Nobody at Toscana or Bay Apartment Communities (BAC) had any idea what kind of customers to expect at Toscana. I don't think they even read Wired, not that Wired would give you much useful information. We're in the middle of Silicon Valley, home to tens of thousands of technically sophisticated Internet users-- people who don't just use the Internet, but help to develop it. Pacific Bell Internet deserves some of the blame here; PBI is getting paid good money to help BAC understand and address the needs of this market, but they just didn't do an adequate job of it.
So what's wrong with having a firewall? Nothing at all, unless you NEED to be able to receive connections from the outside world. For example, if you're trying to set up a videoconference with someone else, one of you has to initiate the connection. If you're running a home office-- a possibility Toscana likes to use in its advertising-- you might want to run your own Web server, handle your own email, or provide other services to the Internet community. These things all depend on being able to receive a connection from other machines, and the Toscana firewall makes them all impossible.
Another feature of the Toscana LAN is that computers get a different address every time they're turned on. This is known as dynamic addressing. It simplifies system configuration, but even if the firewall protection features were optional, dynamic addressing prevents us from publishing an address for our machines and receiving external requests.
Toscana's firewall also filters out various kinds of traffic that start inside the complex. We can't establish a videoconferencing connection to the outside world, for example. I don't know exactly what Toscana is filtering out, but UDP traffic-- used for videoconferencing, real-time audio delivery, and other interesting things-- doesn't seem to work at all. This is tremendously inconvenient.
BAC was clearly unprepared for the inevitable problems that crop up in any new kind of Internet service. There is essentially no customer service available at Toscana. I don't know who to call to report a problem. I've been in touch with various people at BAC, but none of them are really customer service agents, and other tenants don't know who these people are.
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