For residents of certain neighborhoods in Marion County, two cans and a string can do them more good than major communications service providers. In 2021, it is much more dangerous than it seems.
âI live on my own and am constantly afraid that if something happens to me, and I have to call 911, on a normal day, I cannot get through,â said Eloy Zayas, a resident of Dunnellon.
Zayas, 56, a senior superintendent of a construction company who has lived in the northeast of the city for three years, said he was concerned the irregular service would pose a safety concern for himself and his neighbors.
Internet and telephone services in Dunnellon and Rolling Hills have been a problem for years. In 2020, AT&T stopped offering high-speed DSL options of 6 Mbps or less to new customers. In 2017, Comcast stopped offering cable to Williston because it was no longer profitable.
According to data from the Federal Communications Commission, 17 consumer complaints have been filed in Dunnellon since January due to the unavailability of internet or telephone service. This reflects only a small portion of residents’ complaints, according to hundreds of comments on service-related posts on the Dunnellon Word of Mouth and Ocala Rolling Hills Facebook pages.
Zayas uses HughesNet as an Internet service provider. HughesNet is one of the more popular providers in the region, but not by choice, Zayas said. Nine providers serve the Dunnellon area, including HughesNet. Of the nine, only HughesNet and Viasat are accessible to all residents of the region.
For Zayas, the internet controls his alarm system and television in addition to basic web services.
âIt took me three days to watch the last episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix,â Zayas said.
Andrew “Andy” Arevalo, 50, runs Al’s TV Antenna & Satellite on North Williams Street in Dunnellon. Arevalo said more and more people are using cellular internet in the region. With more cellular signals being used for the Internet from cell phone towers, fewer signals are being transmitted to people.
The decision of providers to invest in better coverage of an area depends largely on the population, Arevalo said.
âThe rule of thumb for cable companies is that if there are houses per acre, they probably will. [invest], and the opposite is true, âhe said. âIf there are acres per house, they probably won’t spend the infrastructure money to do it. ”
This leaves people in rural areas with Internet and telephone services lagging behind. There is 100% internet coverage in the Dunnellon area, Arevalo said.
âIt’s just not good enough to broadcast everywhere,â he said. âThis is where the problem lies.
Arevalo said city councils or county commissioners have no control over a company’s spending in an area for internet service.
The City of Dunnellon no longer provides Internet service, said City Clerk Amanda L. Odom. The only information the city is able to offer are the options for service providers in the area.
Arevalo said that when the internet in the region was originally created, the speed was adequate for emailing, web searches, and online shopping. However, when television became internet based, faster speeds were a necessity.
Comcast has invested in cable in the Rainbow Springs area of ââDunnellon, but in the western US region 41, only about 10% of the sections are covered.
âUnless someone pays $ 2,000 to $ 10,000, Comcast won’t invest in this area,â Arevalo said.
In October 2020, Comcast told WUFT that older equipment limited the products and services available to customers in the region. Now, Comcast is available in parts of Marion County, but not in Ocala. Cindy Arco, public relations manager for Comcast’s Florida region, said the company is looking at ways to extend the service to more customers in the region.
Alison Skees, 38, a stay-at-home mom in the Dunnellon area, said her 13-year-old son Brody uses a continuous glucose monitor for type 1 diabetes. The device, Dexcom, uses the internet to monitor blood pressure. Brody’s blood sugar, but it can only work if there is a serve.
Skees said she was concerned her son might not be able to attend Dunnellon High School because it is a “dead zone”.
“How am I supposed to send him to school and be able to take care of him and monitor his blood sugar as we live in the dark ages here?” Skees said.
The US Jobs Plan currently in Congress includes adding broadband infrastructure to achieve 100% coverage for people especially in rural areas of the United States. according to the White House press release.
The proposed infrastructure plan says it would use $ 100 billion to provide affordable internet access to all Americans by 2029, which could improve the situation in Dunnellon and Ocala.
âHigh-speed internet is the new electricity,â says the plan, âAmericans need to do their jobs, participate equally in school learning, health care, and stay connected. “
For the residents of Dunnellon, change cannot come soon enough.
âIt’s a daily nightmare,â Skees said, âIt’s been a big deal for me for 10 years.â