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.
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, Mesh.net. 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.
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.