How much of our lives revolve around the internet?

Two days ago when I woke up in the morning, after all the chores and usual morning exercises, I dutifully switched on the laptop. The internet speed was snail pace at first, then it drop to a crawl and virtually “died” within 5 minutes.

At first I thought it must have been my broadband router playing. After switching off and on, reset, reboot etc. access to the internet was still sporadic, all these while we could get our phone and IPTV services (which are tied to the broadband fibre optic from the ISP).

Then my son announced that he accessed his twitter account on his smartphone and found out that the main ISP in Malaysia which we subscribe to has suffered some issues on its DNS servers. Apparently the whole of Malaysia where this ISP is the main player was experiencing interruption in internet access.

For 4 hours I was only relying on my mobile internet to access my usual diet of information, emails etc. But I was not able to write much, which I usually do. Worse, I wanted to accessCoursera to take my MOOC class on “Genes and human condition” where some work/quizes were due. Although I have 5 Gb data plan from my mobile telephony service provider, tried as I had, taking a MOOC class using the Android apps from Coursera was not an enjoyable experience. I realised that I was suffering from withdrawal syndrome of “internet access denial”, albeit partially as I still had my mobile data to do at least some “minor” work.

A few things that I can conclude from this:

  1. Our lives today is inextricably tied to the internet. A lot of work and business transactions cannot be carried out adequately without internet access.

  2. There is still a place for the PC/laptop for work despite the advances in mobile internet and tablet/smartphone technology. You just can’t type or interact well on a tablet, especially if you want to take your MOOC classes. Try doing all those image editing on your smart phone and then export it to your blog, you will know what I mean.

  3. It pays to have a back up in the form of mobile data access. But if these mobile ISP are tied somehow (the last mile syndrome?) to the country’s main ISP and if this ISP is suffering an outage, you are done. However, at least in Malaysia there are a few mobile ISP to choose from and access is usually not excessively costly.

This brings me to another point, since I rely so much on the broadband to do my work, why am I subscribing to a 5Gb mobile data package and using less than 1 Gb of it each month? It is about time I review this and when the contract ends, I should switch to a cheaper data plan!

Footnote: This article is contributed by Dr. YN Chow. It is also published on Linkedin.

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