Playing With Fiber

High speed fiber cable networks. The phrase resounds everywhere these days, as ubiquitous as TV screens in taxicabs, as talismanic as the Google maps icon on our iPhone. Has anyone stopped to consider the implications of this technological mantra, high speed fiber cable: what it means to exchange our familiar wire communications system for cables filled with fiber?

Isn’t it enough that fiber has already infiltrated our familiar American diet: that leafy green vegetables occupy plates once heaping with steak, eye of the round and rack of lamb; that tofu and yogurt have replaced honest dairy products like crème de menthe parfaits and banana splits with extra whipped cream and a cherry on top; that warm, friendly rashers of bacon and mounds of rich, multi-colored sausage have given way to alien puddings of legume and wan, sprout-covered bagels? Do we really want the same thing to happen to our telecommunications system? Do we really want the goody-goody fibers that fill the Tupperware containers in the depths of our refrigerators traveling across the continent at high speeds to invade our telecommunications devices?

Consider whether one would feel truly secure dialing 911 for an ambulance for one’s heart attack after sneaking a nineteen ounce Delmonico for a midnight snack if one knew one was desperately seeking succor through miles of cable strung with berries and ginseng. One could scarcely rest assured that reliable, beefy policemen and ambulance personnel eating submarine sandwiches would show up at one’s door sporting squawky, unintelligible walkie talkies. Picture instead Peter, Paul and Mary wishing you a nice day, singing Puff the Magic Dragon with your children, and boiling you some herb tea — without a dollop of rum or even sugar.

Turn off those answering machines and wake up, America. This fiberized cable plot is every bit as insidious as the fluoridation of our drinking water in the fifties. We know only too well the results of that Communist plot: our teeth were strengthened and our cavities reduced, permitting dentists to develop ever newer, ever more painful, ever more expensive forms of orthodontics and gum surgery. But what dentists do to our teeth with their whining apparatus will be as nothing compared to what miles of whining, high speed linguini will do to our eyes and our ears.

Surely Alexander Graham Bell and our founding fathers never envisioned a nation reliant on hundreds of thousands of miles of wires full of kale and five-grained rice. Reflect on the reliability of such a system. One heavy rain, and even the simplest efforts to communicate will be swallowed up in transcontinental mounds of mushy risotto. Reflect on the security of such a system. Not just J. Edgar Hoover in drag, but anyone with a pasta or bread maker, could be listening in.

Nor does this conspiracy to replace dependable, strip-mined copper with fiber plucked from wildflowers on picturesque mountainsides pertain to conventional telephony alone. Rather, it will affect even that most quintessential American form of communication, television. Is there likely to be a place for NASCAR races in a distribution system based on pellets of gorp and soybeans? How many episodes of extreme cage fighting will make their way to your plasma screen through millions of intervening granola bars? No, we’re talking innumerable documentaries and more PBS fund raisers than there are stars in the summer sky.

Let’s use our ingenuity along with our Chinese-designed and Japanese-made iPhones and iPads to get back to doing the things America does really well: playing the lottery, watching Oprah and using our rusting but tried and true infrastructure to order tried, true and fiber-deficient but utterly delicious fat-filled foods to go.

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