A Gulp of Filthy ISP Waters

My initial search for an ISP was a rather aggressive pre-filtering of iteratively adjusted search results, as I tend to do: reading lots about many and thus getting quite an idea as to what is out there as a general landscape but paying attention to the smallest hints that they are not what I want - because the hints don't lie1. The advantage with this sort of approach is that it tends to get me quickly to the one useful thing in the pile2, if there is anyone detaching quite obviously from the pack. I suppose it also has the personal advantage that I have a lot of practice with it so I'm not bad at it. But it turns out that such a situation is increasingly rare in the field: there is instead such a deluge of cookie-cutter copycat images & presentations that there is no way to tell them much apart just from the looking.3 Given this situation and the urgency of an offline blog, the only solution is of course to change tack and move on to direct filtering: search for ISPs by country/location mainly, contact them with a clearly stated request and let them filter themselves over the various "omg" bits in it, what.4

My initial search focused on ISPs that claimed at least to accept Bitcoin and otherwise offer dedicated servers (since I don't quite see the benefit in sending my own machine to a datacentre that is not within L1-distance). I started off with countries outside EU&USA but then I gave up on this specific ban, mainly because of the ineptitude observed further afield: if they are just as inept as local ones only more poorly organised and more remote, I can hardly see any benefit to it.

Over 5 days I contacted (via webchat and/or email) 118 ISPs, out of which exactly 25 had at least a person show up in #ossasepia and register a RSA key. Neither of the 2 would however proceed with what was asked of them: crowncloud (australian) apparently tried to entertain my requests in the hope that in the end he can still get everyone one way or another to register on his account-farm because why-not; metronix (indonesian) onth seems to have applied more the lip-service-to-moneyed-foreigner approach in the idea that it should be enough anyway so that he gets something out of it for the effort. Needless to say, it's not working as expected for either of them. Look at how they are anyway just 2 out of 118 so the top there and moreover, one is smart enough to have noticed the unexpected at least and the other showed that he was able to learn something but it's still not enough to get them anywhere despite the opportunity literally knocking on their door and quite loudly at that. But it's all right, they have plenty of time and the opportunity meanwhile will move on because what else is there to do, right?

Initially I was naive enough to even use their online chat forms and all that, in the idea that I can at least talk to a person and therefore perhaps find some human that one can work with. But after quite a bunch of those conversations with automatons working there that kept going blink-blink-blink and resetting when asked the unexpected, I took the forum's advice and wrote a standard text to hit them with, here it is:


Hello,

I am looking for a data centre that is capable of actually providing me with dedicated and colo services for the long-term + a significant number of machines (as there are quite a few others I can bring with me). This is what I need:
1. Dedicated servers, preferably AMD processors, various specs (we can discuss this).
2. Colo service for own boxes, 1U form, taking ~250W peak, there will probably be 3-4 just to start with.
3. You'll register a RSA key with deedbot on irc (freenode) and invoice me + receive payment through it, in Bitcoin. You can transfer the Bitcoin from deedbot to any BTC address you want, of course.

Hopefully you actually want to do business and therefore will take this opportunity. I'm always available for clarifications/more details, ideally on irc (freenode) in #ossasepia.

Looking forward to your prompt and useful  response on the above.

Kind Regards,

All the replies such as they came (not everyone replied even!) are essentially trying to either ignore bits and pieces that don't fit with their own expectations or otherwise "correct" them to...fit. I suppose it would be quite funny if it weren't so predictable, especially after so many of them. Stupidly enough, quite a few even *created a ticket for me* and all that because really, *nothing* can be done without an account and a ticket and a 3 ring binder!!! For all the sadness in the world, that "nothing can be done if not in the ring binder" is probably even true *for them* but note that it's all their own doing. Essentially, I can quite believe the australian when he says he is working with idiots ("mixed experience" he calls it, ahem) but... stop working with idiots already, you know? Or at least keep them away from your clients, it's not the clients' fault you are employing idiots. But let me give you some concrete examples so you don't think I'm making this up6:

  • Top of the lolz (and as such I'll leave their name there), as I got about 3 emails like this as a result of my ONE email to their SALES address (not support, sales, different things supposedly):

    Diana Coman ,

    Your email to our support system could not be accepted because it was not recognized as coming from an email address belonging to one of our customers. If you need assistance, please email from the address you registered with us that you use to login to our client area.

    ---
    MonoVM.com
    https://monovm.com

    Needless to say, I did not "need assistance" from them, there's plenty there to last one the next life too.

  • This is almost cute especially because it reminds me of quite a few isp-chat instances where they switched to "Sir" after a few replies despite my stating my name right from the start. There were quite a few rather... submissive girls at work on those lonely sales-chats, if that does anything for you. Anyway, here's the email version and note that no, they never did get back to me after that - possibly I was supposed to check their link or something, fat chance of it:

    Hello Sir,

    We will get back to you with an update shortly.
    Please hold on.

    Kind regards,

    Anita Lalu
    ucartz.com
    (Ucartz Online Private Limited)Hi,

    please contact us at: info@ucartz.com, support@ucartz.com

    or open a support ticket at: https://www.ucartz.com/clients/

    ----------------------------------------------
    Ticket ID: #311181
    Subject: dedicated + colo long term

  • This is quite representative otherwise, the most classical "here we-machines, you-2":

    Diana Coman,

    Thank you for contacting our support team. A support ticket has now been op ened for your request. You will be notified when a response is made by emai l. The details of your ticket are shown below.

    Subject: dedicated and/or colo services, long term
    Priority: Medium
    Status: Open

Leaving tickets aside for a bit, the most responsive overall turned out to be - rather surprisingly for me - Romanian ISPs and British ones, with a scattering of eastern-european humans in between. On the other hand, true easterners-not-europeans were invariably out of space in their DCs7 and otherwise unable anyway to accept Bitcoin directly.

Given the above, discussions proceeded mainly with some eastern Europeans and some Brits. Dubious coincidences and all that but those at least talked and in general close enough to the content of the email to suspect they read and comprehended (though could not really stomach) the words if not any bigger picture. Romanians were even able to escalate the issue when they were out of their depth but their escalator still doesn't go anywhere high enough to reach some sanity, it would seem. Then again, by contrast some very important Brits escalated it right to the top indeed and even looked me up - getting it wrong anyway - plus wasting a whole morning of back and forth emails only to get stuck in the end in quite the same way. For some selected bits:

  • The most usual "account and bitcoin-but-not-bitcoin please":

    Diana,

    Thank you for your interest. We only offer dedicated servers at this time.

    1. An account is required on our website for any service. We only provide support through our ticketing system.

    2. We accept Bitcoin through BitPay, not directly.

    Thank you,

  • An even more clear case of bitcoin-but-not-bitcoin coming to you from Lithuania:

    We accept Bitcoin payments using merchant Coingate.com , they instantly convert funds to Euros and transfer to us. We can't accept direct BTC payments.
    Using merhchant services We do not have BTC wallet and we do not need to have it.

    So I am very sorry but we can't meet your requirements.

    Have a good day.

  • By contrast, czechs first corrected the unexpected and upon the reply that robbed them of the possibility to ignore the outlandish request came back with their reply informing me that what they offer is just-as-good as what I want, of course, of course:

    Dear,

    we are sorry, but direct payment in to BTC wallet is not supported.

    Payment thru our payment gateway working well...

    Best Regards

  • Some Brits who can read and use lists and if you think that's nothing, let me tell you that they were a rarity in the whole pile of emails, here:

    Hi Diana,

    Thank you for your enquiry.

    I'll reply to your questions point by point.

    1) Dedicated servers wouldn't be an issue.
    We don't have any AMD Servers in stock at present but they can be arranged on special order with typically a 7 day lead time. What other specifications do you require for the server; RAM, Storage & Network Configuration?

    2) Colocation isn't an issue and we would be happy to accommodate if you let me know the port speed and bandwidth you require I can proceed to provide a quote.

    3) This aspect may be an issue, we do not provide invoices via 3rd party services due to local accounting laws. All invoicing is done through our account portal; we do however support payment via various Crypto methods within our portal.

    Awaiting your feedback and answers to proceed.
    Kind Regards,

  • The case where they don't understand it but they will happily correct it for you to what you should have said, ok? And yes, I replied to them correcting their correction and in clear terms so they never came back with a reply to that:

    Hello, thanks for contacting us.

    1 - We have several models of AMD servers, please give us your specifications to quote prices.

    2 - We can provide your entire structure on a secure network in our data centers.

    3 - No problem, you can pay for freenode services, please tell us how to proceed.

    Please let me know about your questions, see you soon!

I could go on and on but they are quite hard to tell from one another already, the same "have to account" + "our gateway only" and "don't need to". By now I think this field like so many others is so infested with the "turnkey solution, click and deploy so even idiots - like you - can run it" that the only chance of finding a human in it is to pretty much grow one up for/to the task. And as such, I don't see at the moment any further benefit in contacting remote ISPs, no matter what other advantages their location might have over my present location.

My next step (though not immediate) on this matter will have to be simply to talk to local DCs and ISPs directly, focusing on colocation only, visiting them and looking for an actual human or - even better - a few (or at least a few that could grow in time). This is however not going to be a quick solution, nor happen in a rush nor translate otherwise in me running an ISP. While the sad situation is that the lack of actual ISPs might mean I'll have to buy rack space for my own machines and therefore find somehow the time and money for that too, having a private rack is still NOT running an ISP and I have absolutely NO intention of moving that way either - my main work and focus is still on Eulora and YoungHands and there is *plenty* to do - and do right - on both!


  1. Especially small hints, they never do. Perhaps it's because they are more easily overlooked and thus less likely to get the pretense/makeup treatment so the little hints are often more truthful reflections. Perhaps. 

  2. In this case it was MivoCloud and despite their limitations, they have been and still are quite useful even if more beast than human. Reality is what it is, not what I'd like it to be, as always. 

  3. Btw, doesn't this strike you as a very funny thing that all the wonderful pictures and videos and interactive websites ended up essentially ~same so I can't tell them apart in any meaningful way? The part of me that doesn't have to cut through all those forms to finally get to talk to someone finds it otherwise hillarious, I tell you. 

  4. I even think this should be automated already and simply fired up at all and any that one finds but mainly for the systematic-filtering value of it rather than for any expected success in finding a useful solution and since I happen to already have a whole load of other more pressing tasks at the moment, feel free to grab this one for yourself. 

  5. crowncloud.net and metroworldhost.com aka https://metronix.co.id  

  6. I'm in absolutely no mood to even try making shit up, there's too much of it already out there but data is data even about shit. 

  7. This is most likely in part due to the fact that I specifically banned very big global-type sort of things; those exist and have space wherever, sure, but they also have even stricter automaton-style works and nothing more. 

5 Responses to “A Gulp of Filthy ISP Waters”

  1. (Restating and expanding my earlier #t comment) -- I find it strange that none of the ISPs asked the question of *why* they ought to agree to take Bitcoin, conduct billing via Deedbot, etc. Seems that aside from Maxim, all of them ~immediately returned an output of "False" (or no output at all) via a strictly "3-ring binder"-powered process.

    I expected that *someone* would have said something about exchange risk, or "our expenses are denominated in Eu and we're in ISP biz, not arbitrage biz", or anything similar.

    If someone showed up at my door and proposed "I want to subscribe 5 machines, but you must then accept payment in iridium bullion and conduct all correspondence in Old Norse!" I might not necessarily shake hands and agree, but would at least find the request *interesting*, because unusual, and ask "why". But this could be because I already find the "3 ring binder" world loathesome, and anything resembling a departure from that fungal world, to be interesting automatically? Most "successful business" types, AFAIK, are not like that; but rather more resemble Quimby (film maker described by MP), who "I don't care about interesting, will sell canned fish just as readily as moving pictures, show me the numbers!"

    IMHO the problem is reminiscent of MP's discussion (can't seem to find in log, grr) about hiring artists. Where "the large, successful, people are pathologically conservative because successful and entrenched in fiatola world; the poor, obscure, are pathologically conservative because on edge of starvation, plus why are they small if not because broken in the head?" if I recall it correctly.

  2. Diana Coman says:

    Ah, stated like this I can even follow better what you meant! But yes, they essentially "deal" with the request either by attempting to ignore it (it should work!) or by attempting to assimilate it to the closest thing they know of (and should therefore be just as good!).

    Note that there are a few who said something closer to your 2nd paragraph eg the bitcoin-but-not-bitcoin (~= using some platform that directly converts it to euros/whatever). It didn't strike me as much different from the rest, only perhaps more detailed answer on their part.

    Now that you mentioned it and looking again at the whole sorry summary above, I could indeed note some differences and so possibly order them still a bit more or maybe even identify a precious few that can perhaps at least talk to some extent. But there are so many more out there that it seems rather pointless to differentiate the 3 ring binders to such extent really. I'd rather use my time trying to talk face to face to all datacentres that I can physically reach within an hour or something.

    Re hiring artists, perhaps you had in mind the Minigame attempt at hiring artists?

  3. Exactly that Minigame summary. (But with, say, DCs in role of "artist", IBM in role of "welfare office", etc.)

    Re: "face to face" -- IMHO it is the most productive path. People will emit idiocies and dodge questions over email and telephone which they won't when physically stared down, in my experience.

    And FWIW, my -- admittedly modest, so far -- result in rack-hunting, is ~100% from face-to-face haggle, with dough on the table, red pen for striking asinine verbiage from contract, etc.

  4. BingoBoingo says:

    This is all to familiar from my 2017 search. Equinix et al seems to have severely degraded the server homing space.

  5. Diana Coman says:

    I'd rather expect this "model" to not be exactly sustainable in the long term, though the collapse might not leave anything still standing I suppose so not exactly much use.

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