education, technology, and everything else

Posts Tagged ‘digital divide’

Living on the last mile

Posted by Miranda on November 14, 2009


The Last Mile

I’m writing this at the Latham Library/, no, I cannot tell a lie, I’m writing this at home to post later at the library.
Our phone line has been getting noisy lately and yesterday it finally became unusable.

We have dial-up.

Most of the time we connect at a fairly good clip for dial-up, anywhere from 49000 to 52000 kbps and before you tell me to eat cake that’s all we can get at the moment.
I live in a little hollow in the hills in Thetford, VT. There is no cable. There is no DSL I can’t get satellite reliably enough to justify the expense because the hill at our back – to the Southwest – blocks that most of the time. We get satellite TV when the leaves are off the trees. The TV starts to go in May and comes back in, well we started testing in late September and I believe in was mid-October when we finally got the Daily Show back. (Tangentially, I really think that works out perfectly. It’s like a higher power is telling us to get outside and enjoy in the spring when we lose TV.)

I live on the last mile and brother let me tell you it isn’t pretty out here. Our local town consortium, ECFiber is out there plugging away trying to get a loan to put a fiber network out here and to 26 other towns but it’s been an uphill slog to do that. It will be two years at the least I’d guess before it gets down Picknell Road.
There is a possibility, just a bit of a one, that I could now get wireless access. WaveComm has put up a tower on a large pine tree at the Gove Hill Retreat, a Baptist camp on top of Gove Hill. We aren’t really line of sight to it but we hear that a house halfway down our road is, if they put a repeater on their house we might be able to get that. I’ve been meaning to call WaveComm for the last couple of weeks to see if I could set that in motion.

But I haven’t and this morning it is taking me five to ten minutes to send a plain text email.

Our dial-up connection generally runs around 49000 to 52000 kbps. My son and I have an older Apple Airport that has a modem in it, we use this to share our connection and although we can’t both download anything at the same time it serves well enough for email and most things. (Airports with modems aren’t manufactured anymore. We had to buy this one on EBay after the original one died) But this morning there is so much noise on the phone line we are connecting at 18000 to 24000 and at that rate Outlook Web Access just times out. I use a plain text email client from Dartmouth – Blitzmail – and even that is now almost impossible.
FairPoint, the little phone company that bought all the lines here after Verizon decided it couldn’t make a big enough profit here, is in bankruptcy court. I wonder how responsive the support line will be today…..

nb: when I called them from the bank parking lot, using my son’s Tracfone they were actually quite responsive, or at least understanding

So spare a thought for those of us living on the last mile. When you send us photos, remember that 100 dpi (dots per inch) resolution is plenty unless we want to print them out and frame them. Don’t send us links to cool videos; it only makes us feel left out. When you create your website, go easy on the Flash, puhleeze!

AutoZone are you listening?

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enough is enough

Posted by Miranda on January 20, 2008

That’s it. I am removing CoolCatTeacher from my blogroll. I just can’t spend the time to download her blog over my dial-up connection. The new format is just way too time-consuming no matter what she has to say.

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Doing for ourselves

Posted by Miranda on December 22, 2007

I’ve written about this before (Dial-up: the new Digital Divide)but am reminded again this morning by a post on our town list-serve, just how forgotten we are in this little corner of the US.
We don’t have broadband here. We can’t get it, no one will supply it, we don’t mean enough money to them.
Yes, I’m a little bitter. A lot of things, including online video, are just impossible for me to use at home. I take online courses at Marlboro College that are sometimes quite difficult. Course chats, for instance are painful in the extreme.
It sometimes gets me steamed, reading education blogs that rave about new online tools of one kind or another, how most people just assume these days that if you live in the oh-so-grand Yewnited States of America, that you have access to all these things.
Guess what? They are wrong, wrong, wrong.

But the Upper Valley, where I live, is used to being self-reliant and that extends to broadband. A new initiative, Valley Fiber organized by people in various towns in the area is brewing.
They are being assisted by the folks at ValleyNet, who used to be my ISP until they decided to concentrate on other stuff.
I’ve already signed on as being interested, and during the next week I’ll be going up and down my dirt road here asking my neighbors to sign cards expressing interest as well. The more of us that sign on, the sooner we’ll get fiber here. We have to do it for ourselves.

We thought for a while wireless might be the answer and I spent a day driving around with the head of a company from up near Burlington, looking at sites where they might put wireless antennae. But our topography is way too wrinkled for wireless to get to everyone and all the companies we talked to are small enough that progress on the wireless front is very slow. The big companies, of course, don’t give a rats ass.

And Twitter! Twit from your cell phone, oh boy! Except I would have to drive six miles until I was next to I-91 to get cell phone coverage.

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