Sunday, February 5, 2012

Here There Be Slow Dragons


If you have ever wondered where the internet ends, it's three and a half miles outside of Niangua.

Our house is in the Niangua suburbs, and we are exactly three and a half miles from two switch stations. Apparently, three and a half miles is the absolute limit of speedy internet.

When you live in the country, 'speedy' is a loosely defined term. We haven't lived within range of pizza delivery or fast internet in twenty two years. Of course twenty two years ago, Al Gore hadn't even invented the internet yet. It was still a crazy regulated pipe dream, not the indispensable tool of work and entertainment it is now.

My first computer was purchased in 1990, and it was a Magnavox with 1 mg of ram. It would only run Windows in safe mode. To upgrade my ram to the next level would have cost $400. I made do with my glorified word processor.

At the school where I taught, I had a Mac SE. It was already a discontinued model by time I got it. Again, a glorified word processor and dial-up wasn't even on my radar yet. I can only imagine how much easier teaching would be with the easy and immediate access to information of all kinds. Still doesn't raise it up the list of things I want to do again.

After I quit teaching, we moved to Highlandville and joined the online world with smoking fast internet speeds hovering around 28k. We paid for 56k. It was painful, but thankfully I didn't really know much better yet. Next came Niangua, still the edge of the technological universe. We didn't have even have access to dial-up without paying for unlimited long distance first because everything in the world, EXCEPT Niangua, was long distance.

We settled on satellite internet which cost $500 to install and $89 a month for the privilege of 1.5 mbps. We never saw a speed faster than 350k despite lots of dish jiggling by so called professionals.

When DSL finally made it to our little corner, we happily cancelled the satellite for the promise of 1.5 mbps once again. Alas it is not meant to be. We are lucky to ever see 700 kbps and usually more like 350-500 kbps. You can't stream a YouTube video or Netflix on that my friend.

There are lots and lots of great benefits to living in the country but speedy internet is not one of them.

Here there be slow internet.

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