Broadband breakthrough in Southwest

A Southwestern provider of broadband access is using a combination of old and new technologies to break down the affordability barrier of high-speed data services in remote communities.

The Arizona community of Golden Valley is getting high-speed services, and it's a boon for emergency services such as the local fire department, which has two fire stations to cover 120 square miles.

Arizona High Speed Access uses broadband pipes of at least two megabits/sec to connect to a central hub by Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite technology. It then uses Wi-Fi wireless local area networks to distribute high-speed services to users within a 15-mile radius.

Without these services, daily reports from remote stations are stored on disk and are hand-delivered to the main station, said fire chief Harold Nystedt. The information then has to be manually entered into the server-based system.

"We had no way of getting that information into the server previously without an expensive dedicated phone line just for that," Nystedt said. He said the wireless service will enable the fire department to make the information available a day or two sooner.

The wireless Internet connection also could send information to facilities such as hospitals, he said, although that depends on the security for sensitive information such as patient records.

The satellite/Wi-Fi combination reduces broadband charges for remote locations to the cost of Digital Subscriber Line or cable broadband in metropolitan areas, said Edward Buxtel, executive vice president of SkyFrames Inc., which provides the broadband technology for Arizona High Speed Access.

Connections from a satellite to an antenna can be expensive, he said, but the VSAT/Wi-Fi service can provide service to users for $25 to $45 a month. With data service, it can also provide services such as voice-over-IP, he said.

As homeland security concerns create a greater demand for high-speed services, Buxtel said broadband demand in remote areas is increasing dramatically. He said demand has doubled for each of the past six months.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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