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New Richmond officials hope to speed up Internet services

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When it comes to Internet connectivity and speed, New Richmond businesses and residents have too often been caught in the slow lane on the information superhighway.

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City officials and business leaders hope that will change in the near future, so that residents and companies can take full advantage of the power of the World Wide Web.

The New Richmond Economic Development Commission along with city employees have been working with Frontier Communications, the city's telephone company, over the past several months to improve speed and reliability of Internet service.

According to New Richmond Alderman Jim Zajkowski, high-speed fiber optic connections are essential for a community trying to attract businesses to town.

During the city's recent marketing plan efforts, Zajkowski said, Internet service was identified as a possible stumbling block for business prospects looking at New Richmond.

Summer Seidenkranz, owner of National Refund & Marketing Services, Inc., said her company has been struggling with inadequate Internet service for some time.

"We really rely on regular Internet service to conduct our business," she said. "In this economic environment, every competitive advantage is needed ... and reliable, fast Internet service as promised by a carrier is a core need."

Seidenkranz said she plans to continue working toward a solution, not only for her business but for all of New Richmond. She said a solution can either be provided by the current service provider, or another company that's willing to come into the community.

"I think we need, as individuals and as a city, to work together to figure out the best direction to take on this issue," she said.

Judy Simon, co-owner of Simon Electric, is another of the business leaders who has been less than thrilled with the current state of affairs related to Internet service.

She said her business communicates a lot via the Internet -- transferring quotes, bids, contracts, specifications, blueprints and documents through emails and such. Simon said she's committed to working toward better service, and soon.

"I believe that the city is aggressively looking for any and all alternatives to resolve any concerns that residents and companies may have," she said. "The EDC (Economic Development Commission) is actively working on ways to continue to improve the current business climate, and keep a positive and welcoming atmosphere for new, incoming businesses."

According to Mike Darrow, city administrator and utility manager, a number of businesses in the city's business and technical park have voiced concerns about Internet service.

"Certainly, businesses want access to information in a quick manner," he said.

Darrow said the city intends to meet with Frontier officials in the near future to talk about upgrades to the current system. The topic will also be on the upcoming agendas of the Economic Development Commission and the City Council.

"At this point we want to work with our partners to improve this issue," Darrow said. "We do have an expectation that Internet services for our businesses need to be upgraded in a timely matter.  Our businesses and city expect it."

Darrow said businesses that have had issues with service can contact him at mdarrow@newrichmondwi.gov.

Frontier officials pledge that improvements are on the way for local Internet customers.

Frank Maydak, area general manager for the state of Wisconsin, said Frontier is committed to providing the service businesses and residents need and expect.

"We are a rural broadband provider that focuses on communities just like New Richmond in 27 states," he said. "Our goal is to provide consistent, reliable broadband services to our communities."

As for the current challenges with local service, Maydak said, Internet speeds have dropped as customers consume more bandwidth.

"Today it's not uncommon for consumers to have a number of devices that access the Internet for each individual in the household, when a couple of years ago it was not uncommon to have only one PC per household," he said. "This increase in devices, along with the thirst for on-line gaming and streaming videos, causes network resources to be consumed much faster than originally planned."

Maydak said the company monitors usage and adjusts its system when necessary. They will continue to invest in system upgrades as New Richmond's customer use grows, he said. As an example, Frontier recently upgraded its speed offerings to customers from 6mg to 12mg.

When a number of customers chose to upgrade, some issues with speed resulted across the system.

"We have engineered a solution and our customers will see resolution to their speed issues this week," he said.

Maydak said following regular maintenance on Wednesday, customers should see some improvement.

"Shortly after that time, our New Richmond customers should not experience any speed issues," he said.

Maydak did warn that some customers might experience some modem issues following Wednesday's maintenance.

"If after our conversion the service is not working, customers should power their modem off and then power it back up," he suggested. If the service does not work after that, customers should call the Internet Help Desk at 800-239-4430.

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