The Humboldt Broadbandit
Five times in recent months, someone has cut the fiber-optic cable that brings the internet and phone service to thousands of Suddenlink subscribers in Humboldt County. Currently, the company is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the joker responsible for this vandalism. Every time he, or she I suppose, snips the light pipe, it costs Suddenlink at least $10, 000 to repair it, so the Humboldt Broadbandit has set the company back at least $50,000 so far, and they’re willing to put up half again that much just to put him, or her, out of commission for a while.
Considering how full our jail system is these days, however, it’s kind of doubtful that the Humboldt Broadbandit would do much time. We have too many murderers, wife beaters, and armed robbers here in Humboldt County, and thanks to prison overcrowding at the state level, the county jail is too full of them to keep someone locked up for some late night cable pruning. Be that as it may, Suddenlink wants the Humboldt Broadbandit stopped.
Fixing a fiber-optic cable is a major headache. It takes a lot of specialized equipment, and the whole operation takes place in a dust-free “clean room”. Basically, they have to take something like a mobile operating room out to the site, and it takes hours of “surgery” in that super-clean environment to repair the cable. Apparently, there’s only one of these mobile light-pipe repair trucks in our area, and the Humboldt Broadbandit has kept it pretty busy this year.
At first, the cops thought the Humboldt Broadbandit wanted copper wire, an easily marketed commodity, but picked the wrong cable to cut. After the second or third attack, however, it became pretty obvious that the Humboldt Broadbandit was targeting light-pipe specifically. Today, after five attacks, and with a $25,000 price on his head, the Humboldt Broadbandit remains at large, and who knows when or where he, or she, will strike again.
So I wonder who the Humboldt Broadbandit really is, and what is his or her motivation. What do they get out of it? Why Suddenlink? Why Humboldt County? Why not cut a light-pipe that will cause millions of customers to lose their connection, instead of just a couple thousand?
Is it a disgruntled employee? I don’t know what it’s like to work for Suddenlink, but I know that most jobs suck and most bosses are assholes. I doubt it’s any different at Suddenlink. Suddenlink employees probably lack union representation, don’t get paid nearly enough, and have to put up with a lot of bullshit from customers, as well as supervisors, so I wouldn’t blame them for getting a little snippy, if you catch my drift.
Maybe cutting the cable disables some web-based security system that allows the Humboldt Broadbandit unfettered access to some other facility, so cutting the light-pipe is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Maybe they cut the fiber-optic cable, to disarm the alarm system at the Ferndale CalTrans yard so they can steal gasoline during the outage.
Maybe the folks who run the light-pipe repair business just needed some more work. Every year, it seems, we get a few intentionally set wildfires. Often we find out that the fires were deliberately set by firefighters hoping to pick up some extra hours. Maybe things are a little slow in the fiber-optic cable repair business these days and they need the money, or maybe they need an excuse to come to Humboldt to pick up some weed.
Of course, they’d have to come here anyway, to cut the cable in the first place, so that doesn’t make much sense, unless they have a local accomplice who cuts the cable, and then sells them weed when they arrive to fix it. I guess that kind of borders on a “conspiracy theory”, but it’s pretty odd behavior, however you look at it.
Unless of course, it’s a radical Luddite. Personally, I hope it really is a radical Luddite. I don’t really want to know for sure, because that would mean the Humboldt Broadbandit got caught. I suppose he or she could deliver a manifesto to the press, but that’s how the Unibomber got caught, so that seems unnecessarily risky.
No, I don’t want the Humboldt Broadbandit to get caught. I want him or her to inspire copycats. I hope chopping light-pipe becomes as popular as graffiti, and every kid in America starts doing it. They could turn the World Wide Web into a pile of useless glass spaghetti if they set their minds to it, and I hope they do.
Besides, you can have a lot of fun with a two or three foot length of fiber-optic cable. If you duct tape one end to a flashlight, and then peel back the jacket from the other end to reveal all of the glass fibers, you’ve got yourself a really trippy light toy that will last a long time and make glow-sticks look totally lame, which they are.
I can’t believe that so many people like to play with those stupid disposable glow sticks when they trip. I mean, I understand the appeal of things that glow in the dark, but glow-sticks are the light-toy equivalent of Wonder Bread. I don’t understand why people who eat organic food, wear natural fibers and support environmental causes during the day, become infatuated with plastic disposable non-biodegradable corporate death toys after dark, especially when they are really high on mushrooms or LSD.
Don’t get me wrong. I like mushrooms and LSD, and I like light-toys, but seeing hippie kids play with disposable plastic tubes filled with a chemical named after the devil (luciferine), made by one of the biggest producers of poison in the world (American Cyanamid) kind of bums my trip.
I still like black lights and florescent posters. I think EL (electro-luminescent) wire is pretty cool, and I love LEDs, especially when I can recycle them from dead electronic devices. I’ve made pretty cool light-toys out of all of them, and for a while I made my living by turning recycled tin cans into very trippy candle holders.
Despite the fire hazard, I still think my candle holders are pretty awesome, but I had to stop making them because my partner suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and the scent of smoke that clung to me when I made them caused her a lot of distress. MCS is really a drag. We can’t attend most festivals anymore because of cigarette smoke. We can’t even do our laundry at the laundromat because the smell of other people’s dryer sheets clings to everything, and then our clothes make her sick, but that’s another story.
I guess no light-toy is completely environmentally benign, but I think a fountain of glowing optical fiber liberated from the World Wide Web would be hella cool, even if it caused phone and internet outages all over the state. In fact, that would make it even cooler in my book, so I encourage everyone to forget all about the $25,000 reward, and instead, join the Humboldt Broadbandit, and liberate some light-pipe for your own Luddite light-toy this festival season.