Back in 2011, I got married and it was one of the best days of my life. We went on our honeymoon for a week and then we came back to move into our new home. One of the first things I checked was to see if we could get broadband internet. The answer was no. I checked 4 providers and the closest one stopped a few miles down the road.
It was disappointing but I was newly married to my beautiful wife so life was good. I just told myself we would move after around a year and I’d get internet then.
But life has a way of not following your plans.
Living Without Broadband Internet
I ended up living without broadband for 8 years and 11 months.
In the beginning, it was hard not to be able to just look up something on google whenever I wanted to. But around the same time smartphones started to become a bigger thing and I got an android phone. So I had some basic access to information and that was nice.
I ended up being very productive in those early days. My wife worked the night shift so I would sit at home and read books and look up things online. It was during this time I got into building electronics and even built a simple robot. Something I might have never learned if I had the internet to waste my time on.
Later I discovered I could hack my android phone to give me a wireless hotspot! This was super great news. While the internet connection was still slow I at least had something on my laptop now! But shortly after that time, the cell phone carriers started adding bandwidth caps. Ones that kicked in I had to be very careful how much data I used and I was very limited.
As a side note, I want to say that I don’t consider 4G to be broadband. At least not where I live. Bad speeds, high ping times of 700ms, and data caps is why I say this.
Making the most of my bandwidth
It was around this time I started to experiment and learn tricks to maximize my bandwidth.
I set up a squid proxy server that would store a local cache copy of the sites I visited. Then if I had to go back to the site I didn’t have to download the whole page a second time. This worked very well for a while until the whole internet started going to encryption. You see my server could not cache copies of encrypted web content because it could not see it. So over a year or so it became useless and I took it offline.
External hard drives
I got an external hard drive and some big USB drives. Then when I was at a place with good internet I would download things onto them so that I could take them home.
Moving steam games
I learned how to move a steam game from my laptop to my desktop at home. The built-in steam backup was crap. It might be better now. It always wanted to connect to the internet and download a bunch of stuff when I used it. That was not something I could do so freely. But my way seemed to bypass that on most games.
I set up a file server on my network where I could store things I downloaded and used. This way I would not have to download them a second time.
I used youtube-dl to download videos and even whole youtube channels to take home and put on my NAS. Then I used Universal Media Server to stream them to my TV or just played them off the NAS with my computer. It was kind of like I built my own video streaming service haha.
I blocked or throttled network traffic that was not wanted. An example was my wife’s iPhone deciding to do massive backups to iCloud. So iCloud got blocked.
I set up a windows update server so that I only had to download each Windows update 1 time. Then my computers could get an update from that server. Instead of each computer downloading its own copy of the update and wasting tons of data.
Balancing data between SIM cards. (phone, ipad, Cradlepoint)
Sometimes if data got high on my 4G router I would have to turn on my phone hotspot to get something I needed.
I don’t like to block ads because they support sites. But the auto-play video ads were killing me. It was a choice between paying for more data or blocking ads. So the ads got blocked.
My new 4G router
Then at one point, my boss realized the shape I was in and provided me with a 4G router called a Cradlepoint. With this, I could set up a real network and a lab with some windows servers. This was a big help! But I had to be even more careful with bandwidth now. It is a lot easier to go over your cap when multiple devices are involved.
My career development was hindered
If knowledge is power then access to fast internet is a very big advantage in life.
While not having good internet was a boost to my productivity and personal development at first it slowly began to hurt more than help. The world was going more and more online and video content was one of the prime ways of learning and training. Something I just could not take part in.
I attempted some C++ programming classes but quickly fell behind. The same thing happened with other forms of training like my recent Powershell classes. COVID-19 also prevented me from going to other locations to stream.
So while I did learn some stuff my peers who had good internet were always ahead. I sometimes wonder where my career could be today if only I had good internet.
I guess you can say it is kind of hard to be an IT person when you don’t have broadband at home.
But it was not all bad
Not having easy access to everything taught me to be creative when getting information. I also started to read a lot more. Something I never did before I lost the internet. I also learned to appreciate family time and started putting it first in my life. It has helped strengthen my relationships.
I also enjoy times without the distraction of electronics. While most people can’t go a short time without pulling out their phone I’ve noticed that I enjoy thinking and letting my mind wander. Kind of like shower thoughts but at random times during the day when most people would pull out there phone in boredom.
Now I have Broadband!
As of June 19, 2020, I now have good internet! I do not think it is too much to say that not having good internet for 8 years and 11 months has helped shape me into the person I am today. I’ve learned a lot of things and now I can take those lessons and apply them to the next chapter of my life.
It’s still wireless but with this directional antenna I have good speed and unlimited bandwidth!
I am so excited to be able to YouTube a tutorial video anytime I want! I can download a steam game without traveling to another location. We are even getting our first taste of Netflix and other streaming services. It may sound silly but I feel like the luckiest person alive to have a 10Mbps connection to the outside world and no data cap!