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Wandering alone in the communication desert

Fri, Jan 27th, 2006
Posted in Commentary

I have a personal beef with my telephone company, one I presume others in Preston Township might share.

For the past couple of years I have been asking CenturyTel when they will be providing high speed internet services to my rural home. And for the most part, I have received cautious encouragement to be patient, its only a matter of time. But I have finally come to the conclusion that I am just getting the run around.

Presently at our home we have computer access to the Internet via dial-up hook-up at 38,000 bytes per second (bps). This is slightly better than the 28,000 bps available five years ago. Meanwhile other Preston Township-ites with Ace Telephone and Harmony Telephone service are cruising at up to 1.5 megabytes per second (our area coop telephone companies have done a great job of responding to the needs of its rural customers). The same is true for those residences who have a line of sight to the Midwest Wireless receiver in Preston.

CenturyTel does provide high speed Internet service to Preston, which includes a three mile radius of the city. Of course, I live four miles away and I am on the other side of a hill preventing line of sight access to the Midwest receiver in Preston.

For the uninitiated, speed is everything in surfing the Internet because of the load of information available, the interactive capabilities of the medium and the vast use of graphics and digital images - 38,000 bps is the equivalent to using a crank-up wall-mounted phone on a party-line from hell. Meanwhile everyone else is using the equivalent of a satellite phone. Dial-up Internet is no longer an option.

I got excited six months ago when a CenturyTel engineer told me that the plan was to have rural residences near Preston connected by January or February 2006. This was after being told for a couple of years that if you can find a cluster of other rural residences (I think four was the magic number) the telecom company would hook us up. Of course I told the company that I had three neighbors, all of whom lived within a quarter mile of me, waiting for high speed Internet.

So, this past week, after talking with customer representative Lisa, and, then, her supervisor Donna, I was told that there are no plans to hook the Torgrimson household up to the rest of the world at a speed that will get us anywhere anytime soon.

All I want to know is if there are plans to hook us up sometime in the near future or whether CenturyTel has no plans of ever hooking us up, period. I can live with either answer, I told Donna.

I am sorry, sir, but I dont know the answer to that question. Donna said, politely. She promised to have someone who knew that answer call me.

I also told Donna, that if CenturyTel cant provide high speed internet I might as well disconnect my landline phone completely, as my mobile phone can provide both local and long-distance phone service.

I realize that as a business CenturyTel must look at the cost versus profit benefit of delivering high speed Internet to the Torgrimson household. They are in the business of selling a product and expect to make a profit. I as a consumer, on the other hand, have the right to make decisions based on the types and quality of service I receive.

I tried my best not to be a nasty customer to Lisa and Donna, despite having been on one of those your call is important to us connections all too long. But the bottom line is that technology is a part of our world, and, quite frankly, I am tired of wandering in alone in the communication desert.

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