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Residents urge company to extend broadband into Water Village

"Time Warner Cable, we need you."

July 22, 2010
OSSIPEE — Egged on by years of inadequate cable coverage in pockets of town, the Ossipee board of selectmen will meet next Monday with the state's new Director of Broadband Technology to discuss strategies for improvement.

Select board member Kathleen Maloney is serving as the point person for a group of Water Village residents organized to pressure Time Warner Cable into extending broadband 4.3 miles into their neighborhood. At the July 19 board meeting, Maloney announced the board would meet with Director of Broadband Technology Carol Miller of the state's Department of Resources and Economic Development on Monday, July 26 at 3 p.m. at town hall.

The meeting is the latest development in efforts to get Time Warner Cable, the company which first installed cable into the town 20 years ago, to extend its broadband lines into a section of Water Village along Route 171. Currently, according to company officials, the area lacks the density requirement of 15 households per linear mile. Time Warner Cable's franchise agreement with the town doesn't come up for renewal until 2017, said Maloney, who was uncertain as to whether the town could do anything to force the company to extend the lines. Notified recently about grant funds made available to expand technology into rural areas, Maloney noted that the grant program as she understood it was limited to commercial or business applications, not residential.

In the meantime, residents like Carolyn Miller of Water Village Road and her husband, Fire Chief Adam Riley have been urging the town for years to get cable extended into the neighborhood. Alternatives such as satellite don't often work that effectively in the area, and the high speed Internet or WiFi contraptions sold by cell phone companies don't work either because there is often no cell service, said Carolyn in a recent interview.

"We don't have cell service. Some of the best connections are offered through Verizon but we can't get a signal. Those (WiFi) cards are useless to us. High speed satellites don't work," said Carolyn, adding that FairPoint offers a bundle package but the phone lines in the neighborhood are too old to get it.

"We don't have a choice. That's what is so frustrating to us," she said. "They have us under their thumb."

Over the years the Rileys have contacted TWC officials including regional and construction manager. They have alerted State Senator Jeb Bradley to their concerns as well as County Commissioners.

According to a story on Bloomberg BusinessWeek, a report released Tuesday finds as many as 24 million U.S. citizens have no access to broadband Internet service and are unlikely to get the higher-speed connection any time soon, according to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

"The immediate prospects for deployment to them are bleak," the Washington-based commission said in a statement. Between 14 million and 24 million live without Web service that can transmit at least 4 megabits per second, the agency said, according to the Bloomberg report.

The FCC recommended several measures to move closer to its goal of universally available broadband: releasing more spectrum for mobile broadband, allowing for more infrastructure to support the service and further data collection to help more U.S. citizens get broadband. The U.S. population is about 310 million, according to the Central Intelligence Agency, according to the Bloomberg report.

"There's a large chunk of Americans who can't compete and can't conduct commerce as the rest of the country does today," Art Brodsky, communications director for advocacy group Public Knowledge, said in the Bloomberg interview. "You can't force industry to expand to rural areas, but can you can through regulation encourage them to do so."

In March, the FCC released a plan to expand the availability of broadband throughout the U.S. The agency aims to boost the share of those using broadband at home to 90 percent from about 65 percent currently, and having at least 100 million households with connections of 100 megabits per second.

"The rest of the world is not standing still on their broadband infrastructure," Julius Genachowski, the FCC chairman, told Bloomberg TV at the time. "We are lagging behind globally."

Back in Water Village, Carolyn Riley worries that a lack of broadband will lead her schoolchildren to lag behind in their work.

"The kids that don't have high speed access in their homes are at a disadvantage due to the fact that the Governor Wentworth Regional School District is a good school that requests the students do their homework off the Internet," she said, "so access is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity." She said the company offered to extend cable but at the residents' expense. "We're regular people living in Ossipee. No. We're not going to put out thousand of dollars. I'm floored they have the audacity to ask us to pay for it," she said. "It's so wrong."

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Martin Lord Osman
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