Probably the biggest risk of our Maine adventure was whether we’d have a DSL connection. I realize the irony of this statement – after all, we’re coming to the woods to get away from “civilization” and enjoy the beauty and quiet of nature. The reality, however, is that my husband makes his living designing computer software, and in order to work from home he needs a connection to his work via the Internet. When we bought the property, the chances were admittedly bleak. Not only was there no internet access – – the closest was the library 10 miles and one town away – – there was no cellphone connectivity within 3 miles, although there was one tiny pocket of reception on our property about 18″ square if you stood outside on a certain rock at a certain angle and shouted really loud.
Because it got really tiresome driving somewhere every time we wanted to communicate with family and friends, we decided to get a land line through the local telephone provider. They said they’d try to see about gettting us an internet connection, too, since although the closest neighbor after our property didn’t have Internet access, the closest neighbor before us did. It had to do with how far away the RT (remote terminal) was – it could only be up to a certain number of feet away – and if we fell within that range then we’d be online. Although the technician warned us that the signal might be weak, he felt he could make it work; we were at the tail end of that limitation.
The result: He did! We do! We are!
A few months later we found out about something called a “network extender” sold by our wireless network cellphone provider. It’s a small box that is basically like having a miniature cellphone tower in your house; but it uses the Internet to make the connection to the carrier’s cell phone network. Before I get into technical jargon that I don’t understand, suffice it to say that we now have good cellphone reception inside the house, too.
Besides the fact that I can communicate more easily with friends and family, and my spouse can work his normal 10 hour day from home in the middle of nowhere, he also uses these technologies to stay Jewishly connected. My husband “Skypes” with his chevrusa on Sundays via computer, and on Wednesday night he “attends” his regular shiur via cellphone. Early every morning he listens to a shiur on ou.org.
Recently my husband has revisited a beloved hobby that he hadn’t touched in 30 years: ham radio. With the ease of Internet and cellphone access and use, the popularity of ham radio has dramatically declined, but it still has its diehard fans. If you think back to 9/11, cell phone communications were abysmal during this emergency – – and ham radio is an important and effective form of emergency communication that gets through when other forms of communication cannot. More recently, ham radio operators were able to relay and request assistance and provide communications to and from Haiti when that country met with its earthquake disaster.
Especially because we are not dependent on Maine power companies for our electricity, my spouse’s ham radio has important value in a region where weather-related emergencies are frequent. He is looking forward to regularly communicating with local ham radio operators as well as with those from afar.