Thursday, April 7, 2016

ToledoTel/CenturyLink/Winlock Community Meeting

ToledoTel/Winlock Community Meeting snap summary

Dale Merten and Fred Ryder were there representing ToledoTel.  Brad Althauser was there representing CenturyLink.  Edna Fund, Lewis County Commissioner and Ruth Peterson, representing Senator John Braun were also in attendance.

Dale Merten began the meeting by explaining how ToledoTel was able to fund fiber to the home within the Toledo area and why, due to the type and restrictions of USDA funding, it wasn’t an option for Winlock.  He also mentioned NTIA and NOA Net funds that have run dry.  Community Connect is the only current fund with monies available.  The downside is the initial costs to apply for the funds are over $100k and the monies awarded would fall short of the actual cost of improving and expanding service.

Brad Althauser was up next and he heard from many frustrated CenturyLink customers and people who can’t become customers because of bandwidth exhaustion.  He explained about the limitations of the current system and the costs involved in upgrading/replacing the system.  He is aware of our high-speed internet shortcomings and knows that we have long outgrown the capacity of the current infrastructure but, without a major source of funding, has very little recourse.  Residents wondered why CenturyLink was charging so much and providing so little and also why the onus of fund gathering was on the community and federal government and not also on CenturyLink, and why CenturyLink can’t transfer profit gained from metropolitan areas to improve rural areas.  Not all answers were satisfactory to the attendees and few frustrations were alleviated at this meeting.

Residents asked about beaming WiFi signals to get service.  We are hampered by hills and trees surrounding Winlock so it isn’t a solution for many in the area.  ToledoTel Exede is also available to some.  The consensus is that, while better than nothing, it won’t solve the core issue.

The takeaway is now we know ToledoTel’s limitations in the Winlock area.  The WIN (Winlock Improvement Network) Internet Committee will be in contact with Mr. Althauser to break down just what can be done and how much it will cost.  Can improvements be done in phases?  Can an interim gain in speed be reached by replacing copper wires to nodes with fiber optics without initially re-wiring direct to residences?  We plan to map out current infrastructure with the help of CenturyLink and other companies with cable in our area to learn what we are working with.  We need to be going after our piece of the federal grant pie.  Our Federal Representatives need to be hearing from us.  Our personal experiences need to be popping up in their inbox and mailbox with regularity.

We have a long road ahead of us. This task requires us to work together as a community.  Time to dig in and fight for what we need to bring Winlock up to speed!  Thanks to all who attended and asked questions, aired frustrations and showed that Winlock means business!


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