Thursday, December 29, 2011

The No-Internet Blues

In other entries, I’ve alluded to the fact that, during our winter break from teaching, we’ve been moving into a new house. We’re moving roughly 3 minutes away from where we lived, just a mile or so outside of our little town. The move keeps us juggling a lot of balls all at once, and one of those has been the question of how the outside world will reach us: internet at television. As we compared the various options, nearly-physical pain gripped me. Every option seemed to be vastly overpriced.

As we got deeper into matters, we discovered something even stranger: when we reconciled ourselves to the outrageous prices, it turned out that no one wanted to provide us with what we wanted at any price. What?!
A little personal history seems in order here. When it comes to television, since my college days, I have typically been a reluctant consumer. In college, the only access to television was in a shared lounge, and I was generally too busy for TV anyway. When I went to graduate school, I lived off campus but again didn’t have time for TV anyway. When I started teaching at a boarding school, I continued to feel that I didn’t really need TV, but then at the end of my first year I discovered that I could have it for free with no effort, so I got basic cable. I continued to have it through my five years at that job, but when I moved to Rhode Island, I once again abandoned the television. When Lauren and I moved in together, we used the rabbit ears to give ourselves some semblance of television, but we didn’t use it that much. When we moved back to Pennsylvania, I was finally moved to get television, through DirecTV, seduced primarily by the promise of NFL Sunday Ticket. Ultimately, I regretted the decision, but that’s another story. When we first moved to Indiana, we lived in an apartment owned by the school, which entitled us to get basic cable for $8 per month. Actually, I think the living situation forced us, but for $8 we were perfectly happy to have it. And to become quasi-addicted to it, even though our viewing numbers are probably well below the national average.

The internet is a similar story. Whereas television in my childhood was free, the internet was non-existent for me until I went to college. There, of course, access to it was free. When I went to graduate school, I briefly got dial-up service through AOL until I figured out that I could get it free from my university as long as my advisor signed off that I “needed” home internet access. Living and working at a boarding school after that, I had free internet access in my apartment (and 95% of the other places I spent my time). In Rhode Island, my upstairs neighbors shared the password for their wireless internet, and although we had said something vague about sharing the cost, they never told me what I owed them, so I had another year of free internet. When I moved several blocks away, one of the neighbors had kindly left his or her internet unsecured, and since I could pick it up in half the apartment, that was good enough. One year back in boarding school made the grand total look something like this: 14 years of internet access for the cost of one or two months of AOL service. Not too shabby.
But, of course, it couldn’t last, and here in Indiana, we’ve paid $40+ per month. Since we were moving, we decided to look at other options, and since $8/month television was no longer an option, we thought we'd look into the possibility of bundling our service for better value. Somehow, though, everywhere we've called claims not to service our address. That is to say, after they find our address. You see, for some reason, we don't show up. Oh, the post office knows where we are, but Google Maps can't find us, and neither can any cable, satellite, or internet provider. The house has apparently been there for the better part of 60 years, but for some reason, it can't be found. I have no idea what to make of it.

I'm surprised that living just a mile and a half outside of town means that no one provides service. as though this house, nestled snugly between neighbors on a stretch of road that's lined with houses, is too far into the rural boonies to get any of the conveniences of modern society. It seems crazy to us. With what we're ready to pay, it feels like they should want to come run the lines out to us, never mind already having them in the ground or the air or whatever. 

But no, that's not how it works, apparently. Just as frustrating as the fact of their repeated denials is the fact that each time we call one of these places, it takes about 20 minutes of being on hold and talking to a representative just to hear that, sorry, we can't help you. Did I mention we've switched to a pay-as-you-go phone service with limited minutes per month? Gah!! 

The result is that we have no internet and no idea when we might get it. On clear days, my wife's computer can poach internet from one of the neighbors, but neither our iPods nor my laptop can manage to wrangle the signal. I've had to go into my office at the school or to the apartment we're moving out of in order to check e-mail or post blogs. 

It's a good thing that we're also incredibly busy getting moved, or we might go crazy without access to the internet.


  1. I have lived at various points in my life without access to television and have not really missed it, but having been addicted to the Internet since Mosaic V1.0, I can no longer consider not having online access.

  2. OH NO!! No internet? Unbelievable. You don't live *that* far out of town, it seems to me.

    Reminds me of the days when I used to be involved in amateur radio, with my former husband. We were house-hunting, and brought mobile radio with us in the car (huge antenna and all). The first thing Doug would do when the real estate agent took us to see a house was to fire up the radio and see if we had access to the outside world. No contact, no sale. The agent was baffled when we passed up some really good deals, and we couldn't seem to get it across to him what was the deal-breaker.

    I hope you can resolve your access problem soon. It seems incredible that 21st century technology can't find a way.

  3. How does your neighbor have this aforementioned poachable internet service?

  4. Jim, right there with you--I wouldn't miss much TV, but internet? It's a must-have.

    Sarah and Devon, we agree, we clearly don't live *that* far out of town, since one or more of our neighbors have it. Our last-ditch option would be something like HughesNet or a similar satellite internet provider, but that tends to be more expensive, it seems. We talked to a friend of ours who used to install Dish Network in our area, and he seemed confident that our former provider, AT&T, would service us, despite what their computers seem to think. We just need to wait for their engineer to come out--which they say will be "within 15 days." Two weeks?! ::sigh::

  5. No internet? That's crazy talk. :)