Part 5 in a series describing choices for Internet access in rural Sonoma County

Where there’s a fat wallet, there’s a way to get broadband.

T-1 lines are a longstanding way to deliver fast, stable Internet connections to big companies. I can’t go into the technical details here, but you’re not too far off if you imagine a fat wire carrying 24 phone lines – a mixture of voice circuits and a supersized Internet connection. They’re wildly expensive, they require specialized equipment, and they require far more technical expertise to set up.

It’s possible to get “fractional T-1s” – basically the same kind of connection, but a smaller number of channels and slower Internet access speeds.

Frame relay brings roughly the same experience, but there’s a different architecture behind the scenes. Cheaper than T-1 lines, usually not as fast, different things happening in the wires, but the concept is the same for our purposes.

Frame relay and T-1 lines have one thing in common: both are charged in part by your distance from a phone company central office. And therein lies the rub.

I am just over four miles from the phone company central office. Last week I inquired about 256K Internet access, a modest speed in the days of 1.5Mb DSL lines. It’s pretty hopeless to call SBC these days, so I called

A 256K frame relay connection would have been $445/month. A 256K fractional T-1 line would have been $565/month. I didn’t even ask about equipment and setup costs.

Remember, that’s at a modest distance from the phone company central office. If you’re further out in the country, your price would be higher.

The good news? SBC treats its corporate customers well, unlike normal consumers. If you have a problem with T-1 service, SBC jumps on it and fixes it, no delays, no excuses.

But for that amount, I’d want Internet access and something else, like maybe a car. That’s a lot of money. Back to the drawing board.

Next: ISDN

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