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Broadband: A story of capacity and speed

  • Shawn Resene, an employee at Sequoya Technologies Group LLC, works at his desk Monday Oct. 10, 2016. (Abby Kessler/ The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Jon Whitney, an employee at Sequoya Technologies Group LLC, works at his desk on Monday. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Staff photo by Abby KesslerJon Whitney, an employee at Sequoya Technologies Group LLC, works at his desk on Monday.



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, October 10, 2016

Nearly all businesses and households in the Monadnock region have access to internet services, although capacity and speed still range drastically depending on the area.

Jeanne Dietsch, chair of the Economic Development Authority’s Strategic Planning and Broadband Committees in Peterborough, said strong connectivity and speeds are becoming increasingly important for building economically prosperous and growing communities.

“In order to attract talent, whether telecommuters, entrepreneurs, companies or employees, we need fast, reliable internet connections,” Dietsch said in an email.

Strong internet access is also important for drawing young families to the area, she said.

“We are targeting people in their early thirties and forties, people about to start or with families,” she said, adding that these people need reliable connections for recreational, educational, and soon, telemedicine uses.

Right now, Comcast and Fairpoint are the two major internet providers in Peterborough.

Comcast operates off fiber optic lines that transmit information at the speed of light along glass or plastic wires. Fairpoint runs off a DSL line that transmits its signal along copper wires.

Dietsch said businesses need a minimum download speed of 75 Mpbs, and a minimum upload speed of 20 Mbps. Families need a minimum download speed of 75 Mbps and an upload speed of 10 Mpbs.

“Our Comcast consumer service fits the model for download speeds but is too slow up,” she said. “DSL is not adequate for connected families.”

Fash Farashahi, GIS/IT Director for the town of Peterborough said, a DSL connection “doesn’t cut it.”

For basic web surfing and email the connection is adequate, he said, but it’s not for people who want to work from home or stream videos.

It seems like an easy answer from there; if you don’t want slow internet, simply switch providers. The caveat is Comcast only provides services to areas that have 20 dwellings located within a mile.

“If places don’t meet the density they’re not obligated to run it (lines) out there,” Farashahi said.

He said that is because fiber optic lines are incredibly expensive to run, which makes it financially feasible to implement the infrastructure only in highly populated areas.

Many roads in the Monadnock region do not meet providers density level requirements, giving businesses and residents no other choice than to hook up to slower speeds.

Tom Strickland, owner of Sequoya Technologies – an IT service and software design firm that specializes in serving small businesses – said the crux of the matter is that internet is becoming increasingly important in the 21st Century, and although demand is growing, laws are prohibiting infrastructure development in rural areas.

Municipalities are prohibited by law from borrowing money to create their own infrastructure because big carriers have lobbied against such moves.

“The fact that towns are not allowed to solve the problem means that we are held hostage to broadband carriers and the services they choose to provide,” Strickland said.

It’s not as much of an issue in highly populated areas like Boston, Manchester and Nashua, Strickland said, because it’s financially beneficial for companies to run expensive lines.

Small, rural towns are the ones who are suffering, he said.

“They (internet providers) aren’t going to bring heavy duty broadband to this area because it’s too expensive,” Strickland said. “Rural areas need to have the option to solve their own problems.”

Al Lefebvre, secretary to the Rindge Telecommunications-Technology Committee, said internet access in town depends on the location.

The southwest quadrant has access to Fast Roads/ Last Mile, a service that was installed several years ago. People who hooked up to the service, probably have good access, he said.

Others rely on Fairpoint, Argent Communications LLC, or dish to connect to the internet.

“The strength and signal (of those services) depends on the connection,” Lefebvre said.

A few months ago, a Telecommunication-Technology Committee formed in town, a group tasked with monitoring broadband issues and developing a plan or recommendation for the future.

Kelley Collins, town administrator in Greenville, said she isn’t aware of any internet complaints. She has held the position at the town for seven years and has never heard any negative comments regarding internet access.

But families in other rural areas say connectivity is an issue that they have to live with every day.

Kim Hemmer, who lives in Mason, said her family uses an internet provider called HughesNet.

“It’s the only option available,” Hemmer said, adding that the service is not adequate for her family’s needs.

She said she has the most expensive plan available, with a download speed of 15 Mpbs. The package also comes with a 50 gigabyte data allowance per month.

That means the family cannot use Netflix, can only watch short YouTube videos and restricts usage of Facebook and Instagram.

Hemmer said she would like to work from home to shave time off of her commute, but a day’s work eats up the family’s entire monthly allowance. The internet connection has also become problematic for her son who is in high school, she said.

“The school operates on Google Docs, which is great, but if our speeds drop low on a given month he can’t download his homework,” Hemmers said. “We are just talking about a simple pdf file here, this isn’t some complex document.”

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to live in a household that doesn’t have access to adequate internet, she said.

“We built this house; it’s a log cabin in the woods that we love,” Hemmers said. “But we are actively discussing moving because (the internet service) is getting so bad.”

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.