Oprah Winfrey once said during a commencement speech at a high-profile college (Duke, I think) that the world knows no greater luxury that a private jet and that the graduating kids should aspire to never fly commercial. Oprah is right about the jet, although it's a pretty pricey habit. I would suggest that a much more affordable and perhaps even more useful luxury is really good Internet service. I once heard Mark Cuban speak in the late 1990s about the importance of "the pipeline," and he wasn't talking about oil. Today, we rely on the Internet for everything. There's no "Internet of Things" when your Internet is out, right?
When I sold my previous home, I said goodbye to a pretty good Internet situation. While our new home was being renovated, my family and I stayed in a very nicely built apartment in Brentwood that was walking distance from lots of good stuff. The problem with the 1992-built building was that it had DSL Internet and a contract stating that you simply couldn't bring in your own Internet provider. According to Speedtest.net, I was rocking a download speed of two to three megabits per second on the best days. The Time Warner service that I got for the construction site at my new house was 300 Mbps with stock modem hardware and a wireless connection. When my AV installer Simply Home Entertainment finished setting up a Packedge network and replaced the Time Warner modem, we were rocking 375 Mbps. Nice. In the meantime, at the condo I tried various 4G solutions, which worked only sometimes and became costly in terms of data. This is when I settled on my backup plan: a Verizon 4G hotspot that in the right situation could be a lifesaver ... but not always.
Thankfully, those DSL days are behind us, and we're enjoying our new home. I recently had the rug pulled out from under me when Spectrum, the new name for Time Warner Internet, had a failure in my area. We've lived in the house for about a year and a half, and this is the first time the Internet went down. I used my tricky power over IP to reboot all of the key components. I even did a reboot manually, as I was getting sweaty and desperate for Internet. My installer logged in remotely, and we quickly deduced that it was likely the provider. I called into Spectrum while firing up my 4G hotspot and find out that: A) indeed there was an outage; and B) my hotspot was about as cold as you can get. Now I was rocking a double failure on a fine Saturday, and I badly needed to get some work done.
I walked outside and saw the neighbor's teenage son sitting on his balcony with an empty look on his face. He had a phone in one hand and a tablet in another. Thank goodness he didn't have a gun around, as he was looking desperate. I asked him if his Internet was down, and he sounded like he wanted to cry: "Yes, it's down, and I can't take it much longer." Apparently his Verizon cell network wasn't working well, either. I told him that I had spoken with Spectrum, and that everything was going to be okay. I felt like adding, "Don't jump, kid! DON'T JUMP!"
We give a lot of editorial ink to cord cutters, the Internet of Things, automation, hi-res music streaming, UHD video streaming, and such. All of these emerging technologies serve at the pleasure of the almighty Internet; so yeah, when it goes down, it can be rough. Sure you could go to a nearby coffee shop or library. Do an analog task for a little while. Try to live your digital life on your phone for a few hours. It's certainly not the end of the world when your Internet goes down, but it does go to show how right Mark Cuban was. We are all hooked on the Internet, be it for information, entertainment, automation, etc.
If I were running for elected office, I would stress the importance of building a better, more reliable Internet backbone. Tesla can make solar-powered batteries that power every device in your home from the light of the sun, but Internet may just be your most important utility. Rumors suggest that DirecTV is trying to move from being a satellite TV provider to being a streaming video provider, and they probably aren't the only provider considering that approach. Someday soon, cord cutters won't be the only ones relying on Internet service to get their video fix; we all will. So we need to make sure the pipeline is as strong and reliable as possible.
• The Golden Rule of Home Automation at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Home Theater in the Great Outdoors Is Less Expensive Than You Might Think at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• How Big Is Your (Internet) Pipe? at HomeTheaterReview.com