| Feb 03, 2011

Once you've heard the sound of a dial-up modem you can't really forget it. It only lasts about 10 seconds but it is rather sharp and it builds to a single note that can only be described as unpleasant.

And then you check the connection speed. Is it 45 kb/second, or only 28.8? Welcome to the glorious world of the world-wide wait.

After at least 10 years of effort towards bringing high speed internet to some of the more remote regions of Eastern Ontario, access to a level of service that is faster and more reliable than that old dial-up service at a reasonable price has finally arrived.

The solution for that segment of the population who live furthest from their neighbours, hidden behind rocks and ridges, will inevitably come from faraway satellites.

While towers will continue to be constructed throughout the region to bring a number of line of sight fixed wireless services to larger enclaves and those living in more open locations, a satellite solution is available now for $70 a month.

As part of the roll out of the $155 million Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) , a contract has been signed with Barrett Xplore, a New Brunswick-based company that already has a foothold in Frontenac County for fixed wireless and satellite offerings, to bring in the service to the entire region.

“Working with Barrett Xplore to launch these satellite services helps us ensure that residents and businesses who live and work in our communities, especially those in the most rural areas, will get access to high speed internet at more affordable prices, which is vital for our local economy,” said Frontenac County Warden Gary Davison on January 24, when the service was announced.

The satellite-based service that is on offer now, is the same service that Barrett has already been offering in the village of Arden for the past two years. It provides for download speeds of up to 1.5 megabits per second, which is “37.5 times faster than dial-up service” according to Barrett Xplore's website, which also describes the service as “ideal for moderate surfing and online transactions.”

With a limit of 250 megabits per day of download volume before the service is, in the words of Barrett Vice-President Bob Davie, “throttled down” to dial-up speed, the service is still less than ideal for people seeking to download larger files. However, as Davie pointed out, next fall when a new satellite comes on stream, Barrett will be offering a faster and more comprehensive service, up to 7 megabits/second. And, he also said, “Going forward there will be downward pressure on the pricing for satellite services”.

For now, Barrett says that the $69.99 price for the current level of service is guaranteed.

While the satellite offering is available now, with installation costs as low as $100 for a three-year contract, retailers working with Barrett Xplore are careful to point out that in some locations other, more robust services might be available over the next year or two.

Under EORN, there are a number of fixed wireless projects that will be coming to the region within a year or so, and all the retailers have mapping that allows them to predict which locations might end up being served by those towers.

“We are committed, both to our customers and to Barrett Xplore, to providing as much information as possible to our customers about what might become available in the coming months and years before they commit to a long-term contract for satellite service,” said Jane Muston of Cloyne Home Hardware, which sells Xplornet brand satellite service and installation

“By granting this contract for satellite service now, before the whole Eastern Ontario Network is finalized, EORN is providing much better Internet access right now so people who need a better option can get in the game. Other options are coming for some through fixed wireless, and there will be a more robust satellite offering for everyone within a year, but at least now everyone can get started,” said Bob Davie.

The largest part of the EORN is the build up of a “reliable core backbone/backhaul structure with approximately 160  'points of presence' throughout the region” which, according to the EORN website, will bring 10 megabit per second service to 85% of homes and businesses in Eastern Ontario.

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