This is cowboy country, where the rodeo is coming to town, the high school's ''kiss the pig'' contest involves a genuine hog, and life seems about as high-tech as the local calf-dressing competition, when teams race to wrestle protesting calves into T-shirts.
But Hermiston is actually a global leader of our Internet future. Today, this chunk of arid farm country appears to be the largest Wi-Fi hot spot in the world, with wireless high-speed Internet access available free for some 600 square miles. Most of that is in eastern Oregon, with some just across the border in southern Washington.
Driving along the road here, I used my laptop to get e-mail and download video -- and you can do that while cruising at 70 miles per hour, mile after mile after mile, at a transmission speed several times as fast as a T-1 line. (Note: it's preferable to do this with someone else driving.)
This kind of network is the wave of the future, and eastern Oregon shows that it's technically and financially feasible. New York and other leading cities should be embarrassed that Morrow and Umatilla Counties in eastern Oregon are far ahead of them in providing high-speed Internet coverage to residents, schools and law enforcement officers -- even though all of Morrow County doesn't even have a single traffic light.
News flash! It's bullshit! You cannot get a wireless internet connection while driving down the road through there. Admittadly I did not go through Hermiston, but I was not far from there. Below is a map showing the route I took in green, as you can see I went straight through Umatilla which is not far at all from Hermiston where Kristof writes his collumn. Hermiston has a red star on it, you should be able to find Umatilla, even though it is missing part of its "U."
While I will believe the premise that the area is wired, you certainly cannot get a usable signal from your car to surf the web as you drive. My computer recognized numerous wireless signals as we traveled through the area, but I could not use any of them for surfing the web, I either could not get a response from the server, or I was unable to stay connected long enough to do anything. The whole collumn was nothing but a damned lie.