Hookin' Up in the Sticks

So a big part of getting by down on the farm is finding a way to make modern day egg money. Sure you can have a town job and still live in the sticks but then you're basically a suburbanite with a big lawn and a bigger fuel bill. I know, I once lived in the California Sierra Nevada foothills and worked in the central valley. A commute of over an hour wasn't bad when I was a mid-level toadie but once I opened my own business, the drive plus 12 or 14 hour days made me feel like I only saw home on the weekends.

For me the perfect solution is to telecommute.

You need a couple things to "earn-by-wire". First you need the gig, that's something you'll have to figure out on your own but secondly you need the wire - or wireless. I'm no expert on internet connectivity except for in my own office so let me tell you about my experience.

After spending several months shopping for a farm online we decided on our general area and flew out to see the chosen few places. The picking was easy, in 10 midwest and southern plains states we only had a handful of prospects and after a quick trip we found we had lucked into one place fitting our criteria almost to a tee.

We had already reviewed about everything we could about SW MO generally but the internet connection required us to settle on a place first. I do commercial print graphics and routinely transfer fairly large files both upload and download so a good connection was a pretty big priority. I knew cable obviously was out and DSL was probably out as well since The Place is around 5 or 6 miles from a town of only 4k but I checked anyway.

Sure enough, no DSL. So right away I was down to satellite or wireless or - gulp, dial-up. I was concerned about weather interference problems with satellite and cell service was spotty. Though we're only talking 6 years ago the cell networks here really weren't made for quick data transfer waaay back then and anyway we had very bad cell reception.

I just happened to stumble on a local company who had a wireless network just for internet conection! I arranged for them to do a site survey and they said we were golden so we pulled the trigger and signed the contract on the farm.

Skip ahead a couple of months and we are unloading the trailers and wondering where the guys are to install the antenna that was supposed to have been up by the time we arrived - welcome to the Ozarks bub, cool yer jets.

We get a dial-up account established and boy is it slow, I mean so slow that sometimes my machine just gives up trying, this is definitely not good. Several calls and here comes Mutt and Jeff and a ladder.

So we get the antenna up and boy it works fine, it ain't DSL but it ain't bad.

A couple of months go by and overnight the speed goes to pot, a few calls and a few excuses from Mutt about how Jeff is working on the problem and all of a sudden no connection whatsoever. By this time I have an unrelated computer virus on the PC and a Mac with no modem. Let me tell you, I love the Ozarks and wouldn't leave for the world but that weekend driving around Springfield Missouri trying to find an external Macintosh modem while a good client's big job is on deadline is one for the books!

In the end the job goes out because I got lucky and found a Mac modem and am now back to rejoicing over a dial up connection that barely connects. The calls and visits from Jeff and Mutt go on for months, replacing the modem, re-tuning the antenna, ducking my calls.

Finally I'm talking to a new not-Mutt/Jeff guy. This guy bought the franchise from the first guy who really only wanted to sell the service, not necessarily keep it working. Turns out the big antenna that my little antenna was trying to talk to had been moved lower on the tower to make room for the new fangled, faster type antenna at the top! Not surprisingly the old-fangled antenna was moved lower at the same time my reception went to pot.

But what is surprising is nobody told me my connection would never work without upgrading to the new flavor antenna or asked me the many times we talked if I wanted to spend some more money to get a better connection.

Of course when they told me what was going on I paid the $300 to get the new antenna installed on my roof and new modem-receiver-electronic-gizmo and have had pretty good service since, not counting a few outages after ice storms, tornadoes that sort of thing. I get about 1mb down and 500k up for $49/mo. and out in the toolies that ain't bad until they get fibre that last mile.

Finally, I have three pieces of advice about country connections for the telecommuter:

Make sure the people you are talking to understand you need the connection to make money to pay their bill – you are not just surfing for porn or cake recipes.

Have a back up dial up or a friend with a good connection.

Know where the fedEx drop box is.

P.S. Neither Mutt nor Jeff were bad guys, just in over their heads, I never did pay for the first antenna installation or any service till the new antenna was up.


sidd said...

Thanx for the blog.