Internet service has become so central to people’s lives and businesses that yesterday when CenturyLink had a fiber cut (which took them 24 hours to repair), we heard that a few businesses in the area with CenturyLink service had to close their doors and send employees home. Mid-Rivers has had our share of fiber cuts in the past (Miles City customers will remember the infamous World Series Game 7 cut last year), but we have also worked very hard and invested heavily to build redundancy into our network, which helps minimize the impacts of fiber cuts by re-routing Internet and other communications traffic in another direction. We immediately dispatch employees from the local office and surrounding areas, and make repairing any cuts our top priority. We measure restoration times in minutes and hours, not days. This incident was a good reminder, however, to CALL 811 BEFORE YOU DIG now that spring construction season is well underway. You can now submit 811 locate requests online also.
Mid-Rivers now has almost 20,000 total Internet customers. We have used several different technologies to provide Internet over the years, trying to get service to as many customers as we could in the most efficient ways possible. We have customers on cable modem, DSL, various “flavors” of DSL (EDSL, VDSL, SDSL, bonded DSL), fixed wireless, 3G, satellite, and fiber to the premise (FTTP). Your neighbor down the road may be on a different type of Internet service, subscribing to a different Internet speed, or their service’s speed may be limited by their relative distance from our equipment. Their Internet experience in the home may also be impacted by their Wi-Fi network (the router that makes is possible to connect to the Internet with a wireless device like an iPad or smartphone), by the capabilities of the computer equipment they are using, by the number of people trying to use the connection in their home at the same time, or by what they are doing on that connection. Think of the Internet connection into your home as the water line, and the in-home Wi-Fi network as your indoor plumbing. You need a big enough pipe into the house to bring in enough water, the plumbing inside has to be capable of carrying the water, and the more faucets and showers you have turned on at the same time, the less water pressure everyone has. Trying to watch Netflix on a big screen TV over a 1.5M connection, while four other people are online gaming and watching YouTube on other devices, is the Internet equivalent of a cold drippy shower.
In today’s social media-driven world, it is very common for customers to turn to social media at the first sign of an Internet problem. It always starts with something like: “Anyone else’s Internet slow?” Out of that person’s 3,742 Facebook friends from 27 counties, 7 states and two countries, it’s pretty likely that someone is going to answer “Yes!” Then the 2,421 Facebook Friends of the person who commented on the first post see the same thing, and a few of them start commenting, and their 1,283 Friends see it, and pretty soon it becomes an epidemic.
The problem with this approach to Internet troubleshooting is that the reason for the responding Friends’ Internet issue is more than likely NOT the same reason as the original Facebook poster’s issue – and so on, and so on. Unless there’s a fiber cut or major equipment outage and you are all on the same city block, your issues are probably not related. I’m certainly not trying to say that these folks are not having issues – we know things happen with equipment and lines and routers and modems and viruses and computers and phones and tablets and Roku boxes and smart TV’s and Amazon Echos and security systems and every other connected device. But short of a major network outage, which we do typically know about through our own alarms, your issues are probably all DIFFERENT issues. And it’s these individual Internet issues that we DON’T have the ability to know about or fix unless we hear about it from you.
We’ve typically asked people to call our 24-hour Technical Assistance Center to report Internet problems, but since very few people actually want to talk on the telephone anymore there are lots of other ways to reach us directly. You can open your own Trouble Ticket now through the SmartHub app or SmartHub online – just go to Service Status and then “Report a Problem.” You can also see the current status of any active trouble tickets you have with us from this Service Status page. You can Message Mid-Rivers on Facebook and employees are checking those messages throughout the weekends, evenings and Holidays. Contact us via Twitter at @midriverscomm. Or if you do want to call and talk to a real person in Glendive, we can be reached toll free 24/7/365 at 1-800-452-2288.
We want to help with your Internet troubles. We know they are real. We have even added services recently to help with experience issues inside your home, beyond the traditional “point of demarcation” of our Internet modem or FTTP box. We can install a high-quality Wi-Fi router for you, and we have tools to help optimize your Wi-Fi signal reach and minimize interference from other sources. For those of you in the rural areas on slower EDSL, DSL or fixed wireless services, we are building fiber as fast as we can, which is really the only solution to most of your slow speed issues at this point. There are some satellite Internet spots available still, and the speed on that service has improved enough that for some DSL/EDSL/fixed wireless customers satellite may be a better interim solution. Customers in and around Circle, Richey, Savage, Fallon, Ekalaka, Winnett and Ryegate are getting fiber this year.
In the meantime, I also know from my own personal experience that you can make a 3M DSL connection work just fine for essential connectivity needs in rural areas. With a good Wi-Fi router, we often have multiple mobile devices online and streaming video at the same time. Yes, when my husband needs to watch a live auction and bid online, we kick the kids off of YouTube so it works better. While we are most definitely looking forward to fiber (which we won’t have here in Carlyle until pretty much all the rest of you everywhere else have it), I understand that we live in a remote rural area and it will take time. We don’t have a WalMart or a Starbucks either, but that’s just fine with me. In fact it’s actually part of the reason we choose to live where we do.
Here’s a 2016 Photo Contest Entry depicting what a lot of folks in this area are doing right now. Happy Branding Season!