February 10, 2000

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


If I were really rich I would switch to American On in a minute. Letís face it, we have the Teedledee and Teedledum of Internet providers in Ely. Each promises the best quality and best service on the Range. The fact is our access to the Internet is a joke. I have used Spacestar since the day it came into town as Northernnet. As a freelance computer nerd I have helped people install both Spacestar and The Bridge onto their computers. Both provide Disks that automatically set up your computer for Internet use. The fact is half the time the set up program fails to work.

I have heard stories of people suffering for up to two weeks in their struggle to get their computer to work on the Internet. Once you are hooked up you quickly discover that your 56K modem was an over investment. Both Internet providers have too few lines into Ely. Because you end up with 1/10 of a phone line you end up realizing only two or three thousand bits per second. Out of every minute the best I see is maybe half of that time data is coming into your computer.

I have heard from users of both services that after so many minutes their computers are booted off the Internet. My provider usually doesnít kick me off, only the connection becomes slower and slower until it just stops working.

Large downloads are almost impossible without help from programs like GetRight. GetRight is a neat program that will keep trying to download a file even if it has to be done in bits and pieces. If GetRight gets kicked out of the Internet before it is done, it just restarts where it left off before. Why Windows and Apple donít have this feature is beyond me. It is probably due to the fact that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs personally have a fiber optic connection to the Internet and they donít know what it is like in the real world.

I can remember when the Bridge promised us we would have fiber optic. Then TCI sued the Cable Company that was connected to the Bridge which was suppose to come into Ely. The lawyers of TCI probably have that buried in court for 1000 years. Meanwhile TCI dumped the Ely system and sold it to another company, which sold it to another company again. Meanwhile, we enjoy the slowest Internet connections in the Universe.

It seems everyone else on the planet is enjoying streaming audio and video. Everyone else enjoys listening to Internet Radio and watching Web TV shows. Meanwhile we get gray hair just waiting for our home page to show up.

You would think we put the EPUC in charge of our Internet access! I am all for free markets, but this is a prime example of when the free market does not come into play. We are too far to be economical. Perhaps our deadbeat state legislators should look into a way to advance our ability to have fast connections to the Internet? Back in the 1930ís the US Government had the REA Ė Rural Electrification Administration. Now we need a RIA Ė Rural Internet Administration.

It is the Internet which has and will continue to transform commerce. So many things in Ely are not available unless you travel to Duluth or Minneapolis. The Internet can change that and allow us to find the best prices for the best product. Jobs that do not require working in an office could be located in our area, but due to the lack of high speed connections they are not an option.

Perhaps the new Technology Center will have a fiber optic connection, but until it is an option for the small businesses and people of Ely the dream of the Internet will not come true. It will remain a toy and a very slow toy at that.


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