When I got back from walking Ollie today, I noticed a warning message on the small screen of our landline phone, ‘Check Line’. Sure enough, the home phone was dead. This meant that we also had no broadband of course. So, no logging on to check emails, blog comments, or notifications. No browsing of websites, or any Internet activity whatsoever.
I went on to the fault checker, which of course told me that I had no Internet access to use to check the fault. Not for the first time, I wondered why the hell they bother to include this link. If I have no broadband, how am I supposed to get online to check where it has gone? I suppose I could use my smartphone, but trying to do anything on that small screen, with its annoying (US-based) spelling override is a very unattractive prospect.
I resorted to using my mobile phone to report the fault. Of course, being the 21st century, it was impossible to actually talk to anyone, except a computerised voice that offered me various options. After what seemed like an interminable wait, I got a message from the strange voice that confirmed I had a fault with the line. TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T ALREADY KNOW! The voice went on to inform me that the fault would be reported to the engineers, who would send a text message to my mobile, and let me know what they were going to do about it. The text message alert then went off, to tell me that I had a fault on my landline phone, and it had been reported. More stuff I already knew. What a waste of time.
I then had time to reflect on a life without broadband. Not that long ago, I was struggling with a 56kps modem taking ages to send an email, let alone download a photo. But since 2012, I have had ‘good speed’ broadband, and using the computer has become second nature. We no longer get a phone book. After all, everyone looks up contact numbers online, and hardly anyone calls landlines anymore, do they? Appointments for the doctor can be done online, same with hospitals, banks, and almost anything you can think of.
But what happens when ‘online’ doesn’t work? What systems are in place to restore those old ways of doing things? The answer is almost none, it would seem. The world is online, and our lives are online. Even if you are not a blogger, and have nobody to send emails too, being online has become the norm. One of the everyday things of modern life, like flush toilets, and water from a tap. Online is no longer a luxury, not just a hobby, or a way of relaxing. It is becoming almost impossible to live an ordinary life, unless you are online.
Twenty minutes later, the phone activated. I re-booted the broadband, and it gradually returned to normal speed. No explanation, no text message from the engineers. It was off, and now it is on again. That’s about the size of it. During those twenty minutes, I became acutely aware of the power of the Internet. I also realised something. It is too late to go back now. We are stuck online.