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High Speed Internet for Rural Wildwood: Not So Fast!

For the portions of Wildwood with no infrastructure for high speed Internet access, there are still easement matters to discuss and tackle before locations of proposed utility poles can be finalized.

In parts of Wildwood's more rugged terrain, city representatives for the past five years concertedly have sought a solution for providing high-speed Internet access to the 3,000-plus unserved and underserved city households. Now where best to locate a series of 100-feet wooden utility poles is a question.

Wildwood's director of planning and parks Joe Vujnich was scheduled to ask Planning and Zoning Commissioners at their Tuesday meeting to approve four locations for placing new utility poles in the city's Ward 6 most southwestern area. However homeowners who were slated on a site development recommendation plan to have poles erected near the front yards of their homes had not been contacted by city officials, and had no input into the location of the poles.

A series of phone calls and e-mails from homeowners in Fox Creek Valley Subdivision on Wednesday afternoon prompted Vujnich to postpone the commission's consideration of three of the proposed pole sites, until proper notification and discussions can take place.

At the meeting, Vujnich said he had relied on one of the identified Internet service providers to contact homeowners and subdivision trustees regarding the specific locations. That did not occur.

The poles were set up to be placed on easements, however the suggested locations are in residential subdivisions that were incorporated before the city of Wildwood's incorporation. Therefore, Wildwood does not own rights to the easements, and requires permission from subdivision trustees.

Residents, such as Barb Ellebrecht, said the lack of high speed Internet at Wildwood residences is negatively affecting the value of their homes. She lives off of Babler Woods Road, near Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park, and told Wildwood Planning and Zoning Commissioners at Tuesday's meeting their family also cannot get cell phone service.

See article about Babler Park's news:  Babler State Park in Wildwood Among 11 Now Offering Wireless Connections

"My son has even gone on top of our roof to try to get service, and we have a two-story home," said Ellebrecht.

"It sure would be helpful to have Internet service."

Vujnich said home-based commerce, overall economic development and safety, in some cases, also is being negatively impacted at homes lacking high speed options.

"If you want to see what it's really like for some of our Wildwood residents, turn off your Internet for a week," said Vujnich. "Even that's a long timeframe, and you wouldn't want to continue. It's just unacceptable."

Wildwood City Council members introduced a bill at their Jan. 14 meeting to purchase up to 16 utility poles to support high speed Internet access in rural areas of the city at a maximum cost of $90,000. The poles, which would extend above trees, would make it possible for residents to receive signals from two wireless service providers currently set to work with Wildwood on this special project:  Bays ET of Pacific and Belleville, Ill.-based WisperISP.

City officials have $150,000 allotted for a slow rollout of Internet service. Vujnich said the money is intended to be used for capital assets, poles, electrical service or payments of easements.

Wildwood has had a citizen-based Rural Internet Access Committee researching technical options for the past couple of years. They implemented a successful pilot project, but a pursued arrangement with Charter Communications was not successful.

See previous article:  Wildwood Is Looking for an Internet Provider – Again

Former city council member David Sewell has been involved with the Internet access committee and options throughout the process. He has blogged on Eureka-Wildwood Patch about it: 

Internet Coming to Rural Wildwood

Wildwood Rural Internet Rollout Update

Sewell is suggesting a recoupment program for the utility poles to city council members, which he said is very fair and nominal.

Another service option investigated was via fiber optic, but it was not financially feasible.

Tuesday evening, Vujnich did recommend moving forward with one of the utility poles being erected at site inside of an undeveloped subdivision at 18621 Windy Hollow Lane. Wildwood would have rights to all utility corridors there, just like Laclede Gas. Commissioners approved that pole.

Council members are expected to readdress the overall high speed Internet situation at the Feb. 11 meeting. The Jan. 28 city council meeting was canceled due to the move into the new City Hall.

Robin L. Rambaud January 24, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Actually, that's not accurate. Due to the terrain and other factors, Verizon's coverage is limited to a fraction of the areas under discussion, and much of that coverage is 3G vs 4G and at very low data rates (sub-megabit downloads and much slower up.) This is true even when using top of the line antenna and external amplifier technologies. Moreover, their service is unreliable to the point of being completely unusable for VPN and other sophisticated applications. Finally, their cheapest data service is ~$60/mo. all-in for 5Gb, with additional data at $10/Gb. This drives monthly data bills into the hundreds of dollars just for normal activity - let alone streaming the occasional YouTube or Netflix video. To be clear, this is not a knock against Verizon. They do as well as any cell service provider in that area - no worse, just no better.
Julie Brown Patton January 24, 2013 at 10:29 PM
That's crucial sharing of details, Robin. Thanks! Several residents in this part of Wildwood, particularly Ward 6, have tried to ascertain whether Verizon's newest technology works at their homes, and their addresses do not show up in Verizon's database as being "serviced." And yes, others have voiced the same concerns about the financial add-ons due to monthly limits.
Robin L. Rambaud January 25, 2013 at 12:35 AM
My comments were perfectly cordial and polite, and I went out of my way to explicitly state that I was NOT bashing Verizon. Verizon provides my personal cell phone as well as a Pantech PL290 modem for backup & roaming. The PL290 is nearly useless at my home unless connected to a topnotch antenna and cellular amp via ULL coax. Coverage, bandwidth and pricing offers change all the time but my stated information is accurate. As awkward as it might be for both of us, I’m a doctoral-degreed telecom engineer with decades of relevant experience. I’d be happy to get into the bits, waves & electrons if you really want to, but perhaps you might prefer that we do so in a less public forum. For now, suffice it to say that I still can’t get HomeFusion at my house and until they light up new towers their service is exactly as I stated. Might certain areas be better served by Verizon? Sure. Can the same be said of other providers? Again, sure. Based on my interest in this topic and my attendance at many Wildwood RIAC meetings I can confidently say that carrier performance varies with the specific location. I can also say that, while there are other complaints to be made about the RIAC performance in general, in my experience watching that group work, the Mayor’s employer has nothing to do with this issue. Please do forward my comments to Verizon legal team. At least they can read it without moving their lips. Get your facts straight, indeed...

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