Officials with the Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation and Technology visited with Elko-area residents last week and learned what they probably already knew.
Our internet service sucks. Broadband connections are slower, cost more and are less reliable than most metropolitan areas.
“There’s actually third-world countries that has better internet than you do,” said Jojo Myers Campos, broadband manager for the state office.
Business owners and others turned out to complain and offer suggestions, but the providers themselves were not invited to the party. No good news was offered by the officials, no reason to throw confetti.
Instead, we were told it will take time to bring us up to speed.
That’s basically what we have been hearing all along, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it.
Well, nobody but Spencer Fuller.
The network administrator at Wells Rural Electric Co. started his own internet business after finding out in February 2016 that Frontier Communications had reached capacity and could not hook up any new customers in Wells. Less than six months later his Wells Community Internet Project was operating and now has nearly 200 customers. They get 30 Mbps download speeds for $40 a month – a deal that can only be found in metropolitan areas like Salt Lake City.
“It’s not that complex,” Fuller told the Elko Daily Free Press.
He got a regular business license and found the bandwidth he needed, then installed radio equipment to provide wireless service to eagerly awaiting customers. His initial investment was small enough to put on his credit card and he made his money back before any interest was due.
“Anybody can buy the equipment and set it up,” he said. They don’t need a degree in physics, although Fuller has one himself.
And his company is making money. Well, not a lot of money, since it is still small, but he has branched out to serve remote rural communities in the area and could eventually serve large places like Spring Creek or even Elko. All he needs is a hilltop with a clear shot for radio signals.
Fuller joins a growing list of internet do-it-yourselfers, many of whom live or work on remote farms or ranches. BBC ran an article two years ago titled “Want rural superfast broadband? Do it yourself.”
So, what’s the holdup in providing better and cheaper service in the Elko area? Fuller certainly does not agree with the concept that building a broadband network takes lots of time and money. Of course, there is a big difference between providing wireless service and hard-wired, like what Frontier or Satview Broadband use.
We hope the governor’s office will make an announcement soon that some company plans to beef up service in the Elko area, and provide the same speeds at the same price as a ranch in Starr Valley can get from a part-time, one-man operation in Wells.
By the time that happens it may not matter for some users. The Federal Communications Commission this week dumped “net neutrality” rules that have kept the internet on a level playing field. Soon, a city user could find the same sluggish response as someone in Spring Creek when they go to visit their favorite website.
“Under the new rules approved Thursday, the Comcasts and AT&Ts of the world will be free to block rival apps, slow down competing services or offer faster speeds to companies that pay up,” reported The Associated Press.
Small companies like the Wells Community Internet Project and entrepreneurs like Spencer Fuller should be encouraged, not penalized, for their hands-on approach to doing what other people cannot or will not do.