31 July 2009


Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 5:45 am

Today is the 31st, so I expect that by the end of the day our next-door neighbors will have finished moving out. That means we’ll be without internet again. We live close enough to the neighbors that we can leech the signal emitted by their wifi router. Internet is usually packaged with TV and telephone service, but we rarely watch television and we have no land line. So we’re prepared to suffer from a slightly weaker internet signal as the price we have to pay for not paying the price. The neighbors never password-protected their connection, so their signal was floating out there free for the grabbing. We’ve been contributing a proportionate share of internet connectivity fees to our neighbors, which seemed only fair. In all likelihood the new neighbors will want full-service cable, so our internet down time probably won’t last long.

Internet connectivity ought to be distributed as a public utility. More than three-quarters of Americans use the internet. It’s more useful than television, and it’s becoming increasingly necessary for conducting ordinary transactions. Though I’ve conducted no feasibility studies, I suspect that the internet companies limit home-delivered signal strength in order to keep people like me from getting a free ride. A relatively small number of signal amplifiers systematically distributed through town would probably serve everyone’s needs adequately at a fraction of the cost. I get free TV signal for the basic channels, just like all TVs used to work in the good old days before cable and satellite. I’d be happy to pay for my own amplifier if need be.

Surely this sort of thing gets discussed. Just as surely it’ll never happen. Either way, by the end of today we’ll probably be out of service, at least for awhile.



  1. “Internet connectivity ought to be distributed as a public utility. More than three-quarters of Americans use the internet. It’s more useful than television, and it’s becoming increasingly necessary for conducting ordinary transactions.”

    I think you’re right, John. I’m not terribly happy about so much, such as the best electricity deals, being available only on the internet. If I was a pensioner, I’d want to enjoy life in my own way – not necessarily have to learn about computers and the internet, especially as the consumer is expected to spend all their time changing suppliers every other month to keep the best deals. Ah, the lie of the consumer being king.

    Anyhow, the Government here does think that it should be a public utility. To that end, everyone with a phone line will be charged a supplement in their bills to ensure access to broadband everywhere in the UK. It sounds like a noble idea. The right-wing press got hot and bothered about the phone surcharge, but as usual they’re missing the point. The White Paper, called Digital Britain, has a huge load of secondary legislation (not debated as part of the Bill) attached to it allowing the government, and selected private sector interests, to spy on pretty much everything you do online. There’s been some pressure from the music and entertainment industry for this. Britain is the most surveyed country in the world. There is more CCTV here than any other country. It makes us feel all nice and safe and tucked up in our beds. Where we have paranoid nightmares.


    Comment by NB — 1 August 2009 @ 10:32 am

  2. Good about the public utility feature: presumably the government is able to negotiate a better deal per user than individual users could on their own. Bad about the surveillance feature of course: it’s a shame governments don’t regard the citizenry as their clientele rather than the corporations.

    The neighbors moved out and their internet signal disappeared, but my computer has picked up another stray signal, weaker, but intermittently tolerable. Hopefully the new neighbors get themselves hooked up soon.


    Comment by john doyle — 2 August 2009 @ 6:07 am

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