About Tim Rowland

Tim Rowland is a columnist, author and outdoors writer living in Jay.

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  1. JB says

    With the de novo rural broadband debacle, part of the confusion is that the definition of the “broadband” marketing term seems to be a moving target. Until recently, it was 25 Mbit/s asynchronous (fast download speed, slower upload speed), which has been provided to millions of homes during the past few decades, and could be provided to millions more at relatively little expense, via existing coaxial cable lines (a.k.a, “cable”) or twisted-pair copper lines (a.k.a., phone and “DSL”) and with the addition of the necessary hardware (user-end modems, local loop line boosters, etc.); satellite carriers can easily provide these types of speeds as well. The caveat is that deployment of internet is hard, and there are many dynamic factors to be considered when designing a network and keeping it operating smoothly. For any given component, there are limits on bandwidth (the number of users that can use a network without slowing it down) and distance (the number of miles, or feet, that a signal can travel without degradation). In the Adirondacks, during a global work-from-home pandemic no less, networks, carriers, governments, and residents alike were bound to be pushed past their limits.

    As a result of that sudden appeal to country life, we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of this national symbolic focus on providing the convenience of state-of-the-art internet, at great expense, to the last several percent of the national population that live in underserved rural areas. Meanwhile, there are perhaps an even greater number of households in underserved urban communities with no internet access at all, despite the fact that upgrades there would be trivial in comparison. But, nonetheless, need is need, and a good number of widely scattered North Country residents do stand to benefit.

    And the truth of it is, besides the enormous cost of deploying a pioneering technology, fiber does make sense in the North Country. It can be run much longer distances without the requirement for signal boosters, and it will be able to accomodate more traffic than even the largest tourist season will bring (and it is resistant to lightning strikes, and so on). As for cost, internet is expensive regardless of location or technology, both for carriers to deploy and for the end-user. And even though the cost will inevitably come down as fiber becomes more widespread, the technology is inherently expensive and requires maddening levels of precision–for example, terminating a fiber line at the customer’s home requires a highly trained technician and a host of expensive “fusion splicing” machinery (i.e., the glass fibers are actually welded by melting them without altering their optical properties).

    We personally paid to run fiber nearly 1,000 feet in the Adirondack Park. Government subsidies allowed us to do it for probably less than the cost of running standard cable service, but it was still in the ballpark of the costs cited here as untenable for the Moriah residents. My take is that living in idyllic and removed location, but with modern conveniences, is a privilege that is necessarily expensive–if people have the money for drilled wells and septic systems (tens of thousands of dollars), then they certainly can either pay the often comparatively minor cost for running hardwired internet lines or live with satellite and its additional fees, which are comparable to what a broadband carrier will charge anyway. Finally, fiber is so fast that its speed improvement over cable will actually be wasted and unnoticed in many households, at least as the networks futurize. The ethernet cables running through most homes are probably not even nearly capable of transmitting half of the bandwidth of a modern standard fiber service; we installed Cat6a through our walls, which will be suitable up to 10 Gbps, but even that will be insufficient to meet network capabilities in another few decades, when everyone will be wanting foil-shielded ethernet or in-wall fiber, both very complicated endeavors. But at least in 25 years, our children will be able to stream live video that is 100x more high-definition that what we have now.

  2. Lorraine Duvall says

    Living in an underserved area in Essex County, I’d like to know more about the North Country Broadband Coalition and the $20 million grant application from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

    • Stuart Alan says

      Exactly, Mr. Quenell !

      It is journalistic malpractice to completely omit Starlink from this article. Shame on the writer. Shame on the publication. Dear Editor: PLEASE ISSUE A RETRACTION OR UPDATE THIS ARTICLE. Thank you.

  3. Stuart Alan says

    Exactly, Mr. Quenell !

    It is journalistic malpractice to completely omit Starlink from this article. Shame on the writer. Shame on the publication. Dear Editor: PLEASE ISSUE A RETRACTION OR UPDATE THIS ARTICLE. Thank you.

  4. Billy says

    There’s also the option for the people who are having issues to fix it themselves – just take a page out of the history books.

    When a large phone company didn’t want to provide service to a small town, someone in that small town started their own phone company (many of which still exist – basically anything that isn’t Verizon or AT&T is an independent, though many are now larger having bought out multiple small companies).

    When people in an area couldn’t get good TV signals, they installed a large dish on a nearby high point and ran wires to the houses in the low areas – CATV, which evolved into what most now know as Cable TV (but long before it was run by big companies that don’t do much besides charge more every time you turn around).

    So now, someone in those “unserved” areas needs to start their own small internet service company (as was noted somewhere, much can be run through phone lines, so if the area already has a local phone company they might just be the place to start – many of them already have internet services, so those that don’t could likely turn to those that do for information on how to set them up).

  5. Gil Adler says

    1. $2,500 hookup charge for 10 homes, assuming it’s for that block/road = $250/home… which is equivalent to a few (4?) months of broadband service. If those 10 homes can’t afford that $250 charge how can they afford the monthly charge of it?
    2. Thank you to whomever brought up Starlink! With $500 upfront cost + $100/month cost You could buy 60,000 units for 60,000 homes AND pay for the service in full for 60 months… and still have $10M leftover! So how many homes are we talking about here?

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