Wi-fi when you can rent?

Dave Ferry

If you’ve lived in Warren your whole life, it might seem like nothing much ever changes. For me, it wasn’t until the first time I went away for an extended period was I able to notice when things were a little different when I came back.

I first experienced this when the old brick buildings on the corner of Pennsylvania and Market Street were removed where the CVS stands now. Years later it was the big, blue parking garage. Little things, big things…Life goes on.

Whether the change is good or bad, what’s just important is the things that stay the same.

Take Family Video for instance.

I first drove past the store on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few days before Josh Cotton’s write-up about the famously bad internet service in rural America.

At first glance, I thought it was closed, like KFC. I briefly thought maybe it’s a museum of 90’s nostalgia like in Back to the Future II.

I won’t lie, I found myself yearning for the days of spending 30 minutes or more of a Friday night out browsing the new releases, only to discover the movie I’ve waited 6 months to see because I didn’t make it to the theater isn’t available because literally, everyone got there before me.

Admittedly, the yearning was not strong enough to actually do that ever again. But I felt it, and it was real.

I grew up on 957 in Farmington township. We always used antennas. We watched Buffalo news and PBS.

Cable still is not a thing in the region that is smack dab in the middle of Warren and Jamestown, N.Y. Back then, Russell had 2(!) video stores.

Primestar, DirecTV, Dish, they made it a little better.

Eventually, I would experience what the internet is somewhere where this isn’t as much of an issue.

Long before there was “Netflix and chill”, there was only ‘buffering and angst’. There might be someone out there who is buffering right now. But, I wouldn’t blame anyone who would rather drive to the video store. You just pray the DVD you take home doesn’t have a microscopic scratch on it that freezes on the screen after the first ten minutes.

Whether you are affected by poor broadband strength or not, the question is why it’s a problem in one of the most developed countries on planet earth. I’m sure there are a lot of practical reasons, the sheer size of the country being one possible obstacle.

Maybe it’s being worked on by someone? Maybe no one cares?

But when you consider that there’s a franchise whose business model hinges mostly on things staying the way they are, it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine there may be more than one or two entities whose interests oppose better broadband for one reason or another. That’s not some kind of conspiracy theory, it’s just the way things work. If it were any other way we would have flying cars by now.

If that is the case, I say rock on.

There’s a big market for nostalgia these days, and there’s nothing more nostalgic than the sound of a dial-up modem. If you’re looking for business ideas, how about an old-fashioned internet cafe with AOL? Watch movies in 1 inch by 2 windows that are so pixelated you can’t make anything out. And that’s IF it ever actually finished downloading.

How about a video store that only rents VHS tapes? Teach the youngsters a thing or two about patience while they wait for movies to finish rewinding.

Turn Warren County into the Colonial Williamsburg of flip phones, fax machines and track feed printers. Let’s get crazy.

The truth is, this is America. We will always want those places we can go and get away from it all.

Maybe when getting away from it all gets in the way of prosperity we will be ready to rethink a few things.

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