Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Roaming Alaska

Alaska may be America's Last Frontier, but this is the twenty-first century. "Far" just isn't as far as it used to be, at least in the cities. And Anchorage, while small by Lower 48 standards, is a city.

I was therefore quite expecting that when I turned on my Verizon BlackBerry Storm on my first morning in Anchorage, there would be signal, and there was. The familiar 1xev block appeared, telling me that the 3G CDMA signal we call EVDO was available. But after a few minutes, I was surprised to see that it still appeared exactly that way: lowercase, meaning that while 3G service was available, I wasn't getting it. Verizon, it turns out, doesn't have coverage in Anchorage.

I was roaming.

Once feared for its potential to mean huge per-minute charges, domestic "roaming" is now mostly a novelty concept for customers of major cell phone plans. But my experience reminded me of how precarious the access to data that we assume every day really is. There can be infrastructure, and signal. But sometimes, it's not enough.

Sometimes, despite all of the technology, you're left roaming.

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