Before buying our new home, we asked two important questions. Would our old place sell and could we get internet access at the new place? Our real estate agent assured us on both accounts.
It’s not that we didn’t trust him but in many rural areas there are a limited pool of buyers and modern amenities are still hard to come by. On top of that, let’s just say real estate agents tend to be optimistic. So we pressed him on the issues.
“Properties like yours are in high demand,” he said, “you live in the woods. Buyers will line up to get a view that is not just corn and beans.”
“What about the internet?” I asked, “It took an act of God to get DSL.” Actually God had nothing to do with it but the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) did. I used them to motivate the phone company and some say the PUC has more power than God.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s not like it used to be. If you are beyond DSL there are always digital cell networks, satellites and micro-wave links – and it all works great!”
Again, real estate agents tend toward optimism – so I checked it out. I spoke to my prospective neighbors. They all raved about the micro-wave links they used to access the internet.
These links are an amazing miracle of American entrepreneuring. The companies, typically run by ex-military types, ricochet micro-wave beams around the rural areas to connect even the most remote sites to the grid.
So in early March, we bought our beautiful house with its two-car garage, big metal shed, pond, grove of oaks, Finnish sauna (no kidding) and four acres of pasture for horses. (The photo on the header of this blog is our backyard.)
Amid the chaos of moving, I called the micro-wave guy to link us up. The best he could do was schedule an appointment was six weeks in the future.
So on dry day in late April, he rumbled down our road in a boom truck dragging a long contrail of brown dust.
Turning into our driveway, he rolled down his window and yelled, “I dunno.”
“What don’t you know?” I yelled back.
“Your place looks great on a contour map,” he hollered, “but micro-waves travel by line of sight. I can make out the transmitter on Peterson’s grain bin but I’m worried about these trees. When they fill out, they’ll block you for sure. Is there any way you can cut them down?”
“I don’t own them,” I shouted, “The Department of Natural Resource (DNR) does.”
“Aw,” he shouted before rolling up his window, “Then you’re screwed.”
But a moment later he rolled the window back down to ask. “Aren’t you the guy who snitched to the PUC to get DSL?”
“That’s me,” I said, “but it’s too far out for DSL and I don’t have enough juice to move the DNR.”
“Aw, then you really are screwed.”
“Is there nothing we can do?”
“You could put up a tower to get over the trees,” he said.
“How high you figure that would be?”
He tilted his cap back and gazed at the sky. “Those are big trees,” he said, “I’d imagine sixty feet at a minimum.”
(It’s bigger than it looks)
Oh yeah, remember the other thing our real estate agent assured us about? Selling the house? It’s been months and nary a nibble. Now, we have two yards to maintain. On Friday, I was out at the old place stumbling behind the mower when a guy pulled into our driveway.
“Notice the locate flags?” he asked.
I indicated that I did. I had been dodging red and orange marker flags all morning, the kind you see whenever there is construction around utilities.
The guy was a sales rep for the local cable company. “We are wiring your [old] neighborhood for fiber-optic,” he beamed. “It’ll bring you phone, cable TV and high-speed internet. Can I sign you up for our triple-play package?”
“I don’t live here. I just work here,” I said pointing to the FOR SALE sign, “but I’ll tell you what. When and if the new owners ever show up, I will let them know.”