Thursday, March 22, 2007

The information highway is passing me by

When we decided to move into the country (out to the back of beyond) we were well aware that broadband cable service would not be available. For some reason Rogers wouldn't run a feed the 30 kilometers or so from the nearest node to our house, even if we did sign up all 4 neighbours! I don't really understand why not because I always thought the internet was supposed to be free, but they were pretty unreceptive to the whole idea.

Bell, on the other hand, will run wires just about anywhere there's a power pole to hang them on or tree branch to drape them across. Perhaps not as fast as cable, but wired high-speed is still pretty good as long as you're not downloading all the latest Oscar winners or trying to get free long distance calling or VoIP service. Perfect. Sign me up! Well, not so fast .... Bell's high-speed service is only available within 4.5 kilometers of a Central Office which, in our case, is about 20 kilometers short. Drat!

What about wireless then? Wireless service providers are popping up all over like dandelions in spring. Their towers and antennas dot the landscape, cluttering up the nighttime sky with blinking red lights like so many tacky Christmas decorations. Every local farmer with a bit of high ground and a need for a few extra bucks is renting out roof-top space for repeater antennas. Barns and silos in this area are beginning to look like porcupines in full defensive posture. Yup. Everywhere but here. The line-of-sight technology used means that you need a clear line of sight (pretty obvious, eh?) to the tower/antenna. The only blinking red light we can see is perched on the top of a Bell Cellular tower and they have no plans to put a wireless node up there any time soon.

Hmmmm ...

That left the satellite option, but with a significant up front cost to purchase and install all the necessary dishes and cabling and modems and an annual access fee and an ongoing monthly cost just slightly less than my average LCBO bill (also significant - even with the deposit returns), this wasn't really a solution we wanted to entertain. Besides, the missus wasn't too keen on hanging any more dishes on the roof or whacking down more trees so we could "see" the satellite.

Dial-up was all that was left. 57.6 Kbps is definitely not the speed of light, but for basic email and a limited amount of web surfing it will do. After all, I have nothing but time on my hands anyway, right? Why else would I be writing this if I had something useful to do? So back to Bell for a second phone line and Sympatico dial-up service. Now having a connect speed of 57.6 Kbps is a bit like having a Lambourgini with a speedometer calibrated to 280 kilometers per hour on the 401 through Toronto at 5 PM. Sure, it says it will go that fast, but 30 kilometers per hour is all you're going to get. So on a good day we're lucky to see 12 to 15 Kbps. That's about the speed of a little old lady with a walker crossing the intersection in front of you while you watch your green light go stale and then back to red. Loading ..... loading ..... loading ...... loading .....

(dialing ......)

"Hello, do you offer satellite internet service?"

To hell with the cost; I need to get back on the highway.