Reflex Communications was a broadband ISP that catered to apartment complexes and certain housing developments. Their initial business plan was to offer pseudo-DSL to residents of partner complexes and then put a microwave link on top of the apartment office. The "DSL" subscribers in the individual apartments would all receive high-quality, low-cost broadband service similar to SDSL, by sharing this one microwave link.

In actuality, it didn't quite work out that way. The initial complexes and housing developments to sign up with Reflex were fitted with the microwave linkups as planned, but the company couldn't get their microwave infrastructure up to speed quick enough. As a temporary solution, they began running T-1 lines to the complexes and developments and then running DSL lines to each individual apartment or house, as in the original plan.

The company's first mistake was that they realized the temporary solution was (in the short-run) cheaper, faster, and just as good as their original plan. So they never bothered to go back to their original plan. They just stuck with the T-1 lines. This was their undoing. If they'd developed their wireless infrastructure further, the long-run costs would have been significantly smaller and the company would not, ultimately, have gone bankrupt.

Reflex began working with Blockbuster Entertainment to develop a system for streaming high-quality video-on-demand to users of their service. Initial testing of the service took place in three cities, and looked promising.

I happened to be a Reflex customer, and was very pleased with their service. The connection was fast and reliable, and during the few outages I experienced, their customer support was knowledgable, efficient, and very helpful (unlike any other tech support I've ever experienced).

Then, one day in March of 2001, all Reflex customers experienced a complete loss of service. Calls to their technical support number resulted in a recorded message saying "Due to an emergency in the building, we cannot answer your call right now." A voicemail box was provided, but was full within minutes of the outage. Managers of apartment complexes and housing developments were deluged with calls from their residents, and had heard nothing from Reflex.

Service was down for about a week. Reflex never contacted their customers, and customers had no way of getting in touch with Reflex. Nobody knew what was going on. Finally, one day, service resumed, although it was much less reliable. Reflex sent an email to customers saying that despite the rumors, they were not going bankrupt and would continue to provide service.

Two days later, Reflex went bankrupt and stopped providing all service.

I have now been without an ISP for about a month, and I'm fucking pissed off about it. Broadband providers are clueless, inconsiderate of their customers, and so backlogged that it's impossible to get DSL installed in less than six months of waiting.


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