Amazing just how nerve-wracking an intermittent Net connection can be, if you’re hooked on throughput. Separate me from the World Wide Stash, and I’m jonesing something fierce within minutes.

Not because I actually need something out there… but because I can’t get it right now. So maybe the active ingredient is — what else is new? — instant gratification.

Addicts often develop a love-hate relationship with their dealers, and that’s just as true for byte junkies. The object right now of both my scorn and affection is Telus, AKA The Company Formerly Known As BC Tel.

The service used to be known (maybe the more precise term is “branded”) as Sympatico, the Internet service offered by the Stentor group of companies — that is, the telecos like Bell so familiar to the Rest of Canada. (Question: If telecommunications is a federally regulated industry, how come every province seems to have its own phone company?) “Sympatico” is a friendly name, conjuring up notions of a pal who instinctively grasps your every need. “Telus,” on the other hand, is the kind of market-speak name that sounds like the result of a six-month-long focus group.

But once Telus swallowed BC Tel, it expelled the Sympatico DNA (mostly — I still get e-mails addressed to my old Sympatico ID) and rebranded.

The practical impact is minimal. When I curse at our stalled connection, the third word (right after the comma, and, for fans of sentence parsing, the antecedent of the pronoun “you” that forms the object of the sentence) now has two syllables instead of three. (Not a huge change, but a measurable increase in efficiency nonetheless.)

And that brings me to the love-hate relationship, which lately has tilted heavily to the right of that particular dyad.

Since Tuesday, we’ve had sporadic outages, lasting an hour or two each time, separated by wildly varying periods when we could get back online — sometimes a few hours, sometimes a few minutes, never long enough. It’s like talking on a cell phone while driving through the Rockies: “Yeah, we saw some marmots and bighorn sheep. By the way, I left the baby in the – ” PSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHT “- day in Hell before I give him the – ” PSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHT “– a little coriander, and you’re set.”

It’s been stressful, with the outages always seeming to be timed with devastating precision to coincide with online emergencies. (“You need the speech immediately? I’ll send it right n-… aw, fudge.”) But, hey, it’s the digital frontier. Bit happens. You want to ride the cutting edge, you’re gonna get some spray in your face. And I accept that.

What’s a lot harder to take is not knowing what’s happening. Call up technical support, and you’ll hear a recorded message from the Network Administrator. (That’s how he describes himself: no name, just an ominous title. I hear that and I flash on Number Two on The Prisoner.) You’ll learn that the cause of your trouble is the delightfully imprecise “network difficulties.” (Someday I’m going to tape that message, sample it, play it over an electronica soundtrack mixed with Bjork screaming “Not being able to connect is a network difficulty!” and sell a bazillion copies.)

Continue on to a human being (hint: call them at 310-4NET, then dial 3,2,4) and ask for the inside scoop, and you’ll realize the horrible truth: they’re just as in the dark as you are. Nobody’s told them a damn thing, either.

And this may be the nub of that love-hate thing. Dependency — which is, let’s face it, what you’re going to have with your high-speed Internet provider until some real competition opens up — is an unhealthy situation for any couple. We can’t work through that problem unless we communicate.

And ISPs, in my experience, just don’t want to talk about the relationship.