“These numbers can’t be right.”
CEO Marc Stanton stalked the perimeter of the massive granite table in his company’s boardroom. He had it custom designed and placed here to make a statement. His word was final. It led to the expression that whatever edicts emerged from the boardroom were ‘set in stone’. The other board members nicknamed him ‘Moses.’ Stanton was not amused.
Stanton stopped his stalking and faced his Director of Engineering. “How much time do we have?”
The bearded, wrinkled face sitting at the far end of that monstrous granite slab tilted its eyes toward the boardroom’s ornate arched ceiling. Together, it all felt like a temple. Or maybe a mausoleum. Dr. Henry Parsons returned his gaze to meet Stanton’s eyes. He leaned back into the plush leather chair and crossed his arms. “A decade, maybe,” he hedged.
“You realize what this means,” Stanton smiled.
“Our cable TV market share dominates the industry. No one else has a chance in hell.” The beginnings of a smile fought its way onto his face. “We’ll be the last man standing.”
Parsons chuckled to himself. Stanton still referred to his dynasty as ‘cable TV’, even though it looked nothing like the company he started forty years ago. His so-called ‘cable TV’ company had grown into a behemoth of video on demand, internet ISPs, phone service, business communications, and movie studios. The company’s market share was massive. The only thing missing was mobile. It was one market that he couldn’t crack. The incumbents like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T had a virtual lock on that industry. They already had depreciated their massive capital investment in cell towers and related infrastructure. Their networks were built out to cover 99% of the country. All they had to do was collect monthly service fees. Sure, the three companies and their lesser competitors traded subscribers in a never ending dance, stealing each other’s customers with enticing offers of low fees for what were essentially the same old services repackaged and hyped as the latest tech, then locking them in for a couple of years until the next cycle. It was a stalemate to be sure, but a lucrative one. The money was never ending. Everyone wanted, needed, a mobile phone.
Stanton chased the grin from his face. “We’ve been struggling to enter this market for years. Now you’re telling me that there’s no point. That it’s all going to come crashing down?”
Parsons nodded. “Yes.”
“And it was the oil companies that discovered this?”
“Yes.” Parsons was a man of few words. And usually kept his political leanings to himself. Usually. “I can’t believe they sat on this data for so long.” He thought for a moment. “They probably didn’t know how to make it public. If it came directly from them nobody would believe it. They’ve been vilified all these years. Anything they say is dismissed as corporate propaganda.”
“Why leak it to us? You’d think something like this, something that would exonerate them as the harbingers of climate change, would have been shouted 24/7 by Fox news.”
“Up until now the claims have always been dismissed as crackpot science by the mainstream media. Nobody has ever had the funding to investigate or the connections to access all the data to prove it. Not until the oil companies took it seriously and funded their own study. But, like you said, how to they publicize it in a believable way?”
“Leaking it to the press would never work. CNN, MSNBC and others would simply bury it. Fox News could air it, but no respectable scientist would associate themselves with it, even if they corroborated the findings.”
Stanton was one step ahead. “We’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. Plus, we could spin it as part of our corporate mission statement. As the reason we aren’t in the mobile wireless business. We can claim that we’ve been green all this time. Plus, we don’t have the fossil fuel baggage.” He shook his head. “When this news breaks, the Trump administration is going to have a field day. West Virginian coal miners are going to be doing the jig.” The grin found its way back onto his face. “The future of communications is going to look a lot like the past.”
Shannon bolted upright on her living room couch. The heavy banging on her bungalow’s solid oak front door repeated itself. The pounding was followed by gruff voice announcing “Wireless Police! Open up!”
Shannon leaped to her feet and rushed to one of the bungalow’s bedrooms. She slammed shut the door behind her, locked it, held her breath, and listened. The fist pounding at the front door had stopped and was replaced by the rhythmic slams of a battering ram.
“Shit! That reinforced front door is not going to hold forever.”
Shannon scanned the room in a panic. It was jammed with radio equipment, wireless routers, transmitters, etc. Copper mesh covered the floor, walls and ceiling, an attempt to create a Faraday Cage to prevent leakage of any electronic radio signals to the outside world.
“Damn! How the hell did they detect me? There’s all this shielding. The only transmissions this place makes are on low frequencies. They told me that those weren’t traceable.”
Shannon’s eyes locked onto a wide steel cabinet at the far end of the room. She whipped open its double doors. A portion of the inside bottom of the cabinet was cut away to reveal a trap door in the floor beneath; an escape route for this very situation.
Her heart pounded and her muscles tensed at the splintering sounds of the front door collapsing under the repeated beating from the police battering ram. In a few seconds they would be beating on the bedroom door. Muffled shouts to fan out and search everywhere urged her on.
There was one last action to take before making her escape. She slammed her fist on a big red button to trigger a localized electromagnetic pulse. The EMP would render all the room’s electronics useless and destroy any data on the flash drives.
Shannon clambered into the cabinet, pulled its double doors closed, and then wriggled her lanky frame through the narrow trapdoor opening, nearly banging her head as the heavy steel-plated door slammed closed above her.
Even in the pitch black the confined space made her feel claustrophobic. The dank odor of mildew invaded her nostrils. She gagged.
“Christ almighty,” she choked. “They better be dry.”
Shannon groped around the darkness. Her hand landed on a box of matches. She struck one. It flared to life. She scanned the limited view that it provided. In the dim light her eyes fell onto the meager prize.
“Only one damn torch? It better last the length of this tunnel.”
She lit it and began to make her way along the tight damp walls of her only hope for escape.
Shannon felt her way slowly down the dank passageway. One hand held the sputtering torch, the other gingerly following the damp concrete wall. She thought back to that day a little over a decade ago when the terms ‘mobile’ and ‘Wifi’ became synonymous with floods and famines. She was twelve. She had gotten her first smart phone for her birthday. Her parents had divorced the year before and she hadn’t seen her Dad since then. Despite their constant arguing she still would rather have them together.
Until that day.
Her mother almost never watched the news. One of her relatives must have left the TV set to CNN. The bright red “Breaking News” video graphics shot across the screen, followed by the concerned face of a newscaster.
The screen flicked off. Shannon spun around. Mother was standing behind her, holding the remote. “I never thought he’d do it,” she said.
“Who did what?”
She could see her mother was fighting to find the words. The way her mouth got all crinkled up. It was not going to be good news. Finally the words emerged.
“Your father,” mother said.
“Dad? What did Dad do?” Shannon was not that surprised. Her parents ‘argued’ about a lot of things. Her Dad always said it was healthy discussion about important topics of the day but she could tell from her Mother’s face that she did not agree with either the topic or the fact that the ‘discussion’ was healthy, or even necessary.
Shannon’s fingers swiped across something slimy, yanking her thoughts back to the present. “Gross!” She flicked off the goop and wiped her fingers on her jeans. She refused to glance at the wall and was briefly thankful that the torch light was dim. Her thoughts rushed back to today’s predicament.
“It was inevitable that they’d find us.” She thought. “Can hide a signal only for so long. I told the guys that the signal could never be tight enough to avoid detection. Only a laser beam could do that, but it would never have the range they wanted.”
The tight signal pattern was both a blessing and a curse. For 99% of the time, the signal was undetectable among the CBR (cosmic background radiation) that bathed the Earth 24/7. The transmit signal strength was purposely kept a few dB below the noise level to prevent unintended detection and reception by unwanted listeners. If you didn’t know both the frequency and the modulation scheme, it all seemed like noise. However, there was that 1% chance that someone running some advanced Fourier spectral analysis across the frequency band and stumbling on the signal. After that, it was a fairly easy task to track it back to the source; and to the destination. That tight bean radiation pattern was a like a huge neon sign pointing to both the transmitter and receiver, shouting “Hey! Look here!”
It was like a trail a breadcrumbs in a forest. Nearly impossible to find if you didn’t know where to look. But once found, it was a simple matter to follow in either direction.
Shannon continued to stumble along the poorly lit corridor. “Our trail of breadcrumbs had been found.”
The corridor took a sharp turn to the left and then began to slope upward.
“Finally,” she mumbled to herself. “I feel like I’ve been walking for a couple of miles.”
Another sharp turn. More sloping. It felt as if the walls were closing in. Shannon noticed that rats had begun to appear, briefly flitting in and out of the weak shadows thrown by the torch.
The year is 2031.
Whistle blowers have made public what some scientists have warned about for decades: that microwave pollution is the real culprit behind the rampant climate change that has wreaked havoc on the Earth’s population, decimating agriculture and food supplies and submerging once densely populated cities like New Orleans, Venice, Amsterdam and St. Petersburg.
Thousands of cell towers, millions of Wi-Fi hotspots and a billion or more smart phones and IoT devices have been blanketing the atmosphere with their collective microwave radiation, steadily raising the world’s temperature.
All personal wireless devices, smart phones, wireless routers, tablets, laptops, have been banned.
Once high flying tech giants like Verizon, AT&T and Samsung crumbled under the loss of their once lucrative markets.
The corporate moguls and overlords of the telecom industry and the internet themselves fell victim to the rampant hack attacks of vigilante cyber-citizens seeking the truth. Conspiracies uncovered by the resulting leaked emails revealed a global cover-up by high tech multinationals of the true effects that Wi-Fi, cell tower and cell phone microwave radiation had on the environment; global atmospheric heating. The cloud took on a whole new meaning.
Market shares of companies like Apple and Verizon crashed within days as draconian limitations of wireless devices were put into place worldwide. The stock market panicked and frightened investors scrambled to move their money into anything that was not high-tech.
The information highway has screeched to a halt as all computing and communications must now be performed on devices tethered to fiber optics and Ethernet cables.
All that remains now for wireless communications is broadcast television and radio stations relegated to VHF and lower frequencies that have limited effect on the atmosphere; old-style analog TV and radio broadcasting. The industry was forced to return to the once antiquated analog transmission techniques to avoid generation of unwanted microwave radiation produced by their powerful HDTV signals and the untold number of gigahertz-speed CPUs required for digital transmission, distribution and reception to millions of consumer homes.
The severe restrictions and loss of gigabytes of wireless bandwidth has severely restricted the flow of information, shuttering high tech businesses and brick-and-mortar companies alike. The loss of alternative news and entertainment sources has created a veritable black market in the transfer of information, videos, etc. Rural areas that had been dependent on satellites and cell towers for their internet connectivity found themselves virtually cut off from the rest of modern civilization.
CB and ham radio experience a resurgence as folks sought any sort of permissible wireless technology; those hobbies and equipment did not use the dangerously ultra high frequencies that caused the climate change. However, data rates were extremely slow, much like the 2400 baud modems that were in use at the onset of the digital computing age prior to the World Wide Web.
Wireless police seek out and shut down any unauthorized wireless transmissions. Even microwave oven ownership became regulated and required a license and yearly re-certification of the oven to guard against microwave leakage from faulty, damaged or intentionally altered ovens.
Among these ruins, a cadre of hackers and ham radio operators secretly struggle to keep personal lines of communication open to facilitate dissemination of non-government sanctioned news and opinions.
One could argue that the Russians started it all, that climate change began with Sputnik. Ever since then an ever growing constellation of satellites bathed Earth with megawatts of radio frequency energy, slowing cooking our planet like a microwave oven on low defrost. There were many culprits; GPS; Satellite radio; broadband internet and TV services. The list went on.
If it was limit to only the satellites, we may have been spared. However, technology continued its march.
There were two critical junctures that caused the tipping point. The first occurred with the proliferation of cell towers across the world. In a mere few years, the overall level of microwave radiation from all these cell towers soared exponentially until every continent was awash in this low level energy. What was worse, unlike the satellites which were hundreds of miles away from the Earth’s surface, the cell towers were at ground level, spewing 100% of their energy directly into the atmosphere.
The second was the advent of broadband WiFi; millions of wireless routers and hotspots. No one single device was at fault; only all of them combined.
The breaking point was the proliferation of IoT devices. Everything became wirelessly connected with each device emitting higher and high radiation levels to cut through the interference. It was a never ending battle.
It was a never ending battle; the noise floor would rise, drowning out the weaker signals. Technology would attempt to compensate but eventually power output had to increase to cut through the din of millions of mobile and WiFi signals. The noise floor would rise again and the cycle would continue.
It was like trying to hold a conversation in a crowded restaurant. Voices had to be raised to be heard across the table. Throw in some background music and the clinking of plates and utensils and one’s voice needed to be raised a bit more. The result was noise pollution.
However, in this case the microwave background noise was more than simply annoying; it had the unintended effect of warming the environment.
Ironically, the weather satellites were the most egregious. Despite their beneficial technology that precisely pin-pointed and tracked deadly storms, their probing of the Earth’s atmosphere slowly altered weather patterns and heated the surfaces of oceans and ice caps. This all resulted in a long, slow, but eventual disastrous build-up of atmospheric water vapor that adversely altered the planet’s climate.