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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Can You Hear Me Now? (Yes.)

Laptop in the Woods, CC0
Laptop in the Woods, CC0

Yesterday was a big day. For over a decade, I hobbled about with little or no internet. Had I known what the circumstances were, I wouldn’t have moved here. An internet connection is a vital tool for a writer.

From dial-up (yes, it still existed here in 2010… not sure if it’s around now) to an antenna and, can you hear me now? I tried various so-called services, including a Verizon hotspot that sometimes exceeded $200 a month, depending upon what I was attempting to accomplish. It was also intermittent.

Then, I tried a local company with an antiquated system that operates like a wildly swinging pendulum. Sometimes I would go for a week without a connection. There was much troubleshooting going on, including interference from a baby monitor in a chicken coop a mile away. This was to detect bears on the premises. I lost a week! As a former chicken farmer, I wanted to help build a better coop, but it didn’t pan out.

A year ago, this antenna/microwave system slowed down dramatically, which is serious, considering the starting point. In June, there was no more connecting capability at all. There were no solutions, so the equipment was removed, and I started to use my iPhone hotspot. If the phone signal was at one bar, it wasn’t strong enough. If it had three, it didn’t work. I had to position my phone on a small box on my dining room table to try to get two bars. I also burned through cell phone batteries.

Did you know that failed updates can crash your hard drive? Neither did I. This happened to me a few years ago. I ended up having a new one installed. To me, getting a notification about available updates meant clicking “later.” (Later finally came last night.)

I have had to decline guest invitations for podcasts and other platforms for interviews. Once I participated via my humming, clicking, and buzzing landline (copper wires still kicking around from the 60s). Now, I can have my own podcast, upload to other platforms, watch videos… the list goes on.

There is a decade of stories. During much of that time, I spent winters in a warmer climate. I had real internet. My productivity was limitless. I would return to NH and face all of this again. After selling the winter home three years ago, I realized that I was stuck. When I brought it up to others in a local newsletter, I was told that I was fortunate to live here. Why are people in such a rush? Why does everything have to be streamed? I should be meditating out by the pond, hiking the mountains, dipping my toes in the river. In other words, "get over it." This is coming from people who have long retired or have a better option. It became apparent that I was rocking the boat.

My response is that I do engage in these zen practices. Why not participate in both? I'm not ready to abandon my work, and there is no need to do so

I wrote letters and emails and spoke with people from the FCC, PUC, Consolidated Communications (following Fairpoint), the Governor’s office, Senators, and more. I attended local broadband committee meetings only to be excluded from the solution. How so? I am in the 10% of people in this county who have Eversource Electric Company. The majority have NH Electric Coop, which will be providing high-speed internet to its customers.

I even offered to pay Consolidated Communications to run a line to my home—1,000 feet away from their station. When I called to inquire about their service, they told me that it wasn't worth it. The signal was almost non-existent. They provided me with a telephone number for engineering. They never answered and never called back. Finally, an honest CSR out of Texas said, "it won't happen in your lifetime." There it is.

Yes, this is a rural area, but much more populated than the class IV road that I lived on during the 90s and into the 2000s. I was near the top of a mountain that requires four-wheel drive half of the year. I had great internet. It was dial-up, but it was effective at the time. I then moved to another mountain, and there were no issues. Currently, I am next door to the Town Garage on one side and the Post Office on the other. I live on a well-traveled, paved road that is moderately populated and growing.

I have written three novels and am in the process of writing the fourth. I design my own covers and have created countless ads, business cards, posters, and bulletins. It requires a great deal of patience to get through each step. It takes longer to upload a blog than it does to write it. Then, it requires an investment of more time to post on various platforms. Honestly, I'm fried.

I tried to practice gratitude and patience, but I often envisioned throwing my computer out the window. I ignored incoming calls because they interrupted my connection. Sometimes, the call itself bumped me out of wherever I was. I would often lose hope, but never completely.

My children are scattered about. I tried to Skype with them before the whole Zoom thing took center stage. Nope. I was a voice that drifted in and out of the conversation. This brings me to how impossible all of this was for me when the country slammed shut, and I was no longer giving presentations, readings, or signings. I could not connect with the outside world. It matters. In fact, one of my sons wanted to move here, but the lack of internet is huge. He teaches and —due to current restrictions—performs music online. If we wish to maintain a vibrant, expanding community, we must consider our youth's needs. If I had school-aged children, they would not be able to participate in online classrooms. I happened to home-educate my family voluntarily, but if I needed to rely on the present education system, I guess we’d be screwed.

Several months ago, I signed up for Starlink. I was a bit skeptical, but if it were to happen, I needed to consider it or move away to where there was lightning-speed internet. I didn’t want to. As some of you know, I am also a wildcraft herbalist. The land is abundant with a variety of medicinal plants. However, I was ready to leave in the spring.

About a month ago, I received an email that Starlink satellites were to be launched in my area. Yes, it is a hefty investment and monthly fee, but I had no other option. The satellites—darkened to prevent obstruction of night sky viewing and at a lower point in the atmosphere than most other satellites—are up there with or without my approval. I have already received a complaint.

I signed up and made the initial payment. Then, I tried (to no avail) to hire someone to install the equipment. This service is new, and installation crews are not in existence yet. So, yesterday, we did it ourselves. At times, it was harrowing, but it is up and running.

I am ever so grateful to have high-speed internet. I almost don’t know how to respond. As I write this, I am streaming music. Wow! I can imagine how exciting it was for our ancestors when they got electricity.

The first thing I did was successfully update my computer. Next, I am going to create a video for my online ads. I was forced to use photos. I love working with computer graphics.

My friend suggested that I write about how I managed to function with just a phone for so many years. Once I catch up with projects that I continued to put off, I hope to write more blogs, to write more in general. This situation often caused me to feel defeated and depressed. I am so stubborn; I would spend an entire afternoon uploading a simple blog.

At this time, I wish to share that I will have an online presence that does not require an act of God to accomplish. I may host a podcast relating to my work, the reconstruction, and the industrial era. I will also facilitate wildcraft, ancestral healing, and transformative language arts workshops. Welcome back to the twenty-first century.

I refrained from venting on here. Many of you didn’t realize the extent of my trials. There are so many words to be written, images to create, and opportunities to connect with you. It is finally possible. Hallelujah!


Mar 31, 2021

I am so happy for you. To have the capability to do what you were meant to do and enjoy is something you have been waiting for, Now it is here. Now you can get back to what you do best, write and lecture on my fascinating topics. I will certainly be tuning in.

Mj Pettengill
Mj Pettengill
Mar 31, 2021
Replying to

Thank you. 🙏🏼

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