Rain come, me go.

by Paul William Tenny

Posting to blogs is hard when you rely on a satellite for Internet connectivity, a system extremely prone to lengthy outages when it rains, or lately, when it gets darkly overcast in the southern sky. It kept me pacing the house and swearing furiously at a defenseless blue modem that was trying its best to connect me to the outside, lest I rip the coax cables from the back and sacrifice it in a blazing fire in the back yard in a mad fit of rage.
That day is certainly coming, but it's not here yet. In fact there's plenty of time for me to go nuts which should -- given my total lack of weapons of any kind -- be highly amusing for a short time. Just Sunday afternoon I placed a really tall ladder precariously against a pine tree, scaled it well above twice the height of my own home, just to saw a branch off that looked like it was now hanging directly in the path of the dish. Understand that everything up high looks much smaller from the ground that it really is. A branch that looked not much bigger around than the empty cardboard tube you get from toilet paper turned out to be, once I got a closer look, about as big around as my bicep is. Naturally it was on the opposite side of the free from where I had no choice but to put the ladder.

I don't know if that little exercise improved the signal strength of this particular satellite Internet service because there's no way to tell what the strength actually is. I'll monitor it this week and hopefully things will get better. Rain and heavy cloud cover knocked me offline all of Tuesday, half of Friday, and all of Saturday right into Sunday morning. Nine times out of then when this blog goes dark for a couple of consecutive days, that's why. Believe me, there's nothing I'd love to be doing more than writing something here when it's raining or otherwise nasty outside, and naturally those are the times when I can't do anything at all.

You, my good friend, probably don't care about this because you've got cable, or DSL. For the 50% of the rest of the country that doesn't have either as an option, I'd like to see how you deal with it if you had no Internet access for three days out of every week -- but on totally random days -- with absolutely nothing you can do about it.

The broadband infrastructure in this country is well and truly pathetic and it's getting worse every single year. This isn't an accident, it's the carefully calculated result of a Republican administration and the remnants of six years of a Republican congress. You may be about ready to click elsewhere to avoid a political rant, but before you go, I'd ask that you keep in mind that Republicans place the welfare of corporations above the welfare of the people at every turn possible, and without fail, the economy and the country backslides as a result. You can't let telecommunications companies do whatever they want without regulation, because they'll do whatever makes them the most money without any other considerations.

That's fine for them, but that's not what the government is there to let happen. With some intelligent and forward-looking regulation on the telecommunications companies, this country could have the best, cheapest broadband anywhere in the world, and the companies would probably be better off for it because they'd damn near double the number of customers they have.

Where I live (a road that has a highschool on it no less) there are 30 homes stretched out across 30 miles. At best, cable companies won't service a road with a density less than 15 homes per mile, so everyone here is automatically and for the rest of the foreseeable future completely ignored. Embarq -- the result of Sprint spinning off its local phone service as a condition for being allowed to buy Nextel -- won't spend the money to provision DSL in this area simply because they don't want to.

And guess what: that's the ballgame.

That's the result of Republicans being in power, and the result of almost total deregulation. Tens of millions of Americans are being left behind and for no other reason than because these companies would rather spend most of their money competing for city and suburban homes rather than take a walk out into a rural area, and have a complete monopoly by default.

DSL was invented over ten years ago. Cable Internet started right around the same time. And here, without shouting distance of neighbors and a damn highschool, we get nothing even though we want it, and would pay for it. That's what deregulation gets you, and why I only end up posting here sporadically. Satellites don't work well in the rain, sometimes don't work at all. The service is anywhere from three to six times slower than cable or DSL, and costs easily twice as much.

But hey, at least I didn't fall out of the tree.
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