While many of us still don’t know the difference between an Internet “site” and a “link” — let alone a “bit” and “kilobit” — we’re already living in an era of communications technology that is transforming the way we live and work, said John Badal, Qwest communications company’s New Mexico president.
Badal was in Portales on Wednesday and Clovis on Thursday as part of a statewide trip to learn about communities’ communications needs and to tout the high speed Internet service (DSL) Qwest began offering in Clovis in February and in Portales in July.
“I think it’s good to have a higher capacity for service in this area,” Portales City Manager Gerald Depo said. “I think it would be great to have a competitive environment.”
Portales residents can experience the difference first-hand at the public library, which has DSL service on its computers. The community’s three Internet providers are Yucca Telecommunications, Zianet and Qwest.
“I cannot over-emphasize how important it is to get people trained and educated on the matter,” Depo said. “We need to get as many people involved, not just the students and business officials. We need to get the general public involved.”
Portales residents can install the DSL service in their homes for a $29.95 monthly service fee, only if they are within a three-mile radius from the downtown area, where a DSL remote is stationed.
While Qwest offers high-speed Internet service over telephone lines, Cox Communications offers the service in the area through its television cable, said Vickie Bennett, community relations manager for Cox in West Texas.
“High speed,” or broadband, computer service is defined by the Federal Communications Commission as service at or greater than 200,000 “bits” of digital information per second (roughly the speed at which the average person could scan a page of print).
The lowest-level high speed system Qwest offers runs at 256,000 bits, which means it is more about 12 times faster than a typical computer system with dial-in access over a phone line, Badal said.
A bit is one flick of a switch in a computer’s mechanism. On screen, it can show up as a single letter or a tiny fraction of a picture. A “kilobit” is 1000 “bits.”
High speed service offers much faster access to the Internet. But, Badal said, its applications are much greater, because the faster a system is the more information you can put on a Web site.
“Suppose you’re a dressmaker with a Web site. With high speed service on that Web site, you could show a dress you’ve made draped over a moving, three-dimensional figure. And you could do that with the lowest-level high speed service we offer right now,” he said.
Right now, businesses use the Internet to find suppliers at cheaper rates and to find markets all over the world. With high-speed service, they will do it faster and faster, Badal said.
“In the future we expect to see wire net users operating at much higher speeds and a greater use of dedicated lines. We also expect to see a greater effort on the part of communities to find economic uses for the Internet. We have many rural communities asking us for high-speed service. We ask them what they want to use it for and they say, ‘We don’t know, but we know it’s good,’” he said.
But high-speed Internet service is only part of communications’ brave, new world, Badal said.
“We see continued growth in wireless technology for voice communications. This year, for the first time, we have more wireless customers than wire-line customers,” he said.
Customers like cell phones’ greater convenience and mobility. And, as in so many things, young people are at the cutting edge of change, Badal said.
“Colleges that have invested considerable money in hard-line systems for students are finding they’re under-used, because the students are bringing their wireless phones to school,” he said.
In the future, we’re going to see more and more services — photos, Internet and e-mail access, and games — offered over wireless systems, Badal said.
Dave Cates, co-owner of I-Net of New Mexico, said that’s not news to his customers, several of whom already are totally wireless. Through the use of a wireless card that costs $40 to $50 you can access the Internet from your laptop or turn your desktop into a wireless computer, so long as you are near enough to a source transmitting the signal, he said.
“You can sit on your sofa watching TV and access the Internet on your laptop,” Cates said.
PNT Staff writer Tony Parra contributed to this story.