A voice from the frontlines: satellite is ubiquitous but it has limitations

Last week I wrote about Kirsten K. and her autistic son who isn’t able to get the services he needs without broadband. I think it’s helpful to hear from the rural frontlines, which aren’t as far away or few and far between ad you might think. As Kirsten reminds me, they are rural, not remote. They are right outside Biwabik on Highway 4. She told me the frustration trying out various modes of broadband…

Satellite isn’t enough…and its VERY costly especially for what you get here. Satellite companies will always serve people in very obscure locations and that’s important. But it’s close to monopoly right now with only two satellite providers, Exede and Hughesnet.

My cousin’s son has been unable to use their connection for his schoolwork, he has to drive to a friend’s house in town to take tests or submit papers. It’s also limiting for kids who are home schooling and new high school grads who plan on saving money by going to local community colleges while living at home with the parents in the country.

Sadly, we Highway 4 residents also are denied internet employment options, because most of these require broadband…usually cable or fiber. So in our economically depressed area, we are unable to look out into the cyber world for jobs to support our families. We feel stuck.

Any rain whatsoever, a situation similar to satellite television, the internet goes down. And frequent country power outages will easily fry rented modems that the companies are exceedingly unwilling to replace.

Sheryl E. lives on Norway Drive about a quarter mile north of me. She told me that landlines will no longer be an option soon in our area. She told me that the landline company has encouraged her to drop her landline completely and now is refusing to maintain the line between the main service at the pole and her house. [May 21: working on getting more details on this info.] So if something disrupts the wires coming into her home (just a matter of time with the trees), she will no longer be able to keep and use her landline for dialup (which she claims is faster than her satellite connection most of the time anyway). It’s just crazy. It feels like we are being wiped off the map!

I should add, in our “not so remote” area, we locals joke about there being three drops of rain…so no internet or tv today! But thats a reality. Rain, wind, snow (and we definitely get some snow!) will knock out satellite very reliably. You can almost set your watch by it crashing out.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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