Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Necessity of Internet Access: Time to Talk Amongst Ourselves

Last Friday, at 4:30 p.m. Central Time, a technician severed my DSL connection. I contacted my ISP (CenturyLink) that evening, after exhausting self-diagnostic and restoration remedies, only to be told by the foreigner (for whom English clearly was a second language, clearly had no technical acumen, and worked entirely off a script) that no technician could answer for certain before Sunday. There was a chance for a Saturday response, but that did not happen. No technician came on Sunday. No technician came on Monday. I had to wait for today, this morning, for a technician to arrive and spend 10 minutes climbing the pole and reconnecting the wire to the exchange.

Nevermind that ISPs are a utility, equal to power or water, according to Federal law. Nevermind that there was no inclement weather, natural disaster, or other extra-ordinary circumstances preventing the prompt restoration of utility service. No, due to incompetent management on the part of a utility provider, I spent four days unable to engage in commerce (specifically, the sort that brings in revenue) and I am rankled at this display of incompetence on the part of a company whose sole excuse for existing is to provide access to the growing infrastructure by which more and more people engage in commerce and form communities. However...

The technician who did the repair also did the install, and we chatted about the matter. Politically, access is NOT treated equal to power or water under the belief that access is a luxury. It is NOT a luxury anymore, as everyone who could not rely on personal networks to find employment learned first-hand, but a necessity and therefore restoration of service must be done as soon as an outage is reported; if insufficient personnel to handle this grunt work is the issue, fix it. (Because if this bullshit persists, it becomes worthwhile to figure out how to splice into the backbone and provide for myself.) This problem will persist until management is convinced to fix it.

The solution is transparency. Specifically, for the population to become well-acquainted with what this technology is and how it works in practice. I speaking specifically of the hardware and firmware--the wires or cables, the modems, the routers, and how a thing goes from A to B--technology, and then all existing regulation and policies concerning that technology. (The software is a related matter.) In this respect, my chat with the technician did more to rectify my dismay than any amount of political action ever could. I had questions, he had answers, comprehension improved and things will be better in the long run. I encourage such conversations going forward.

Once we have accurate and relevant information then we can make and execute a useful and effective course of action. That course's objective is to pressure regulators to make--politically and legally--access to be equal to power and water while pressuring management to meet the standards we expect of power and water utilities. An informed and engaged population is a terrifying thing to behold. (And that leads back to why Narrative Warfare exists.)

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