1226: Balloon Internet

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Balloon Internet
I run a business selling rural internet access. My infrastructure consists of a bunch of Verizon wifi hotspots that I sign up for and then cancel at the end of the 14-day return period.
Title text: I run a business selling rural internet access. My infrastructure consists of a bunch of Verizon wifi hotspots that I sign up for and then cancel at the end of the 14-day return period.


The comic references Google's Project Loon, a balloon powered Internet service which was officially announced June 14, 2013 (3 days before this comic was published) and was in proof-of-concept testing stages by that time. A test above New Zealand, involving about 30 balloons and about 50 users, was successfully conducted on June 16. The project, taglined "Internet for Everyone", was intended to eventually provide Internet access to people in rural areas and in disaster areas that have limited or no access to land-based Internet services. As of 2019 Loon LLC was an individual Google subsidiary instead of a mere project and was present in multiple places across the world for either Internet in rural areas, full coverage of a country or disaster relief.

In March of 2021, Alphabet, Google's parent company, announced the closure of Loon, LLC.

Randall is poking fun at the tagline "Internet for Everyone" — meant to mean anyone could have Internet access regardless of location — by instead literally bringing the Internet to Cueball, who sits in a deserted area, away from all technology, to read a standard paper book. In the comic, one of the balloons sneaks up on Cueball before speaking and startling Cueball, effectively becoming a nuisance, interrupting Cueball's reading of a book and leaving Cueball wondering what has happened. In Randall's world, the tagline could be restated as "Internet for Everyone — whether they want it or not".

The title text describes Randall's own plan to provide rural internet. He will operate in a region where Verizon cellular data service already exists, and take advantage of their 14-day return policy to effectively obtain internet access for free, which he will then sell under his own brand.


[Cueball sits on a hill reading a book.]
[Cueball remains engrossed in the book. A balloon with a box at the end of the string begins to descend behind him.]
[Cueball continues reading. The balloon is getting lower.]
[The balloon's box is now right behind Cueball's ear.]
Balloon box: Internet.
Cueball: Augh!
[Cueball throws the book in surprise.]
[The balloon ascends rapidly, while the startled Cueball looks up.]

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Does the action take place in a desert ? Compare scenery with http://wikilivres.ca/wiki/File:Petit_Prince_etoile.jpg . Is Cueball reading The Little Prince ? See comics #618, #2 and what-if article leap seconds if you doubt that The Little Prince occupies a good share of Randall's mind. MGitsfullofsheep (talk) 08:34, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

The original articles about the project have also seen some comments from people who see this sort of thing as an intrusion into the last areas which are supposed to be a refuge from global connectability - much like cell phones have been decried by those accustomed to be able to elude attempts to be contacted when not around a fixed telephone. I think this may have similar overtones - a general idea that some areas are _supposed_ to be secluded like that. Only a guess though... -- 09:18, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
There's a comparison to be made between being in signal range for mobile phones but deliberately not carrying one (or turning the one you have off for the duration) and being now within reach of the Internet but again with deliberate non-connection to this. (On one hand I accidentally (genuinely accidentally) forgot my mobile yesterday, when I went out, and missed four calls. Or one call re-attempted three times. I'm also in a '4G' area for mobile internet, but I quite deliberately have a phone that doesn't have any browsing capability at all, so I'm swimming in 4G access but 'happily' unaffected even when I don't forget (or 'forget') my phone.) Arguably there's far more benefits for having the potential of connectivity (so long as you make it universally possible and not Rich Boys' Toys-enabled only, which is already the case) than deliberately making areas of the planet 'dark' to such things just to reinforce some select people's 'spiritual abstinence' from such 'fripperies'. Implementation is the key to this blanket equality (or "raising to the common good"), of course. 12:35, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
I was going to say just this in a much less eloquent way. Thank you. 22:13, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

There is a visual ambiguity as if the balloon is big and far (big enough to carry a person), or small and close. First, transmission balloons are not meant to carry a person, only a small box containing electronic equipment. The balloon is not shouting (no exclamation mark), rather speaking at normal level. If the balloon was big and far, speaking normally, Cueball would not have startled and cried out "Augh!". So the balloon must be small and close, e.g. distance between observer and balloon is same as distance between observer and Cueball. MGitsfullofsheep (talk) 10:07, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

The mouseover text describes a plan to sell wireless access by putting Verizon wireless hotspots on balloons, then cancelling their subscriptions. This would be twice a ripoff. First, in places within signal range of a Verizon tower there is no need for something like Project Loon; the whole point is to deliver Internet access to places that do not have it now. Second, cancelling their subscriptions will mean after the intitial trial period the service won't work anymore. 11:04, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

I believe that the 'scheme' is to immediately replace cancelled Verizon hotspots with new (temporary) Verizon hotspots, being refunded (or never charged) continually in order to rip off Verizon (for as long as they don't get suspicious, in their Contracts department, at least) and provide no-cost broadcasting. The geographic limitation applies, of course, unless (by clever manipulation of location-based demand for the service, not even hinted at by the text concerned) you encourage Verizon's catchment areas to spread outwards and over previously unserviced areas with the extra infrastructure they might install. Brinksmanship at its finest, though, if you get that working... 12:35, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

My interpretation is that the balloon is "spying" at cueball, and when he notice that, the balloon says "Internet" a clear reference to Google involvement in the Obama's Watergate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs).

A bit off on a tangent to talk about Obama here...-- 00:11, 18 June 2013 (UTC)
Forget Obama then; still, the NSA has taken mass records of people's communications through Google (and other providers), which should make any good liberal suspicious. Why shouldn't Randall make a comment about that? —TobyBartels (talk) 21:45, 18 June 2013 (UTC)
My two cents: Obama killed Osama, but this comic is just Goooogle, Verizon and maybe Big Brother by companies. There is nothing referring to NSA or something similar.--Dgbrt (talk) 21:56, 18 June 2013 (UTC)