Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sidebar: Slow lane

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Under the terms of the deal, by 2013, 90 percent of FairPoint’s customers in northern New England will have access to DSL Internet service. (Unless, of course, FairPoint takes the extra year Maine regulators have allowed with no penalty, which would mean waiting until 2014.)

In that time, FairPoint plans to provide exactly none of its customers with the option for fiber-optic connections, which is the real high-speed Internet, already available to 10 million homes in the US, but none in northern New England (except a handful around Portsmouth, New Hampshire; see “Internet Disconnect,” by Jeff Inglis, August 24, 2007).

DSL is the slowest of all the services that can be called “broadband,” though it is faster than dial-up. In 2007, as many as 40 percent of DSL customers were dissatisfied with the speed of their service, according to a report by Michael Render, a fiber-market analyst for RVA Market Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Imagine how many people will think DSL is too slow in 2014!

By 2010, three (or four) years before FairPoint’s rollout of DSL will be complete, 25 million homes nationwide (22 percent of all homes) will have access to fiber, Render says.

As everyone else is eagerly awaiting the connection of fiber-optics, we in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont will have our feet up, enjoying life in the slow lane.