Something quite tragic happened in our family home that had a devastating impact on all of our lives. It made us rethink how we interact as a family. It raised questions about the way that we spend time together. It challenged the way that we relax, cook food, listen to music even which rooms we sit in. There was no fire or flood... we lost our Wi-Fi service. For over a week.
The reasons are somewhat irrelevant, many heated words were delivered, promises were broken. To quote Donald Trump it was a 'sad' time. I won't name the provider. I'm not quite finished with them. If that sounds vaguely threatening... then that's entirely intentional. I was raised in the pre-Wi-Fi era so was relatively well-equipped to deal with this traumatic experience. My children however did not have this training.
When given the news that there was no Wi-Fi in the house their first response was: "But, what will we do?" I pointed out that the two oldest both have data plans on their phones so, here's an idea, they could use those. We couldn't listen to radio as we use a Wi-Fi dependent system to pipe tunes around our house. Fortunately, by some miracle of modern science the TV still worked and we had access to the Freeview. Although the children were devastated to find out that they only had 70+ channels.
A key challenge was homework. Most of it is now given via email and projects require online research. This was tricky. Imagine explaining to the teacher that all of your research on the coal mines of Newcastle-under-Lyme was carried out using books. No pictures downloaded, no maps or photos of surly miners. Although we have a printer at home it went on strike due to the lack of Wi-Fi. My daughter observed that one of her friends had her water supply temporarily cut-off due to a leak, but on balance she thought that our lack of Wi-Fi was worse, "Because you can go to the shop and buy water, right?"
When speaking in strong terms, without actually shouting or swearing, with our broadband provider I found out that these days you can also go to the shop to buy Wi-Fi too. Prior to this intense discussion I was completely unaware of this. I duly ran out to the local Currys arriving ten minutes before closing in a panic-stricken state. We work from home, and there's only so much that you can do on your phone. It's not cheap, but it's easy to set up your own MiFi network. Buying 1GB of data makes you view your broadband differently. For a start you don't want to waste it, I started to think of it as leaving a tap running. We would literally logon to the MiFi network do what we had to do as quickly as possible and logoff. The exception to this was my husband who chomped through our first gigabyte in just 24 hours. A top-up of 2GB cost £15, on top of the £35 to buy the device. This enabled us to work as normal during these dark days.
For the children, our home Wi-Fi network is primarily an opportunity for leisure: it means the X-box, YouTube and Instagram. For them the lack of broadband seemed to provide a 2017 version of the dog ate my homework excuse. My husband and I need the internet to enable us to work from home. In theory you could set up in a local coffee shop, but that only works if you can work in that kind of environment. I don't think that customers in our local Starbucks would take kindly to being part of a global conference call on currency hedging strategies. At home not having the ability to listen to the radio in the kitchen or pull up a recipe on the iPad was annoying. The changes that technology has created in our day-to-day living have crept in without us really noticing. For the younger generation it's an integral part of life. Babies are being brought up with tablets at their parent's fingertips ready to sedate them during a thirty minutes car trip. The highlights of our time without broadband were seeing the children make forts out of the sofa cushions (which they haven't done in years), and the excellent customer service at Currys.