Internet Access

For a huge majority of Americans, Internet access is not that difficult to obtain. However, there are some people, such as my family, who do not have access to an internet connection. What I mean by this is no cable provider serves my area. Instead, most of the people in my area are reduced to using mobile hotspots which are both expensive and limited. How does one cope in a setting where internet, which is becoming a necessity, does not exist?

As a legally blind, homeschool student, I am not going to sugar coat it; not having access is very difficult. The internet service which my family does have cannot keep up with the demands of a daily routine. Because they are the only provider in my area, Verizon sold us a device called “Verizon Home Fusion.” This device connects to the nearest cell tower, and through that tower, my family is given access to the web. This isn’t the best solution, though. Because a cell network has to give requests to multiple devices at a time, the network begins to degrade. This is why companies such as Verizon have created data caps. Though I understand where they are coming from, it still doesn’t help those who are in those rural communities gain access.

Our current solution is a prepaid cellphone service call Straight Talk. This is an exclusive service to Wal-Mart, and it allows users to connect anywhere in the world through the cellular networks of the four major carriers: Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. With it, we get unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of high-speed data. This has worked for the time being, but after the 5GB limit, the phone’s data speeds decrease to the point where nothing can be done. I have done speed tests and the results come out to be approximately 0.04-0.07 MB/s. If we are careful in how we use that data, we tend to not have any difficulties. When we need to download a large file, we have to go somewhere where Internet access is available.

How do I do my school work? Well most of my work I do is on a computer, but fortunately for me, most of them are offline subjects. When I need to send a file, I have to go through the tedious process of transferring that file from my computer to my phone so that I can send it through my cellular data connection. To do this, I use a program called Flash Drive which is free to download on iOS. Next, I have to open up iTunes, connect my phone to the computer, and select the phone in iTunes. Once I have everything connected, I have to proceed to the app section and scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. In that section, all of your apps that share data will appear, and from there, I can select add file or save a file directly to the phone. Once I have added the file to my phone, I then have to proceed to the app, and send it however I am instructed.

How do I accommodate for online classes? If there are long videos, I have to pack up all of my things and find a church, library, or even relative’s home to stream that video. If I can’t get out of my home, I can stream a class on my phone. This, however, drains my data pool very quickly. To add to all of that, some online courses require you to have Adobe Flash built into your web browser. Unfortunately, Safari, Google Chrome, and other well-known web apps do not support it. After much searching, I stumbled across an application called Puffin. This browser basically tricks a website into thinking that it is a desktop browser, and in addition to that, it comes with Adobe Flash support! Streaming a class is not always easy, especially on a small screen. To accommodate for that, my family purchased a Lightning to DVI adapter. This adapter allows me to mirror my phone to my TV. Though this aids me in those dire situations, it is not the most optimal solution.

As I keep waiting for a service to become available, I will have to continue working in a way that is simply not optimal or convenient. Hopefully, something like Google’s Project X may become available soon.  What is this you may ask? You’ve probably heard of Google Fiber, but Google is now working on a way to deliver internet access through drones. These drones are said to be capable of remaining in the sky for at least 6 months. Another service that I am also looking forward to is a new radio frequency called 5G. You may have heard that Verizon is currently testing this new frequency. With it, more data capacity will become available meaning users may have access to a larger pool of data than previously. Most impressive, speeds have clocked in at 3.77 GB/s! This speed is almost 4x faster than that of Google Fiber and Ting, which is another service that offers gigabit internet service.

Are you one of those people who have difficulties connecting? If so, how do you accommodate? Do you believe that internet access is something everyone should have? Do you believe that it is vital to the American life? I would be interested to hear what you have to say, and maybe you can even share some advice on data consumption management   

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