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3G and Broadband Isolation

November 26th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Every once in a while you will catch one of those nature shows where the story was only possible because some scientist isolated themselves from society. They remove all connections with the outside world to become more in emersed in there new environment.

I would like to say that for the past year I have been running a scientific experiment similar to those nature scientists. It would help explain why my blog posts have fallen silent, my status updates span the course of days and my ability to respond to any online message takes over 24 hours.

The truth is my job has taken me past the boundaries of AT&T’s 3G network, causing me to disconnect from my online resources.  Every morning, about half a mile from where I commute to in the center of Newark NY, my iPhone drops off the 3G network, becomes an otherwise useless brick and relies on the old EDGE network to do anything.   The result is a device which I don’t bother using.

I no longer have a stream of pertinent and useful information to keep be up to speed as to what is going on and I no longer have the patience to post my own updates to the rest of the world.

For the first few months, I was in denial, trying to make things work anyway.  Eventually I gave up and realized I had entered a different world.

A mere half a mile from a faster cellular network I had found an entire culture un-aware that there was a thriving and collective consciousness connecting people together.  After accepting my fait and turning to observation, I found that the lack of reliable cellular was only the beginning.  The availability of broadband to the homes and businesses in the region was sparse, causing a leap backwards in the timeline of technology.  It was as if I was witnessing a culture who were stuck in the late 90’s believing that email was something you check once a week.

With so many people unable to connect to broadband, the affect was viral with others remaining perfectly comfortable with dial-up.  I was shocked to find that over half of the IT department didn’t have broadband in their own home explaining the lack of understanding of our own networks.

Walking Amongst the Disconnected

Being disconnected is a lot harder than I could imagine and I have had to adjust my patterns to accomodate. For one, it has meant that my own websites have fallen off the list of things I can get done throughout the day. Normally able to update information during my free moments, directly from my iPhone, becoming isolated has put halt on most of the site updates.

This summer, I have had to remove most of my Twitter following, resorting to retaining only individuals or threads which gave me directly pertinent information. I check it once or twice a day, causing a large disconnect in it’s usefulness.

I take scheduled walks to the South side of the buildings I work in, where if you stand in the right spot you can pick up the wi-fi provided by the town for the Erie Canal.

When I leave work, I drive my half a mile, pull over and connect back up to the rest of the world.

The Larger Problem

I know and work with people who can not get broadband into their home, period.  This is a very rural region, and I am not surprised that broadband is not available. As the federal government still refines its National Broadband Plan, we have witnessed the emergence of services stimulating connectivity such as Google delivering their own service through fiber.

The problem is that the target regions for these plans are not the areas which need the most help.  I hope I am reading this wrong, because according to the map on the National Broadband plan site, 100% of homes already have the availability of 4Mb service to their house in Wayne County NY.  It is almost impossible to think this is a valid statistic and I am not sure if this includes satellite based services.   The number would lead me to believe that nobody is focusing on a region which is in desperate need of some help.

Last year when Google announced that they were going to deploy broadband, there was a lot of communications from rather large towns trying to participate. As far as I recall Newark, NY was not one of them. Perhaps it was because they never hit the headlines, but I am sure that just like Newark NY, there are thousands of small towns around the country who are oblivious to the fact that the project even exists.

Until areas with lower population counts are prioritized or wireless services becomes a suitable alternative, rural america will remain behind the curve of technology.  While I have ventured away from my comfortably fast network into a much slower world, I will continue to bring my technology with me. The likelihood that AT&T will put up another tower to help me out is pretty thin.  While I wait, I will bring my own wireless network to the area and bring fiber connections from providers who are ready to change.

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