Pigeons are Faster Than the Internet (Sometimes)

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There are few first world problems as uniquely frustrating as a shitty internet connection. Of course there are things in life that are worse, but there’s just something, maddening about dealing with a bad internet connection with an unreliable connection being enough to make some people outright homicidal. Something it’s actually possible to address, at least in some specific scenarios, with, of all things, a pigeon.

Specifically, a homing pigeon because, as far as we’re aware, regular pigeons are more content with eating cigarette butts and week-old french fries than they are wearing delivering a tiny backpack filled with pornography to someone a few hundred miles away.

“It’s a living.”

Sometimes referred to as IP over Avian Carriers, the idea of transmitting data via pigeon was initially suggested as a joke in response to an April Fools’ Day request for comment by the Internet Engineering Task Force back in 1990. Admittedly the joke was weirdly well researched and makes mention of several drawbacks to the scheme such as being limited by the length of a given pigeon’s leg (the initial pitch involved writing data in hexadecimal code that would later be scanned into a computer at the point of receipt) and the fact the pigeons need to be, you know, trained not to shit all over it.

The thing is though, the idea is actually pretty sound as there are countless places on Earth where there’s little to no internet coverage, as anyone who lives in one of the non-highlighted States below will likely attest to.

For the curious, that’s a map of broadband availability in the United States. If you happen to live in one of the unhighlighted areas you’re stuck with coaxial internet, the dreaded dial up or in a lot of cases, fuck all. And in those cases a pigeon could be your gateway to the information super highway, or at least a couple seasons of The Office that don’t like John Krasiniski is asking you to play a game in a Saw spinoff.

But it’s not just that pigeon-based internet can be more reliable than traditional internet options, but in some cases, faster. For example in a guy in South African was able to send a couple gigs worth of data via pigeon to his office so much faster than South African broadband provider Telkom that the company accused the pigeon of being on steroids.

A similar stunt was also conducted in Australia, where pranksters for the channel Hungry Beast sent data via pigeon, car and a direct upload via a Telstra ADSL line to see which was faster. Again, the pigeon stunted all over the competition, with even the car being faster than the Telstra line which repeatedly shit the bed and stopped uploading during the experiment. Twice.

Hell there are even industries where pigeon-net is preferable to wireless connections, such as rafting operators which use their feathered friends to transfer data from cameras while out carving up those eddies in areas without decent wifi or cellular coverage.

The power of pigeon.