Even though cable and telephone companies provide most of the high-speed Internet service in the country – 93 percent of all subscribers deal with the 17 largest cable and phone companies – there are other options.
Wireless Internet providers, usually found in rural areas, are becoming a desirable option for some people.
Six wireless high-speed Internet providers operate in Maine, according to the Maine Office of the Public Advocate: Axiom Technologies in Washington and Hancock counties; Bluestreak, in the Belfast-Searsport area; Chebeague on Chebeague Island in Casco Bay; Pioneer Broadband in areas of northeast Maine; Premium Choice, with service in much of the state; and RedZone, in midcoast Maine and Portland.
Senthil Prabakaran of Portland recently switched from Time Warner to RedZone. He’s also in the process of starting a business that provides “cloud-based real-time collaboration software” so people can work together online. Having the best possible Internet connection is important, he said.
Prabakaran said he was paying $75 a month for Time Warner, and now he pays $99 for what he called “superior service,” including a better video picture with fewer interruptions.
RedZone uses about 100 transmitters to send the Internet’s content through the air to a radio receiver unit installed in a subscriber’s home, said Jim Mc- Kenna, the company’s founder. He said wireless Internet is a “line of sight technology.” In Portland, for instance, RedZone has a transmitter on One City Center downtown, and a map on its website shows how far that signal can reach. The company has been in business eight years and has about 1,000 year-round customers.
Axiom, based in Machias, has customers in rural parts of the state where wired Internet infrastructure does not exist, said CEO Susan Corbett. Because building Internet cable and lines is expensive, the larger companies usually build lines only where they can get the most customers, she said. That leaves rural areas with few options.
“Big companies aren’t going to invest in rural areas. That’s not where the money is,” said Corbett. “They go for the most customers, and that leaves the tougher-to-reach customers for us.”