When my significant other accepted a job here in Farmington, we knew that internet access in rural areas of Maine could be challenging. We’ve lived in rural Wisconsin, rural Georgia, and rural North Carolina over the years. Dealing with lack of infrastructure is not a new obstacle to us. We did a lot of due diligence before he even took the job, since I work from home and absolutely need access. And for the last year, we have had decent if not great internet service in Farmington through Consolidated.
We really like Farmington as a community. We’ve decided to stay and so we purchased a small older house on a small plot of land just outside of town proper. We, again, did our due diligence and even selected our new home over other options because the current owners had a Consolidated modem in their house and so had service. And that was our mistake – thinking that because service existed at a residence, it would be available at that residence in the future.
The day we got the clear-to-close from the mortgage company, we called Consolidated to transfer our service to our new home, knowing it would take 2-3 weeks for a tech to be available to do the installation. The customer service rep seemed a little confused because there was still service at what was becoming our new place, but he placed the order, informing us that the technician would come out on June 30 to set up the modem; it was the first day they could get out there. Over the next 13 days, we packed and hauled and cleaned and dreamed about what we could do with our little piece of land.
Late afternoon on June 29, we got an automated call, indicating there was some problem with our order but no specifics. We called back immediately, well within the posted customer service center hours, only to discover that they were closed. We called back this morning only to be told that internet service was no longer available for our home.
The customer service representative said that internet service in our area was like a parking lot. A full parking lot with no spaces available. According to the rep, when the previous owner of our new house cancelled service, Consolidated gave that spot to another address, despite there being an order for new service to be turned on at the same address. We were just going to have to wait until someone else cancelled their service or did not pay. When might we get service? Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. Maybe next year. We had entered the Great Internet Roulette.
We quickly called the only other provider in our area. They cannot come out until July 12 to set up a connection.
So, now we wait. I can pull basic service via a mobile hotspot on a cell phone, but that does not allow me to use the critical piece of software I must access at my work; that requires decent internet speed to load and function. I cannot use the only coworking space here in the area because I work five days a week and their space and hours are limited. The public library likewise has limited hours.
I hope I will not lose my job because I cannot carry out my basic duties anymore. Maybe Consolidated will call back and fix their inadequacies as a service provider. With any luck, the new provider will be able to come out earlier than expected. Hopefully, they actually will be able to provide service when the installation day finally arrives.
We live in a world that requires advanced telecommunication services. Today, nearly everything is done online. We all shop online. We pay our bills online. We connect with far-flung friends and family online. We work online. Poor broadband access is a critical component of infrastructure that must be addressed if this part of the world is to thrive and flourish. I implore our local leaders of government and business and our national leaders, as well, to make improving infrastructure – especially rural broadband – a priority.
Heather A. Brown