Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Economic Woes Drive Rural Telegraphy Initiative

The ongoing deterioration in economic activity has caused a complete rethinking about how to bring digital communications to rural areas. It's no secret that Internet access and even cell phone service is hard to come by out in the boonies. That's what the rural broadband initiative in the economic stimulus plan was designed to correct. But in a cruel twist of fate, it's been discovered that the monies intended for trenching fiber optic cable down country lanes has instead been appropriated by city hedge fund managers.

As one of the fund managers, Robb M. Blihnd, explained: "The need for hedges to separate adjoining properties in densely packed urban and suburban landscapes is critical to public safety. People are getting testy and going after their neighbors over little things like barking dogs, smoke from barbecue cookouts and children straying into adjacent properties. We need the money for planting hedges to clearly identify property boundaries and provide a natural barrier against intrusions. The demand for hedge fund financing is clearly more critical in metro areas than out in the country where the population is more dispersed. That and our executive bonuses, of course."

Semiautomatic Telegraph Key used to send Morse Code.The dearth of funding has sparked renewed interest in an alternative technology well suited to rural communications. With minimal construction costs and low bandwidth requirements, telegraphy may the answer to doing "something" for the long ignored rural constituency without Congress having to come up with additional funding. Samuel F. B. Morse's telegraph was America's first telecommunication technology and designed to work in the frontier environment of the 19th century. Sometimes referred to as the "The Victorian Internet", there are eerie parallels to today's messaging technology. Users known as "telegraphers" networked across the country to exchange messages at will. Simple battery power energized both transmission and reception, much the way cell phones use batteries today.

Jon Dehre is owner of the first TSP or Telegraph Service Provider to apply for federal funding under the massively scaled down Rural Telegraphy Initiative. According to Jon: "Wiring for a telegraph system is easy out in the country. Most farms have barbed wire fencing that works great as a conductor to carry the signal for miles. Of course, you have to watch out for those electrified fences. We zapped a few operators before we learned to test for high voltage by throwing a wet tarp on the wires. We go through tarps pretty fast, but there seems to be plenty of tarp financing available."

The resuscitated telegraph technology should have a special appeal to younger users who are addicted to texting. Only a single finger is needed to tap out the dots and dashes of the Morse Code using a standard telegraph key. Power users can upgrade to a semi-automatic keyer, also known as a "bug." These require the use of two fingers, but leave one hand completely free to act as an unpowered "green" printer for writing down incoming messages.

Telegraphy solutions may also be appropriate for some businesses with little technology need and even lower expectations. For those that require a true broadband solution, it should be noted that T1 lines are available at reasonable rates through Sheep For T1, a website designed to support businesses located beyond metropolitan areas. In addition, satellite broadband is available for residential users in nearly all USA locations. No fooling.

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