Monday, April 14, 2014

Thank You Stan Rosenberg

This post is long overdue. In fact, it is one year and 60 days past due. If you are a longtime follower of this blog, you know that we live in the boonies. It is beautiful here and I do love the freedom of not having many neighbors. If I want to feed my chickens in my underwear, it is a possible. Watching hawks flying overhead in our pasture, being surprised by an owl swooping out of the woods, viewing turkeys and deer in the orchard every morning, and walking with our dogs on our road for 3 miles without anyone passing me is something I really love and cherish and do not take for granted. Not everything is honky-dory here. Gas is expensive and I can't do anything without driving 20 minutes one way. (I practice "trip-chaining".) If I lock myself mistakenly in the chicken pen, noone is going to find me for hours.

I work from home so communication on the internet is really important for what I do - writing books, maintaining our 2 websites, updating this blog, and general communication. For many years, I lived with very slow dial-up service. I can't believe I ever thought to start this blog back in 2006. It took forever to upload photos - watching the little circle spin around and around while I was thinking of everything I needed to do. I never had the patience to comment on anyone's blog because it would take 5 minutes or more for the process to even begin. Sadly, I haven't developed the internet friendships so many other bloggers have.

Our little town hall which has high speed internet
As communication changed, high speed internet service became possible in urban and suburban areas serviced by cable and the phone companies. The only problem was that small rural communities like ours did not receive high speed internet service - we were left behind. Eventually our town hall and library got satellite service and I bought a laptop when my desktop computer died so that I could sit in my car and work on my blog and upload photos. In the winter, in the summer, late at night --- anything to work faster and spend less time waiting. I would drop Julia off at the elementary school and head to "my office" in my car in the Town Hall Parking Lot. It was progress. Eventually, they gave me a key so I could sit inside. (You have to love small town America!) 

Bernardston's Cushman Library
For hours and hours, I would sit in my car - at the Bernardston library, at the Leyden Town Hall or if I felt like driving further at internet cafe in the big town 20 minutes from here. It wasn't the best but it is what I did. There are a lot of people that live rurally in our local area in the same situation - artists, students, business people, writers, college professors... We are all expected to be available digitally at a moment's notice. That is just how the world has become.

The pond that sits beside Cushman Library in Bernardston. It is full of critters
It was announced that high speed internet service would come to our small town. The catch was your home had to be so and so feet from the magic switching box. I drove the road and thought we were safe. My close neighbors and I waited in anticipation until we would be able to catch up with the rest of the world. 

The service came in the fall of 2010. We waited and waited until we got the call that we would be hooked up. But that didn't happen. For some unforseen reason, our road, along with several other roads in town were passed by. Throwing up my hands in disgust, I purchased something called an "air card" which cost $250 (it is the size of a credit card). The air card service costs $87 per month for lousy high speed limited in hours service - but it was better than dial-up. I still had to go to the Town Hall to do large file transfers or upload video. Watching video wasn't an option because the air card was too slow and our bandwidth was limited.

During these two years I called Verizon repeatedly checking on the possibility of DSL service at our home - explaining the situation. I was always told they would check on it. Once I was promised that an engineer would check out our situation. It never happened.  And then I found out that my neighbors 2 doors away had somehow gotten DSL service. WHAAAATTTTTT? Every Verizon truck I saw, I would stop and talk to the repair guys. They would feel my pain but there was nothing they could do.

I called Verizon to check on service so many times as did all the rest of the neighbors. We all got the same message - it isn't possible. The service came to town but the outlying roads were too far away. We wouldn't get high speed service. I continued to call Verizon - hoping the message would change and by some miracle DSL would be available. All I could imagine was I was talking to someone in Texas or New Jersey in a giant building. Did they really care about how the lack of internet service was impacting my business? No - they could care less.

I was at a loss for what else to do. I thought back to when I was in 4th grade and was desperate for a pony for Christmas. We had the space but farm animals were against zoning rules. I wrote Mayor Hedden and pleaded my case. I didn't get a pony (do you think my Mom and Dad were in cahouts with the Mayor?) but my sister and I did land on the front page of the local paper with the headline "Mayor Hedden Plays Scrooge." 

One November day in 2012, I sat myself down and poured my heart out to the President of Verizon. I told him about my on-line business, our farm, our websites, about sitting in the car outside the Town Hall. I told him how the lack of DSL service was affecting our family. I sent him maps showing all the houses that had service, highlighting the position of the "magic box". I figured why not copy some of my public officials. What the heck - it couldn't hurt. I cc-ed Governor Deval Patrick who I had heard speak at a local town hall (45 minutes from here) about bringing high speed internet service to "the last mile." We are living in "last mile land." I also cc-ed our State Senator Stan Rosenberg. I figured I had nothing to lose.

Two days before Thanksgiving in 2012, I got a phone call from NYC from a woman named Irma. She worked for Verizon and told me she would be working on my case. I was dumbfounded and stunned. She made me no promises. I was to call her once a month on the first Tuesday. At the end of the conversation, she told me that my case had been given to her because Senator Rosenberg's office had contacted Verizon on my behalf.

I hung up the phone shaking. I was in disbelief. I asked myself "Did that really happen? Will we really be able to catch up with the rest of the world?" I know - crazy - but I couldn't believe someone had finally listened after my years of calling and pleading.

In early December 2012, I got a call from a young woman named Caitlyn from Senator Rosenberg's office. She told me she was working to get us high speed service and was in contact with Verizon. I thanked her and then just hoped. Another month went by and nothing. But I kept calling Irma - she never answered the phone but I did not give up - I kept calling. In February, Caitlyn called again asking me how the high speed service was? I told her I still didn't have it. "Gee, that is weird - they told me they had hooked you up." 

A week later I got a call from Verizon. The woman wanted to make an appointment to have a technician come set up our high speed service. I was speechless. School vacation was that week and Julia and I were going to my sister's for a winter break. But yes, we could come back and wait for the technician.

That is how we got high speed internet service. I cannot believe the difference it has made in our lives. First off, the DSL is $22 per month as opposed to $87/month. And it is fast. Julia can watch videos and t.v. shows if she likes. I don't have to go to the Town Hall to upload photos and files. I can watch videos on to learn what I need to keep current with computer programs I use. I can update my blog quickly as opposed to a post taking forever to load. The Farmer can research sheep illnesses when needed and learn from other sheep farmers via an internet forum. It really is amazing. 

This is my shout-out to Senator Rosenberg and his staff. Thank you for helping us. This was the very first time in my over five decades that I actually reached out to government. The fact that they helped me get DSL by contacting Verizon is really amazing to me. And the fact that Verizon responded is even more amazing. This experience gives me faith in government and the power of the connection. 



RMK said...

Wow - your post just popped up on my Verizon DSL service. Who realized what you went through to get those posts out?!? City folks think we're out in the boonies, but we're on US Route 30, so at least cable & DSL go by here. Great to hear that your Senator worked for you. Sometimes, the "end of the line" seems so arbitrary. Now if we could just get a cell tower a bit closer ... :)

Leslie said...

We conversed that day Deval Patrick spoke at the New Salem Town Hall. Most of New Salem still doesn't have high speed internet service through DSL or FIOS. If it weren't for the "air card" or satellite option those of us not living on the common near the town hall/library wouldn't have a thing. I'm glad it worked for you -- and you're right, Stan Rosenberg is a jewel in the crown of state government.

Robin said...

Thanks for sharing this. Along with highlighting your persistence, it shows that our elected officials can and do help their constituents!

Caffeine Girl said...

Wow, that is just sad. I wonder how many other folks in our rural areas lack high-speed Internet? I'm glad it came your way.

And you do have LOTS of Internet friends.

Also, I'm dying to visit your idyllic library!

Anonymous said...

I love this story, people in rural area have the hardest time getting anything done sometimes. Good for you!

Auntie Shan said...

*YAY*!! :-D

Meanwhile, I'm still on DIAL-UP myself - because I *choose* to be! [might be slow, but more secure] - However, that service will be cut-off in a couple of months... I have to decide on which annoying MEGA-SERVICE to choose now. ugh!

BTW, could you have gotten quicker service if you have allowed a cell tower on your property?

Anyhoo, I "guess" we all know *WHO* will be getting your next VOTE, huh?

Blonde said...

Good for you Kristin!!!
By the way, your picture of the town library by the pond is really beautiful!

P.S: Don't worry, you do have internet friends! :-)

Frances said...

Kristin, I found this post very, very interesting.

My own blog, written from NYC, is called City Views, Country Dreams. What you have been kind, patient and wise to write about what you've done to achieve reasonably quick internet connections shows me what a Country Dream might mean in reality.

Bravo to you for your tenacity, and to Senator Rosenberg and his staff for actually responding to you as a constituent. As we see all the changes already coming to all our neighborhoods in this still young new century, it's a reality check to see that persistence can be very trying and tiring, but can actually succeed.

Wow! May your up- and down-loading continue without hiccups. xo

Sarah said...

I am so glad that you got DSL, I really enjoy the blog and appreciate it even more knowing how time-consuming it was to bring it to all of us. I also have to say it warms my cynical heart to hear of an elected official making a difference in the daily life of their constituents.

CrazyAnn said...


Your internet story is almost identical to ours, here in rural Tennessee. We don't pretend to make a living on the internet but it is something we both love to use many times a day.

When we bought our rural property 5 years ago we were told by the girls who then owned the house, that the house next door had DSL and the house around the corner had cable internet. But our house and the one next door had nothing. We immediately got an aircard and actually did pretty well with it. Except we could not use Netflix or anything really streaming.

We constantly called AT&T, talked to their linemen, ect. We even walked up and down our streets with a petition getting neighbors to help us ask for cable to be run down our entire road. No such luck. But finally a few months ago we got DSL. And why? Because they now have fiber optic up and down our street, stopping 3 houses from us!! And every body switched, of course and they once again left us high and dry. But it left DSL ports begging and they actually called us up and asked us to be hooked up. They even came out and ran a new phone line which we really had needed from day 1. So now we fight with the powers that be to extend the darned fiber optic lines. They promise us that eventually everybody with their electric service will eventually also get the fiberoptic, but I don't think I will be holding my breath. Just sitting inside cruising the internet on my very old technology DSL and enjoying it any way I can

Anonymous said...

I am humbled by the efforts you had to make to keep your websites functioning, while I sat in my cozy house reading them. Thank you.
-Kate in Milford, MA

Nancy said...

Interesting story. I enjoy your blog so much. I'm still a country girl at heart. I'd like to share a story with you. Different subject but I'll share it anyway! I watched an episode of Martha Stewarts show about roasting lamb. My grandsons enjoy lamb chops on Easter so I thought I'd learn to roast a rack of lamb. So off I went to the meat market yesterday. I learned that a rack of 8 ribs would cost $29.99 a pound or $90.00 for a rack! Needless to say, we won't be having rack of lamb. I was dumbfounded. I was wishing I could go to one of your local markets where you sell meat!

Savannagal said...

Wow, what an ordeal. Glad you finally got some action. I am an avid writer to my legislators. So far it doesn't seem to have helped on any issues, but I keep trying. I have DSL and Earthlink tells me it's high speed, but I can barely watch a simple YouTube knitting video. I'd never be able to watch a movie. It's very frustrating to know that others can watch all kinds of stuff via their computers, my feeds are broken and jagged and certainly not worth watching. And, I'm paying $30 a month for it. It's a shame we don't have more options. I just listed to a public radio podcast about internet companies. In some places in the UK they have 8 or 9 different options from which to choose. It's a shame America isn't more progressive.

Marblemount Homestead said...

I have exactly the same problem. Except I still don't get high speed internet since we are too far away as well. However, the neighbor less than one mile down the road has high speed. Verizon keeps telling me something about cables and that they can't do it.
I am so discouraged... I run several businesses from home, including a blog, and I have to pay a lot of money for satellite service.
I home school my kids, and they really would like to use some of the online homeschooling resources - but can't because internet is too slow.
Very, very discouraging.
So your story might inspire me to not give up...

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am practically in tears, I am so excited that you finally got DSL. I had dial-up for the longest time, but finally got DSL a few years ago. I know what you've gone through,I wanted cable and because I live in an older area of my city, am unable to get it.

Unknown said...

A wonderful story. You are such a good writer!

hawknitr13 said...

OMG, Kristan! Who would have thought you were having to do all this to share your life & talents with us!

Kit Mitchell said...

So nice of you to share your praises of dedicated Senator Stan Rosenberg and his fine staff!
Kit Mitchell

Anonymous said...

Wow...way to go! Kudos for continuing to share your art and your world under such difficult conditions. Great work by Sen. Rosenberg. You probably know that he was the founder of the UMass Art Extension Service. Seems he is still committed to those ideals.


Beau said...

Example of the Squeaky Wheel Theory! It really does get the oil more often than not. Good for you, Kristin!I am glad you are now able to enjoy true high speed service.

Robin Allen said...

This totally makes up for not getting a pony.

penny said...

Congrats! And yes, you have many internet friends. Friends who care a lot about you and (at least one) who felt guilty that she didn't know how to make faster internet happen for you.

May you all enjoy in good health and happiness!

bookagent said...

Congratulations, your persistence paid off. It's wonderful to know some government officials really do represent the people. Kudos to your governor. And to you for writing a blog under those conditions. We appreciate you!

Pam H

Amy said...

Hi Kristin,

I'm catching up with this post a week or so late. It really grabbed my attention because my brother is a local legislator (also in Massachusetts) and it's heartwarming to see that an elected official can make such a difference in someone's life and work (though goodness knows why it should be necessary in the first place, it's great he was there when you needed him.) I clicked on your link to his office--did you notice he maintains an art gallery for Massachusetts artists in his office? Maybe he'd showcase you, now that you've got this bond?

LannieK said...

Wow! Can't believe all you went through to bring your colorful world to us! Thank you for all you do and have done :-) So enjoy!

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