As journalists, we like to think of ourselves as storytellers. We fill the pages of the newspaper – and our website – with dozens of stories every week. But there are always those that we don’t have time or newsprint space to tell.
Brian Larson, manager of the Bike Stop, for instance, had stories to share about the “ghost bike” installed last Friday at the site of a cyclist’s death. He told us, “This isn’t the first ghost bike I’ve made.” Tears fell as he talked about the deaths of cyclists he didn’t know but mourned for anyway.
A few weeks ago, we sat around a big country kitchen and talked with eight or so residents of Goldvein about their struggles trying to obtain decent internet service in their rural community. Our broadband service coverage is extensive, but their stories – articulate and relatable and brimming with frustration -- just didn’t quite make it into the narrative.
Janice Bergeron, for instance, is ready to call it quits. Her B&B, The Lodge at Blackwell’s Mill, has four rooms to rent, but it’s dead in the water without internet service. “If I have no internet, there is no point,” she said. “I can’t take reservations; I can’t do anything with our website.”
Without an internet connection, she can’t communicate with potential customers, and the visitors who do come don’t like not being able to connect.
Bergeron said she has called Sprint “constantly,” but is told it would be addressed – eventually. “They tell me, ‘Oh, it just went down. It will be up again soon.’ But we can’t get a signal.”
Bergeron said that Sprint gave her a “magic box” that was supposed to help capture a signal. “I put on the third floor, facing a window that faces the tower, but all it does is spin.”
Her husband Roy recently retired from a job in computer security. He said he’s not ready to give up the B&B yet. “I’d like to see if we can earn back some of our investment.”
He said he had surgery recently and was supposed to check in with his health care provider by portal, but that proved impossible. He said that if he wants to talk on the phone, “I have to go out in the yard and stand on one foot.”
The Goldvein folks have investigated other options. A Verizon business service would cost $950 a month with a three-year contract, they say. Roy Bergeron said, “I’d have to be running something illicit here to afford that.”
Roger Boughton has a government job and sometimes works from home. He uses Hughes.net, a satellite service. “I get up at 4 a.m. so I can work when there is more bandwidth available. I print out what I need to read so I can keep working through the day.” And, he added, “If there is weather, there’s no internet.”
Boughton has an apt analogy for the internet service they have to put up with. “When you take a photo with a cellphone, it’s instantaneous. You see the whole image right away. It’s like the rest of the world is using cellphone technology and we are using a Polaroid. We have to wait for the images to slowly develop. That’s what it feels like, waiting for a site to come up.”
He shrugged, “Well, at least it cuts down on spam.”
As your local newspaper, we delight in being able to share your stories. We truly wish we could tell them all.