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History of electrical access may provide answers about how Internet access and costs might evolve

By John Dykers
Posted Saturday, February 1, 2014

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Siler City, NC - Taylor Kish asked real questions about internet access and costs and how they might evolve. We have a century plus of history of electrical access to apply to this question.

Start with DC (direct current) vs AC (alternating current) and the battle between Edison (DC) and Westinghouse/Tesler (AC) for the dominant position in the market. Electric companies sprouted up wherever they had enough customers wanting to replace gaslites to be profitable. Some were run by municipalities and still are. In various parts of the world there are state run electricity providers. There may even still be some that are DC. The first time I went to Europe in the 1950's I had to carry a converter to be able to use my electric razor in some places.

My neighborhood near Siler City did not have electricity at all until after WW II when REA (rural electrification administration) was enacted as federal facilitative legislation for rural electrical cooperatives to serve areas with more widely spread customers that private companies thought cost too much in line construction and maintenance to be profitable at the rates they were allowed to charge. (Price is always an interplay between supply and demand and competition for the money paid.) CEMCO is my current provider, Central Electric Membership Cooperative, and they buy power wholesale from CP&L/Progress Energy/Duke Power, all of which operate now as "regulated utilities". (Having a monopoly is much more cost effective than running parallel power lines necessary for competition, but the monopoly would be too powerful for such a vital service without government/public restraint. The 'restraint' is sometimes 'strained' by the power of big corporate influence on the public officials responsible for such 'restraint', a current concern about the Duke/Progress Energy merger.)

I am the last customer on the end of the power line from my area of CEMCO! But they have consistently done well in maintaining and restoring power after an outage, BUT one of my first major investments to live here was a generator and switch (the switch cost as much as the generator in the 1960's and was needed so as NOT to send electricity back out the lines and kill the repairmen!) and I would not be without my generator to this day, but don't produce enough kilowatts to run the electric hot water heater, so turn it off when the power is out, but can pump water and keep freezer from thawing, and run the furnace.

That may change if photovoltaic solar cells become less expensive and battery storage becomes adequate to reliably be 'off the grid'. I have friends who lived near Liberty and installed a big diesel generator so they could permanently be 'off the grid'. Maintenance of the generator proved too costly and they returned to the grid!

Leapfrogging internet access with cell phones may either discourage line companies from seeking rural customers OR encourage them to risk capital investment to secure customers before the frog leaps. Some "Third World" spots have solar panel electricity and wireless internet that puts Century Link to shame, but old me is happy that Century Link put in lines in my area 3 miles east of Siler City, and I can get email with internet and You Tube, etc.. I don't play "games" so may not realize the inadequacies of my access and can't tell you how many terabytes per millisecond are transmitted. Note even my simple uses are sometimes 'slow' and I occasionally get impatient and click again when all I need is to wait another second or two!

You smart and knowledgeable Chatlisters can apply the needs of internet access to the history of electricity access, and rationally address the questions raised by Taylor Kish.

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History of electrical access may provide answers about how Internet access and costs might evolve

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