Country Life — Where Dial Up is the ONLY Internet Access

Continuing the flow of getting old Inside Outs from the newspaper up on here! Enjoy one from February!

Ever wondered how vital the Internet has become in our society? Ask the Egyptians. When the government shut down the Internet access last week not only for Egyptian citizens but for those of us on the outside trying to reach into Egypt, the world was forced to speculate what might be going on inside a troubled country.

Americans were left worrying about loved ones living in or visiting the African country.

And Sullivan County residents were left saying “See? We told you! It’s 2011. People can’t live without the Internet.”

And yet in so many corners of this county, people do. If they have computers at all, these are the people who listen to a screeching “dial up” sound that went out of vogue some 15 years ago in many sectors of the country. The speed of the computer itself is at odds with an Internet connection speed that can “just” handle sending an e-mail but laughs uproariously when you try to check out a YouTube video of the Egyptian riots or the President’s State of the Union Speech.

“How dare you try to be aware,” the modem seems to be saying. “I control the Internet, and that new-fangled stuff is off limits.”

Working from home, I realize I’m a lucky resident of Sullivan County. I live in one place where it’s possible. Move a few miles in either direction, and I would be out of a job. I couldn’t function as a remote worker, depending on my high speed connection to download photos and watch newscasts. My family’s choices would be limited to Sullivan County alone. Sullivan County’s job market. Sullivan County’s wages.

I’m a native born resident, with a talent forged in local schools, a career jump-started at a local business (yes, here, at the Democrat, where I was the high school intern). I’m no more special than my classmates, but to Sullivan County, I’m a miracle. I am living here, raising my daughter here, putting my tax dollars and efforts back into the community that paid to put me through elementary and high school, that fostered my talents and my desires.

But if it wasn’t for the rare patch of excellent Internet access, who knows where I’d be. Sullivan County may well have paid for my start only to lose me, like it lost at least three quarters of my high school classmates.

What good is Internet access, you ask? It’s an education for our workforce (my husband finished his degree online) and a job resource in a county with a 9.4 percent unemployment rate (as of December 2010). It’s an attraction for anyone who can turn on a computer or power up a cellphone — age 9 to 90. It’s a way to get some bang for those “educating our youth” bucks.

As long as we’re a county where the screech of a dial up modem taunts the residents, we might as well be Egypt. We’re already shrouded in darkness.

Image via turkletom/Flickr

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