Please hold.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

I spent some time the past couple of days trying to troubleshoot my rural Michigan neighbors’ cell phone plan(s), which have been offering them marginally OK ways of making phone calls, but as far as data, they’ve been trapped by two gotchas that affect rural LTE data customers.

One is that many plans “deprioritize” your data usage immediately or after a certain amount of so-called “unlimited” data is consumed. That means everyone else with..ah..undeprioritized data gets the first crack at occasionally overburdened cell towers.

“Occasionally overburdened.” Well, that’s not really the situation when you have a touristy town in the Upper Peninsula that attracts a lot of cell phone toting people from downstate or from states even more distant. So calling up even the simplest web page takes minutes, not nanoseconds. That’s especially true when most of these people are sucking their data from one particular cell tower, because that’s the only one nearby. (That’s the very tower of which I speak, pictured above, next to all those fine logos.)

So I think we got our dear friends on a plan where both their devices are at the front of the line, data-wise. It doesn’t guarantee that things won’t get slammed, but the odds are better, and they aren’t paying premium prices for mediocrity. And because of the pandemic, the telecom workers we had to talk to are working from their homes (one guys says he understands this may be permanent) and there are fewer of them, and, well, a process that might in better times have taken ten minutes took closer to two hours, most of it filled with the kind of hold music that makes you want to do physical harm to your device.

So, better data! But you never know. And in a snowstorm or some sort of other weather event, well, the signals getting from point a to point b here are always a bit of a tech miracle.