A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rural High Speed, or not!

Regular readers, all two of you, will know that out here in the boonies we struggle with dialup internet at less than optimum speed often connecting at or below 24 Kbs. One would think then that I would jump at the chance to connect to high speed via wireless as soon as it became available. Make no mistake I checked it out but at current cost its totally out of my league!
What I find a little puzzling and somewhat annoying is that the “contracted” supplier, who presumably was the recipient of most of the $100,000 funding from the county AND the $500,000 from the province seems to be not fulfilling the promises made by the county when initiating this process. Most notably these two statements can be found on the Grey County web site “Rural residents and businesses of Grey County are currently under served by affordable high speed Internet.” and “ Community rollouts are designed to reduce customer’s installation time and cost with installation costs as low as $99.00. “.

Let us compare that with the latest from Everus. “Through a competitive process we chose a vendor to provide broadband service in the project area. The vendor chosen was Everus Communications.” Here is an extract from a recent communication and a summary of their pricing:-

“……. there has been a change to the contract pricing offered by Everus Communications. We are no longer able to offer the previous price promotion on a 3-year, 2 year or 1-year term. Due to company restructuring and high equipment costs we will now be requiring the installation costs covered up front ………. Our current pricing for a new installation is $499 (what happened to that $99 installation cost?) which includes the set-up of service, installation and wiring to your first PC or router. …………..We will require a payment for the testing (to see if it is even feasible at my location) by credit card for $49.99……..”

Then the monthly cost look like this:-
The basic connection “suitable for infrequent use, ie, email and web research medium file download/uploads, photos, etc very limited video and music sharing” is $49.99 a month ($600 a year plus tax) for a max speed of 1.5Mb/s.
The mid range connection “perfect for medium use large file downloads/uploads video and music sharing permitted excellent reliability” (so what does that make the basic connection, unreliable?) is $59.99 a month ($720 a year plus tax) for a max speed of 3.0Mb/s .
The “optimal service for heavy use supports the most demanding file download/upload requirements best video and music sharing” is $84.99 per month (over $1000 per year plus tax!) for max speed of 5.0 Mb/s
When you add the cost of a 40’ to 60’ tower that most rural users would have to install at their own cost in order to get “direct line of sight” to the nearest transmitter location then I for one do not call this affordable!

To then have to shell out $50 to get told whether or not a reliable connection can even be established from your location was, for me, the final insult. Seems I will be plodding along at my usual speed…… slowly!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Mailbox Police (Take II)

I had hoped to leave this one lay despite the rather over the top reply to my previous post on this by one purporting to be a NL mail carrier, but given what I am seeing on neighborhood roads I just have to have a second crack at it. Firstly I understand that there have been two (possiby three) deaths of mail carriers in recent years and even one avoidable death is one too many, that said I was unable to find details of the deaths mentioned in the reply to my previous post. I cannot therefore decide for myself if this “accident” was due to the positioning of a rural mail box or indeed if the mail delivery persons (gota be politically correct here eh) was even in the process of their duties when “rear-ended”. (perhaps our respondent can provide details and links). Irregardless, given the miles driven by our rural mail carriers I would think this is in fact a stellar record and reflect positively upon the care most of these folk take when delivering the mail.

I have a great deal more problem with both the criteria in deciding that a mail box location is “unacceptable” and with the criteria for deciding where it will be “acceptable” to the unidentified individuals who are making these decisions. A little digging turns up remarkable little information on this, it seems they do receive “special training” and the decision is made using a “mathematical formula”. Apparently common sense has no part of this union led initiative nor are we allowed to know exactly what the criteria is so that we may judge for ourselves.

Haven now driven around our rural neighborhood and observed the little flags indicating where the mail boxes HAVE to be moved to within 15 DAYS I can only say that many, if not most of the changes demanded deify any kind of logic. The preferred location seems to be at or slightly beyond the crest of a hill where such a situation exists. I must PRESUME that the location is selected to enable the mail driver to be able to see traffic coming in BOTH directions during delivery and when leaving the location, sound logical right. WRONG. The fact that the MAIL driver can see oncoming traffic is all but immaterial, it is NOT on their side of the road (unless they are illegally crossing the road and delivering from the drivers side window a practice which Canada Post has declared not acceptable) the important thing is whether the traffic on their side of the road can see them AND SAFELY PASS. Since the locations I have seen marked are NOT such that the postal vehicle is completely off the road when the location is on or over the top of a hill, a driver attempting to pass will be in the middle of the road at exactly the point where it is blind FOR said motorist. The fact that the mail driver will be able to see it about to happen will not help them one little bit when these motorists swerve at the last minute to avoid a head on collision.

In the summer of 2004, Canada Post announced a new policy that, to the average person, sure seems reasonable: no driving on the wrong side of the road. Until then, mail carriers who worked the rural routes routinely violated the law and veered down the left side of the street, giving them easy access to those rustic roadside mailboxes.

A couple more points must be made with regard to the “safety” of our Rural Mail Delivery Persons. If as the Mailbox Police maintain the locations of these mailboxes is so dangerous why is it that I have observed several of these folks delivering mail WITHOUT the flashing safety beacon with which they have been provided turned on? Secondly if it is illegal, dangerous and contrary to Canada Posts directive to cross the road and face oncoming traffic to deliver from the drivers side window why have I observed rural mail carriers still doing just that? Thirdly, if such a practice is indeed as described above why is it that the Mailbox Police have NOT demanded that all mailboxes be located on the same side of the road so that the delivery can take place consistently from the passenger side window without dodging back and forth across the road? One wonder how much the actual mail delivery person who travels the route is consulted and involved in the process, I am sure that if they felt a particular location was dangerous if they approached the homeowner with a politely worded REQUEST explaining the problem very few of us would decline their request to make it safer for them.

That some of the “suggested” positions are indicated as being just 10” or 12” back from the existing spot or simply the other side of a driveway for no visible reason is just simply bizarre, but then that sums up this whole issue quite nicely. No consultation, no logic, no common sense, no appeal process, no one to contact and location choices that leave us wondering if the Mailbox Police were simply out on a “make work” project. It seem that many folk have contacted their local MP to complain about this, if you are one of those affected may I suggest you do the same.