The past two weeks have not been good for a lot of cellphone users and wireless broadband internet subscribers in Lianga.
Constantly plagued by poor signal coverage or no signal at all, many cellphone users are wondering if Smart Communications, Inc. is actually doing anything to address whatever technical or equipment problems their cell sites in our area are suffering from. And since the same wireless communications company is the sole provider of wireless broadband internet access to the computer users in town, SmartBro subscribers, angered by intermittent disruptions in their internet access, are also asking the same question.
At this time, some degree of normalcy has been restored to Smart's wireless services but the situation underscores how much wireless communications have become so part of the present day lives of Filipinos, even those living in a remote and rural town like Lianga.
Just a couple of years ago, cellphones were, for the local people, exotic and highly advanced technology that had no relevance in their daily lives. Internet access for the then handful of computer users in the area was just a pipe dream.
The changes wrought about in the lifestyles of the town residents by the advent of wireless communications have simply been astonishing. Almost half of the local population have cell phones and even more than that have, at least, access to one. The number of computer users with internet access have also increased dramatically ever since Smart first offered the wireless broadband service locally just half a year ago.
Of course, the more advanced wireless devices like PDA's, BlackBerrys, palmtop computers and their counterparts could not yet be seen in the streets of the town but as the area's wireless communication services are upgraded, I have no doubt that some of these devices may yet soon be usable in Lianga in the near future. That is if indeed there may be any use for them at all in such a rural and remote setting.
This increasing reliance on new technology, however, means that when such technology malfunctions or delivers less than reliable service, the disruptions in the lives of those who have become dependent on the miracles and conveniences it provides can be frustrating if not, in many cases, costly. Especially those whose lives and livelihoods may have become reliant on the services provided by modern telecommunications.
Some days ago when the cell site signal died and my cell phone and computer became merely useless pieces of electronic hardware, I raved and ranted with with anger and frustration like many of the other affected and disgruntled souls in Lianga. But life does go on and as the hours passed I learned again to live, at least temporarily, without the bewitching attractions of the array of electronic wonders that are supposed to make life more fun and fulfilling as well as efficient in the 21st century.
I look a walk, spent time reading again my favorite books, enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine and the sea breeze in the backyard of the house. To my surprise, I enjoyed the brief respite. Being "unplugged" does have its own attractions. Perhaps the situation was just what the doctor would prescribe; a vacation away from the temptations of life in the midst of the digital web.
But suddenly, more than a day later after falling silent, like a devil out of Pandora's box, the sound of the cell phone ringing broke the peace as the once inert cell site sprung back to life and I, like the thousands of others in Lianga, were, once again, thrust back into the intoxicating clutches of the digital "matrix".
Downtime is over. Back to life in the 21st century. That is until the whole thing breaks down again and again and again.