For years my family has struggled to have solid internet speed.
After several years of living in small-town Italy, we looked forward to moving to “the big city” where we dreamt of more reasonable speeds.
Would we be able to watch a YouTube video without it buffering?
With bated breath, we waited; looking forward to faster downloads and the ability to Skype with our friends and family overseas without the awkward delays and heavy pixelation.
We could hardly wait!
And then we found that the internet speeds in Central Italy delivered an equal, and sometimes worse, experience than before.
Throughout our seven years in Italy, I worked online and we tried our best to stay connected with friends and family. Needless to say, the limited bandwidth made this entirely frustrating and grew me and stretched me in ways that I can hardly comprehend.
I am afraid to say that I had many tantrums of frustration.
But, we were moving back to the United States — the land of free-flowing bandwidth!
The days of 2-3Mbps speeds would be over?
Before moving into our new home here in the United States almost 2 years ago, you can believe that I made some phone calls to ensure we would have better internet. The phone company told me I could get 10Mbps!
While this may not seem like much to some, it excited our family to pieces.
The entire family would be able to enjoy an internet connection and we could give Netflix and Hulu and all of those cool online things that came to pass while we lived overseas.
What we didn’t understand, however, is that we were told the maximum possible speeds.
This is the kind of fine print that isn’t communicated over the phone. This is one of this very little, but very important details that are usually buried in the pile of text we all so quickly “click to accept.”
This was my actual connection speed:
I had co-workers in Pakistan, Serbia, South Africa, and Portugal who sported speeds up to 200 times faster.
I was crushed. We were crushed.
We had downgraded from our Italian connection, but there was a flitter of hope on the horizon.
The area we moved to in North Carolina has an electric cooperative that provides power to these rural areas. The mission for the Roanoke Electric Cooperative started many years ago when they first formed.
At that time, urban areas and even small towns had power companies that provided electricity to the residents. Meanwhile, rural areas and farmers were left without the wonders of electricity, as it was not in an electric company’s most profitable interest to provide electricity to this smaller base of Americans.
By forming a coop, everyone in the area become invested in the organization — all becoming member-owners. In fact, that’s what we are still called to this day.
Fast forward to today, and we find ourselves in a similar situation with the internet!
While it is physically possible to bring higher speeds to more remote areas, private companies have no incentive to upgrade and build-up an infrastructure to provide services to such a small customer base.
So as history repeats itself, the same spirit that lead to the formation of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative, birthed Roanoke Connect.
By using the powerlines and access points already provided via the electric grid, they engineered a brilliant system to deliver fiber optic based internet to everyone in the area.
We are happy to say, that as of yesterday, we are the first family in our county to enjoy these joyous speeds:
Our home was like Christmas morning as we updated smartphones, updated computers, watched videos without buffering — in HD, too!
And finally, I just finished a much more delightful work day as all of the software and SAS apps I use and rely on every day worked smoothly, flawlessly, and fast too!
But wait, there’s more…
If You’ve Never Heard of the ‘Homework Gap’ This Video Will Shock You
Just this last week, I came upon this video embedded just below.
I am privileged.
Even before my new internet connection, I was privileged.
This really made me pause and reflect:
[Video via YouTube]
From the video:
“70% of teachers assign homework that requires access to the internet. Yet, 5 million families with school aged children do not have access to high speed internet at home.”
For almost two years I have been active in following, supporting, and encouraging those working on bringing Roanoke Connect to my area.
But let’s face it, it was pretty selfish.
The question is, will I do anything to help remove these roadblocks faced by these children — adults even — who still have little to no internet access? Or are without computers?
While I am not sure what I can do today, it is my hope and prayer that I can find some way to help fill this need faced by these 5 million families.
The struggle is real.
What can be done?