Never Say Always

Quite a few people here are using the internet now. It used to be that the only connection was through the phone line. The slow speed of that connection made it difficult for some people to get much out of it and, unless you got a second line, it tied up the phone. That all changed two years ago when we got the new tower and “always on” wireless radio link.

Never say “always”. I’m sitting here writing this while waiting for the connection to come back up. It’s been over two hours now. For the last six months it’s been going off for short periods of time almost every day. Often for over an hour. This problem started around last september and, until last week, was getting steadily worse.

At the moment I don’t need to do any banking, or shop online, nor anything else too important, so it’s not a big deal. It’s just really annoying. What, however, would happen if I was in the middle of filing my income tax? What if I had just entered a credit card number and the transaction was now in limbo? One would wonder if the software on the other end would deal properly with that. Worse, would this situation pose a security risk?

I asked the people at Nethop these questions, and the simple answer is – no. The reason given is that when you lose your connection to the server (that’s the computer at the other end), it quickly terminates the transaction. I also asked them what was happening with the constant drops in service. Apparently they had one machine which was failing and then eventually died. It was quickly replaced. All last week appeared to be problem free. Now here we are – back offline again. It looks like server down time is a fact of life and “always on” is really just a myth.

Despite some places in the world having much faster and reliable connections than what is generally available in Canada, and certainly in Coalmont, we are not that badly off. Of course Scandinavians just laugh at us, but talking to other people on the net, I see that there are many places in the US which are still on dialup. Certainly, Canadians are not the only ones who experience constant service interruptions and generally slow connections.

On the African continent even dialup is a luxury, so perhaps we shouldn’t complain, but we’re not as advanced as the statistics would show. In Canada most connections are, so called, broadband. The catch is that the Canadian definition of broadband is much slower than the definition in other countries. It makes us look good. Still, 1.5Mbps is pretty useful and I, for one, am quite happy with that. At that speed it theoretically takes less than 2 milliseconds to upload this story – but not “always”.