Practical Technology

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It’s official: Carrier Pigeons are faster than rural Internet

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Take 10 carrier pigeons, strap each one with a 30GB USB keys and then race them against a typical rural Internet connection starting from a Yorkshire farm in the United Kingdom. Who do you think will win? Well, I’ll tell you. The pigeons reached their destination, 120 miles away, in an hour and fifteen minutes. The Internet? It hadn’t even delivered a quarter of the 300GB video file.

This was done for fun, but it was also to make a serious point. Outside of major cities, Internet connectivity is still awful. I should know. When I first moved to the Blue Ridge mountains outside of Asheville, NC, I had to go back to a dial-up connection. Yes, there are still places where dial-up is all you can do. Let me tell you right now, 56Kbps sucks dead gophers through rusty tail-pipes.

I then tried satellite Internet. The download speed was much better… when they’d let me get it. My maximum download at “High-Speed 3Mbps” each month was for 10-hours. I went through that in a day. After that my satellite network connection gave me 100-200Kbps. On top of that, the latency was dreadful. When your Internet has to go 22,300 miles, at best, straight up for its first hop even the speed of light begins to feel slow.

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