cable too short, and spliced(!) on another length to reach our computers.

Sify requires you to run an "authentication client" that talks to their web server before you get IP connectivity to the outside world. They do provide a Linux client, but it took some hackery to make it run on our machines; and the web site it sent us to ("new user registration") did not like Firefox at all. So the cable-splicers went back to their office and registered the account for us using their Windows machine, and we got it all working eventually.

We meant to use the Sify connection only as a backup, and our MTNL line started working again, so it was a while before we noticed that we had massive packet loss to the gateway (i.e., the thing on the roof). The authentication client couldn't talk to its server, so we couldn't talk to anyone. The cause was obvious to us: the spliced cable. But the cable-splicers blamed the fact that we used Linux, and said they would have to call in a Linux expert from Sify central to "check" the problem.

The expert never arrived. I tried to follow up a few times, but I ran out of time and energy eventually (and unfortunately, we pre-paid for the entire year). The upshot is that the service has never worked for us after the first day.

So I was rather amused to receive this SMS the other day:

Dear Sify Customer, due to heavy rain you may face disruption in service. Regret for inconvenience.

Regret for inconvenience, indeed.