Hot Air

Vote For Me, I’ll Set You Free

Oh yeah, it’s the season of big promises. John Hamilton, who’s running for mayor of this thriving, throbbing megalopolis, has pledged to wire B-ton up with a fiber-optic network giving us, he promises, broadband speeds of up to 1GB/second.

Fiber Optics

Optical Fibers

Nice. Building a public-utilities-type Internet access set-up will allow even the poorest among us to download video of Kanye West intruding on the next musical award winner’s moment of glory. Equal access to the vital news and info of the day benefits us all, natch. Emphasis on the word all.

Hamilton writes on his campaign website:

One important priority is to guarantee that all residents have full and reasonably priced access to the Internet. This is the 21st century equivalent of access to electricity or water. We need community access to broadband that isn’t controlled by corporate interests and that provides everyone a connection to this vital resource.

Sounds so logical, so right. So, why haven’t we done it already?

It costs dough. Lots and lots of it. As in paying for excavators to dig trenches throughout the city so as to lay the optical fiber. Last I heard, none of the local diggers has offered to do the job for free.

Trench

Costly

The next question for John Hamilton: Where’s the money coming from?

Net Business

AT&T has had plans to build fiber-optic networks in some 100 American cities, a three-year project the company estimated would cost $14 billion. Google Fiber is in the process of wiring up several flyover cities. Google customers in Austin, Texas, for instance, would be able to access a 1GB signal free for seven years — only after they pay a one-time $300 construction fee. Either that or they can pay $70 a month for Internet-only service. Neither option sounds terribly affordable for a minimum wage household.

Perhaps Hamilton hopes to partner with a big outfit like AT&T or Google to hotwire Bloomington.

That brings us back to AT&T’s 100-cities plan: The company has put it on hold because it’s jittery over the upcoming vote on Net Neutrality. Barack Obama last fall came out for NN. The accountants at AT&T, as well as Google and every other corp. that dabbles in Internetery, feel that’s a fate worse than an aircraft carrier-sized asteroid hitting the Earth.

Republican members of the Federal Communications Commission agree with their soulmates from the industry. FCC chair Tom Wheeler has told commissioners to expect a February vote on Net Neutrality. The next FCC meeting is scheduled for February 26. The five-member FCC is comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans so it looks like Net Neutrality will become the real deal at the end of the month.

FCC

Does that mean that the big Internet carriers will stop building fiber-optic networks? Or at least significantly slow down their digging?

If Hamilton hopes to work hand in hand with Google or any other big biz to build a Bloomington network, it looks as though he’ll be sadly disappointed.

And it seems to me the scads of quarters the city is accumulating through its downtown parking meters just won’t cover the cost of such an ambitious project.

Radio, Radio

WFPK-Louisville’s mid-morning DJ Marion Dries says today is World Radio Day. Cool.

NPR’s Morning Edition also made note of the day. In fact, two ME reporters did a cutesy piece on trying to find a simple, traditional radio in this big-assed device day and age. They stumbled and fumbled over expensive and byzantine contraptions until they finally settled on a nice fourteen-dollar transistor radio from Radio Shack.

Woohoo! I’ve got two of them. Swear to god. I’ve had at least one transistor radio in my possession for the last fifty years. Yep. My mother got me a transistor for Christmas, 1964, after months of me hectoring and harassing her for one. That old trickster Ma — she told me repeatedly that getting a transistor was out of the question because they cost too much. She’d call me, alternately, Rockefeller’s son or King Farouk whenever I’d start begging for a radio. She wore me down, I tell you. By that Christmas Eve I was certain I’d never get a transistor.

Then I unwrapped a little gift from her and it turned out to be — you guessed it — a Sears Silvertone transistor in a faux-leather case. I actually screamed with joy.

Radio

Mine Wasn’t Pink But This Is Close Enough

That little radio — it prob. cost no more than four bucks — to this day remains the greatest material gift I’ve ever received. I’d listen to it all night long, using the earphone. It got so I couldn’t fall asleep w/o hearing my music. By the time I was 13 and a junior counselor at Riis Park day camp, I was walking around with my latest transistor seemingly surgically attached to my ear. Matter of fact, one morning I was bopping around the park fieldhouse on a close, sticky, rainy day, the strains of Tommy James and the Shondells’ Crystal Blue Persuasion (still one of my favorite singles of all time) blaring, tinny, from my radio when the chief counselor, Miss Jane, grabbed me by the elbow and hissed, “Would you please turn that goddamned thing off? I’ve been telling you forever!”

I may have turned it down but I’ve never turned it off.

BTW: My mother thought my new transistor was so neat that she bought one for herself. She listened to WIND, which played, much to my horror, stuff like Mantovani, Perry Como, the Lettermen, and the Ray Coniff Singers. I still shudder thinking about it.

On the other hand, she did listen, religiously, to each afternoon’s Cubs game on that little radio. She’d be pounding and kneading bread dough in her oversized, dented, dull silver mixing bowl. The damned thing must have been big enough to fit a large dog inside, yet it hardly had the capacity for her to make enough loaves for my carb-greedy family.

The smell of fresh, raw bread dough hypnotized me, as did Ma’s purely single-minded attention to her task. Her mouth formed a tight, pinched O as she labored over her silver bowl. The little red stepstool upon which she perched it squeaked and moaned with each punch of her fist into the dough — and, believe me, there were hundreds of such punches in a typical breadmaking session. It was the sound and smell of home.

The voices of Cubs radio announcers Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau accompanied her dough ministrations. Ernie Banks would hit a home run and she’d yell “Yay!” without missing a kneading beat. Some hapless Cubs pitcher would give up a home run and she’d blurt, “For chrissakes!” and punch into her dough in real anger.

Need I say I love radio?

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