Where is my ubiquity?

Searching for a signalConsidering everything we can do with all the connectivity and communications technology of today, what’s really amazing is what we cannot. What happened to the last mile? Granted, escape is a great benefit of getting away. But one cannot expect to get away indefinitely unless totally self sufficient. Especially, if working from home means traveling full time. And why not? There is so much to see.

In other words, we must work, from the road. The biggest challenge of which is being connected. All the time. The defacto work week for the typical commuter is two days off, in a row, if you’re lucky. For those of us who commute from one line of sight to our satelite to the next, being cut off unexpectedly is a daily threat.

Entire idyllic communities like Humboldt county live in constant fear of losing their connection to the world. And they have high capacity fiber to the region. Well, one strand at least. My string is invisible and can be cut by any number of branches, including one.

We could virtually throw a rock at New York City, but for the first time ever, we have a cell phone signal but no satellite conneciton at our Mahlon Dickerson campsite near Morristown, New Jersey. Then we discovered it wasn’t strong enough to send a message. There are lots of branches here in the dense swampy forests. Yet just a few miles away I was in heavy traffic through strip mall America. I could drive to speak with a client in the city faster than an email might reach him. Though I wouldn’t dare call from the car. There are undoubtedly plenty of dark pockets throughout the hills. And most certainly plenty of speeders and crazy jug handle intersections. But I digress.

There is still much to do that can be done offline. And instead of getting upset, one can – and should – easily look around, take a deep breath, smell, listen, feel. And realize, this is what makes it all worthwhile. (Our whole the sell the farm sabbataical thing, that is.) Life is an investment. You get out of it, what you’re willing to risk. And higher risk has always provided greater gain of life’s potential for us.

So while it does pay to smell the roses and dance on the ocean, it doesn’t pay the bills. So where is the ubiquitous infrastructure we’ve been promised since the first utterance about convergence?

We can send friends video messages by phone and they can receive them to the latest top 40 tune of their choice. Much of Europe is well ahead of the U.S. in delivering connectivity to everyone. But nowhere on earth is there access for all, everywhere, anytime.

We can watch movies on demand. We can share dog movies. We can make a living online. But we require a consistent internet connection to do it on the road. From wireless cards and satellite dishes to hot spots and sketchy campground WiFi, there is no one solution that provides perfect connectivity. And by perfect, I mean always available.

So where is the omnipresent digital realm? And if we actually had it, would we really be that much better off? There’s nothing wrong with a fast-paced always-on utopia. But it will only work if we can all just have a little patience.

6 Responses to “Where is my ubiquity?”

  1. We went with a Sprint EVDO card along with a small wifi router. I’m anxiously awaiting the external antenna, but so far, we’ve had pretty good luck while traveling around Florida.

    I’m not entirely sure how we’ll handle the wilds of Alaska in ’09, but for the most part, we’ve had good luck with the service. 800kbps isn’t rare as long as we are relatively close to a ‘city’ or major highway. Latency is generally around 130ms and there is no setup to be done once we park – we actually use the service while traveling most trips. Sprint has no bandwidth or connection limits, which is good because we actually broke 5GB in about 2 weeks just after starting the service.

    I’ve got some slightly more technical info on our specific hardware choices here: http://hitekhomeless.blogspot.com/2007/11/technological-advances-johnny.html

    Bottom line though, if the budget can handle another $60/month, I’d consider using the satellite as your backup and go with EVDO for primary internet access. Just some food for thought.

  2. Here, being Humboldt County. Our single fiber line runs through Mendocino County, where contractors, as a rule, operate heavy equipment while stoned, dude.

  3. We call the periodic high-speed outages biffs, for backhoe-induced fiber failure.

  4. Exactly… I want my tricorder!

  5. Bringing up some of our technological deficiencies makes me wonder where those flying cars are.
    You know, the ones that Weekly Reader promised 4th graders would exist in our lifetime…

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  1. Returning to Childhood Home Not Always What you Expect - November 4, 2007

    […] no internet access at our Mahlon Dickerson campground, we headed to the Library of the Chathams to get spoiled by some blazing fast WiFi and find our way […]

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