Tony Allen: And finally... I don’t get the connection!

Aug 10 | 2023

I have heard it said - perhaps ironically - that people can live longer these days without water than they can without the Internet.

Tony AllenThis became most apparent to me recently when we arrived home one evening after a relaxing three-week holiday – it’s great to be home I thought. So first lug in the cases, then put the kettle on, then reinsert all of the plugs that we removed before we left. Oh and of course turn on the water, I nearly forgot.

Isn’t it fascinating how a house acquires an echo after having been empty for so long? But the only echo I could hear reverberating around the house at this point was one which said: “The Internet doesn’t seem to be working!”

This of course sent an involuntary shudder through me. It must be something simple I thought. In fact it had to be something simple otherwise we stood no chance of putting it right.

It wasn’t something simple! I tried everything that I knew - which quite frankly wasn’t very much - but still we had no Internet. Oh and the house telephone wasn’t working either and no Wi-Fi on our mobiles. TV was rather limited. But then again isn’t it always.

Let’s get to bed, maybe it’s just a blip, it will probably be OK in the morning. It wasn’t! So I phoned our provider who appeared to be based somewhere outside of the UK. I was then informed that I had to answer a number of questions in order to establish my validity. Alas, at times I really found it difficult to understand what my interlocutor was saying. I almost wondered if I was being subjected to a dose of artificial intelligence.

Having established that I was perfectly valid, I was then asked to go through a series of procedures which involved pulling plugs out, turning the various component parts on and then off and then waiting 60 seconds, etc., ‘net’ result – no change! I was then informed that I was to be transferred to the technical department.

Upon reaching said technical department I was informed that I was to be asked a series of security questions ‘to establish my validity’. Stay calm Mr Allen they are only trying to help. Anyway I was beginning to enjoy the interminably mind-boggling intermittent music.

Over the next few days we had two ‘engineer visits’ each of whom carried out completely identical tests but to no avail; and so it went on for seven days until it was finally established that the fault was within the fibre cables to the exterior of my property. It took under a day to put right, but I can’t tell you what a blessed relief it was when everything returned to normal.

There is a certain feeling that you get when a computerised system lets you down, it’s almost akin to a feeling of persecution and loneliness. I must confess that I had taken to moping around the house in a ‘why me?’ frame of mind, although we later learnt that in fact we weren’t alone as five other adjacent houses had been through the same ordeal.

I’ve only told you half of the story as I am sure that you might already have decided what a saga this was becoming, but I dread to think what it would have been like running a company with no Internet for seven days.

It’s only when such a situation occurs that you realise just how much we have come to depend upon the Internet. All of a sudden we can be left in a position where we can no longer do things that we could have done quite easily not many years ago.  

This of course became all too apparent during our seven days of purgatory. Why, we even had to physically go to a supermarket to do our weekly shop, which we hadn’t done for many years. Jobs like paying bills which we would have had no problem with a few years ago were now almost impossible to carry out without the Internet. It also makes you realise how much we depend upon our ability to be able to ask questions of our mobile phones and receive sensible, correct answers. The benefits are countless, but of course, as a consequence, we are left in a position of vulnerability.

It’s food for thought and of course, right now, we appear to be helter-skeltering towards ‘Artificial Intelligence’ … but that’s a story for another day!

Photo: Tony Allen.