Sunday, July 30, 2006

Left in the Dust on the Internet Superhighway

(yet another Rant - skip this post if you are following the main topics of Iron / the Viking Age / Blacksmithing.)

"Its new, Its Better... Its Bullshit"

I spent yet another frustrating day accomplishing nothing wrestling with computers. I have not been able to complete a auction posting on E-bay for over two weeks. I get to the second last step in that tedious process of creating a new listing, only to get a 'Page not responding' error message.

Should you say - So WHAT, consider that I have several thousands of dollars in sales of my educational DVD's on E-bay to date this year. Like it or not, it has been a big component of my gross income, and why I got to eat in January and February.

I have had a number of back a forth messages from what passes for the Help Desk at E-bay. I suppose the staff there must be pretty to look at, it becomes apparent that they were not hired for brains. They fill the 'Walmart' definition of service: I'm happ-happ-happy and so help-help-helpfull - but I'm sot stu-stu-stupid. I get asked to include tedious details and retain every line back and forth in each message. Which no one on their end is even reading. This apparent because the same useless 'advice' is repeated from each new person that answers the question. The most standard 'solution' is for me to purchase yet another new computer and all new software, and to switch to a high speed line.

I spent well over FIVE HOURS yesterday attempting to spot the real problem. I tested my access into the internet (and specifically e-bay) via SIX different software browsers, on FOUR different computers, on TWO different phone lines, over FOUR different dial up points, and eventually TWO entirely different ISP companies.

The restriction is with the phone line. The copper cable that runs from my house via Bell Canada to the closest switching station, which is 20 kilometers away. The data transfer through this cable is running at roughly 2 kb per second. For those who don't know, I am a RURAL resident. This length of copper is my only option.

Two factors are a play here:

First is the general tendency of the whole world to speed up. Speed up whether there is actually any value to the increase or not. E-bay for example, keeps 'improving' the layout and function of their web site. It keeps adding lots of new features. Each of these takes more data time to transfer. I certainly find their web site does not FUNCTION any better. I really DO NOT WANT 'buddy lists' or any of that such crap. By making a site more complex (although not actually any 'better') they are in fact cutting access to those who do not have the 'latest and best'.

Second factor is the growing strain, and frankly collapse, of non urban support structures. The tendency over the last decade has been to devote resources to those structures that are utilized by URBAN residents. This could coldly be seen as applying 'bang for the buck'. Why provide new water pipes to that small community out on the fringes when for less money the service could be applied to a new suburban housing complex? Why upgrade phone or electric lines to MODERN standards for a rural area when so few people live there?

I understand the logic - at least on the surface. But unfortunately there is another factor at play - the increasing population density in rural areas. I live some 2 plus hours NW of Toronto, moving here about 20 years ago. I freely chose to live down a dirt road that gets pot holed, next to cows and subject to frequent blizzards. (I'm NOT one of those people who thinks a farming area is some kind of suburbia!) I expected power outages, being snowed under for days and even not being able to buy books around here.
But what has happened is that although there has been no upgrades to the support systems, the POPULATION has at least doubled in that same 20 years. Also of course that each individual home is placing an ever increasing demand on the existing grid. This is most extreme with the electrical supply, with now daily brown outs and 'flickers' at least once a week that temporarily shut down the power (just long enough to crash a computer and make us re-set a dozen internal clocks). Now it appears that the phone service is showing the same strain.
Now, I have spoken to 'worker bees' from both Bell Canada and Ontario Hydro. I have been told that there is absolutely no intention of upgrading the existing grid for either utility. All the resources are being concentrated to the major urban centres. Balance that against how in my region, there are twice as many homes all consuming much more power trying to pull out of the same old power grid. 'Go freeze in the dark'

Consistently, there has been a DECLINE in the available level of support available at my rural location since I made it my home. Out of three available hospitals inside a 30 minute drive, one has been closed entirely, one only offers Emergency Room 9 to 5 weekdays, and the third, while still open 24 hours, now only has a doctor 'on call' outside of business hours. We are supposed to be 'serviced' out of the regional trama centres - one of Barrie / Orangeville / Owen Sound. Any of those is 75 km or 45 minutes fast drive from home. If I have that stroke that runs in all my family at about my age - well, just kiss my ass goodbye.

Like all good Rants - this goes kind of no place. I don't have a solution. A plea for anyone in a position to make changes NOT to make changes that are based on mere speed for speed's sake. Ever more quickly, anyone not living in the large cities is being left in the dust.

Quite literally.


Unnr said...

:) You're right. It's not just rural areas, though.

I live in a poor area of downtown Toronto, and we also get weekly blackouts and daily brownouts.

At the least the hospital and library are close... But probably still about 30 mins to Emerg anytime but midnight.

{sigh} It's getting a little worse everywhere I think. Just more noticable the more marginalized one is.


Chris said...

I have to admit that the very problem you are talking about is what has prevented Tamara and I from considering moving out of the city. In fact it has prevented us from living in certain parts of the city as well (even where we are now in the Glebe I still have my dsl connection drop when it rains.) For me 100% of my income is because of the internet so we're not going anywhere without it.

I expect that the first high speed solution that will be available to you will be a fixed wireless solution. You may want to check out

They seem to be doing a lot of expansion in your area (although I don't think they cover you quite yet.) I'm sure if you give them a call they can let you know if they plan to service your area.

As for your eBay problem, you may want to look around at some of the 3rd party auction management tools. I haven't used any myself, but I understand there are a number out there that might help with your problem (ie you can create the auction in their software while offline, then connect and it will post the auction all in one shot.) You'll probably have to pay for these sorts of tools, but they might be worth it.


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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