Words of Wisdom: Dirt Roads & Super Highways

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Contributing Editor Walt Pickut
Contributing Editor Walt Pickut

Letters sent through the US Mail take a day or two — maybe three —to get where they are going. But “overnight” still means overnight and special delivery still means just that. That’s not bad. Yet we call it “snail mail.”

Think so? Consider these:

  • On the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, overnight and special delivery into and out of the country have been reported to take up to six months. Some people there get Christmas cards in June from the previous year. That’s fail mail.
  • A March 2019 report by Classic Latin America records that Serpost of Peru is very slow. A letter sent from Peru to India via registered mail took more than 45 days to arrive. That’s stale mail.
  • In some parts of the world mail is delivered by dogsled, reindeer, and camels, but only when they can, Nobody makes promises. That’s trail mail.
    I’ll take our snail-mail for anything I decide to lick a stamp to send. It’s not that bad, after all.

But even in the good old USA, delivery can be hard. While some mail flies across country in five hours at 600 mph, and some mail speeds from city to city within a day at 60 mph, some mail still has to make its way over high mountain passes, through the countryside, and over dusty old dirt roads.

So here’s my point: highways are fast and dirt roads are slow, but nothing beats the Internet for speed—even at its worst. The Internet, however, has dirt roads and highways of its own. Internet dirt roads are called “dial-up Internet.”

And believe it or not, though it is now almost obsolete in American cities, dial-up still goes where the old roads and single lane highways go—it goes out to the rural countryside. That’s why country folk simply can’t get computers to run right. And, in fact, major portions of the Jamestown Gazette’s rural readership do not even have dial-up Internet service available. In the 21st century, it’s almost as old fashioned as living without electricity.

That’s hard for the farmers, the rural folks who like country life, and even doctors and professionals who live out of town and really need to do business faster than a buggy on an old dirt road.
Fortunately, the Internet has highways, too. That’s why guest cover story writer, Nick Ditonto, and this week’s Jamestown Gazette are telling our readers about projects now underway to build a faster “Internet Highway” out into the rural areas of our region. Internet service providers in our rural areas are expanding their services.

That highway is called Broadband Service, or high-speed Internet. It is always on, it carries multiple signals and types of traffic all at once, and it is way faster than dial-up. Broadband is a broad highway—high speed, room for thousands of messages to travel all at once, and coming soon, an onramp in every rural home.

And all of that comes in three different speeds: fast, faster, and fastest. Fast broadband Internet is called DSL (Digital Subscriber Line). Even faster is Cable Internet. The fastest Internet superhighways are fiber-optic lines.

So even if US Mail snail mail is just fine sometimes, snail-speed dial-up Internet is not. Let’s support every effort, government and commercial, to hit the Internet highway.

Enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.