Pain in Maine

By Richard Smith

You won’t be hearing much from Yves today:

Traceroute has started…

traceroute to (, 64 hops max, 52 byte packets

1 (  5.882 ms  0.760 ms  0.631 ms

2 (  8.501 ms  15.333 ms  9.936 ms

3 (  9.966 ms  10.767 ms  9.605 ms

4 (  10.250 ms  9.868 ms *

5 (  26.179 ms  25.956 ms  25.944 ms

6 (  32.955 ms *  117.248 ms

7 (  31.811 ms  32.612 ms *

8 (  66.971 ms  77.856 ms  72.333 ms

9  * * *

10  * (  65.129 ms  65.480 ms

No mobile signal either, and the nearest public Wi-Fi is 15 miles away. So much for the relaxing up-country break, methinks. Or maybe it is just a reminder that the expectations nourished by life in the big city are always out of whack with what’s available out in the boonies (or, from Comcast). I remember a wide-eyed ex-Londoner, newly resident in Herefordshire (rural England), commenting on the 30-mile round trip required to stock up on his taramasalata. Feel free to add your own stories of bemused encounters between city and country types in the comments; from either perspective. We have a goodly selection of both, but no civil wars please.

Don’t bother telling me how to fix the timeout problem – that’s for Comcast et al to sort out. I’ll be helping out with the blog as best I can today…

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    1. Dan Friedman

      Returned recently from Maine. Deer Isle had no reception, period. I needed to fill my days with swimming in the pond, kayaking in the ocean, and hiking in the woods. Tough life.

      When my brain demanded it’s stimulation fix, I’d strike up a conversation. Book reading worked, no reception problems there.

  1. bob

    In the united states, as soon as you are more than about 30 miles from a major city, you are screwed.

    This could be a major infrastructure “opportunity”.

    Most people in the US don’t realize how much a real “copper” telephone line can be worth (no voip).

    In my experience, cell phone tower battery back ups die about 1 hour after losing power.

    1. Dirk

      Re the value of copper landlines…

      Land lines often work when the power goes out. Your plug into the wall wireless answering machine goes not.

      AT&T is systematically boycotting any preventative maintenance of same here in SF Bay Area.

      They are at the point of abandoning it UNLESS people scream bloody murder and demand that they maintain service.
      Use the race, shut in, senior and poverty cards and they might just be regulated as it should be.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        Those land lines work by means of batteries in the local switching offices. Straight DC power. (AC would buzz.) Daddy worked for SW Bell back in the 1960’s. He used to give us the discards. Which, of course, were still pretty good. 96 volt dry cells, as I recall.

        And that’s what abandoning copper line means, in practice. In the new cell/fiber optic system, it’s every man for himself. You will note that priority is given to 911. Everybody else is responsible for keeping their own batteries charged. The FiOS in my basement is good for a day or so and that’s it.

        THIS WAS A MAJOR CHANGE THAT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PERMITTED TO HAPPEN. Lives will be lost, probably already have been.

      2. Francois T

        “they might just be regulated as it should be.”

        Excuse me…nothing personal but…ROFLMAO!!!!!

        Sigh! It’s this article this morning that made me laugh at the “regulated” thingie you wrote.

        Which article you ask?
        This one:–its-fixed-by.html

        Congress isn’t broken – it’s fixed by special interests

        Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, in calling for a political donor strike, wasn’t the first and won’t be the last in a line of sensible citizens to observe that Washington isn’t working for the American people.

        With congressional approval ratings near their lowest point on record, and leaders in both parties stubbornly unable to solve the fiscal crisis and start creating jobs, it’s hard not to want to starve all politicians of campaign cash.

        If only We the People could.

        Barely 1 percent of our citizens fund campaigns today. In fact, less than a quarter of 1 percent (0.24 percent) provided 90 percent of campaign money in 2010, with lobbyists and special interests in Washington, D.C., alone accounting for more than 32 states combined.

        In such a system, it is little surprise that members of Congress spend more time raising money from a wealthy few than working with bipartisan colleagues to solve the nation’s fiscal crisis and start creating jobs for the good of all Americans. Indeed, Washington isn’t broken – it’s fixed.

        Americans perfectly understand the principle of private enterprise that you are accountable to your investors. Our children understand when mom and dad pay the bills, they get to call the shots. Yet we consistently fail to apply that same logic to government.

        Our problem today is not a broken government but a beholden one: government is more beholden to special-interest shareholders who fund campaigns than it is to ordinary voters. Like any sound investor, the funders seek nothing more and nothing less than a handsome return – deficits be darned – in the form of tax breaks, subsidies and government contracts.

        Consider what “broken government” in Washington has meant for those who fund campaigns.

        Failure to address the debt crisis means that oil, gas and coal companies will likely continue deducting more than $15 billion a year in government subsidies for royalty relief and a range of tax expenditures that enhance their record profits at taxpayer expense.

        Small matter these supports overwhelmingly benefit a small number of foreign oil-producing companies or that renewables receive a fraction of the amount.

        The $75 million in campaign contributions and $450 million in Washington lobbying supplied by the fossil fuel industries in 2010 provided an estimated return on investment of 35-1.

        Failure to address the debt crisis also means that pharmaceutical companies will likely continue steering clear of bulk purchasing agreements with Medicare (as they have long had to do with Medicaid and Veterans Affairs), thereby protecting monopoly pricing of prescription drugs worth tens of billions per year in company profits.

        Or that trial lawyers will continue to enjoy outsized payouts on medical malpractice claims through the prevention of tort reform – an estimated gain of $6 billion per year. The $145 million in campaign contributions and $521 million in lobbying expenditures by the health care sector in 2010 produced an estimated return on investment of 30-1.

        And it means the top 2 percent of farming corporations continue cashing in on 60 percent of the nation’s $15 billion in agribusinesses subsidies each year, while 62 percent of American farmers received no subsidy at all.

        Small matter that the vast majority of subsidy dollars goes to the production of commodity crops used primarily for animal feed and industry, rather than food, or that agricultural supports were initially conceived as a temporary stop-gap in times of natural disaster.

        Some $58 million in campaign contributions from agribusiness and $121 million in Washington lobbying in 2010 provided a handsome return on investment estimated at 39-1.

        These reforms, and similar ones in areas like federal employment and defense totaling $200 billion per year, are hardly radical or far-fetched. They have been proposed by respected budget experts across the political spectrum – from the Center for American Progress on the left to the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation on the right.

        And they are embraced by large majorities of Americans who see that an investment in Washington influence for those with means is often the best investment money can buy.

        To end this conflict of interest once and for all and begin the long walk back to fiscal balance, we must restore “purchasing power” to the American people by replacing special-interest money in campaigns with broad-based small donations and matching public funds. Fiscal and campaign finance reform must go hand-in-hand.

        As a recent Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain once observed that special-interest influence in Washington is “nothing less than an elaborate influence-peddling scheme in which both parties conspire to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder.”

        In the great American auction for government influence today, the American people are not the highest bidder.

        Daniel Weeks is president of Americans for Campaign Reform, a bipartisan organization chaired by former U.S. Sens. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., Warren Rudman, R-N.H., and Alan Simpson, R-Wyo.

    1. rjs

      land line, no mobile for me as well…& the satellite dish is reliable as long as the backup generator is running…

      when you have less than a dozen people living in a 2 mile radius of your house, you learn to fend for yourself…

  2. Axi

    The Pain in Maine stays mainly in the plain…

    (Sorry for the bad joke, but that’s the first thing that came to mind when i read the title)


  3. ellen Anderson

    It’s a trade-off, isn’t it? The towers and wires and roads that allow us to travel and communicate are not exactly scenic – nor are they cheap. There must have been a lot of people back when they were stringing ugly wires along tree lined streets. I suppose that electricity is so important that most people were willing to put up with most anything to get it.

    Where I live there is bare bones Verizon phone service (no hi speed internet) and no cell phone reception. From time to time ATT sends out some unbelievably incompetent people to try to get a tower up and they can’t figure out how to deal with the locals so they leave. Not enough money in it to send the ‘A’ team I guess. There must be an ‘A’ team, mustn’t there?

    Now POTUS has decided we will all be wired and some entity is trying to cut down a lot of trees on scenic roads to reach the last few houses. I am guessing they are too late but I could be wrong.

    I gave up TV years ago but I do have internet via satellite which is OK (involves ugly dish that fills up with snow in the winter.) For high speed internet I can always ride my bike to the center of town for a cup of tea with neighbors and wifi at the library or town hall. It seems OK to me. I do miss being able to follow some of the links to videos that are posted here.

    Some internet sites are now embedding little videos that play automatically and use up the limited bank width provided by satellite. That is a problem for the country mice!

      1. ellen Anderson

        Thanks so much for the advice – I am going to follow it and pass it along to the other two people on my LAN. We are mac users. Until recently we haven’t worried much about spyware but recently there have been some odd slow-downs of satellite service and drawdowns of bandwidth that Hughesnet troubleshooting says are the result of malware or spyware. I have firefox but use Safari just because i always have.
        (I think that the adds and videos – and there are now plenty on Naked Capitalism – are doing it rather than some evil demon.)
        We have thought of doing MANET as a neighborhood but we would have to start with a Verizon connection and have heard that it is illegal.

        1. ellen anderson

          Tried it and could not install it for the following reason (OMG I remember this hateful font – could it be Courier?)

          “Adblock Plus 1.3.9 could not be installed because it is not compatible with Firefox 3.0.19.”

          3.0.19 is the version I am running. Perhaps there is an upgrade? I thought I was up to date. I will try “noscript.”

  4. hondje

    I don’t think he was wide-eyed about going a whole 15 miles, I think he was wide-eyed someone would ‘stock up on taramasalada’ I hope you didn’t drive the su-baaar-oo :P

    /flame off

  5. Flying Kiwi

    Here in a remote, mountainous part of New Zealand where dial-up peaked at 2.4kbps downhill with the wind behind it (as long as there were no electric fences switched on and no-one else was using the line) it was obvious that no commercial provider was ever going to move in even with the Government hand-outs, so we yokels formed a non-profit community association and built our own wireless network linked to a nearby town (finding out for ourselves how to do it). As a result we have what is probably the cheapest broadband in NZ which is faster than most commercial offerings, and a completely free local intranet.

    We’re now looking at setting up our own local generation and retriculation network using individual hydro and wind plants to replace the overloaded and unreliable supply that comes in from outside.

    21st Century technology with 18th Century community thinking. The future?

    1. Anon

      Fantastic! Do you have a community website?

      I’ve heard of Manets, but no idea how widely used they are, nor how easy to implement. I suspect they’re going to become more popular, though, since as you say, there’s no profit in it for the big telcos.

      (And similarly, an Irish friend who was living in Spain for a while had the darnedest time trying to get Amazon to deliver books even a few tens of miles outside the nearest city center – in short, they wouldn’t. Privatizing postal services is bad news, people, it is a public good that for remote areas cannot be run at a profit.)

      Here’s a paper from 2002 about the possible use of a Manet in mountain rescue. Very poetic it is, too:

      The independent search parties that a mountain search and rescue mission includes can be envisaged as mobile ad-hoc networks (Manets) that move independently to cover a geographical area whilst searching for the casualty. The rescuers of each party can be seen as the leaf nodes of these Manets that are relatively immobile in respect to one another. The mountain rescue network provides connectivity among the devices within a Manet (i.e. among rescuers), and from the Manets back to the HQ primarily with a wireless network that combines both short and long range wireless hotspots.

      So to Yves, marooned in the boondocks – just think of yourself as a leaf node-in-waiting. The tech just needs to be cranked up a notch, but as our kiwi friend here says, don’t expect market forces to do it.

  6. Chris in Dover-FFoxcroft

    Yves, Aren’t you supposed to be on vacation? If you really need high speed Internet, you are more than welcome to come up to Dover-Foxcroft (Maine). We have good high speed Internet, on which we follow you faithfully. We miss you, but enjoy your vacation!

  7. Sean Fernyhough

    I remember my first night in the country here in England (a cottage with no near neighbours in Swaledale, Yorkshire)I could hear hedgehogs breathing in the garden.

    That’s quiet.

  8. Dave of Maryland

    I thought Yves was uncharacteristically naive about the economic and political consequences of the hurricane, which may be vast.

    She was also naive about the storm itself. She went from a reasonably well-protected area – New York City itself – into one that was dead in line with the storm and that was completely unprepared and largely undeveloped. Out here in the ‘burbs of Baltimore, I was prepared for a week with no power, but was fortunate. Many of my immediate neighbors were not.

    If Yves was that silly, I wouldn’t simply presume she’s all right. There are issues of food and water. She’s an important person, she needs to be found.

    1. lambert strether

      Actually, Bosto– er, Portland was not dead in line with the storm; the tracking had Irene going inland from landfall in NC forward. And since I’m also in Maine, I was watching it with great concern. In the event, Irene ended up farther west even then predicted.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        It makes no difference where the exact track was. This is a case of the dog that didn’t bark.

        If Yves was okay, then she would be on-line. If Yves was okay, she would have checked in herself. With a land line, if necessary. She has not done so? Presumably because she can’t.

        Here in Maryland people were sleepwalking. Just didn’t take it seriously. I imagine it was worse in New England, where hurricanes are unimagined. Turns out, in my neck of the woods, people came through basically okay.

        Presuming Yves went to the mountains, it’s anybody’s guess. Cell service in rural mountain areas is spotty at best. Innocent looking streams can quickly turn into torrents, can knock down that one overhead line that carries power & phones, etc. Can block roads & strand people. Mountains both isolate and intensify. This is what natural disasters are all about.

        Right now, we simply do not know what the damage from Irene may be. Up in New England we won’t know for another day or so.

        1. liberal

          “Here in Maryland people were sleepwalking.”

          In what sense? I live in Mont Co. Had a very small roof leak; roofer was supposed to come today (Mon), and once the hurricane threat became real, I “tarped” that roof.

          In terms of power, nothing to do but hope the inevitable Pepco outtage lasted just a couple days instead of ten. Turns out through some miracle of God or something we didn’t lose power, though about 20% of the county did. PG was worse it appears; probably cuz it was closer to Irene.

          1. Dave of Maryland

            We are on a well. Lots of folks out this way are. With Isabelle in 2003 we were on city water in a new development. Power was out 30 minutes. Friends living less than a mile away, in a new development, took a week to get power back.

            In this house, back in 2006, there was an intense rain (no wind) that knocked out power for two days. Yes, Hurricanes Hardly Happen in Harford County, but when they do, the consequences can be dire. The county just phoned to say that some traffic lights are still out, and it’s been near 36 hours since the rain stopped. Here at the house we’re still plagued with the drone of a gas/diesel sump pump. Just now two BGE (electric utility) trucks drove up to our neighbor’s house. Presumably, we have power, but he does not?

    2. Yves Smith


      Thanks for your concern (I am now at a Startbucks in Brunswick), but if you read the traceroute, you can see the big lags (hops of more than 10 mpbs) are INTERNAL TO COMCAST.

      This means they didn’t bother investing in adequate routing/redundancy re their own signal. And they are in Maine (no power outages here) and Boston (none as of when the traceroute was done).

      This is an incompetent technology operator meets higher than usual traffic plus perhaps some rerouting due to effects of loss of a few servers on their system.

      My webhost says 90% of the connectivity problems they encounter are Comcast.

      1. bob

        Comcast, as with most CABLE systems, is built to BROADCAST.

        They don’t like sharing their bandwidth, if they even have it.

        Be able to send 3 or 4 more Movies on Demand ($5 a pop), or let people who paid for internet service get through?

        Comcast is a giant mess as with most of the other cable based internet systems close behind. They were never meant to handle 2 way traffic, and in situations where IP traffic comes up against TV viewers, the TV viewer always wins.

  9. financial matters

    Costa Rica doesn’t have much concrete but really helps with keeping the forests and wildlife happy. And great food.

  10. Henry L

    Just an example of how e-service can affect economic decisions: Daughter decided to move her business from semi-rural NC to rural SC thereby eliminating some restrictive ordinances that threatened viability. Went so far as to buy 30 acres with no utiliies (wanted isolation) and began site prep. Then the kids came down and discovered no broadband, no cell coverage, true isolation! “Whoa we’re not living down there,” they say, so relo. is off for now.

  11. Birch

    To quote Richard from the other post: “There’s still too much room to argue about whether it’s liquidity or solvency, and about who should end up holding the bag, et cetera. Round and round it goes.”

    In my experience living on the margins of North America you can get cut off for a while; and when you get reconnected, very rarely has anything changed or even happened that is as noteworthy as whatever you did when you were cut off.

    I hope Yves is able to take this as a sign that it’s time to have a little holiday for real. I hope the weather isn’t so bad that she can’t enjoy it.

  12. Marley

    Yep, the “no mobile” is a killer. A newer smartphone can double as a WiFi hotspot, but having once found myself “Mobile-less in Maine”, I can sympathize. My your traceroutes soon reflect sub 25ms roundtrips.

  13. Aquifer

    Good heavens, whatever DID we do before wireless and the internet ….. How did we EVER survive! :))

  14. fcc

    We still maintain a copper land line her in Ma, and I use my fathers clip-on rotary test handset to dial out when the power is down (which given our 1k ft wooded driveway is about 6 times a year).

    Wife just called, power company trucks are here!

  15. Martskers

    Copper land lines are fine, until they’re brought
    down by the same falling trees that bring down
    electric power lines.

    That happened to us a month or so ago when one
    of our neighbors’ huge tree limbs brought down
    both power and phone lines.

    The power was restored in 36 hours, but AT&T took
    THREE DAYS to restore our phone service. Thank
    goodness for our cell phones.

  16. Learning something new every day

    Some of my best times and vacations were
    days spent in areas where there was a
    complete lack of connection for cell
    phones, television or internet. It
    feels good to relax and wind down
    without phones ringing, televisions blaring
    etc. etc.

    If you are anywhere near Warren, Maine,
    may I suggest visiting the Maine State
    Prison Showroom. The prisoners build
    beautiful wooden carved ships, jewelry
    boxes, and many other items. The
    craftmanship was quite good and the items
    are for sale. I was impressed by their
    work. Maine is a beautiful state.

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