Disconnected and Disoriented

Opinion: The journey beyond the land of Internet connectivity proves difficult for one journalist accustomed to perpetual instant access.

Its a shameful thing. I dont know how to admit it.

Im not wirelessly connected.

OK, now that you know the worst, Ill make some excuses. First of all, I am writing from a place that is really the back of beyond. If I had a broadband connection, Id send you a picture. Its the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the South of Spain, but not the side the ski bums see. Its the old Moorish Alpujarra slopes, with tiny little white villages clinging to the olive and orange groves. Pretty as a picture—and about as connected as a hermit.

Some people are made to be hermits. Im not one of those. I need connections. I need to be able to say "Interesting question! Lets see what Google suggests." or "Ill just check with Jim on the Instant Messenger," or "Those photos look lovely! Lets create a Web album for my blog."

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about connectivity for businesses located off the broadband grid.

Now, it isnt entirely true to say that theres absolutely no connectivity. If I stand on the roof of our farmhouse here in Tijola, near Orgiva, I can occasionally get a signal from Movistar (Telefonica) or Amena. That doesnt mean I can have a conversation, of course. It just means I get advertising texts.

So I brought a Vodafone-supplied BlackBerry, just in case. It refuses to find a signal. I have an Orange-provided 3G card, and a Vodafone 3G card. Both should switch to GPRS when out of 3G range. And trust me, this is out of 3G range and both are sulking.

Dialup? If we had a phone, sure.

Well, Ive been here before and I know a trick or two. You line up an Inmarsat Regional BGAN satellite dish. Portable, cute, and reliable enough to work on a boat tossing in a harbor.

I set it up, and it cant find the network.

The only thing to do is drive into the nearest "town" and phone tech support. We discuss it. I drive back to the village and do what they suggest. It doesnt work, so I drive back into town. "Well," they say, "it must be a faulty terminal." Get a new one? Just before the holiday break? No, I didnt think so.

Well, we roving reporters dont give up that easily. I write the column and save it to my Flash disk. I drive into town and come to the Internet cafe. I discover that:
a) all the PCs are Windows 95;
b) the proprietor has no idea at all what a Flash disk is;
c) whatever it is, Im not plugging THAT into any of his advanced technology.

Next page: Weve come a long way, baby.