Rural Broadband Go Away

Our ranchito is faraway from the nation’s land line-broadband backbone.  The fiber-optic cable stopped at the Barton Creek Water Cooperative pumping station about three miles to the south of us and the Interstate-20 nexus is four miles away.  We have no fiber-optic cable, but rely upon another technology.

Microwave Antenna of Flying Hat Ranch

Flying Hat Ranchito, our 53 acre, low-impact horse and cattle operation, connects with a high-speed, microwave service providing fast — 2 megs. per second variable — speeds through a Fort Worth, Texas, service,  The relay from our house goes to the Rust Ranch horse arena, about four miles away, then from Rust Ranch to the Celebrity Ranch Castle above New York Hill near the ghost town, Thurber, Texas.  From the Celebrity Ranch microwave connection, the backbone is tapped along Interstate-20, about one-half mile away.  In short, we are three microwave towers away from a fiber-optic connection (our tower, Rust Ranch, Celebrity Ranch, then the cable).

This connection through microwave relays costs $117.00 a month.  Installation was $750.

I teach four online history classes and maintain a blog, Sage to Meadow.  I have grown dependent on the internet for income, news and e-mail.  I read The New York Times and Washington Post each morning before I feed the horses and go to work — twice a week — in Abilene, Texas.  My dependency on the internet has steadily increased since 1989, when I first began to learn the technology of main frames and word processing on computers.

All of that being said, I don’t want broadband and I don’t want the associations that go along with the internet: online classes, blogging, facebook, twitter, e-mail and on-and-on.  But, I use them all.

The internet has constricted, even eliminated, face-to-face classes.  I no longer see, smell, touch or enjoy the organic unit, the human body as I once did.  Conversations around the student union or commons are limited and many of my friends I no longer see, but maintain contact via electrons.  Things have gone so virtual that I have become organically starved for human contact.  I cannot pick up on my students’ immediate, organic reactions, nor they on mine.

Don’t bring anymore internet to the country.  In fact, reverse it.  Develop human contact, real human contact by handshakes, face-to-face communications.  See your friends in “real” reality, not “virtual.”  It is far better to go to Huckabay General Store and sit around the coffee table and get the news of north Erath County than it is to read news online.  I see my neighbors and they see me.  We can give tips of craft on farming, taking care of livestock and they can notice an oil leak from my pickup and suggest a remedy.  You can’t do that on the internet.

Internet providers for rural areas will destroy the diversity and local color of communities.  Send teachers to rural areas, re-create independent school districts and recruit on-site professors, if you are concerned about education.  I don’t need broadband.  I don’t want it, but I have to have it.  For now.



For a broad spectrum of positions on rural broadband, see Stimulus Stirs Debate Over Rural Broadband Access : NPR.

See also the Center for Rural Strategies that has several articles and policy statements.

Use of the internet for “texting” confronts parents at dinner tables, professors with classes.  Last year I caved in and let my students put their cell phones on their desk, but limited their texting — moderate their use to one or two messages a class.  I had students hiding their cell phones in their laps, under their coats when I had a strict prohibition.

The internet is used as a form of communication.  It is a medium like a rock wall upon which a paleolithic person chisels, buckskin and red ocher for the Sioux, paper and pen for correspondence.  You may also factor in ham radio (I have a General Class license — N5LWM) that has absorbed men and women for generations by the use of telegraph and voice.  These mediums or modes take persons away from face-to-face communication.

In all of these mediums, you cannot extend your hand and shake the hand of another.  Or caress.  Substitutions are substitutions are substitutions — virtual reality.  A profound loss with profound consequences.

See also Jacques Ellul, The Technocratic Society.


Filed under Life Out of Balance

10 responses to “Rural Broadband Go Away

  1. Jack,

    I cannot begin to tell you how timely this is for me. Exactly the same issue I have been thinking about and working on. Human contact seems so minimal and so needed. I can completely relate to your statement, “Things have gone so virtual, that I have become organically starved for human contact.” I love our online community of bloggers and the friends I e-mail…cannot imagine life without them, but I’m starting to crave more Real communication, more Real contact, face-time, not Facebook. There surely must remain pockets of people who feel the same…now, to find them.

    Your friend,

    • Human contact is certainly needed in the organic sense. That we don’t have it or enough of it is a complex equation. The dependence I have developed on internet information and communication was a gradual process. The pockets of people are there and here — to find them, as you write, is imperative. I’ll write more in another post, but you and I know the deficit of the internet. That’s why we have land and animals and friends….But, it’s hard.

  2. Randall Tate

    I still prefer to call a friend or person than to e-mail.

    Randall Tate

  3. Oh boy, have you hit a button with me. I couldn’t agree with you more, yet here I am, with a blog, blog friends, and e-mails instead of my preferred hand written letters. I know how you are torn so, and I applaud your putting into words. I’m sure there are many of us struggling with this. Right now it feels like “get off the road or you’ll get run over.” Maybe we can hope to live long enough to see more people realize the damage and see it reversed? About twelve-years ago (guessing here…the magazine is saved in the house in NM), there was a cover article in Time magazine about how we are isolating ourselves. It was just stunning and I remember reading and re-reading it. It was about how many one person homes we have now vs. the statistics on even a couple of decades before the article was written. It discussed the use of computers for communication as a cause for further isolation. I wish I could remember more, at this writing, about the context of this prescient article…but then, my memory being what it is…that’s why I saved the magazine. Thanks for getting us thinking about this, out loud.

    • I think I remember that article. Good that you saved it. Wonder how I could retrieve the article? Must see if the library has it. No, wait a minute, they’ve put all that stuff online and I can’t get to it because I forgot my password.

      Martie, yes, we isolate ourselves. I remember your post on writing letters. How good, how really, really good that post was.

      There is also an article on “Bowling Alone: The Loss of Community in America.” I’ll see if I can rustle that one up too.

      Yes, we seem to be run over. In education, it’s frightening. You gotta put this online, you gotta do this online, take a test online, etc. I’ve told my students that when you take my course, you do bluebooks! Not multiple-choice on the computer, but bluebooks!

      We don’t need isolation, we need community.

  4. Jack: I’ll be back in NM early September…I’ll spelunk around and see if I can find the magazine and get back to you. Martie

  5. Nicely written. I think it is imperative that we keep contact with the old ways of relating to people or we will have lost our humanity. Ironically, I find that my camera, a box once derided as cold, impersonal and detached, has become my way of maintaining that organic human contact. In order to make the best images, I have to know them on the other side of the lens first.


    • Brian,

      Thanks. Yes, to what you write. That camera becomes more than a mechanism, it’s a technique that brings, as you say, organic contact. Really deep: know the other side of the lens. Never heard that. Knowing the other side, unifies, overcomes alienation.

      Will follow you, Brian, for the other days of the year.

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