Birdseye library can’t connect to the netJuly 17, 2017
By LEANN BURKE
BIRDSEYE — The internet connection at the Birdseye Branch Library is all but nonexistent.
Library Director Christine Golden said that in the last three months, the speed has dropped to about .25 megabytes per second, and the branch has had several days where the internet has been inoperable. People who usually frequent the Birdseye Branch to check out materials and use the internet — or just to use the internet — aren’t coming anymore.
“You’ll hear people say, ‘Oh, I’ll just go up to Crawford County,’ or, ‘I’ll just run up to Jasper,’” Golden said. “It’s sad.”
The Birdseye Branch gets its internet service from Frontier Communications, one of the few providers to areas as rural as Birdseye. Golden said she’s contacted Frontier several times — including an evening tweet storm in June — and always gets the same response.
“They apologize, the person you talk to, but there’s nothing they can do,” Golden said.
Her tweet storm did get a reply from the company telling her they were working on infrastructure in some areas, but the tweet didn’t say which areas. She’s been told Birdseye isn’t on the list.
Desperate to obtain reliable service, Golden began the open bidding process for a new provider. During the process, companies can submit bids to Golden, but she can’t approach companies. So far, she said, she’s gotten one bid.
Golden realizes that the internet connection at Birdseye will not be great, but for now, she just wants something that will work reliably. The situation has been frustrating because no one can offer a solid solution. There’s simply no fix for poor internet connection in rural areas, and options for service providers are limited.
“(The providers) are in this to make money,” Golden said. “They have to be.”
Golden acknowledged that the Birdseye Library’s internet issues are part of a larger fight. Homeowners and other occupants of rural areas also have a difficult time finding reliable internet service. A lot of times, Golden said, patrons come to the library to use the internet because their internet at home isn’t working, but they don’t realize that the library is using the exact same service. And when the service doesn’t work, the librarians are limited on the services they can provide. Without the internet, patrons and librarians can’t search the system for materials, nor can they access the library’s online databases. Librarians also can’t help patrons fill out job or school applications, and patrons can’t do any of the myriad tasks people complete on the internet today.
“I really believe that internet should be a utility at this point,” Golden said. “It’s not as important as water, but it’s up there.”
Golden hopes the library’s issues can be a catalyst for change in the internet services available to rural areas. She said she’d be interested in partnering with companies and the community to come up with a long-term solution. For now, the library is stuck.
“It’s something I can’t fix because there’s not a fix,” Golden said. “It’s frustrating.”
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