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“Life Without Broadband” stories

Editor’s Note: Following is a selection of testimonials from rural citizens who struggle without affordable broadband Internet access. These accounts were solicited and received during July-August, 2008 by the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), a nonprofit Internet service provider for western North Carolina founded in 1995.

Selected Quotes


Dear MAIN,

I run my business from home and high speed internet is essential to operations.

Prior to purchasing my home in 2007 I spoke with Verizon and confirmed that high-speed was available. After moving in I learned otherwise.

The effect has bee debilitating, I attempt to work with a wireless card which provides spotty coverage, I attempt to work with satellite internet which is slower than the wireless card.

In short I have learned the hard way, you can not run a business in today’s world without high speed.

Despite spending hundreds of dollars per month between wireless internet cards and satellite, I am still forced to drive into town and beg access in order to send or receive any large files.

If times were not so tough I would consider the added expense of opening an office away from home but that simply is not an option.

This opportunity seems to be the only relatively short-term solution. Please do not let it pass us by.

Sincerely,

Gordon Sadler
Mars Hill, NC


Dear MAIN,

We live in a very rural part of Mitchell County, a couple of miles away
from the nearest paved road. Cable is unavailable to us. Wireless will not
reach us here. DSL is not available here. Satellite is very unreliable and
very expensive, so we don’t consider it a viable option. That leaves us with
dial-up. Our connection speed averages about 28.8K because we are so far out.
We have been with MAIN since we first started using the Internet in
approximately 1998.

My son takes on-line classes from our local community college, and a
faster connection speed would be a godsend for him. I want him to succeed,
but our slow connection speed is very frustrating to him.

I work at home as a medical transcriptionist. Right now the job I have is
probably the only job I could get with the Internet I have (many companies
require cable). If I had broadband, it would open up a lot more job
opportunities to me. I would have the security of knowing that if I needed
to, I could find another job in my field.

We had pretty well given up on ever having broadband, so the idea of it
becoming available to us in the near future is really exciting. Thank you for
allowing us to share our story with you.

Sincerely,

Faith Cieslak
Mitchell County, NC


Dear MAIN,

I am the Program Manager for the True Nature Country Fair. The fair office
is my kitchen table, in my house on my farm in Macon County. Dial-up is the
only reliable and cost effective Internet connection available to me and it
is a constant cause of wasted time and loss of efficiency in my job. Just
this morning I waited nearly 45 minutes for documents from the local health
department to download. When it is time to take on-line classes or do
research in connection with my work or participate in an on-line conference
call, I load up my computer and drive 40 minutes to the Macon County Public
Library. Not only are my work hours limited by the library hours of
operation, but I lose the travel time and spend those BIG dollars on
gasoline.

I look forward to a time when the public airways will provide me with the
benefits of a high-speed connection that are now enjoyed by my friends in the
city.

Karen Vizzina
Macon County, NC


Dear MAIN,

I live in Cedar Mountain NC, a beautiful community right on the South
Carolina line in Southern Transylvania County. We are a small community where
there are full time residents and also summer residents. I’m president of the

Cedar Mountain Community Center and a member of Cedar Mountain Fire
Rescue.

We need a wireless system in Cedar Mountain because of the remoteness of
the area. Currently we don’t receive a cell phone signal in our area at all.
As a matter of fact you even have to travel several miles to get any type of
signal for your cell phone regardless of what company your phone service is
with. Opening up a wireless internet signal could help many of our elderly
neighbors which comprise most of Cedar Mountain and especially our summer
folks who may leave there own doctor back in their own home town.

This signal would also open many possibilities for the E.M.T.’s from the
Fire Department in being able to get medical information easily from an
emergency room doctor and may also assist in the locating some of the homes
that are hid in the woods. It currently takes 20 to 30 minutes to have a
paramedic for Transylvania county to be on scene and if you live on the South
Carolina side of our primary area of coverage, that wait may be 45 minutes
and then an another 45-minute ride to the hospital. We have excellent
coverage by helicopter if the weather will allow.

As President of the Cedar Mountain Community Center my main focus this
year has been on the child. We would like for every child to go to college,
that has the want and need to go. We will this assist many of our children
with needs of school materials and I hope at some point that once a week, or
more, we can open up our doors at the community center for use of a computer
and help with studies. Currently our center closes up in the winter because
we have no way of providing this to our community. Having the signal to come
into our community would be the first big step to helping our children with
their educational needs.

These children will have limited options as what they will do for a living
if this doesn’t occur. We have several families in our area that have home
schools. The need for a computer with a good high speed signal is absolutely
necessary for these homes.

We have two state forestry areas in our area where children and botanist
could come, bring their computers and study the wet areas and plant systems
in these areas to make this a better world. We currently entertain thousands
of people a year with our water falls and mountain trails, why not use these
areas to educate as well as entertain.

These are all great things that we need but what about the business person
in Cedar Mountain that would love to have a faster way of communicating with
clients. We have just started to open the doors of possibilities for our
community. I don’t want to be overstating here but this could help with the
high price of gasoline and diesel fuel for many of our resident. Many will be
able to work from home while others can do business with stores over the
Internet.

I could go on and on, but I think you can see the need already. Thank you
for your consideration.

Donald Greene
Cedar Mountain, NC


Dear MAIN,

I was very pleased to read about the new solutions to the end of Dial
Up—-I use my computer to search for competitive prices on a myriad of
products and services. I do research on new products, and the competition. I
order on line, pay my bills on line and of course check the latest news. I
have become increasingly frustrated with the dial up service because I can
wait for up to 45 minutes to receive pictures from my grand and great
grandchildren.—I sometimes need to contact loved ones in the western part
of the US and if the dial up is down and phone service is out I am stuck!

Because the cable Co will not run cable in this area because there is not
enough population–that is out–as is the towers cannot jump the height of
the mountains surrounding us–Satellite is out because of costs–then if the
clouds roll in with rain that goes out too–also if dish gets snow build up.
I am on a limited income and even now consider the service I have a luxury.
With gas, groceries, electric going up–I do more shopping on the web and
therefore do not waste gas to travel as far as I have to for some necessary
items.

Hoping for a solution–that is not cost prohibitive.

[Name Withheld]
Yancey County, NC


Dear MAIN,

Yes, I am MOST interested in the expansion of broadband to rural areas! I
am delighted with the land-access service I’ve had with MAIN for more than
ten years. I live in the developed area around Mount Mitchell Golf Course -
17 miles from Burnsville, Marion or Spruce Pine. The last time I checked with
the Help Desk, broadband (or DSL?) is as near as Celo, about 7 miles away. At
that time, I was told that further extension of the service was
undetermined.

A bit of my story begins with the information that I am a 73 year old
female and live alone. (Yes - one of the LOLs that depends greatly on the
SAINTS who patiently man your Help Desk.) When I retired from my job at the
Washington Post in 1995, I came back to the mountains of WNC where I had
lived in various places from 1960 to 1984. I had planned to live in Asheville
where my two daughters were born in the 60s. A last minute decision led me to
this place where I intended to ‘camp out’ for a year in the mountains of
Yancey County. The beauty, peace and serenity here have extended my
intentions more than 12 years. Many neighbors are summer residents from
further south, but there are more and more of us who are ‘year-rounders’. I
have also had the great privilege of meeting people who have lived in the
mountains all their lives, as well as some of the local artists. All are
wonderful people, friendly and caring.

Would I have been so content without close contact with friends who live
in various parts of the country? Or being able to read the next day’s edition
of the Washington Post before I go to bed each night? Or the ability to get
the answer to ANY question - research, medical, trivia, or otherwise? (Google
is definitely of ‘best friend’ status!) Or the convenience of shopping for
WHATEVER (except groceries!) as I sit here in my housecoat without makeup ?
My answer is ‘not likely’. MAIN has enabled me to live happily in a way that
I would not have imagined possible in earlier years.

Most of my friends have some sort of ‘rapid, on-line access’. I AM one of
the few remaining ‘dinosaurs’ in the technical world. (Even my cell phone
doesn’t work within a ten-mile radius of my home!) Yes, there ARE other
sources of rapid access - costly, but available. I will likely remain a
dinosaur until necessary changes are made so that I can still be a loyal
customer of MAIN that has provided outstanding service over the years!

Thank you and your staff for all that you do in addition to continuing the
fight to provide added pleasures for us ‘rural folk’!

Blessings to all, and GOOD LUCK!

Nell Staples
Yancey County, NC


Dear MAIN,

Several months ago, my employer offered me the opportunity to do 80% of my
work, medical research involving use of the Internet, from home. Given the
current cost of gas and the fact that I live 20 miles from my employer, the
possibility of working from home was very attractive, but not an option
because my ISP did not offer high-speed internet access. After doing some
investigation I learned that I am actually in a location that receives a
moderately strong high-speed broadband signal from Verizon wireless. I then
made the difficult choice to switch from the non-profit, community-based ISP
(MAIN) that I have appreciated and supported for many years to Verizon.
However, I have several friends who, like me, live in rural areas where
broadband signals simply do not reach. It is unconscionable that in 2008,
countless rural Americans still have virtually no access to high-speed
Internet. Every opportunity to change that situation and bring the US into
the 21st century with the rest of the industrialized world must be vigorously
pursued.

[Name Withheld]
Madison County, NC


Dear MAIN,

I have been a loyal MAIN user since it became available here in Swain
County. The frustration for us is there are resources and opportunities for
fast Internet service, but only if you live in Bryson City (cable) or most
recently along the highway Verizon DSL, if you attend SWCC at the Almond
school, if you are along the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad tracks and have
access to the fiber optics laid along the tracks.

But if you live up on in the hollers that sprinkle the county west into
the Nantahala Gorge our options are Verizon DSL (if you are along the
highway) or Hughes Net satellite which is expensive and the service and
equipment and connection is poor and unreliable.

Many of the people who live in this area can not afford the $60-$80 per
month fee for satellite but do have low cost access to the Internet via dial
up and MAIN.

We need alternatives. When countries like India have low cost cellular
service from $6-$10 a month and thus possible access to Internet via
Broadband cards why do we in the US have to struggle to get the same options.
Thanks for you continued work on behalf of the western North Carolina
residents and the MAIN community.

Carolyn Allison
Swain County, NC


Dear MAIN,

Though we live in Black Mountain and have access to high speed Internet,
we have 2 stories that may help you.

First, we live about 1 mile up Montreat Rd. Though less than 17 miles from
WCQS, we have poor reception because of the effect of the mountains. Less
than 1/2 mile down or up Montreat Rd. there is better reception. This shows
how the ability of the signal to bend matters. It, also, means that during
certain weather cycles we have normally strong signals have signals on the
same point in the spectrum reflected into WCQS’s area. There are 2 of them
nearby.

Second, our tailgate and farmers markets send out regular notices to our
customers of availability at the markets, special promotions, etc. Because
many of our customers don’t have high speed, we are very careful to limit the
size of our messages. It would be great to be able to include photos of our
markets and/or produce.

Finally, we are moving to rural SWVa so we will be facing this head on in
the next couple of years.

Thanks for your hard work on this.

[Name Withheld]
Black Mountain, NC


Dear MAIN,

As with all technology, when you don’t update along with the leading
edge,cyou get left behind. Many sites, including mail order pharamacies used
bycMedicare recipients, are not accessible to dial-up connections. The
HumanacRight-Source mail order Pharmacy is just such a site. When users get
the dreaded 404 error code, calling customer service gets the response;
“I’mcsorry we don’t support dial-up at our site.” There are 44 million
dial-upcusers in the USA, yet accessibility is becoming a widely
experiencedcproblem.
[source:chttp://www.tamingthebeast.net/blog/web-development/dialup-access-statistics-0407.htm]

Good luck, Wally. And after you win your cause, let’s see a price break
for people on disability. Our returning disabled soldiers will need a price
break with the cost of gas.

Susan Kirkland

Yancey County, NC


Dear MAIN,

We live on Town Mountain Rd, 5 miles from downtown Asheville!
And we have no access to broadband. They’ve been promising it for 2 years now
and dragging us along. it’s be Feb, the April, Then June. Nothing yet.

Yes it impacts our lives! From the youngest of our family on up.

My daughter purchased 2 webkinz while on vacation with her own money
(she’s 7)- opened them and greatly enjoyed them at Grandma’s (with high speed
access) only to be broken hearted at home where she cannot “feed” her pets..
She’s been anxiously waiting ATT to come through with their promises to
expand to our area - she can tell you all their promised dates which have
gone by the wayside.

My 11 year old spend many more hours than necessary doing homework (web
research)

Though I always wanted to work from home, I find myself considering
setting up shop somewhere to avoid the wasted hours spent with dialup.. My
Healthy Chocolate business is largely conducted via internet marketing and
virtual connections.

My Husband is a Federal Government Employee (US Forest Service) who has
finally worked his way into having a home office. Several times a week he is
forced to go into the main office in town for the sole purpose of downloading
or sending large files. His time and mileage expense is of course paid for by
the government.

Think about it, with the price of gas now home offices are more commonly
accepted and yet without widespread broadband access those who are farther
out actually end up costing more money and resources as they are forced into
town to make use of high speed connections.

Thanks for what you’re doing

[Name Withheld]
Asheville, NC


Dear MAIN,

My name is Brian Beaudet and I live in rural Marshall, NC. Actually, I
live in what’s called, locally, a holler - 13 beautiful wooded acres
surrounded by ridge lines on 3 1/2 sides. It’s very secluded but my family
likes the privacy and the nature that surrounds us.

I’m a software developer who moved to this area because of the fact that I
can work from any where as long as there is a broadband connection to the
outer world. When we bought our house we were assured that it was cable
ready. I didn’t think to ask why they had a satellite on their roof if the
house was wired for cable. Of course, after having purchased the house, while
I was setting up the telephone, TV and internet ccounts, I learned that there
is no cable connection and Charter Cable wouldn’t be able to drop a line to
my house even though the nearest cable box is about 1/4 of a mile away. OK,
so plan B - DSL. Well, Verizon, who services our area, doesn’t offer DSL as
far out as I am. Now, it’s panic time.

My only option, other than dial up, was satellite internet. I did some
research and found a company called Skycasters who offered reasonably “fast”
satellite internet. I say reasonably because, with satellite, there’s no way
to avoid the approximately 1/4 second latency as the signal is bounced to and
from space. But they did offer fast service once the signal hit their
routers. The satellite wasn’t the only thing that was astronomical - the
price was about $130 per month. However, I made due and it helped me continue
working from home.

At some point, Skycasters decided to offer new plans that boosted their
price several hundreds of dollars more than my existing plan. I couldn’t
afford it at the time as my home based work was drying up and I had to find a
new job in Asheville. It didn’t make sense to pay for a very expensive
satellite system I was barely using. My wife could check her email with
dial-up which was (barely) fine for her.

About six months ago, I had an opportunity to work from home again doing
full time software development. This time, however, to get this job I needed
to use voice over IP (VoIP) which requires a speedy broadband connection.
Verizon still wasn’t offering DSL to my home yet and Charter was out.
Wireless Internet is an option but both can’t reach a good enough signal from
Main or Aloft (from Burnsville) systems without building a tower of some sort
(thanks to my holler). I looked up satellite connections that worked with
VoIP and yet again Skycasters popped up. In the end, forced into it if you
will, I chose a plan that cost me $249/month but due to bandwidth caps I
ended up paying $400-$500 per month total. And this was very minimal usage -
no streaming audio or video or huge downloads. This was a poor choice, but
the only one I thought would work for me. I’m locked into this plan for 2
years.

I decided to get out of it anyhow. My penalty? Pay $2000 for an early out.
Additionally, I went with another satellite vendor (HughesNet) and they cost
me $180/month but have less restrictions so I can use more bandwidth without
paying any penalties. I still have to pay Skycasters and that’s going to take
some time to get the extra money to do so. In the meantime, I still have to
pay $249/month for a service I no longer use. And I’m locked into my deal
with HughesNet for two years as well. So if something better comes along, I
still have to get out of this contract which will involve, yet again, another
large payment.

People choose to live where they live for various reasons - family, jobs
etc. But cost of living was one of the main benefits why my family decided to
have our home in the country. We could afford a huge house with 13 acres if
it’s in a rural area. But the high cost of Internet connectivity is really
making it difficult for a small business like mine to succeed.

Thanks for listening to me gripe.

Brian Beaudet
Marshall, NC


Dear MAIN,

I have in fact been in touch with your staff members in the past. Even
offered to lease a space on our ridge on the Buncombe/Madison line for an
antenna, but apparently our site wasn’t suitable.

Moved to this location in April 2005. I need a fast connection for my
work. DSL wasn’t available here, so I went with an ISDN line. It worked fine
from April through August. Then suddenly in August, the line started frying
expensive ISDN modems. After multiple service calls, BellSouth couldn’t
identify the problem and kept claiming it was my equipment. (It wasn’t, the
line fried multiple modems at about $300 each.) Interestingly, each tech had
a “piece” of a similar situation that had occurred at a household “just over
the ridge,” but none of them could tell me the *whole* story or how to
stabilize the line. (And interestingly, every one of them said it didn’t
really matter to them whether the problem got fixed or not when they came
out. “I get paid the same amount either way” was the general response.) So,
not being able to *use* the line or get a repair from BellSouth, I terminated
the service. I estimate my losses from that situation exceeded $1,000.

Then, after researching other options (including Main’s wireless, which
unfortunately wasn’t available here yet), I decided to go with dataBahn, a
satellite provider. The service had a lower monthly fee than the BellSouth
ISDN line, but the upfront costs of purchashing the dish and installation
were approximately $2500. It worked beautifully for a year or so, then the
ISP sent an e-mail indicating it was having some type of dispute with the
operator of the satellite on which it was leasing space. Two weeks later,
*poof,* the company went under, and there was no service nor any recorse for
subscribers like me.

I tried to find another satellite ISP that I could sign up with and still
use the expensive equipment I had purchased. I identified one based in KY,
but after multiple phone calls and e-mails, their sales person was not
responding. So, $2,500 worth of equipment rendered useless in about a
year.

About that time I was put in contact with Main employee Robbie Robinson.
He’s the one who came out with a GPS and checked out our site. Interestingly,
it was Robbie and his wife (who works from home, like me) who were the folks
“over the ridge” from me who had the same ISDN problem I had had. Apparently
they had spent well north of $1,000 out of their own pockets (even though it
was BellSouth’s line), to pay to install special grounding on the ISDN line
to prevent power spikes from burning up modems. Apparently, BellSouth had
been made aware of what they had done, but as I experienced in my story,
apparently BellSouth’s record keeping and communication is abysmal, because
BellSouth couldn’t even describe this repair to me to give me an option.

So, after I lost dataBahn service, I decided to go with HughesNet, not
only because it was a larger provider, but also because I would have the
option of higher bandwidth service plans should my needs warrant it. I paid
the typical amount (somewhere in the $400 range I recall) to purchase
equipment and establish service with them. I have been fairly happy with the
service, save for a recent 4-day outage, ironically again due to an service
volume issue with satellite IA6 (the same bird I was on with dataBahn). LOL,
a couple of months after I established service with HughesNet established
service, the rep from the KY satellite ISP finally e-mailed me. A day late
and a dollar short.

I am lucky because I can at least write off the equipment as a business
expense. But the amount that I have spent on equipment to try to get reliable
service not to mention the monthly expense $80/month for ongoing service
vastly exceeds the means of the typical rural family. For me, the time I’ve
spent has been even worse–hours and hours dealing with service issues and
repairs that lead nowhere, and additional time researching the next best
option when things went wrong.

Sincerely,

[Name Withheld]
Buncombe County, NC


Dear MAIN,

I have been a resident of rural Madison County since 1979. In 1993, I
changed vocations and entered the world of information technology. I have
steadily moved up in the world of corporate information systems, and am now
the Information Technology Director for a company in Arden. My daily commute
is 110 miles. There is much of my job that could be done from home if I had
high-speed access to the internet, including a VPN with my corporate network
for monitoring and support. This is completely out of the question with
dialup or existing technologies like satellite. It isn’t as if I am unwilling
to pay for technology that is relatively cheap for those who live in more
urban areas. I routinely write checks to DirecTV for larger amounts that
residents of Buncombe County pay for digital tv, highspeed internet, and in
some instances, their phone service also. This I consider to be a lifestyle
choice that I am willing to make. However, the lack of broadband availability
is going to soon force me to choose between the lifestyle that I love, and my
career.

[Name Withheld]
Asheville, NC


Dear MAIN,

As a mountain homeowner I am concerned about the primitive connectivity we
suffer with in the rural Asheville area. I am a member of the large and
active senior population commonly referred to as “Babyboomers”. Like many of
my neighbors and friends in the rural mountains I hope to “semi retire” to
that area while maintaining an active part time role in my business. It is
hard for me to function up there now, on even a temporary basis for a few
days. It will be severely limiting to try to conduct that business over the
existing internet access we have for even longer stretches of time. It seems
to me that both our Government and Private Industry would benefit from many
people like myself being able to remain actively employed and productive in
our “Early Golden Years”. That will have the very desirable effects of
delaying the Boomer’s pressure on Social Security benefits while keeping much
needed, experienced employees, in the work force who will be paying income
taxes during their extended earning years. Certainly, fast, reliable access
to the internet in the rural areas being sought out by us “semi retirees”
will facilitate that activity, as well as benefit the full time residents who
need the services just as much as those living in better served high density
urban communities.

For these reasons as well as convenience, educational, and safety issues,
I urge your active support of the use of vacated TV channels for internet
access conduits.

[Name Withheld]
Buncombe County, NC


Dear MAIN,

We live just 1/4 mile off of Interstate 40 in western North Carolina.
McDowell County is one of the poorest counties on the I-40 corridor from
Asheville to Raleigh. We have very few jobs either in industry or
agriculture, and no town of any significant size. We rely on “mailto:M@in”>M@in to provide us Internet service in Old Fort. Dial-up
service is available from Verizon, but broadband is not. Our only options are
satellite or WildBlue. Satellite high speed is prohibitively expensive for
our family and WildBlue is not much faster than the dial-up we have now,
though it is more that twice as expensive as well. We have asked Verizon
again and again to let us know when we can sign up for high speed internet
services and each time we inquire, they say that have no plans to improve the
wires to support such services at this time. We have difficulty even with our
phone lines. Every time it rains, the line goes dead. They keep coming to fix
it, but to make a permanent change, they need to replace all the wires, and
that is not in their business plan for the county any time soon.

My husband is a studio potter. His business is here at our house. He has a
studio and a gallery on site and he sells retail ceramics out of his gallery.
He has not put up an interactive website where other galleries that he serves
can order online, because the dial-up services are too slow to handle photos
and billing processes. I often work out of our house too with my job and
internet access if vital for me to stay connected to colleagues and do my
work. Often, I find myself having to drive up to Black Mountain to work in a
coffee shop so that I can get wireless.

Please open these unused TV channels so that North Carolinians and others
can have access to the web.

Sincerely,

[Name Withheld]
Old Fort, NC


Dear MAIN,

My name is Rhonda Seaman. I live in rural McDowell County. I have tried to
find high-speed Internet connection through the phone company. It is not
available. I do not want cable TV or satellite TV but was willing to
investigate the cable high-speed Internet possibility for the convenience of
high speed. The cable company does not have a cable connection at my
location. I even talked to a local wireless company who has towers in the
area but we have no access due to ridge tops and trees. They did tell us we
could put up our own 30 foot tower to access their connection but I can’t
even imagine what that would cost. And I don’t even think I have a southern
exposed sky to access the Hughes Net company. I am truly at the mercy of the
FCC in my location. I would love to be able to have high speed Internet for
my family. We are a home school/farming family. We are trying to sell
wholesale vegetables through a local marketing group that is utilizing the
Internet for orders. I am unable to fully participate due to the inability of
my dial up service.

Other problems I have with dial up Internet service.

I have to asked friends and family not to send pictures over the email
because I of the time it takes to download them,

My children have a difficult time accessing school assignments or doing
research from home due to slow dial up.

I cannot access any video clips, pod casts, or even websites with lots of
graphics due to the slow load up time. I hear there’s a thing out there
called you-tube out there with a lot of neat life experiences on there but I
can’t access it , so I don’t know. When I try to access these websites my
computer seizes up.

I cannot download updates to my virus protection software due to problems
with the dial up connections. When I try to access these updates my computer
seizes up.

I cannot actively participate in any on line auctions due to the slow
reaction time to dial up.

I cannot access large pdf files on the Internet due to my computer seizing
up. This makes it impossible for my daughter to access the class schedule at
the local technical college from home.

Having access to Broadband high-speed Internet would make a WORLD of
difference to us. We do all of our Banking and other activities on the
Internet. There are times waiting for dial-up to come through can be so
exasperating (and sometimes costly) we have to wonder how is it we can launch
a spacecraft into outer space to rendezvous with a space station, and we
can’t make high-speed Internet available to all Americans, rural as well as
others. We strongly support whatever can be done to help us in this area.
Thank you.

Richard and Emily Ford
Cullowhee, NC


Dear MAIN,

I started a B & B business five years ago USING DIAL UP. As you can
imagine the life and death of this type of business is determined by a web
presence. Challenged with building a website on DIAL UP, and then marketing
such a site on DIAL UP and then joining multiple indexes where personal pages
were built on DIAL UP was a very painful experience. Due to the time it took
it slowed my progress down, impacted my revenues all along the way. Then when
I grew enough to afford an on-line booking system I found out they were
incompatible with DIAL UP. So, I was reduced to continuing a paper calendar
with hash marks and the possibility of overbooking was always a threat. (YES,
I did overbook) Finally I found one system that would take me on with
satellite. That is not much better due to the sensitivities of satellite.
Just writing this e-mail I was thrown off the web due to a storm in God knows
what county.

Martha Abraham
Madison County


Dear MAIN,

The Foothills Connect Business ands Technology Center is a rural economic
development program, which seeks to develop entrepreneurs through technology.
As in many rural areas the fact that high-speed broadband is scarce,
sometimes gets misinterpreted that there is no need for broadband in rural
areas. Foothills created a website, www.farmersfreshmarket.org that links the
fresh food inventories of dozens of growers to the chefs and restaurants in
Charlotte. Gradually, the farmers will be required to maintain their own
inventories and participate in virtual dialogues with Chefs about their
culinary needs. The program grows weekly as more farmers and chefs are
determined to participate in this new market, only achievable through rural
broadband.

The Rutherford County community has expended a great deal of effort,
culminating with a $1.45 million Golden Leaf Grant to extend high speed
broadband through fiber optic connectivity provided by the non-profit
provider, PANGAEA. The 23 schools in Rutherford County were connected to
PANGAEA’s fiber in Feb of 2008. Within weeks, a local high school’s Future
Farmers of America team won the State Championship in Soils Judging. This
team qualified for the National Championship in Oklahoma City.

The preparation curriculum for the National Championship was made
available to these students only through an online data base which the
students were able to access through the newly available fiber optic
connectivity. The team, thus prepared placed a respectable 42nd out of 96
teams. Had the competition been held 90 days earlier, it is unlikely that the
Rutherford County FFA team would have been competitive.

[Name Withheld]
Rutherford County, NC


Dear MAIN,

My wife and I each have a computer connected to the internet by dial up
with EarthLink. We have a Verizon wireless broadband card that works very
well in our home in FL and our motor home most ANYPLACE we are in the
country. But it will not work where we live in Madison County. I have to
listen to my wife yell about how slow it is accessing her checking accounts
and trying to pay all our bills on line. She likes to purchase things on-line
and that is frustrating.

I work for a company that also allows me to work from my home because I
can do it with my computer, waiting for files to download at 26.6 is so
frustrating I go into my work shop and work on something else until it is
done. I can not work with a client over the phone because he is high speed
and I’m not. I am also using a third phone line to talk while I am on the
computer, and still have to switch one of them to operate the fax. I have
waited for years hoping something else besides another Satellite hook up that
I can afford.

We would welcome your opportunity with open arms,

Thanks,

[Name Withheld]
Madison County, NC


Dear MAIN,

First off thanks for caring about the rural Internet problems of past and
PRESENT! I am a self-employed artist and as such the lack of high speed
access keeps the e-commerce world just outside of my reaches. Also as a self
employed citizen I need to research my own health care and sifting through
all the information can take forever. The Phone lines outside of Bakersville
North Carolina are so bad that my dialup speeds average below 21KB! These are
equivalent to 1997 speeds! Its funny my phone service is through Verizon and
my cable is through charter two of the major players in telecommunications. I
know for a fact that Verizon offers DSL on my road but it ends less than
three miles from my house! And they have told me they have no plans to run
the lines further, whatever that means. These two major companies feel that
it is fine to still bother me with phone offers of high-speed internet access
which they can not provide, talk about salt in the wound! I can’t wait for
the day that our free market society reaches the point of equality it is
suppose to offer. It is not currently a level playing field when fellow
self-employed artists in my county have access to greater services than i
currently have. Good luck with your battle and us small guys appreciate
it.

Thanks,

Shane Mickey
Bakersville, NC


Dear MAIN,

I live in Marble, Cherokee County, just outside of Murphy. I have been
needing high speed Internet for years! The package the local Cable Company
offers is unaffordable. Verizon, the local phone provider says they cannot
furnish it where I live due to lack of equipment in the area, but promise
this will be corrected soon- depending on who you talk to, but it never
happens.

I am 82 years old, living alone, on social security and rely on my
computer for a lot of things. Everything is more difficult and sometimes it
is impossible to access certain things on the web I would like to. I pay all
of my bills on line and sometimes have a problem with certain accounts due to
the slow speed. I sometimes sell things on ebay for extra income. This is
also much more cumbersome. I do not use the internet frivolously, but use it
for education and research, a lot of it medical and health related. Broadband
would make everything much more accessable and doable.

I have been with Main a long time and have been impressed with the service
and personal help. Success with this endeavor will help so many people!

Good luck,

[Name Withheld]
Cherokee County, NC


Dear MAIN,

I am someone that depends on the Internet for my job. I work at Park Ridge
Hospital and also temp sometimes at other hospitals via the Internet.
Hospitals have firewalls and VPN networks requiring high speed networking
which in a rural area has prohibited me from working at certain facilities. I
pay for two internet systems. Verizon dial up (which on a VPN get me the
speed of 33 kb per second) which is very slow and I pay for a Hughes network
satellite connection. This has megabyte downloading but uploads speeds are
similar to dial up if not slower when working on VPN which means if I use
this connection I may be having less than 33 kb per second. Most systems will
not work at such low speeds and I am constantly pressed to try and find work
that offers programs that don’t require much speed. [Note- a regular dial up
modem is suppose to run at 56K but because of Verizon's old telephone lines
everyone can only get 33.]

My husband uses the Internet for banking. He works full time and is self
employed and sometimes driving over a vast area it is difficult for him to
get to the bank. The Internet offers him the ability to do that part of his
job in the comfort of home instead of driving as wasting precious time.

My hospital has now allowed me to begin commuting from home two days a
week because of gas prices. When I drive to work it is a 120-mile round trip.
I could work from home full time on my job but due to my Internet connection
I do not have the capability to access all my programs. I work on what I can
at a very decreased speed then go into work the next day and work on the
system I could not access at home. It saves some money and keeps me efficient
but how much better if we could just get what everyone else on the planet
seems to enjoy in high speed internet.

I believe most everyone in my neighborhood has been praying for high speed
and hopefully this will help you understand that we are not just gamers. I am
mother and working person who depends on the internet to make a living. My
husband operates a business. Please work to get high speed Internet SOMEHOW
to rural America. Especially REVERE.

Thank you,

Melissa Chandler
North Carolina


Dear MAIN,

When we moved to the mountain 2 years ago, one very important aspect was
that we had a dependable Internet service, as fast as possible without
breaking the bank. We were totally sold a bill of good by Hughes.net which is
nothing but dishonest. If we knew then what we know now, we would never have
moved to Western North Carolina.

I’m self employed and run both an Internet site and blog from home. It’s
vital I stay connected in order to generate business. We are currently paying
$80 per month and receiving about 20% of the speed we are contracted to get.
Hughes.net couldn’t care less…..both my husband and I have been on the
phone with them up to 6 hrs. at a time trying to solve the problem, or get a
reduction in our fees and every time we mysterious are transferred from
person to person after huge long waits in between. Their techs are all from
India so you can barely understand what they are saying. They just give run
around after run around, and finally, every time, we get disconnected. It can
not be a coincidence! Installers have told us the problem is that too many
people are using this service, that’s why no one can get quality connections.
Hughes.net continues to sell their load of lies that this is fast,
inexpensive Internet, and more and more customers sign up, making it even
slower and slower. Their customer service is by far the worst I’ve ever dealt
with for any company, EVER!

I’m furious, my business is suffering because I’m spending too much time
away from other important tasks as I try to do the Internet portion of my
daily tasks, which should take 30-60 mins, but usually takes 3 hours due to
the pitiful service. Downloads are a nightmare as well.

I feel like we are being held hostage by big business who don’t want to
service our less populated areas and will only do so with super high fees and
terrible service. I don’t want to depend upon the government to feed our
family, I’m happy to earn my own way…..but I’m not being allowed to by the
various cable and telecom services. The airways are free…..why can’t they
be used for all the people? We need action to bring quality, affordable
Internet service to our mountains.

Thank you for your efforts to bring quality Internet to the mountains.

Mary Stori
Clyde, NC


Dear MAIN,

My husband and I live in a remote area of Madison County, NC. We moved
here in 2002 because we embraced the simple lifestyle we can enjoy here. By
choice we do not have a TV. We get most of our news from public radio or the
Internet.

My husband is retired, but I still work as a freelance nature photographer
and writer. When we moved here, it was still common for me to send film-based
photos to publishers worldwide via courier delivery services. In the past 6
years, this has changed to predominantly marketing my images on my website or
by sending targeted emails to buyers. The only problem is that we are on
dial-up internet service, and because of our chosen remote location, the only
logical provider of DSL (Verizon) has no idea when they might upgrade their
services to include us in the DSL service area.

Yes, we are really remote. For several months when we were having trouble
getting a good connection via our voice phone line, Verizon strung a
temporary emergency line through the neighbors’ woods, pasture, and across
their turnip patch just to get us passable service. We have a dedicated line
for dial-up Internet connection, but on most days the best speed we can get
from it is 16,800 to 19,200 baud. Our voice line usually achieves 24,000
baud, so we often use it, which leaves us with no voice capability while we
are online.

There is a distant possibility that a cell phone tower might be put a the
ridge that we see from our front porch (an expansive view that has only one
distant abandoned cabin and one light at night in winter when the leaves are
off the trees). As much as we would like the possibility this could bring an
opportunity for better Internet service, we would not favor it because of the
visual intrusion on the skyline of rural Madison County.

The possibility of delivering broadband service via the public spectrum
that may become available in Feb 2009 is very exciting. It would not create
any additional visual intrusions on our lovely landscape. And it could
provide Internet access very necessary to my business. I currently have to
drive to the public library, a 22-mile round trip, when I need to upload or
download large files related to my photo sales. With the increasing cost of
gasoline, this is becoming quite burdensome.

I would be happy to provide additional information if you need it in your
quest to bring public spectrum broadband transmission to rural NC.

Thank you for your efforts,

Connie Toops
Marshall, NC


Dear MAIN,

I am a software developer and EDI consultant who lives in rural Missouri,
and works primarily from home. I have been begging my phone company to
provide me with DSL but they refuse, saying that there are not enough
customers in my area to justify installing the equipment. Anytime I need to
download or upload large files I have to drive to my company office, with is
58 miles away (one way). Using the vacant TV channels for broadband sounds
like a great idea to me. Good luck with your campaign.

[Name Withheld]
Missouri


Dear MAIN,

We first came to know MAIN when we needed to be able to reach out far and
wide for support. Connie was fighting Multiple Sclerosis and I was struggling
to care for her. The local phone company wanted us to dial long distance in
order to dial up an internet provider. That is when MAIN provided for us a
local phone number. We were then able to connect with others in similar
circumstances. Connie corresponded with Julie, who was an English woman with
MS who use a connection through the University of Helsinki, and I
corresponded with Joe, Woody and Steven in South Africa. We were not
alone.

Connie died in 2002, but my needs have not. Just this week our paper, The
News-Record and Sentinel reports that “Tower access denied”, citing there is
not enough room on the tower and the Madison County Commissioners decided
that “the remaining space on the tower be reserved for emergency service
use”. That is not right!

Inside the Town of Mars Hill city limits, there is no available wireless
and fast service. Requests get routinely blocked by those who find it
necessary to gain every possible cent from our rural community. It is now at
least $60 to get connected. Tobacco has gone by the wayside, it is hard to
make a living around here. We love our community and it difficult to find the
money to travel these mountain roads. We need a way to connect.

Thank you MAIN for doing, and for having done for so long, a great job of
representing our needs to the powers out there who do not have a clue what it
is to live in Madison County.

Take care,

[Name Withheld]
Madison County, NC


Dear MAIN,

My name is Carol Murray and I have been waiting for a long time for faster
service. Not because that I am in a hurry to go any where just my endurance
is not what it used to be because of my disability (Polio). I belong to the
group Cyberpals through Independent Living/Pathway for the Future. MAIN has
been so gracious to make Internet Connection affordable to the Cyberpal
group. I love my time on my computer and I would love it even more if it were
faster.

Love,

Carol Murray
Robinsville, NC


Dear MAIN,

I live at the Brooks-Howell Home in a three story brick building about a
mile north of the center of Asheville. This is a city, not a rural area, but
it is not possible, it seems, to get broad band service to function properly.
It is blocked. Therefore there’s a constant lack of telephone service while
I’m on my Internet and my contacts are frustrated by my phone always “being
busy”.

Anything to bring broad band to me here close to the center of Asheville
would be most helpful. Please continue your efforts and much appreciation for
same.

[Name Withheld]
Asheville, NC


Dear MAIN,

I am a small business owner living in rural Haywood County, NC. I have had
dial up with MAIN since I first got Internet access in 1998. I like working
with MAIN because they are right here in my region and provide regional,
pertinent information and incredible customer service. I do NOT want to have
generic Internet access from a company like Charter or ATT, who are taking
over the communication in the country and I shouldn’t have to! Currently,
though I have a computer in my home office, I have to drive to town to access
the internet at a friend’s house in order to load my webpage updates with any
degree of speed. This is an added expense both in gas for my car and in my
time. I teach music and know that there is a world of information available
on the Internet that is at other people’s fingertips, but not conveniently to
mine. Once again, I drive to somewhere else to access video music lessons, to
expand my own learning for my teaching business. I can’t easily do this, as I
am not welcomed to sit in a library to play my guitar while I work with an
online music lesson. I must find a friend who will let me come over and use
their computer. I should be able to access the Internet in my own home
through my local provider, MAIN, with a reasonable degree of speed. Last I
looked we all, both rural and urban citizens, live in the 21st Century.

These things my sound small to some of you but they are big inconveniences
to me as a resident and business owner. The lack of broadband Internet to my
home impedes my efficiency, quality of time and is an issue that should not
need to be an issue. Please open up access to rural areas.

Sincerely,

Leigh Hilger
Haywood County


Dear MAIN,

I am an educator in Mitchell County. I am also a single parent of a
15-year-old. The problems that we encounter with dial-up would take several
pages to list. It is not MAIN, but the fact that fiber optic telephone lines
are not available in our area. We live five miles outside the city limit The
internet is my only connection to the rest of the world. So much is out there
for an educator and a student. However, because the speeds are so slow, most
of the time whatever we are trying to research has to be canceled because we
don’t have all night for something to load. My daughter complains to me that
text books, on-line tutorials and other educational tools are of little use
to her. Many times we have to go to school early or find someone “in town”
that has a higher connection speed than 28000 kbps-Sad.

Having the ability to access the Internet at high speeds would be a dream
come true. Even if I could afford the $60.00 a month fee to buy DSL, it would
do me little or no good since the fiber optic problem is still there.

The key is “rural” and because we are “rural” we have no choice regarding
the speed at which we connect. I feel like I am punished for living in a
rural community. We have always wanted to the same things that are available
in larger cities. Many people in our county are out of work. Having the
ability to obtain access to high speeds and low cost would make a big
difference in the lives of not only the students, educators in this county,
but also the unemployed.

I have been a customer of MAIN since it began. I believe that MAIN will do
whatever they can for rural customers. Please give them the support they need
to provide us with higher speeds so we can actually experience what the rest
of the world has done for years.

[Name Withheld]
Spruce Pine, NC


Dear MAIN,

This may not seem important to most computer users, but it is to us. We
are in our eighties and like to see pictures of our grandchildren as they
grow. We live in an area where there is no high speed Internet and it takes
forever to download one picture. We were not able to attend a family reunion
recently and my family offered to send us a bunch of pictures but it would
have taken hours to download them so we said to send some by mail if they
could. That is only a small sample of the aggravation of using a slow
dial-up. I may be old and slow but in this day and age my computer doesn’t
need to be.

[Name Withheld]
Graham County, NC


Dear MAIN,

As an IBO with Quixtar (Amway) since 1995, I have used the internet to
place orders online. This has become basically impossible since their web
page was updated. I have been forced to start placing the orders by phone. I
can no longer even visit the bookstore at InTouch.com because they have also
updated. I fear as other websites are upgraded they will also become
inaccessible by dial-up. The possibility of DSL in my area is very slim. We
don’t even have cable available. DSL is available within 5 miles of my
residence, but I cannot obtain any timetable for DSL to be available to my
residence. Why should I be denied service?

Any assistance to remedy this problem would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Jim Taylor
Newland, NC


Dear MAIN,

We reside in Burke County where there is no MAIN.

ATT has us by the balls. Their wireless service requires a two year
contract. The service charges and fees for wireless phone, land-line, and
internet service are $150/month. There is no way we can afford to add cable
or satellite TV, which is okay since there is so little worth watching.

The idea of completing a Master’s distance program at UNC-Chapel Hill (or
anywhere else) remains a dream without affordable, fast access internet.

Waiting for MAIN in Burke County,

[Name Withheld]
Morganton, NC


Dear MAIN,

I live right behind a mountain but only 6 miles from Asheville. I have
realized for years that I need reliable, fast speed access to the internet
for my personal educational growth — but it has been very expensive here. I
also must have good access for my business, now very slow due to the subprime
mortgage fiasco and its continual spread into the larger economy. I must pay
a substantial monthly charge to Verizon South - $40/mo. to get DSL, and their
DSL looks like a tortise compared to the Buncombe County Library system’s no
charge access. A few years ago, main.nc.us found it could not supply
broadband to me because of the mountain, but now I see the big change to HD
TV will open the old wavebands for internet access. Internet access in this
country has fallen behind foreign countries — I know because my
responsibilities have taken me to Bangkok in recent years and their dial-up
is very fast and I can get DSL prepaid for a month and have excellant
connectivity and speed. Yet for the return to the American consumer for
deregulation I see my phone bills always going up and internet access being
very expensive. Now the story is coming to mind — the big ISP companies wnat
to buy up most of the soon-to be-available broadband width leases vacated by
TV stations’ going to HD digital and then they can be the money-changer at
the gate: the more you pay, the faster you go. Why should the American
citizen allow his or her ability to keep up in this information-based economy
to be dependennt on the amount of money he or she may have available? Why is
such a thing considered to be just? We need a well educated electorate to
withstand the challenges to our nation from the right and from the left and
from anti-democracy people. The companies didn’t create the internet, the
American citizen did by paying the taxes. The companies enjoy incorporation
as legal entities but really are extensions of individual, living people.
They should not be allowed to take this democracy away from us under some
money worship oriented ideology. The American companies, and perhaps their
foreign rivals trained in latter day American business practices, just are
not measuring up to a satisfactory standard anymore because they are milking
the cash cow too much and they are not working on the things that will help
the common man. M.A.I.N. offers a reasonable alternative and a full-portioned
sufficiency of broadband width should be set aside for local and low cost
alternitives to the big players. With the new technology, perhaps I could get
a better access at a lower cost.

[Name Withheld]

Weaverville, NC


Dear MAIN,

It is amazing how the people who live in rural America are penalized by
the internet companies because it is not cost efficient for them to bring
internet access at an affordable price to these areas. They make a
significant profit, however, there is no social responsibilities to bring
hard to reach locations into the 21st century. If it is available, it is at
an extremely inflated rate. So much of today’s activities are performed over
the internet. Credit card, both statement and paying, banking, shopping,
communication and much more. We who live in the mountains are severely
handicapped by the lack of available options. Dial up is so slow that many
times, the page times out. On the other hand, satellite isn’t much better and
often does not work. There has to be another solution. Main seems to feel
there is one. I for one, support and applaud their effort to bring an
affordable high speed internet alternative to the rural communities. With the
technology available, hindered by legalese, how ridiculous not to tap into
the raw and ready market.

Sincerely,

[Name Withheld]


Dear MAIN,

I thought I’d contribute my story:

I’ve been living on the side of a mountain in SE Buncombe county, NC for 6
years now. I lived with dial-up internet and subsequently had to live without
such wonderful items as video streaming, internet games, downloading anything
over 1 MB, etc. It also made it so difficult to work from home (I’m in Real
Estate) and I would find myself driving to the office even when I didn’t have
any appointments, which is expensive and contributes to global warming. I
finally broke down and got satellite Internet, but I’m not happy with it
either. It is faster and now I can work from home, but I’m at the mercy of
the weather, and there are still some things I can’t do. For example, access
to Buncombe County GIS and register of deeds is slim to none on my satellite
connection. Then there’s the ugly satellite that I either had to put in the
middle of my garden or cut down a whole bunch of trees. That on top of the
expensive installation ($450), high service charge ($60/month) makes
alternatives to satellite very desirable.

Thank you for doing what you’re doing,

Hallie Sheaffer
Black Mountain, NC


Dear MAIN,

My name is Chris Orr and I live in a little town in western North
Carolina. I have currently started school at our community college and am
about to start online classes from a school in Georgia. My reasons for this
is that I cant afford to drive down there or rent a place to live there. We
have Hughes net at our home now and it’s the only thing that we can get
besides dial up. Hughes net is not very fast at all and it is very expensive
and when it rains it goes dead an after continued use of it, it then is
downgraded and slowed almost to the point that I cant even view a web page.
If we do not have access to high speed Internet soon I’m afraid that I won’t
be able to complete my school work on time do bad in my classes all because
of my internet access. So I really hope that we will have access very
soon.

Chris Orr
Western North Carolina


Dear MAIN,

I got my first computer for my 80th birthday. I signed up Main for
internet service. Finally I learned to receive and send emails…..what a joy
this was to keep up with my friends.

Lately it is taking so long to download emails….just today it took over
an hour to download seven……..I am now 85+ and its about a full time job
taking care of this old woman I have become……so, this and the other
things I have to take care of don’t leave much time for email….However, I
am learning to use some pretty bad words and have made up a few choice ones
of my own.

I would like to think there would be some way to improve
this………….but with improvements comes additional cost. My little fixed
income won’t stretch.

Anyway, I’m wishing you much success in this endeavor. We desperately need
help……

Blessings,

[Name Withheld]


Dear MAIN,

This is an economic development issue; as long as we rural residents are
second class citizens of the Internet world, rural economic development
dollars will be far less effective than need be, and rural education in the
US will seriously lag behind the rest of the country.

Lacy Bullard
Marshall, NC


Dear MAIN,

I work full time and recently went back to school to earn my BA in special
education. Many of the classes are now on-line. Without high-speed Internet
access, I cannot successfully complete my college courses. I live in
Burnsville, NC where high-speed Internet access is very limited.

I hope that changes soon. I want to continue to support MAIN.

Kind regards,

Bryony Smith
Burnsville, NC


Dear MAIN,

Our family endeavors to spend our money locally whenever possible, and we
were much dismayed that MAIN does not offer high speed internet in our area
although we are only about ten miles from downtown Asheville. Our other
options consisted of increasing our monthly bills by eighty or so dollars to
install a land telephone line so we could get AT&T, or we could pay for
the exceptionally basic cable and the internet for an extra sixty dollars a
month (once the introductory special expires). This increased cost has led us
to cut out some of our other spending especially in light of the rising
gasoline and food expenses we are facing.

The Internet is indeed a luxury when compared with basic services that
others do without; however, it allows us to have more access to varied news
outlets as well as making it much easier to contact our elected
representatives and stay in contact with far-flung friends.

The news access is growing in importance as we have but one local
newspaper and television station in the Asheville area. Not being able to
afford the expanded basic cable that would provide the cable news services,
we depend on the Internet to offer other points of view as well as exercise
quick fact checking.

A representative republic can hardly work if the electorate faces undue
burden in making contact with the elected. Email, blogs, and websites are
crucial to obtaining position information as well as being avenues for
contact with the official or candidate; in a representative republic like
ours, it is crucial to have an informed and active electorate to ensure
quality governance. The Internet provides a space for geographically
disparate constituencies to come together.

I thank for your efforts to secure the soon to be open TV airwaves for use
burgeoning rural and suburban Internet service.

Thanks,

[Name Withheld]

Buncombe County, NC


Dear MAIN,

For the past four years I have been struggling with the lack of broadband
service in my neighborhood in the Higgins area of Yancey County, North
Carolina. Apparently I am located in a ?dead zone? that suffers from the
unavailability of DSL, cable modem or Wi-Fi service. From my discussions with
other residents of Yancey County it appears that large areas of the county
also suffer from a lack of service. Verizon has some DSL circuits available
within 16,000 feet of their switch approximately three miles north from us on
US Highway 19W North in the Bee Log community. According to Verizon my house
is 25,000 feet from their switch and therefore does not qualify for DSL
service. I know that DSL service can be easily xtended using remote terminal
equipment installed in a pedestal closer to the subscriber?s homes.
Similarly, Country Cablevision?s data network stops three miles south of us
at Langford Branch Road. After repeated contacts and requests for extending
Verizon and/or Country Cablevision?s network to our neighborhood over the
past four years it has become clear that neither company intends to make the
capital investment to extend their service to us reportedly because of a
relatively low density subscriber base. Their business plan prefers to
?cherry pick? the ?low hanging fruit? located in the denser populated
neighborhoods. I have offered to help recruit subscribers for both of these
companies but they are not interested.

Fixed wireless services is also not available because there is no line of
site access points available to us because of the mountainous terrain.
Satellite Internet providers such as Hughes Net and Wild Blue are not
satisfactory broadband alternatives because of poor and erratic service, high
cost and bad customer service.

The unavailability of broadband Internet service has been extremely
detrimental to my ability to use my computer for business, research,
education, job search, e-commerce, e-mail and participating in government and
public affairs. Having to rely on slow dial-up service has basically made my
computer unusable much of the time. Microsoft and Anti-Virus security vendors
regularly issue operating system ?patches? and ?security updates? with file
sizes in excess of 40 megabytes. At the 28 to 33 kilobits per second dial-up
speeds that I typically connect at using EarthLink it is impossible to
download these huge files. Additionally, most of the Web sites now contain
streaming audio, video, Flash content and other data rich services that take
forever to load on a slow dial-up connection. Consequently I am forced to
drive 8 or 10 miles each way to an Internet Café of the Public Library to use
my notebook to do research or simply keep my computer up to date.

I am not alone. Many of my friends and neighbors are also in the same
predicament. One neighbor is an internationally known artist who does work
around the world. Museums frequently request images, videos and graphic files
that typically take ten or more hours to upload one file over a slow
connection, if at all. Other artists, craft persons, writers and small
business people find it exceedingly difficult to work because of poor
Internet access. The lack of broadband service has most definitely been a
deterrent to many potential small businesses who are interested in living and
working in rural areas. Similarly, unavailability of broadband has cause a
hardship for school age kids and people who are stuck at home because of
economic reasons or health issues. Our society and economy is now runs on
broadband speed and those of us stuck in the ?slow lane? Are rapidly being
left behind. A changing economic base and globalization has caused a huge
loss of manufacturing jobs to other countries. Employment opportunities now
require a high level of computer software and Web technology skills for even
entry-level jobs. In fact, many of the fastest growing employment sectors
require home based tele-computing capability. Quite literally we are
suffering a slow business death because of slow Internet connections.

I applaud your efforts to open the rural areas of North Carolina to
participate in the new economy. Just as the TVA and the Rural Electrification
initiatives brought electricity and later telephone service to the
Appalachian Mountains, so too must we insure that everyone has the
opportunity to participate in our modern society through the Internet and
Wide World Web. The Federal Communications Commission and the North Carolina
Public Utility Commission have been slow to recognize the extent of the rural
data accessibility problem and to require the public utility carriers, e.g.,
telcos like Verizon and the cable television industry to provide universal
service for this now essential service.

Good luck with your efforts. If you can overcome the technical constraints
of line of sight WiFi then MAIN will be our hero. Please feel free to call or
write me for a more in depth description of the daily nightmare I face trying
to live in a Broadband based world on an obsolete and antiquated dial-up
telephone network.

Sincerely,

Alan Orovitz
Burnsville, NC


Dear MAIN,

Here in Northeast Tennessee I am also on dialup. Several times a week I
spend 2 to 3 hours getting my computer back up and running when someone has
sent me something that my dial up will not handle. It can be pictures,
animated “stuff”, videos, even e cards take forever to load, like 10 minutes
or more. Even pdf things sometimes take 30 minutes to download. Games don’t
do well either. Opening several windows can make things freeze. The only
thing that does not give me trouble is the plain text groups I belong to,
that allow no attachments, photos, etc. My age is 73 and with the price of
gas I must stay home much more than I want to, and not being able to use the
Internet comfortably makes my days stressful as I try to keep up with
life!

[Name Withheld]
Northeast Tennessee


Dear MAIN,

I am a software engineer and my wife is from a town just north of
Asheville, North Carolina. When we were fortunate enough to have the
opportunity for me to eventually find a telecommuting job and for us to live
near her family we took it. We live in a farm house approximately 30 miles
north of Asheville, just a few miles from where she was born and raised, and
we hope to raise our family here too.

The one prerequisite: my job (of course) requires broadband internet
access.

I anticipated great savings from not having to drive to work, but was
stunned, instead, to find that there are virtually no affordable broadband
options in my area. Paying for broadband is likely more expensive than paying
to commute to work. Yes, we are on a farm, but we are not “in the boonies.”
We are 5 miles from the local post office; we have landline phone and
electricity; we have neighbors and paved roads; we have (at least to some
extent) cell phone service and broadcast TV; we have good friends who live 4
miles away and have reliable DSL service. Why don’t we have reasonable
broadband access?

Between our friends’ house and ours are a mountain ridge (which limits
line-of-sight wireless) and a county border. Local cable companies have no
service or intention of installing in either area. But, in their county, a
small, local telephone company provides excellent service. In ours, Verizon
holds a regional monopoly (for instance, they own our landline phone and cell
phone access). Verizon is big enough to simply ignore any attempts to contact
them regarding broadband service — they have determined (and announced
publicly) that “only 30%” of their potential customers are rural and,
compared to urban profit margins, the potential rural profit margin is not
worth improving their service. In urban areas they are running fiberoptic
lines to front doors, in rural areas they are barely even supporting their
existing phone services.

After months of searching for an alternative, we were left with a choice
of Verizon “3G” service and satellite service as our only options. For 28
days we tried the Verizon “free trial” of their 3G service — the price
seemed high at $60/month, but it seemed our best option. The bandwidth was
not, as advertised, 1400 Kbps — it was, in our area, 100 Kbps. (One
fourteenth of what it claimed to be, and only about thrice as good as typical
dialup). Further, their throughput was capped at 5GB per month which was
below what is required by my job. As this was unacceptable, we cancelled –
the final cost of this “free trial” was, I believe, over $300. A company this
size can simply lie, about service quality, about pricing, about coverage,
about cancellation fees — no lone individual can fight the legal battles
necessary to hold them accountable and, in any case, they have a monopoly on
virtually all communication in the area, so, for those of us who need
anything more than postal-speed communication, there is no option but to deal
with them. (As much as it galls me we still must use them for our landline
and cell phone communication.)

Since Verizon’s broadband offerings were inadequate we had only one other
choice, satellite. While the ads for such service seem competitive (”DSL
speed for $49/mo”, etc.) they are deceptive — the truth is buried in some
extremely fine print. Satellite access is typically capped at a few GB per
month — not enough if one needs to administer a server, backup databases,
transfer files, etc. (i.e. to put in a full workday on the internet). In
fact, just basic web use for a few hours a day (on today’s internet) will
typically total 2GB/month (often much more). Actual speeds are usually half
of what is advertised, and those speeds are based on data-compressed figures
(so secure and other non-compressible connections will perform much
worse).

We were forced to choose a commercial-grade plan from HughesNet. The
installation cost approximately $1,000 and the service is $190/month.
Advertised at 2000 Kbps, the effective speed is 1100 Kbps (below DSL) and the
bandwidth is capped at 1.25 GB/ day (still well below the size of some of the
files with which we deal). Even worse, satellite latency is typically over 1
second (about 20 times what it is for cable, DSL,etc.) — which means VoIP,
VPN, Remote Desktop, et al. common business internet uses are almost
completely impossible. Paying prices this high for service this bad is a
ridiculous extreme, and is totally impractical for most rural Americans, but
their only real alternative to such high-priced, under-powered solutions is
to have no broadband whatsoever.

Four miles away, on their local telco, our friends enjoy the same service
without any download cap, with a tenth of our latency, for $50/month (with
essentially free installation).

The only solution ever given is “Just move closer to town.” That is a
comment born from ignorance which puts the cart before the horse. $10,000
worth of 5-watt, solar-powered relays and a few hours of skilled labor could
connect my entire valley to the local fiberoptic network. Advocating that an
entire group of productive people should abandon farms, take losses selling
their property, and flock into urban centers is preposterous — especially
when a small company with a few thousand dollars (and the will to spend it in
a rural area) could provide service to them all AND make a profit while doing
it!

The facts of the matter are that these are honest, mere-mortal profits
(not Verizon-sized troves) and most incentives in this market favor the
monopolies. The “little guys” who need to flourish to cure this problem are,
instead, being starved out so the fatter cats can make a percent or two more
profit from urban customers (and continue to overcharge or ignore the rural
markets). Whatever legislation that can prevent this — ensuring that smaller
companies have access to a portion of the wireless spectrum, reducing
incentives to companies in overserved areas and shifting it to companies
attempting to provide service in underserved areas, increasing accountability
for false claims of service, preventing red-tape traps of drowning new
companies in nuisance litigation — these changes must be made in order for
any competition to survive in the rural markets.

Providing broadband to households such as mine would be healthy for the
economy (profitable to everyone involved), healthy for the environment and
the nation (each telecommuter is many gallons of gas unburned, traffic jams
and car wrecks avoided, even each virtual trip to the library will save a
gallon here and there). Giving rural households competitive options for
broadband access to the internet is the right thing to do.

Closing this door by allowing intransigent monopolies to persist,
relegating their rural customers to over-priced, under performing solutions
is, instead, saying clearly that rural America may as well be disconnected as
it has nothing to contribute — that attitude is false, and a terrible
conceit on the part of those who already enjoy such service.

For America to work it needs healthy competition in all its markets. The
rural broadband market is one in which the customer is forced to choose among
abusive monopolies or complete lack of service. Rural Americans matter, and
they deserve competitive pricing among good services, they do not need any
more condescension or neglect (they have had more than enough of that
already).

At a time when America is falling behind in the information age (e.g. the
entire nation of Japan already has available satellite access at 155,000
Kbps, the EU is expanding wireless coverage and exploring
internet-over-powerline that could connect it’s entire power grid at 50,000
Kbps) we can’t afford to bow to companies who would keep our best service at
a tenth of what other countries enjoy (and our best rural services at a tenth
of that).

Why have we chosen our fattest, laziest companies to represent America in
this race?? We need a fairer market that better rewards invention and
excellence. We need innovative entrepreneurial efforts and we need them
yesterday.

Healthy profit could be made by giving good service at fair prices to
rural Americans. A considerable number of us would be willing and
appreciative customers if quality services were made available at reasonable
prices. Please support efforts to make the internet access of all Americans a
point of pride.

Thomas Davis
Madison County, NC


Dear MAIN,

My name is Sam Alexander. i live on a hill about three minutes from downtown Marshall NC. as a 16 year-old male i am constantly
surrounded by other kids my age who are very fond of online gaming. on top of being around 40 minutes away from where i go to school and 100% of my friends, i am hindered from relating to nearly everyone that i associate myself with through online gaming because of my terrible internet connection. though games my be a luxury to many in this world, i want to play them simply to be able to have something in common with my friends. i also view it as a way to socialize with my friends without having to waste the gas money to drive 40 minutes into town. nearly all of my good friends have moved away or gone to different schools within the past few years. i simply want a conduit that can give me something to talk about with the rest of my piers. i believe that my life could be improved if the FCC were to agree to this new internet setup. thank you for your time and i will keep my fingers crossed.

Sam Alexander
Marshall, NC


Dear MAIN,

My wife and I just retired and moved to the beautiful North Carolina mountains in June, 2008. Having taught university accredited courses on the internet since 1998, I had begun to think that that was a way of life. In retirement, I thought I would be able to continue teaching my web courses as a public service and as a freelance educator. Now that we are comfortably
situated in the mountains of Western North Carolina, I am handicapped with dial up and can no longer transmit or receive course materials by way of the internet.

HELP! I am going through withdrawal! How can we attain the speed of broadband so that in my own little way I can help to make the world a little smarter?

John Steffa
Western North Carolina


Dear MAIN,

We have a single-wide trailer on our land in northern McDowell County. My wife and I are retired educators who continue to do research, mostly regarding Appalachian Studies. We also have had some creative writing published. Needless to say, we need broadband to do our work and continue our productive lives in retirement. Much of our writing is focused on Appalachia and much of it is intended to be uplifting and affirmative of rural (and mountain)life.

I know that this pales in comparison to the need of children of rural areas who need broadband to keep up with the urban educated world. The need for broadband in rural areas cannot be overemphasized. Much more needs to be done to continue the educational progress in rural Appalachia where I was born and raised. I grew up within an impovrished area and the poverty is still here. Most of it is due to inadequate world experiences and low expectations by the young people. If they have the best possible access to information, as provided by broadband, without the boredome of waiting on dial-up response, their access will be vastly improved.

Les and Joyce Brown
McDowell County


Wally, and all:

Thank you so much for all of the hard work that you’re doing to help bring our area into the 21st century. As for my story, I am a college professor and teach classes in both live and on line environments. My wife, Mary Ann and I shopped furiously when we moved to the beautiful Mars Hill area for an ISP that would fit my teaching needs. By default, we purchased the services from Hughes Net (satellite); and while adequate, it’s both expensive and temperamental. Often, my classes are synchronous which means that I must have and maintain a dependable signal or my teaching will be significantly compromised. Please let me know if there is more I can do to help our area obtain a dependable and affordable ISP so that I can teach on line without interruption or apprehension.

I can be reached at (xxx) xxx-xxxx if you’d like to give me a call before or after your interview. We are great supporters of having options!

Take care.

Stan Reeley, Ph.D.
Mars Hill, NC


Dear MAIN,

For the past four years I have been struggling with the lack of broadband service in my neighborhood in the Higgins area of Yancey County, North Carolina. Apparently I am located in a ?dead zone? that suffers from the unavailability of DSL, cable modem or Wi-Fi service. From my discussions with other residents of Yancey County it appears that large areas of the county also suffer from a lack of service. Verizon has some DSL circuits available within 16,000 feet of their switch approximately three miles north from us on US Highway 19W North in the Bee Log community. According to Verizon my house is 25,000 feet from their switch and therefore does not qualify for DSL service. I know that DSL service can be easily extended using remote terminal equipment installed in a pedestal closer to the subscriber?s homes. Similarly, Country Cablevision?s data network stops three miles south of us at Langford Branch Road. After repeated contacts and requests for extending Verizon and/or Country Cablevision?s network to our neighborhood over the past four years it has become clear that neither company intends to make the capital investment to extend their service to us reportedly because of a relatively low density subscriber base. Their business plan prefers to ?cherry pick? the ?low hanging fruit? located in the denser populated neighborhoods. I have offered to help recruit subscribers for both of these companies but they are not interested.

Fixed wireless services is also not available because there is no line of site access points available to us because of the mountainous terrain. Satellite Internet providers such as Hughes Net and Wild Blue are not satisfactory broadband alternatives because of poor and erratic service, high cost and bad customer service.

The unavailability of broadband Internet service has been extremely detrimental to my ability to use my computer for business, research, education, job search, e-commerce, e-mail and participating in government and public affairs. Having to rely on slow dial-up service has basically made my computer unusable much of the time. Microsoft and Anti-Virus security vendors regularly issue operating system ?patches? and ?security updates? with file sizes in excess of 40 megabytes. At the 28 to 33 kilobits per second dial-up speeds that I typically connect at using EarthLink it is impossible to download these huge files. Additionally, most of the Web sites now contain streaming audio, video, Flash content and other data rich services that take forever to load on a slow dial-up connection. Consequently I am forced to drive 8 or 10 miles each way to an Internet Café of the Public Library to use my notebook to do research or simply keep my computer up to date.

I am not alone. Many of my friends and neighbors are also in the same predicament. One neighbor is an internationally known artist who does work around the world. Museums frequently request images, videos and graphic files that typically take ten or more hours to upload one file over a slow connection, if at all. Other artists, craft persons, writers and small business people find it exceedingly difficult to work because of poor Internet access. The lack of broadband service has most definitely been a deterrent to many potential small businesses who are interested in living and working in rural areas. Similarly, unavailability of broadband has cause a hardship for school age kids and people who are stuck at home because of economic reasons or health issues. Our society and economy is now runs on broadband speed and those of us stuck in the ?slow lane? are rapidly being left behind. A changing economic base and globalization has caused a huge loss of manufacturing jobs to other countries. Employment opportunities now require a high level of computer software and Web technology skills for even entry level jobs. In fact, many of the fastest growing employment sectors require home based tele-computing capability. Quite literally we are suffering a slow business death because of slow Internet connections.

I applaud your efforts to open the rural areas of North Carolina to participate in the new economy. Just as the TVA and the Rural Electrification initiatives brought electricity and later telephone service to the Appalachian Mountains, so too must we insure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in our modern society through the Internet and Wide World Web. The Federal Communications Commission and the North Carolina Public Utility Commission have been slow to recognize the extent of the rural data accessibility problem and to require the public utility carriers, e.g., telcos like Verizon and the cable television industry to provide universal service for this now essential service.

Good luck with your efforts. If you can overcome the technical constraints of line of sight WiFI then MAIN will be our hero. Please feel free to call or write me for a more in depth description of the daily nightmare I face trying to live in a Broadband based world on an obsolete and antiquated dial-up telephone network.

Sincerely,

Alan J. Orovitz
Burnsville, NC


Dear MAIN,

Our family endeavors to spend our money locally whenever possible, and we were much dismayed that MAIN does not offer high speed internet in our area although we are only about ten miles from downtown Asheville. Our other options consisted of increasing our monthly bills by eighty or so dollars to install a land telephone line so we could get AT&T, or we could pay for the exceptionally basic cable and the internet for an extra sixty dollars a month (once the introductory special expires). This increased cost has led us to cut out some of our other spending especially in light of the rising gasoline and food expenses we are facing.

The internet is indeed a luxury when compared with basic services that others do without; however, it allows us to have more access to varied news outlets as well as making it much easier to contact our elected representatives and stay in contact with far flung friends.

The news access is growing in importance as we have but one local newspaper and television station in the Asheville area. Not being able to afford the expanded basic cable that would provide the cable news services, we depend on the internet to offer other points of view as well as exercise quick fact checking.

A representative republic can hardly work if the electorate faces undue burden in making contact with the elected. Email, blogs, and websites are crucial to obtaining position information as well as being avenues for contact with the official or candidate; in a representative republic like ours, it is crucial to have an informed and active electorate to ensure quality governance. The internet provides a space for geographically disparate constituencies to come together.

I thank for your efforts to secure the soon to be open TV airwaves for use burgeoning rural and suburban internet service.

Thanks,

Jennifer
Asheville, NC

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2 Responses to ““Life Without Broadband” stories”


  1. 1 P Palenko

    Dear Main,
    I have lived in Mitchell County for most of my life. I run a small business from home plus I homeschool my children, so high speed internet is essential. I am supposed to have satellite service with Hughes Net. Since purchasing my satellite dish ($700) I have found this sort of service to be barely faster than dial up. Plus, at least 35% of the time I have NO SIGNAL at all.
    I am paying close to $100 a month for this lousy service that doesn’t work and their support is horrible. When I call to complain, I am on the phone for hours with someone in a third world country. I have found that since having this service I am linked in a contract that if I break, I must pay $500 yet they have yet to fulfill their obligation to provide reliable internet. Now they are telling me my dish is pointed wrong and that they must send tech support out to fix the problem. This is after a year of this horrible service so it’ll cost me an additional $125 for them to come out!
    The point of telling you this is to let people know, whatever you do, don’t go with satellite service. I am getting ready to just STOP paying for this rotten service and I’m not about to pay the $500 for breaking the contract, so this will go against my credit, but I am sick and tired of paying for something that I have NEVER gotten.
    Thanks main for continuing your endeavors to get decent high speed internet to those of us who’ve been scalped for far too long by these rotten servers that take advantage of our dilemma.

  2. 2 Wally Bowen

    Thanks for sharing your experience with satellite service. We hope that the ‘white spaces’ technologies will be brought to market quickly. First, we have to secure the victory we won on Nov. 4 with the FCC’s 5-0 vote. We fully expect the broadcasters to attempt to reverse the FCC action via a stealth provision during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress. Please keep checking the “White Spaces News” section of the MAIN homepage for updates and action alerts. We will get there!

    wally bowen

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