Rural Internet receives boost


By COLIN M. STEWART

Tribune-Herald staff writer

The technology that cut the cord to the American home now offers people living “off the grid” a way to reconnect.

With the advent of cellular telephones, consumers were released from the confines of their homes, free to place and receive calls from virtually anywhere. Cell phone popularity exploded, and as a result, landlines to people’s homes have rapidly fallen out of favor.

A recent study conducted by the federal government found that landline sales revenue for AT&T fell 16.5 percent since 2007, and Verizon’s dropped 19 percent. In total, 32 percent of American homes now use only cell phones, and that number is growing every day.

But now, cellular technology companies are showing signs of interest in consumers’ homes again, and many Big Island residents who find themselves unable to access the Internet could benefit.

This week, Verizon Wireless announced the availability of its HomeFusion Broadband service in Hawaii. Initially launched in select locations around the country in March, the service is tailor-made for residential customers who can’t access cable, DSL and other “hard line” Internet sources, said Ken Watts, district manager for Verizon Wireless retail.

“That’s what HomeFusion is designed for, to give customers an option,” he said. “When they don’t have the ability to get it from other providers like DSL or cable, if they’re within our 4G LTE (long-term evolution) footprint, they can get Internet.”

Watts explained that the system operates off of the same 4G LTE network that many popular cell phones currently use on the island. An installation expert will install an antenna on a home’s roof to improve reception, and that attaches to a WiFi router in the home, making the Internet available for up to 20 wireless devices and up to four devices via an ethernet connection.

The service provides download speeds of between 5 and 12 Megabits per second, putting it on par with some cable Internet and DSL services, he said. Upload speeds fall between 2 and 5 Megabits per second.

HomeFusion offers three different pricing plans — $60 a month for 10 gigabytes of data, $90 a month for 20 gigabytes, and $120 a month for 30 gigabytes.

Currently, Watts added, the company is running a promotion offering 150 percent of the data in each price range for the first two months after signing up.

Overage costs come out to $10 per gigabyte, he said.

While there are certainly cheaper options available to consumers, this service targets consumers who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to access the Internet.

“It gives them a choice,” Watts said.

Such customers would include those living in rural areas without access to cable and DSL, like some homes in Hawaiian Paradise Park, the Ainaloa subdivision, and Orchildland Estates, among others in East Hawaii.

Watts recommended that customers who are interested should come in to Verizon’s store off of Makaala Street in Hilo to find out if their home is within the coverage area.

For more information on the HomeFusion service, visit http://www.verizonwireless.com/homefusionbroadband.

Email Colin Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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