Changing technology restricting broadband growth

Keweenaw County resident Theresa Ahlborn has been urging the County Board to invest in bringing broadband internet to the county, particularly in the Bete Gris and Lac La Belle areas.

At a recent Keweenaw County Board meeting, she said there are current providers willing to start their own investments, but that technology changes rapidly, requiring frequent upgrades to equipment. She also said that high speed internet, capable of videoconferencing, is needed to increase the county’s economy.

“Three years from now it’s like you’ve got to replace it and upgrade it,” Ahlborn said, “and we have to be able to help our local providers to be able to do that, and to get enough seed money in, so they can get enough service, so they can get and keep going, and the loop closes.”

There are funds available through the state Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Ahlborn told the board. She said the EDC has two different programs — the business development program and the community development block grant program.

“This would help Charlie (Hopper, general manager of Pasty.Net) to get those improvements so that could be done,” Ahlborn said. “The upload/download speeds with (Pasty.Net) on the beach are pretty slow, and it’s not working for someone who wants to work remotely.”

Hopper takes issue with that statement. He told the Daily Mining Gazette in an email that his company currently provides service to the Bete Gris area capable of videoconferencing.

“There are many…public sources documenting remote broadband efforts in the Keweenaw,” Hopper wrote, “such as our joint project with Michigan Tech Research Center in 2001, and high-speed service to the former Keweenaw Academy at Mount Horace Greeley in 2004.”

Broadband research and development in Keweenaw County is not something new, Hopper wrote. He added it is the continual focus of his company to improve speed and reliability for Pasty.Net’s growing member base.

“Pasty.NET serves more users in Keweenaw County than Charter and Cable America combined,” Hopper wrote.

According to the FCC’s national broadband map, Pasty.Net offers terrestrial fixed wireless – unlicensed broadband technology to approximately 1,500 customers out of a population of 2,029.

Terrestrial fixed wireless technology enables wireless broadband service to a specific geographic location using spectrum that is shared among internet service providers. This wireless service includes Wi-Fi and other similar technologies such as WiMAX and proprietary wireless systems.