Ross Johnson photo The AT&T building in Ely. Many residents believe Ely receives subpar internet service from the company.

Ross Johnson photo
The AT&T building in Ely. Many residents believe Ely receives subpar internet service from the company.

Within weeks, a long-time local internet infrastructure issue will approach the first step to a possible resolution.

Most Ely and White Pine residents rely on AT&T as the most convenient, and at times the sole, option for cable internet service.

Several city and county residents expressed their concern to The Ely Times, and a consensus emerged: the price increase of the latest AT&T U-Verse upgrade is higher than the increase in quality of the product. The residents said maintenance service on the basic package was adequate, but after a U-Verse upgrade, maintenance began to lag and they were not allowed to downgrade back to basic.

Destin Brandis, chief information officer for the William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely, said the area seemed too remote for AT&T, and not a good business model for them.

Then CoreComm, a New York-based internet company brokered a better deal.

“They took it to someone in the state legislature,” Brandis said.

The hospital now has a 100mb circuit through which it shares radiological images and health information with the University of Nevada Medical School in Reno and Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas.

Paul Johnson, chief financial officer of the White Pine County School District, described his business relationship with AT&T as “difficult.”

“They had inconsistent billing practices,” Johnson said. “It was extremely difficult to get customer service. We had little or no support. We have had such a difficult time dealing with AT&T that we had to reduce our dependence on them by going to voice over. We are not relying on AT&T for any internet issues.”

State Sen. Pete Goicoechea has met personally with U.S. Congressman Cresent Hardy, who represents Nevada’s 4th District that includes White Pine County, about getting better cable internet service for the area.

Goicoechea, who represents State Senate District 19 including the county, is currently setting up a public meeting to include AT&T, State Assemblyman John Ellison and himself. Ellison represents Assembly District 33, which includes the county.

“We need to look for another provider,” Goicoechea said. “I think we’ve reached the point where we need to go to other options. We’re not getting the service. We’re going to have a meeting in Ely in the next couple weeks to see what those options are.”

Even the office of Nevada’s junior U.S. Sen. Dean Heller weighed in on the issue.

“Senator Heller is aware of the situation and is looking into it further. Having a seat on the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Heller has been working to ensure rural areas like Ely have access to high-speed broadband,” said Heller spokeswoman Michawn Rich.

In an online announcement Jan. 22, AT&T Nevada President Stephanie Tyler described the new GigaPower service coming to Reno, which will bring up to one gigabit of data per second to each customer.

“Our customers continue to demand the latest technology,” Tyler wrote, “and we intend to deliver.”

Common sense may dictate that larger urban areas will always demand a better internet connection, but after several requests for a comment, AT&T has yet to respond.

Beehive Broadband, a Tooele, Utah, internet service provider, is another possible option in the future for Ely residents. According to the company’s website, “upgrades and construction” are currently underway in the city, but a spokeswoman declined to elaborate.

One thing remains clear: Ely residents are ready for a better internet network. Upcoming meetings will be publicized in The Ely Times as they are scheduled.

NOTE: AT&T provided this statement after press time. AT&T recognizes the internet service issues that White Pine County residents sometimes experience. Rural areas pose significant challenges for telecommunication networks, from any company. We are committed to improving our networks, wherever they are, within our ability and based on demand. AT&T will continue to work with local and regional leaders in White Pine County and throughout Nevada to provide residents and businesses the best services we can.