What’s in a Name?

Name as self is a recurring theme in fiction. Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful movie Spirited Away captures this, when wicked Yubaba steals Chihiro’s name to imprison the girl in her bath house. Real identity theft is a chilling crime of personal violation, aside from any associated fraud or theft.

Despite an email address being several times removed from your name, for many it has joined the list of immutables whose change requires a great deal of effort, and significant pain. Moving house may be simpler; changing email address involves telling so many people, changing mailing list details, and altering profiles in disparate websites. And even then there will be some long-lost friend disappointed when their message bounces, like a Christmas card returned to its sender.

So when ADSL came to our village, I stuck to my trusty BT satellite broadband service as long as I could. Being a long-standing subscriber to Demon (I was about the 133rd to join Cliff Stanford’s novel ‘tenner a month’ dial-up service), I decided to upgrade that account on one phone line, and to switch from BT Satellite Broadband to BT Business Broadband (ADSL) on the other. Both were due to be enabled on the same day, which I set aside to reconfigure our network and then, once happy with ADSL, to ask for the satellite service to be turned off.

As anyone who has had ADSL broadband enabled knows, you are not informed of precisely when this dramatic transformation will take place. At about 1030, after I had finished some urgent work, I hooked up BT’s natty 2wire wireless modem-router and discovered that the line had been enabled. I then had to configure both the new routers on a different subnet from our main network, as that already had the satellite kit and other boxes cluttering up the IP address space, and bring them up onto our existing network. I finished this, ran speed tests, and the like, by early afternoon, and was ready to ask BT to switch us over from satellite to ADSL.

Converting the Demon service from dial-up to ADSL could not have been simpler: I authenticated to their secure website, clicked a single button, and it was all done. I kept my original sub-domain name, email addresses, and website, all with that one click.

With BT things were a bit more complex: satellite broadband and ADSL broadband are dealt with by completely separate parts of the company. Even though many satellite customers had migrated to wired broadband as ADSL pushes deeper into the countryside, and despite their pre-sales promises, I felt as if this path was completely untrodden. Whilst the satellite office had told me that the broadband office could move my existing email accounts and website, the broadband office at first said that it was not possible.

By mid-afternoon, once I had asked for the satellite to be turned off and my account transferred, I was getting profoundly worried. As ever, BT’s staff did their best to help, and after long sessions on hold, they promised to move the email accounts. But our website was gone already, and had to be reloaded to a different BT Home Pages location.

Then in the early evening, my old email addresses were stopped, dead and gone forever. I sent out an email notifying a hundred or so contacts of the change, and started the tedious task of switching mail list subscriptions, and more, over to my new address. I was tired and depressed when I went to bed at 0100.

But BT were true to their word: on Monday morning, my old email accounts had been transferred, and I could read all the backlog of mail from the time the satellite was turned off. My resigned anger dissolved immediately. I had my old identity back at last, and was free again from my spell in the bath house.

Updated very lightly from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 22 issue 13, 2006. Has it got any easier? Has it hell!