High speed internet connection, or Broadband, has been in the news a lot recently.
Thousands of cities and towns across the country have been trying to attract the attention of Google to take part in its new high speed system.
Thousands more have applied to the Federal Government to get a piece of the 7 point 2 billion dollars in stimulus funds allocated for Broadband expansion.
In fact the University of New Hampshire is coordinating an effort for 66 million of those dollars to get high speed internet to needy residents here.
And according to the New Hampshire Broadband Mapping Program the money is sorely needed.
Various surveys, the most recent from last year, show that of the 250 thousand households in the state with internet service, half of them are on dial-up.
For those households with broadband, it's easy to forget what it means to have dial up service.
So we thought we'd remind you.
For those households still stuck with dial-up, you can sit back and smile knowingly.
The Keene Sentinel's Donna Moxley has the first story.
Dial up sound.
I used to think I’d never have to hear that sound again.
My computer talking to another, negotiating a deal to get me onto the worldwide web.
But I wanted the fresh air, the quiet, the open space. I paid the price losing my high speed internet.
I thought my dialup was bad, fluctuating between 28 and 42 kilobits per second.
But my friends Gaale Klein and Heidi Konesko live in Alstead…. sometimes their speed doesn’t hit 20.
Gaale: picture files a megabyte at home will take about 45 minutes per megabyte – that’s when you go off, you feed the dogs you get supper going you put a load of laundry in and you wait.”
well, it’s dumb! (laughter)
Heidi: yeah, but there’s something kind of addictive about watching it download and waiting when is it gonna be in when is it gonna be in when is it gonna be in, if we do have a big file we know is going to come in, like one of David’s work things, then we try to download it overnight, or like say we get some new software like Norton anti-virus … when you first install it it always has these updates it wants to go after and those can be huge, so I’ll set it to do it overnight and just leave it turn the screen off and go to bed, and it’s usually done in the morning.
Gaale and her husband sell lots of stuff on Ebay – which, after seeing what she goes through, can hardly be worth the trouble..
Gaale: “We got to ebay and I told it that I want to sign in, so it’s going to the page where one signs in …”
Moxley: oh, there it is – but the hourglass is still off.
Heidi: “maybe the problem is the images are still turned off.”
Gale, uh, it’s doing it …
Two minutes later, eBay was still loading Gaale’s account.
There are ways to speed things up, but you have to be creative, using simpler screens.
We in the dial-up community don’t bother with YouTube, or downloading iTunes.
Moxley: Do you know that some people watch TV on their computers?
Heidi: I know! Well some people watch Netflix on their computers!
For NHPR News, I’m Donna Moxley in Keene.
I’m Sean Hurley.
I went to visit Ted Cooley in Orford.
He works out of his home as an Information Technology professional.
Like me, you probably assume an IT guy working out of his home would have a blazingly fast internet connection.
You’d probably think it was even required.
But Ted Cooley and most of Orford are trapped somewhere in the mid-1990’s. With a dial-up 56k internet connection.
FX: Modem Grind
Ted It is an interesting dichotomy to live in a rural area but yet be in the information technology area.
Sean: Have you found that you’ve lost any prospective jobs?
Ted: I’ve certainly been unable to deliver the quality of service that I’d like to – at least from my own location. If a client calls in the middle of the night, for example and has a problem, I cannot get on line to fix it for them from my location. I’ve been asked to provide web services for clients and I simply can’t do that from my current location. So there have been clear business impacts, I’ve joked for a long time that there’s the Information Superhighway that Vice-President Gore used to talk about – we live on the Information Game Trail.
And Cooley believes being on that Game Trail has hindered not only his business, but the local economy in general.
Ted: Interestingly enough there are two major employers in this area. Dartmouth College, and the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and as a result of that there are a large number of highly educated professionals who want to move to this area. However, it is very difficult to attract those kinds of professionals to this area without a broadband connection. You know, moving back into the 1970’s is just not something that most people want to do.
And the town isn’t just stuck with 56k dial-up.
Ted: 26.4k is really the best we can do here. And so that’s not even the full capability of dial-up.
For NHPR News, I’m Sean Hurley.
This is Chris Jensen in the North Country.
In many places, if you want or need high speed internet up here above the notches, you can get it.
But sometimes you have to pay for it…..big time.
And a lot of organizations do just that.
Northern Human Services of Conway, for example, couldn’t do what it does without high-speed internet.
“Northern Human Services is a private, non-profit human service organization providing mental health, developmental service and substance abuse services to the northern half of New Hampshire.”
That’s Dennis MacKay, he’s the chief executive officer.
Human Services needs fast connections because they’ve got 12 locations from Wolfeboro to Colebrook.
They need to be linked together to share information not just on treating patients but general administration.
MacKay’s problem is that the service is expensive.
“The differential for example for one location where we do have broadband is approximately $800 a month and that would give us 10 megabytes of capacity.”
10 megabytes is basically what the average home customer gets in an area where high speed is generally available.
But that average customer would probably be looking around rather than pay $800 a month for it.
And for Northern Human Services, it gets worse.
At their offices in Colebrook, Groveton and Whitefield, service is not just expensive, it is slow.
“In the sites where we do not have broadband we are about two megs and that cost is just over $1,000 a month for two versus 10 megs.”
So every year Northern Human Services is paying more than 10 thousand dollars for high speed.
And the problem goes beyond the obvious financial drain.
“Yes, it is cost, but it is also productivity.”
While employees are waiting for information to be sent, they could be doing something else.
But for right now, organizations like Northern Human Services don’t have any choice.
For NHPR News, this is Chris Jensen