This week I’m living on the wrong side of the digital divide. We are visiting the family farm just South of Colfax, IL, population 1,104, and the Internet is out at the farm because a thunderstorm Thursday evening blew out the DSL modem.
For those of you born after 1975, DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, is Internet delivered over twisted wire pair, the technology Alexander Graham Bell invented by to deliver voice calls.
Unfortunately, the only Internet service available on the arm is provided Frontier Communications, who recently filed for bankruptcy. When it works, 12 Mbps is what they can deliver, which is impressive for an unshielded pair of wires.
I can’t order my own replacement DSL modem from Amazon because this 1980’s circa technology is no longer generally available even with 210 million products on their platform, so we’re dependent on Frontier. We have ATT Direct TV at the farm, but they do not offer internet service to this area, and besides, the lightening strike also blew out their receiver and dish power supply. We’re waiting for that to be replaced as well.
Tt the moment, I’m using an ATT hotspot on my iPhone which has one bar of service in Colfax, probably from a cell tower in an adjacent town. AT&T and T-Mobile, the two providers for my iPhone and iPad respectively, do not have cell service in Colfax Illinois. If I stand next to the cell tower in town – there is only one – I still only have one bar of service.
Now if I walk into town to Bumpers Café, one of two eateries in town, I can get 100 Mbps WiFi free of charge. I recommend the club sandwich. The town itself has Mediacom cable which provides 1 Gbps service.
But our farm is directly on the South side of Route 13, the dividing line between the town of Colfax and rural farmland, so our only option is Frontier. No cable, no satellite, just twisted wire pair.
Below is the service map for Frontier which covers a lot of rural America. You'll notice their primary offering is DSL.
I cannot blame them for not wanting to string fiber down country roads, and as farms increasingly consolidate, there are fewer and fewer customers on those farms. But I do miss my 1 Gbps ‘gigablast’ service from Cox Cable, my cable provider back home!