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TDS Telecom delivers ADSL - a dream come true
March 15, 2008

After 8 years of wishing for true low-latency broadband on Beaver Island, TDS has come through in a big way and delivered 1.5 and 3.0 mbps / 512 kbps DSL broadband at last. If anyone is interested in broadband within the following coverage areas, this is the best option we have ever experienced on Beaver Island!

  • St. James, the Port St. James area including Donegal Bay,
  • Carlisle Road,
  • Barney's Lake Road North from ~27996 to Four Corners,
  • King's Highway,
  • Paid een Og's Road, and
  • East Side Drive from ~31080 north to Four Corners (including roads originating from East Side Drive between these points.)

Click here for more information, prices and plans, and real-world performance.

WildBlue up and running on Beaver Island and delivering best ever out-of-town Internet
October 2005

After another wonderful summer, with the shorter days of fall ahead my thoughts have once again turned to how to get faster Internet to make the off-season more interesting and productive.

Last spring we hoped Maylone Enterprises would bring broadband beyond the line of sight currently served by GLE from the school's roof–as we had hoped Wireless First might do. But while interest has been expressed, no one has organized the support necessary to make this somewhat difficult project happen.

Referring to a 100-signature petition asking TDS for a solution, Charlene Burnison said "there is a slim chance TDS will consider providing DSL to Beaver Island in the future." Slim is definitely much much better than none, and we are optimistic that a line-based solution might be found that makes this possible on Beaver Island (those interested in Beaver Island DSL should send a quick email to dean.watkins@tdstelecom.com stating their interest) but  this is still likely a ways off and not yet a sure thing.

A new option however has finally arrived. We've heard about WildBlue since the year 2000, but based on previous ku-band service (Starband and DirecWay) I was skeptical. Early reports of this first US ka-band consumer satellite service were very positive, so I placed an order, and Midwest Energy had a brand new WildBlue system installed and running smoothly in under 3 hours.

WildBlue delivers speeds I haven't seen since using a mainland cable modem: a blazing 1550 kbps down (30 times the download speed of dial-up) and 235 to 255 kbps up (7 times the upload performance of Island dial-up) 

A 10 MB download that takes a half hour over dial-up is finished in under a minute over Wildblue! While there is 625-750 milliseconds of latency due to the distance of the satellite, things that never worked well over previous satellite systems like ftp and secure sites are very fast and reliable over Wildblue.

Installs through an NRTC coop are currently subsidized, equipment costs $299, and the monthly fee is $50, $70, or $80, depending on the speed selected–which can be upgraded or downgraded if needed in the future as well. While not as responsive as wireless, this is by far the best always-on 2-way satellite Internet technology I've experienced to date.

If you're interested, give the friendly and helpful people at Midwest Energy a call at (269) 445-1112 or 1-800-492-5989, or visit www.wild-blue.coop.

–Jeff Cashman, the Beaver Beacon October 2005

 

Maylone Enterprises Proposed Broadband Link to Include Beaver Island
January 2005

At the December 22, 2004 Charlevoix County meeting an interesting proposal was made by Maylone Enterprises of Elk Rapids, a proposal that could very well become a major stepping stone to Beaver Island's broadband future.

Earlier in the fall, Tim Maylone, president of Maylone Enterprises, was asked by the Charlevoix County Sheriff if there were a way to improve its communications between the Sheriff's office, a Boyne City location, and the Beaver Island substation. There was one small problem–there were no additional funds to spend for this in the current budget. Spending time at the County Building, Maylone noted that currently each desk in the County Building has its own phone line, while only a few of the 88 separate lines were actually in use at any given time. In addition, long distance charges to locations such as Beaver Island do add up. When Maylone asserted that a more flexible network could accomplish the goals at hand, and pay for itself and then some, he was asked to analyze the situation and make a proposal.

Maylone Enterprises currently provides 32 Internet hotspots, including networks in and around East Jordan and between Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island. Maylone says he is especially interested in providing broadband and wireless service in Charlevoix County as it would fill the gap in his current coverage between Elk Rapids and Mackinaw.

Having gained the County's public safety committee's support to go ahead on December 7th, at the December 22nd County meeting Maylone proposed a strategy combining conventional T1 lines with high-capacity wireless, including wireless broadband links to the Boyne and Beaver Island locations. In addition to providing the desired broadband data connections between the Charlevoix County building, Charlevoix Sheriff's Office, Boyne, and Beaver Island substations, a control box would be placed at each location allowing users the option of automatically making Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) connections to greatly reduce long distance costs. When not possible, it would automatically fall back to the traditional POTS line at each location. Maylone secured private investment to fund all equipment and installation costs so the County would not have to pay any up-front costs, and estimates that "after factoring in the early termination penalties for higher-priced current telcom contracts (which would be made unnecessary by the new infrastructure), even in a worst case scenario the County would begin saving $1,300 per month, the very first month, by utilizing the new system." And "in a best case scenario, as the transition progressed, the savings could grow closer to $2,000 per month" while providing enhanced linkages between the four locations.

At this point the issue was sent to committee to put together a new RFP, so it is somewhat unclear what the next month will bring or what the rollout schedule may be. 

If the County does ultimately decide to go ahead with the proposal from Maylone Enterprises, it could be exciting news for the Island as Maylone has expressed a strong interest in moving forward to provide much more for the Island's community in general.

As Maylone works on securing tower space on the mainland for an Island connection, he says, in the future he would like to provide not only fast broadband access to more people than can currently see the school's roof, but more, states that this could be "the cornerstone for also providing better telecommunications for medical applications, Internet2 access for the Island schools, public safety, alternative phone services, and alternative commodities broadband Internet access on Beaver Island."

 

New Dialup Options and Hopefully Beaver Island Broadband Options Soon.
August 2002

Update: Thank you very much to GLE for doing a wonderful job with the local dial-up switch over, complete as of August 28th, 2002 at 10:00 am, a couple days ahead of schedule even.  Those on the Island will now find they are able to connect in the high 40's (45-48 kbps) with compression,  instead of being limited to uncompressed 31.2 as we were for the past few years when connecting to BIIP. It does make for a noticeable improvement as expected.  Very good job on the Island dial-up GLE, and a big thank you!

One small disappointment is that the wireless system (which is great, delivering 300-700 kbps both ways, always-on) is only able to reach 1 mile, not 9 as reported last month.  The 9-mile radius mentioned by GLE is under ideal circumstances without any trees and with a tower, and here with the low antenna on the school, 1 mile is the furthest the system is able to reach (as was reported correctly in the spring). Hopefully newer wireless technology (which is starting to emerge, but has yet to be installed by GLE in any of their 15 or so wireless sites) or a tower near  the School will enable more people to access the wireless system in the future.

Update: Previously we believed that there would be two great new options for local dialup come September 1st: GLE and BIIC. But recently Tim Dwyer of Traverse Technologies and the Beaver Island Internet Company (BIIC) announced with a press release that BIIC will not be rolling out its own local dialup system because he believed they did not receive enough support to launch successfully given provisioning delays which would cause a delay in the availability of the BIIC system past September 1st. Although we have very high hopes for GLE and are overjoyed that they will soon be offering service, it's also unfortunate that BIIC was not able to launch at this time as it's always nice to have options and new local businesses (for example, while GLE says they will support multilinking, satellite, and wireless within a 1 mile radius of the base station, BIIC may have used the faster v.92 modems for those who prefer the low cost of dialup.)

Update:  BIIP subscribers received a notice that a decision has been made and GLE will be taking over the BIIP dialup customers by September.  GLE will be replacing BIIP's existing 24 dialup lines with 48 lines. Hopefully GLE will also allow customers to connect at 56k rather than 31.2 k which would be slight but noticeable improvement in download speeds at least.  GLE also said they will offer wireless access to the harbor area, and also within a 9 mile radius of the wireless base station if you can get a clear line of sight to the base station. More details on the GLE's wireless system will be announced shortly.

 

Broadband might still come to Beaver Island

Wireless First Broadband Access Proposal

Here's a rough outline of the Wireless First plan & preliminary timetable for cable modem and wireless access for Beaver Island (though this is been moved back by a few months now):

  1. Do engineering plan and shopping list for high bandwidth link to the island (probably 10 Mbps)
  2. Come to island May 16 to scout tower sites and assess the cable TV system. Also look at CMU and possible fiber links on island.
  3. Order equipment and install the link in June.
  4. Order and install cable headend in late June or early July.
  5. Meanwhile the Pointred wireless system will be here next week so we can begin evaluation.
  6. Install wireless system in August.

Wireless First will be able to provide T-1 Internet access to large customers (schools, etc.) for $1000 per month complete. This link would tie directly into their router. Wireless First would deliver via fiber or point-to-point microwave. Customers would provide or pay for router.

Wireless First's cablemodem and wireless residential systems would have variable download speeds and 3 pricing levels:

Residential sites:

    256K-$35/mo.
    512K-$55/mo.
    768K-$75/mo.

Commercial sites with 1 workstation:

    256K-$50/mo.
    512K-$80/mo.
    768K-$100/mo.

Commercial sites with network and shared IP:

    256K-$100/mo.
    512K-$160/mo.
    768K-$200/mo.
    T-1-$400/mo.

Each additional IP address is $15/mo.

Cablemodem install is $99 and the single user modem costs approx. $200.  Lease the modem for $5/mo.
The commercial modem (multi-user with 4 port hub and firewall) costs
approx. $1000. Lease for $25/mo.

Wireless install is $199. Modem will cost $700 or lease for $15/mo. For
networks add a small office router for $200.

For more information, contact Jeff Forrest, jforrest@speedconnect.com
(231) 922-2367 or fax (231) 922-2370.

 

Community Internet Technology Forum
Spring 2002

A few years ago, an interesting thing happened to us on our way to the twenty-first century. In an effort to make Internet service affordable to the Beaver Island School, the original partners of the Beaver Island Internet Project (the School, CMU, and the Medical Center) decided to offer Internet service to everyone on Beaver Island. At that time no one knew what kind of demand there would be. It was hoped twenty or thirty subscribers could be found, enough to help defray the cost.

In a few short years, the number has grown to a hundred and fifty. Early on, the system seemed clogged, but for each upgrade of the equipment more new subscribers appeared, and the degree of clog seemed constant. A little use of the Internet bred a great appreciation for it, even a dependence, and the problems were responded to by grumbles, complaints, and anger. Either they couldn't get on, or couldn't stay on, or had a connection that seemed worse than before.

The Project was besieged with calls for help. It had neither the time, experience, personnel, or budget to help with this plethora of problems. It was wilting under the attack of disgruntled subscribers: this was not anything it had bargained for. It began to hope some benevolent alternative service provider somewhere could be induced, tricked, or bribed into picking up the slack.

On Wednesday night, fifty-seven interested Beaver Islanders heard the good news: it was no longer a question of whether or not someone could be found, but of which of at least three viable candidates we thought would do the best job. After Denise McDonough's introduction, Chuck Schmidt briefly addressed the nature of our dissatisfaction with the current system. Then the three representatives of viable alternates made their presentations.

Dave Hanchett of Great Lakes Energy was first, although he was preceded by an assistant who ably read some generic facts. Dave had two options: he could offer anyone right now a satellite connection to the Internet. They would have to purchase equipment, a dish, which would cost about $700. Service would cost $70 a month. A better possibility was that GLE would replace BIIP. We had reached the minimum number of users to induce this, 150, so if we accepted GLE, they would operate 48 modems out of the School (if the School let them do this, it would receive free access) and charge the same as BIIP: $20 a month. While he did not promise to station a man on the Island to take care of problems, he did say that he would provide 24/7 phone support with a live operator.

Charlene Burnison of TDS took the stand next. She said that her minimum number of subscribers was 300, but in this case she would make an exception. In her brief presentation, she indicated that TDS could offer the same dial-up service as GLE. Their modem base would be moved to the mainland, where it would be easier for them to service.

Jeff Forrest of Wireless First spoke next. He has already played an Island role by providing the Beaver Head Lighthouse school with a microwave relay, providing them with always-on, high speed Internet access. He sketched in a two-part plan. First, he would use the existing TV cable (owned by Pine River Cable, whose owner, John Metzler, was unable to attend) to provide everyone it reaches with high speed always-on Internet service at $40 to $50 a month. He described this as an easy to accomplish goal technologically and could do this by the summer. For those beyond its run, he would lease tower space on an existing tower for a wireless transmitter and provide always-on wireless access for about the same amount per month. The wireless installations would cost about $200 for the antenna, and using new NLOS technology would not require a direct line-of-sight. His system would establish a network in which each antenna on each individual customer's home helped propagate the signal to and from the tower. So his combination of wired and wireless would provide much better and faster service (for a little more than twice the current cost.)



After this presentation, Island resident and Internet designer Jeff Cashman spoke about the problems of a satellite connection through Starband. While download speeds were great for large single file downloads, upload was not, and the current 2-way satellite solutions, both Starband and DirecPC/Direcway/Peagasus/Earthlink, are not good for doing business or interactive activities. E-mail is slower than BIIP. Secure pages (for example online banking or checkout pages when you order something online) are also slower than BIIP, and the inherent high latency of a Satellite connection makes activities like VPN, Telnet/Shell access, interactive activities, and gaming impractical over a satellite connection. In addition, there were weather interruptions, and service was less than adequate. The cost was $700 for equipment and installation and $70 a month. As a positive note, the always-on connection is a very nice feature, and once you have an always-on connection, you will never want to go back to a dial-on demand situation. If there were no other high speed options on the horizon, Satellite might be a high-cost partial solution for someone primarily interested in downloading and an always-on connection. But he did not recommend proceeding in this direction if a wireless solution was a possibility.

After these presentations, this question was asked: how do we decide which of these systems would be best for us? Kitty McNamara said that the BIIP Board had asked Internet consultants to submit proposals to them detailing how they could help answer this by investigating these and other proposals. Three such consultants were in the audience: Fred Trimble of Trimble Consulting in Traverse City, Chris Pease of Tech Progressive in Charlevoix, and Tim Dwyer of Traverse Technologies on Beaver Island. Kitty said the BIIP Board would evaluate their proposals and award one of them a contract, with their report due by June.

Ed Wojan said that this was such an important issue that he hoped other organizations would play a role in making this decision. He wondered if a committee could be formed to include all three consultants. They were asked if this was feasible, and could think of no immediate objection. But Kitty said funds were limited, unless the Townships, considering the significance of this matter, would kick in something—and here she looked pointedly at Don Vyse. He was not in a position to commit to this, whereupon Ed Wojan said he would donate a thousand dollars to such a committee to start the ball rolling.

During the discussion that followed, questions of many sorts were answered, and everyone came away with a better understanding of the issues. There was a surge of good feeling over the fact that instead of facing a possible curtailing of our link to the world wide web, on which so many of us rely and which is growing exponentially in importance for the future of this otherwise-cut-off island, we have several viable options, each one of which promises to improve our connectivity, and lives.

(Watch for more news soon, and if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas, I would very much like to hear from you.  jcashman@beaverisland.net )
 

Broadband Access is coming to the rest of Michigan

In the graphic below (From The Detroit News) Orange (peach)  represents areas where Cable Modem service is currently available, offering up to 50x the speed of dialup and always-on convenience. Tan represents areas where DSL is currently available (preferred by some for better quality of service in some areas), and Gray/Blue represents areas where broadband access is planned to be available within 24 months.  Now how can we bring better, faster Internet Access to Beaver Island?

Interesting Wireless Links:


New Large-Scale Construction on the Island

New Emerald Isle Hotel - A nice improvement for the corner of Donegal Bay Road.

A Car Wash on Beaver Island?

Three new Island Generators in the Four Corners Power Station

Is this Four Corners?  (The new propane station/convenience store)

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