Depending on an Upgrade

It reminds me of how deeply dependent we’ve become on technology

By Diane Smith

I have spent the past several days trying to reclaim my laptop from its so-called upgrade to Microsoft Windows 10. It was supposed to be so easy. Yet here I sit, feeling like Bruce Willis in an early Die Hard, beat up and huddled in the elevator shaft muttering with dripping sarcasm, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs …” Bwahahaha!

Cursors disappear for no reason. Documents are in unfamiliar files. Even as I write this, I’m nervous that another mystery keystroke might eat this sentence. My mobile phone is to the left of me, tablet to the right, yet here I am, stuck in the middle with a Sony Vaio that’s clearly Windows 10 intolerant.

It reminds me of how deeply dependent we’ve become on technology. To do our work, connect with our friends, shop, read…the list goes on. In fact, I believe that we rural and small town users are even more dependent on our technology than our big city neighbors. If folks in a big city want to read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, they can find a hard copy. If they want to buy the latest gizmo, they can go to the Apple store and bring it on home. If they need a doctor, there’s one down the street.

Out here, we’re downloading our daily newspapers, making purchases online, using cutting edge virtual technologies for healthcare, being part of the remote workforces of major corporations.

That’s why the challenge of technology infrastructure is so important to us in rural and small towns. We use it all. We are uniquely dependent on the wired networks that deliver vast amounts of data and video as well as the cell phone networks that keep us constantly connected and the wifi networks that we all use in our homes and at our favorite coffee shops.

The last major rewrite of the Communications Act was signed into law in 1996. It includes a vitally important requirement, “Consumers in all regions of the Nation, including low-income consumers and those in rural, insular, and high cost areas, should have access to telecommunications and information services … that are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas and that are available at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates charged for similar services in urban areas.”

Here’s a promise: That one sentence will become increasingly important to us all in the coming years.

Let’s hope it works out better than my latest upgrade.

Learn more about Diane by following her column here or visit American Rural at AmericanRural.org.