With completion of the Digital 395 project slated for July, local Internet service providers are looking at what kinds of service packages they can offer to residents.
Digital 395 proponents have said that the completion of the backbone project has the potential to improve local Internet speeds, but by how much and at what cost is going to be up to service providers.
Nationwide, the standard Internet speed set by the Federal Communications Commission is 4 megabits per second. According to a study done by speedmatters.org in 2010, Inyo County was running at about 1,849 kilobits per second (a kilobit is one 1,000th of a megabit), not even 1 megabit.
Schat.net owner Aaron Schat said Thursday he is in negotiations with the California Broadband Cooperative regarding services. He said he expects that he will be able to make the current packages he offers available for a reduced price, but added that faster speed packages may cost a little more.
Schat said he is currently working with the California Broadband Cooperative to see how much bandwidth will be made available to him, and at what price.
“Right now, we’re going through changes (in the way of improvements to the network), so we’re a little bit in flux as far as our prices,” Schat said.
Suddenlink, another provider of Internet in Inyo County, is rumored to be considering doubling the 1.5 megabit package that it currently offers at basic rates.
While that sounds promising, doubling a 1.5 megabit connection will still leave users a full megabit under the national standard.
Jason Delkers, a representative of Suddenlink, refused to discuss potential price changes associated with Digital 395, saying “we actually consider these matters proprietary, so that’s all I can say right now.”
Schat said with the upgrades his business is working on, in addition to services that will be provided through the Digital 395 project upon its completion, he hopes to be able to drop prices for his basic one megabit per second service package. He said the price reduction could be as much as $20 per month, “but it all depends on what price we’ll be getting from (the CBC), so we don’t know right now.”
Mike Ort, CEO of Praxis Associates, the company responsible for constructing the Digital 395 project, said the fiber-optic line has the capability of transmitting virtually anything over cyberspace in a matter of seconds, but exactly what services will be made available to customers in Inyo County will be entirely up to individual local providers. The speeds that will be available to residents are dependent on how much bandwidth the providers decide to purchase, he said.
Ort explained that purchasing an Internet service package being advertised as a 1.5 megabit plan doesn’t necessarily mean that a resident will be running 1.5 megabits per second all the time. He said the information is pooled, and a resident using the network at a slow time of the day may see speeds much greater than 1.5 megabits per second. However, the flip side of that is that those using the network at peak times (late afternoon to early evenings) may experience significantly slower connections.
Schat explained that common Internet uses, such as streaming video through various applications or playing online games, differ on the speed required to run them. He said the popular movie and television show provider Netflix requires a 1 megabit per second connection to run, while other sites, such as YouTube.com and Hulu can require between 1.5 and 2 megabits to run without interruption.
Schat said he would roll out his new Internet packages and prices as soon as negotiations with the CBC are complete. He said he hopes to wrap up negotiations “in the next few weeks.”
Delkers said he would not comment on any potential timelines for rolling out new Internet packages associated with Digital 395.