Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What is standard/expected/required/necessary?

…and if it is, who should provide?

Adam Turinas, on his blog, Messing about in Sailboats, makes a request for his readers to support our Olympic team through a program called America’s Cheer. This is a very worthwhile effort, and fully deserving of support.

However, the means of showing support involve Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. Those websites eat up a lot of bandwidth and are essentially inaccessible to those of us who have dial-up connections, especially when the dial-up connections involve rural phone lines that have a lot of noise.

More and more, I encounter web sites that assume I have a high-speed connection and lots of bandwidth. NBC, which carries the Olympics this year, is one of the worst – I can’t even get to the site of my local NBC station without a half-hour wait for the download of graphics that don’t contribute any meaningful information.

And when I complain about website content that assumes high-speed connections, I am told it is my fault for not having a high-speed connection. If I want to see what NBC has to offer, all I have to do is get a high-speed connection.

The problem is that I would absolutely LOVE to have a high-speed connection. I have even been told that I NEED a high-speed connection. But neither loving nor needing translates into being able to pay for it. And right now, Pat and I are struggling just to pay for basic telephone service. There is no way we can pay for high-speed Internet.

I have also been told that we NEED cable television. We did have cable in Albuquerque, when it cost only $25 a month. But then the cable company kept raising the rates, adding a couple of channels once in a while to justify the rising rates. When the total bill – base rate plus surcharges plus taxes plus other miscellaneous fees – went over $40 a month, we cut the cable. We don’t miss it. Now the saps who didn’t cut the cable are paying more than $100 a month – just for “basic cable.” That’s stupid.

But both the cable television companies and the telephone companies are offering high-speed Internet connections, and now, according to some survey I read about in the newspaper, 60 percent of American households have high-speed Internet. That’s nice, but Pat and I just can’t afford to pay for a high-speed connection. And it’s frustrating to find that a growing number of websites aren’t willing to accommodate the needs of those of us who can’t get fast connections. NBC may be the worst offender in my current situation, but there are hundreds, probably thousands, of others.

This is an issue that many of my students deal with. The world assumes that my students have a certain level of technology – typically a computer at home with a reliable Internet connection. But some of my students don’t even have a computer at all, and even those who have a computer don’t always have a reliable Internet connection. I don’t have a reliable Internet connection either.

Sometimes I can make up for the shortcoming of my home computer connection by accessing information at work. But the community college at which I work has been struggling with overburdened bandwidth, and so the powers that be have cut off access to sites that eat up bandwidth, including Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr.

The problem is that the people in charge have thrown out the baby with the bathwater – sure, YouTube and Facebook don’t have any academic purpose, but one of the services that has been blocked is Google Maps – and I have lesson plans that depend on Google Maps.

But there’s an even bigger issue out there. That is the assumption that high-speed Internet is standard, and that everybody has it. Therefore, all Internet content can be graphics-intensive and full of real-time bells and whistles. That assumption cuts off anybody on a dial-up connection (like me) or anybody whose connection is overburdened (like my students).

We have created a new hierarchy of haves and have-nots. And I really don’t like being among the have-nots.

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Blogger Lydia Manx said...

You may or may not remember high school reports. I had to type mine on manual typewriter. Letter perfect with the margins carefully planned and the footnotes. I was told I should have an electric typewriter. Mom told me to get over it and learn to plan better. There's a talent kids don't have anymore. They have no need. I think it served me better in long range planning.

That said, I get what you mean about not having the 'tools' supposedly required.

Sun Aug 10, 06:01:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Yeah, I first learned typing on a manual typewriter, and when I went to work on the sports desk of a major regional newspaper, I became notorious for wearing out keyboards, because I was pounding so hard. On my days off, none of the stringers or part-timers wanted to be at my desk, because the keyboard was a shambles. All of the letters were worn off of the keys, so only those who could do touch-typing could even use my terminal. And none of the sports part-timers or stringers knew touch-typing.

If it weren't for the fact that a sports agate clerk is paid almost nothing, I would have loved to keep working there -- I had my own arcane world, and I was the mistress of it, right down to having a computer that nobody else could use.

But yeah, right now, I'm frustrated that the world assumes that everybody has high-speed Internet (and NBC assumed that four years ago with the last summer Olympics).

I would like to be able to assign some not-so-mercenary motive to the problem. But I just can't. Those of us who can't afford high-speed Internet connections don't have the spending power that advertisers are interested in. Therefore, NBC has no interest in providing content that we can receive.

Of course, it gets worse that some of what I am interested in is the sailing, which, according to the published broadcasting schedules, isn't going to get ANY television coverage at all. At least last time round, sailing got some coverage on Bravo. But this year, the "effeminate" sports are going on Oxygen, and sailing just isn't feminine enough.

Sorry ... I got off-topic. I'm still ticked off that so much of the corporate world assumes that high-speed Internet is something everybody has, like electricity or running water. Got news: it isn't.

Mon Aug 11, 02:58:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Pat said...

We do a lot of make-do to get to high-speed connections every once in a while ... taking a laptop to a cafe or fast-food place that has wireless, for example, though that's not always convenient. Less convenient is the public library, because of its limited hours and rationed time.

Tue Aug 12, 01:08:00 PM MDT  
Blogger bonnie said...

Our society does play pretty fast & loose with the concept of "need", doesn't it?

I read some article on a couple of weeks ago. The title was something like "12 'Necessities' You Can Live Without".

Their list included Botox.


Wed Aug 20, 02:38:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

I would actually love it if Botox were declared medically necessary so that, should I have insurance some time in the future, the insurance would pay for it.

The thing is, I don't consider it a necessity to decrease the creases in my forehead. But I do suffer from migraines, and studies have shown that 95% of migraine sufferers who got cosmetic Botox also got near-complete relief from their migraines. The other 5% got partial relief.

But then, what do insurance companies care about pain relief?

Fri Aug 22, 01:34:00 AM MDT  

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