Internet Service Is More Important To Me Than Phone or Cable TV
Published 6/6/08 (Modified 3/8/11)
These past few weeks have been tough on me. Not only did my trusty Honda Accord suddenly break down, but I've been experiencing major Internet service disruptions at home caused by the incompetence and admitted overselling activities of my current broadband service provider Comcast. For months now, I've been plagued by frequent Internet outages coupled with agonizingly slow download speeds reminiscent of my old 56k screech-and-hiss modem days. The breaks in service finally culminated into the complete stoppage and loss of my home Internet signal. Furthermore, the service disruption repair activities were hampered by a series of powerful thunderstorm waves that swept through my area this week, knocking out electricity, cable TV, and broadband Internet service for almost all seven days. While my car was washed and scrubbed sparkling clean by the rain and wind, lightening sparks managed to knock out the power in my neighborhood. Electricity was "quickly" reactivated in 1-2 days, but cable TV and my precious broadband Internet service wasn't repaired and fully restored until nearly a week thereafter.
For the last few days I've been a pretty sad fellow. Not only did I feel isolated and cut off from the real world without convenient home access to the Internet, I haven't been able to properly update my personal finance blog, nor have I been able to check my email messages, or tend to the operations of any of my online passive income businesses. On a normal weekday I usually receive close to 50 emails a day from a variety of personal and business related sources. By the time my Internet service was finally restored, I was greatly backlogged and had major catching up to do.
I Never Realized How Much I Relied and Depended On Having Home Based Internet Access, Until It Was Suddenly Taken Away From Me
I used to feel this way about TV, but I now have a new love - my computer (and the Internet service it provides me). When my precious Internet is gone, I feel crippled. This is not the first time I've experienced an Internet outage due to loss of power, but it's the first time I realized how much I depended on my broadband Internet service at home. In the past, whenever my cable Internet service was knocked out, I'd simply access my backup laptop's wireless signal manager and search for one of my random neighbor's unsecured wireless signal to piggy back off of. Oftentimes I would get lucky and find one subscribed to a different broadband Internet provider that still had active service. While the majority of the stray wireless signals were properly password protected, a few were left publicly accessible. However, as the importance of securing one's wireless router from unwanted intrusion has picked up steam, I find that most signals today are properly secured and inaccessible to strangers like myself. Particularly in a condo complex such as mine that's populated by mostly tech savvy young adults and families, finding an unsecured wireless signal to temporarily piggy back off of is proving more difficult nowadays.
Since I've been working from home for the last few months, I'm not able to access the web through an alternate location such as an office workspace. So for the last few days during the outage, I visited my local library to get my Internet fix and to keep tabs on my email messages the best I could. Due to usage limits of an hour per day on the computers at my public county library, I wasn't able to fully respond to all messages during each sitting and frequently had to do the bare minimum when it came to managing my online finances and keeping track of all my wheelings and dealings. Since I've adopted the practice of going all electronic and paperless and have converted all my paper bills into e-billing and automatic debit payments, not having immediate home based access to the Internet puts me in an incredibly inconvenient position. It's a hopeless and powerless feeling when you're unable to properly manage and access important aspects of one's personal and financial life in real time. Especially since I am currently managing a major balance transfer credit card arbitrage, not having online account access makes it difficult for me to keep tabs on monthly due dates and stay on top of my minimum payments. If I'm not careful with online due dates, I could easily unintentionally commit a tragic balance transfer mistake and ultimately face terrible repercussions. It's been so long since I've performed paper or phone banking that I'm not even sure how it's done anymore exactly or where to locate my backup paperwork. I'm simply so used to doing everything online these days.
We've Become An Extremely Technology and Internet Dependent Generation
The no-Internet experience left me amazed and somewhat alarmed at how much my life has grown so reliant on the availability of the Internet. While it's only a single form of technology, it's a mode of communication and source of information that I've become extremely dependent upon. It's interesting how only about a decade ago, no one had even heard of Google, Yahoo, Mapquest, or CNN.com. Back in the Internet-less caveman days of the early 90's, we relied on non electronic forms of communication and information gathering. Before the Internet, people relied on daily newspaper deliveries for their written news, people purchased hard compact discs for their music, paper maps were used to plot directions, and people actually obtained background information on a variety of common topics by turning to hardcover encyclopedias.
Today, people rely on CNN.com, NYTimes.com, Yahoo news, and even online blogs to get their daily news. People order songs individually from online vendors like iTunes. People use online websites like Mapquest or Google maps, or utilize handheld GPS devices to easily and automatically get directions to where they want to go. Nowadays, the old volumes of encyclopedias have become extinct as all forms of text and multimedia data have been compiled and stored onto easy to carry around storage disks, or have been uploaded onto online information repositories like Wikipedia. As a testament to its breadth, the Internet is even changing the way we order pizzas now. Today, the trend of ordering freshly made pizzas online in real time through vendors such as Papa John's is growing rapidly. The Internet has essentially phased out the clutter generated by paper documents, menus, and voluminous booklets.
The Internet Is Replacing The Cell Phone and Cable TV As The Technology We Can Least Afford To Do Without
But with this great reliance comes the dangers as evidenced by how out of place I became as soon as this important technology was taken away from me. Today, with the Internet having enveloped and dominated our day to day lives, and high speed cable and DSL broadband having greatly expanded the media content we can now receive, we can barely function now without this important service. I know I can't.
Without full Internet access for the last week or so, I became handicapped and only partially functional. In fact, I dare to say that not having access to the Internet was astronomically worse than not having my mobile phone or even not having a fully functional cable TV service. Both cellular phone and television service can be easily replaced and compensated by the power of the web. There are easy ways to make local, national, and even international phone calls for free using a computer and the Internet, and I can easily communicate with my friends and family through instant messaging or via social networks such as Facebook or Myspace. There are also plenty of free online shared videos on YouTube and daily updated news videos on the major news network websites that can replace the lack of TV service. But there is simply no duplicate or substitute for a non working Internet.
The Internet is so pervasive, it's hard to know what life would be like if it ever disappeared. It's a wonderful and powerful tool that has changed the way we interact, communicate, and live our lives, but at the same time it makes us very technologically dependent and vulnerable. We are more susceptible to critical financial and societal collapses from computer viral outbreaks or electrical infrastructure disruptions than ever before. Some say it has made us as a society more distant and anonymous to each other, but I disagree. I think it's greatly improved our lives and has allowed us to reach out and touch others in a way not possible before. We can only hope that technology can continue to defy the elements of mother nature (thunderstorms) and adequately keep up with this never ending appetite for electronic convenience and digital information. Such electrical and service outages as I experienced this week mustn't happen again. I just can't bear to be without Internet access for too long. Things just don't seem to run right or smoothly when I am offline for extended periods of time.