Life in Ruralstania

For the first time in eight years, my phone provider has given me the option of increasing the download speed of my DSL connection.

To an astounding 8mbps!

I know, I can hardly believe it myself.

And yes, I upgraded. If for no other reason than upgrading will apparently also knock $11 off my landline bill.

Yes, I still have a landline. Because cell phones will be of no use to us in the zombie apocalypse. This is a verified fact, people.


56 Comments on “Life in Ruralstania”

  1. I knew there had to be something to balance out that incredible piece of property you live on. I often think I’d love to live in the middle of nowhere, then I think “What would I do for internet?” and I give up the idea.

  2. katyasozaeva – Athens, GA 30605 – Love animals, interested in a lot of things, obsessive bibliophile; check out my blog Now is Gone at

    Fiber-optic cables were just installed out at my dad’s ranch this summer. They had used satellite previously for their internet. However, one needs to keep in mind that we didn’t even have a phone line out there until 1982, when my parents found a reservation telephone cooperative out of North Dakota that would run a line down there, resulting in my parents being at the end of the longest phone line in the country. The regular phone company wanted to charge astronomical amounts of money to run the cable down the four miles from the main road… Anyway, I have no idea what sort of download speed they have out there, but being as they’re 30 miles from the nearest town (and 4 miles from the nearest neighbor, not counting my brother), any sort of ability to connect is better than none. And cell phones don’t work out there at all. Ah, man… I so do not miss being way out there in the middle of nowheresville…

  3. Wow, I’m not even that old and I remember 40kbps. Waiting for days for an AMV or a badly fansubbed episode of Rurouni Kenshin to come out.

    Really weird to think we’re scoffing at 8mbps now… from our multi-tab browsers… on our phones… which will just be expensive paperweights once the electric-zombie-rats gnaw down our powerlines for sustenance.

    Keep the landline. Save yourself.

  4. I wonder how far you are from the CO or RT? And if you are actually getting the 8mbps? Go copper. Everyone should keep an “old” phone to plug into the wall jack. Most states have a “warm-line” law keeping even disconnected landlines available for 911 calls.

  5. Land-lines are only going to be good for – at best – a week come the impending zombie apocalypse. All those high-maintenance wires and telephone poles (which are made of oh-so flammable wood) are going to deteriorate rapidly once the undead are on the move. Given three or four weeks the only reliable communication will be radios, and once the batteries run out we’ll be forced to take to using even less conventional means.

    I’ve thought about this waaay too much.

  6. Same here–and thank the Minor Demigods of Annoyance that the election is over. I keep my landline because my small city’s reverse-911 calls don’t go to my cell, which for some bizarre reason has an exchange from several cities over. Also I get FiOS more cheaply than I got DSL thanks to a “bundle” they offered me when they wanted to replace local lines with fiber optic cable. Unfortunately, while copper-wire phone lines provide all the power an old-fashioned phone needs to make and receive calls, fiber optic lines do not. Instead they rely on a battery estimated to last about 8 hours.

  7. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me

    Whereas all the landline operators are already zombies, so…

  8. Preach, brother. They’ll take my landline when they pry my cold, dead fingers off it. That’s the number all the businesses get, which they resell to telemarketers, and caller ID + voicemail = I never answer it.

  9. I keep my landline mainly because I routinely forget to charge my cellphone. I have Caller ID and an answering machine, and I let about 90% of the calls I get go to the machine. They either don’t leave a message, or it’s a robocall. I figure if it was important enough for them to call me, they’d care enough to have a real human being leave a message. If they can’t be bothered to do so, then I can’t be bothered to call them back. Simple!

  10. Rachel Creager Ireland – The Flint Hills, Kansas – Author, Flight of Unknown Birds: Poems about the Wildness and the Weirdness Within, and Post Rock Limestone Caryatids; mom, wife, massage therapist, human. In perpetual state of decluttering.
    Rachel Creager Ireland

    Who are you going to call with the land line? If you have someone to call, will s/he know you are not a telemarketer, and answer the phone?

  11. At least you have DSL. Here in the middle of nowhere (30 minutes from the nearest grocery store), we have a line of sight dish. We pay $155/month for 10GB total data transfer (NOT throughput) that goes on the blink at least once a day. This would be a non-issue, but we both work 100% remotely as a web developer and systems engineer. They’re very slowly putting in fiber in the “broadband to the boonies” program but our road is going to be one of the last ones covered. And yet, it’s worth every penny to be over 1/4 mile from the nearest neighbor.

  12. I’m stuck on a satellite connection. The speed isn’t that bad – slow compared to cable, but enough to watch streaming video in theory – but the real killer is the download limit. My connection is only 250 mb per day, plus a ‘free’ period between 2 am and 7 am. It’s a real pain in the ass because it’s easy to go over the daily limit if you try to do anything like actually watching those videos.

  13. You’re not really in Rualstania if you have DSL. If I could get the cable company to actual acknowledge my existence (been a while since I tried), I could get high speed by, presumably, paying to have the cable run down my drive way (goes past me on the road already). DSL – HA! I’ve considered satellite but then I look at my $12 bill and think, eh, I don’t need internet at home much. It’s really a chicken/egg thing: I have dial-up, therefore I can’t do much online, therefore I don’t spend much time online at home (or on the computer as at all), therefore it’s hard to justify a 4-fold increase (at least) in the ISP bill.

  14. Relevant Oatmeal:

    Also, I am at work, trying to get 3 Toughbooks updated (they haven’t been since 2008!!) via the crappy Sprint cards they have installed. And it feels like the packets are being carried in by mule. From another country. I am thankful for my proximity to a city, so at least all the other work I do is on fast-fast-fast! cable or DSL.

  15. I remember standing in line to buy a used dial-up modem that had two speeds, 110 and 300 baud.

    Then a few months ago I got a letter from the local phone co (Century Link) offering me a package of landline and 20 MBPS DSL for 1/3 less than I was currently paying the same company for landline + 1.7 MBPS With the price guaranteed for 5 years, but no obligation on my part to stay for 5 years. Obviously, I jumped at it. The landline companies must be getting desparate.

  16. As a resident of Northern Vermont where winter-time means random power outages I will never give up my landline. I’ve been in this house since 1994 and the only time the landline went out was the Ice Storm of 1998.

    The landline phone is even an old-style Western Electric Model 500 (a/k/a the “old style” desk phone with the really loud ring).

  17. “Set the zombies on fire and send smoke signals?”

    *sigh* How many times do I have to tell people… You do NOT want the stench of burning, rotting zombie flesh in your nostrils, let alone your lungs. And really, all you are going to accomplish is making the zombification agent airborne.

  18. Luna – that is so true.
    I remember the glee when we got DSL at about .5Mbs and I could work from home and still use the landline . Now 11 Mbps is too slow. Spoiled!

    I have a windup radio (inc shortwave) and flashlight. Useful things to have about. The flashlight is in my car because the last time I needed it the batteries had eaten themselves.

  19. Still got me beat. At work I get to play with a fractional T-1, but here at home I’m doing good if we get 3 mps with a tail wind and I don’t have to reset my DSL modem at least once a day. We do have cable modems in the village, but not for my development (cable in the ground, too much noise and they’re not willing to spend the $ to fix it or add line conditioners). But from what I hear, it’s not much better.

  20. I can’t see the need for a phone in the zombie apocalypse. First responders are either dead or undead. You are on your own. I think Athena has a better grip on survival post zombie.

  21. I actually work in a town that has no cell phone service, no cable TV and internet is satellite based. We are so far north, that a mound of dirt thirty feet high to the south of your sat dish will block the signal because the elevation of the dish has to be so low.

  22. Steve Buchheit: I think you’re misstating something. A fractional T1 is by definition less than 1.544 Mb/s (a T1 being 1.544 Mb/s), so your 3 Mb/s at home would blow it out of the water (a FT1 is usually no more than 768 kb/s). Perhaps you meant a fractional T3 (which is multiples of 1.544 Mb/s)?

  23. @slybarian. I’m in a similar boat. I bought a house 1 mile as the crow flies from my old house. Despite having a voice between. DSL or cable at the old place, the new house has nothing. I was about to get satellite, but stumbled onto Verizon homefusion. It’s essentially a giant 4G cell antenna bolted onto the back of the house hooked to a router. The speed is pretty good and the price is comparable to satellite. There is still a 10GB monthly data cap, which sucks, but it sounds better than what you are living with. You should check into it.

  24. Wife and self live in a rural area in Northern California (yes, they exist) and are currently living in a temporary place 1.1 miles from our home which is being renovated. Apparently it’s a crucial 1.1 miles because at home we get about 4-5Mbps from our DSL and in the temporary place it takes about 5 minutes to download one minute of streaming video.

  25. Can super rich people use their money to make internetty things happen in middle-of-nowhere-type place? I… have no idea how my lifeblood works, that’s kind of ungood, hm.

  26. I live inside the beltway and my DSL max is 3 mbps. I hang onto my copper landline which would be disconnected if I switched to FIOS where I’d have maybe 5 hours of phone service when the power goes out, which it does many times a year. 8 mbps sounds wondrous to me.

  27. timeliebe – Central NY – Dreaded Spouse-Creature to bestselling fantasy author Tamora Pierce (SONG OF THE LIONESS, THE CIRCLE OPENS, BEKA COOPER: A TORTALL LEGEND series), a co-author of TORTALL: A SPY'S GUIDE, Co-author with Tamora Pierce of Marvel's WHITE TIGER: A HERO'S OBSESSION for Marvel Comics. Contributing Editor for VIDEO Magazine during the 1990s, Columnist for C/Net 1999 - 2002.

    Scalzi – that’s still faster than what Tammy and I have at home! We’ve got 5mpbs/up – 1.5mbps/down…when it works right. OTOH at my office two blocks away? I’ve got 50/50 mbps FiOS – and it costs less than we’re paying at home.

    Here’s hoping Google Fiber comes by your home with their 1Gbps up/down service for less an $100/mo. – real soon!

  28. As someone who was a telecomm engineer and did utility pole safety inspections, I can tell you that a: they’re treated to be fire, rot, and insect resistant (thankfully no longer with arsenic) and b: some of the poles I retired had been placed in the 1920s. This is western Oregon, where we get all the rain. So, those poles are going to be there a good, long time.

    On the other hand, a central office, where dial tone is generated, usually has enough back up power for 2 or 3 days. After that, it’s all just copper wire waiting to be recycled.

  29. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, less than a 5-minute walk from a rapid transit train station and a 15-minute walk from the University of California at Berkeley’s main campus, my fancy shmancy ADSL2+ maxes out at 4Mbps… when it works. The ILEC ’round these parts (ATT, *spit*) isn’t known for its dedication to quality.

    Instead, we use a local wireless internet service provider. They use roof-mount wireless radios (ours is mounted on the chimney) that point to a radio tower on a nearby ridgeline, delivering us a rock-solid ~20Mbps down and ~8Mbps up with one 15-minute hiccup in more than a year of service. They’re a local company, small enough to value our business but large enough to get things done. I heart them.

    Why bother with the DSL, then? Like John, I keep it for the landline, as our toddlerified household needs a reliable way to dial 911. Yep, our cell phones can send GPS data when they dial 911, but that only works when we’ve remembered to charge it, when the (*cough* Android *cough*) phone hasn’t crashed, when we can find the phone (“quick, honey! I know the kid is choking, but try to remember where you left your cell phone!”) etc. I also don’t want the first-responders wasting time checking to see whether it was my house or my next-door neighbors’ house that called 911.

    TL;DR: Wireless ISPs good, landlines also good.

  30. I still have a landline. I don’t have to charge it, I don’t have to worry about going into a “dead zone” and I can’t accidentally leave it in my car and then fly 3,000 miles away.

  31. (Disclaimer: I do actually work for a phone company, but this is not the official position of $DAYJOB.)

    The reason you need Internet service during the zombie apocalpse, besides general weather forecasts (“Slight chance of airborne Kellis-Amberlee in central Ohio this weekend along with the tornado.”) is for downloading entertainment to prevent cabin fever. Otherwise, you’re likely to get really really bored, and pick up your video camera, shotguns, and crowbar, and go out pokin’ dead things with sticks just for entertainment.

    Also, the traditional staffing level for a telco central office is a man and a dog. The man’s job is to feed the dog, and the dog’s job is to keep the man from touching any of the equipment. Telco offices are built with no windows, and most of them are fairly earthquake-resistent, so both of the staff are likely to be relatively safe, as long as there’s enough dog food.

  32. Dude. My phone company doesn’t offer anything faster than 1.5 Mbps. And I live in the heart of Seattle. (Luckily, the cable company offers fast internet.)

  33. I’m waiting for them to finish the “good” internet connection in my neighborhood. They’ve got the boxes on the poles, and the fiber strung, but they haven’t connected it yet. I will just have to make do with the two 100Mbps connections we have, until they finish fiber to the home, and I can get a Gbps connection. Korea, most wired country on earth. (All of that costs me about $30 a month.)

  34. …And, to make it count, at least one handset should be a Plain Old Telephone. Those run off the current of the carrier signal alone. (In case you, whoever you may be, did not know or hadn’t given it much thought.)

  35. We got a landline (through our cable/ISP) at home shortly before our daughter was born. Partially because we wanted something that we could easily pick up and dial 911 with, without having to worry about batteries; and partially because we were able to get unlimited landline calls to Canada, where my in-laws live. Cell service is almost always fairly robust, but when the local cell tower went down and was unreplaced for several weeks, I had to buy a femtocell.

  36. For an overlook about the efficient use and dangers of the internet during an apocalypse read Andrea Höst’s And All The Stars, available from a likely e-vendor near you (and also in POD). This public service announcement has come to you from a very satisfied reader. No money has changed hands ^^.

  37. We keep ham radios, repeaters, storage batteries, generators and a couple of hundred gallons of gas – in an undisclosed location. A couple of years ago, in a disaster planning meeting some wag pointed out that we have just about every kind of risk imaginable here: Snow, mudslides, flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis … everything but tornadoes. It took me less than 15 seconds to find the video on YouTube. A twister touching down 5 miles from the meeting location. It’s pretty here. Pretty and dangerous. :)

  38. I don’t think landlines will be very useful in the coming zombie apocalypse.

    Also, because I am genre-aware, I’ve already accepted that I won’t actually survive the zombie apocalypse. I’m a wiseass, and the wiseass always dies.


    Every. Single. Time.

    I only have a cell phone. No sense in preparing for something where I’ll be obliged to die in the early stages of the plot anyway.

  39. ozarkwriter – I am a retired city dweller who bought a hobby farm years ago who enjoys the quiet and charm of rural living. I write a blog because it is way for my to express myself to someone other than my partner and cats. My interests are science fiction, travel, pop culture and technology. I am a proud geek and believe in live and let live.
    Stephanie Young

    With that speed you are practically urban, John. Here in the middle of nowhere we have no DSL, no Cable just Satellite Internet. Now, for all the complaints, it is a lot better than dial-up but the latency is a PITA- can’t face-time or Skype worth a crap and big downloads have to be done at night but the joy of living at the end of the road is worth it (most times).

  40. “…cell phones will be of no use to us in the zombie apocalypse…”

    And landlines will? Let’s check Athena’s list … nope, not there.

    Just so we’re all on the same page on this.

    – yeff

  41. What is this Mbps you speak of? 700k down, baby. Though I’m thinking of changing it up to… wooo… 6 of those Mbps.

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