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Slow Internet issue reaches Town Council

April 20, 2012

Here’s just a sliver of what Internet Hades looks like:

“I don’t know how realistic this is,” said Jason Oelkers, Suddenlink’s regional system manager, addressing Mammoth Town Council on Wednesday, “but I’ll throw it out there:

“In communities that have a drought, like in Texas, they say that homes with even [numbered] addresses can use water Monday through Thursday, and…”

Oelkers, from Truckee, immediately drew laughter from the audience and stopped his example.

 “I’m just trying to be creative,” he said plaintively. ”It’s a wild idea, but we’re trying to come up with something.”

Oelkers said the real, long-term solution is tapping into the Digital 395 fiber-optic cable, if and when it ever gets here. He acknowledged there are slowups in the construction of the “pipe,” such as environmental issues.

In the meantime, there is no quick, visible solution to the slow Internet speeds in Mammoth, where in this past winter Suddenlink stopped taking new residential and business orders.

As for Verizon, who knows?

Oelkers appeared before the council at the request of Town Councilman Matt Lehman, who also invited representation for Verizon.

But Verizon was nowhere to be seen, perhaps caught in a traffic jam in the Internet pipe.

That left Oelkers to take the heat by himself, and Lehman pounced.

“It’s been a pretty hot topic,” he said. “I brought up this question some time ago and then the phone started ringing.

“I’m hearing that there is no solution until Digital 395 gets here, but I’m concerned about the impacts between now and then. 

“In my office, we’re paying for megabytes of bandwidth that we don’t get.

“At Suddenlink at home, I’m paying for a service I don’t even get. I get maybe 10 percent of what’s promised.

“To me that’s frustrating on a personal level, and then I start hearing it from visitors up here, and they’re the ones who drive our economy. 

“A lot of them come up here on working vacations, and when they come up during a vacation and can’t get Internet service, the answer for them is to go to Colorado or Utah instead.”

Oelkers said he feels the pain, but could offer nothing in the short-term.

“This was a problem we inherited,” he said. “Our circuit was starting to get to the point where it wasn’t effective. What we’re finding, though, is that 10 percent of our customers take up 90 percent of our bandwidth.” 

Oelkers referred to heavy streamers who use Netflix and so on, and streaming video eats up capacity.

“We’ve never instituted a policy of limiting bandwidth, but overall, year over year, our subscriber base has remained relatively flat, but Internet bandwidth usage has doubled.

“That’s where you see the congestion, as well as in smartphone use.”

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