The Internet Runs on Gasoline

We lost power at 10pm on Monday evening.  My generator kicked on quickly, and the cable and internet (both Comcast ($CMCSA: no positions) continued to work.   My wife and I went to bed shortly thereafter.  Tuesday morning we awoke to the ultimate horror:  NO INTERNET!   After eating breakfast, I did what anyone with no cable and no internet (and no job) would do: I went back to bed for 3 hours.   When I woke again, the internet had magically returned!

I explained this sequence of events to a neighbor who came over to hang out last night.   This neighbor happens to work for Comcast, and knows all sorts of fascinating stuff about the cable system that I don’t know.    I was somehow under the impression that as long as the cable line was up, undamaged, that I could get cable in my home as long as I had my own power.   Not true, obviously – the cable signal is powered.  Something about electrons or some crap like that*.

The reason the cable/internet continued to work after the power went out is that the external (on the pole) cable “boxes” have batteries in them – like an uninterruptible power supply – that last for a little while.    So why did I get internet back on Tuesday morning?  Get this – Comcast comes and drops a little generator at the base of a telephone pole, and fires it up!  I actually went out and found the one for my neighborhood: it looks like the kind of thing you’d use to power some flood lights or something: it’s a teeny little Honda pull-to-start generator, powered by gas!

This is friggin’ *amazing* to me.   I can literally count the number of houses that will be receiving cable and internet as a result of this effort.  Hold on… let me count them…It’s about fifteen houses.   Comcast comes and drops a gas-powered generator so that 15 houses can have cable and internet.  Do they do this all over New Hampshire and other places as well?  Is it just because my neighbor gets us VIP treatment (I seriously doubt it)?

Now, while my neighbor was hanging out at our house yesterday evening (7:30pm), the cable/internet died again.   Why?  The generator ran out of fuel!   By this morning when I woke up, apparently Comcast had dispatched a roving band of generator-fillers, because it was back up and running and my cable and internet was humming normally.

And that, dear readers, is why I titled this post “The Internet Runs on Gasoline.”

I find this to be quite a remarkable “fix” on Comcast’s part.


* Yes – that was sarcasm – but it’s interesting to think about how cable is different from old copper wire land-line phones, which DO work when the power goes out… The phone lines require much less power, which can be pushed for long distances.   Cable can’t do that because it needs more power.

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