OVER THE PAST two weeks, we have looked at the different services available to connect to the Internet in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.
This week, I'll pass along some comments from readers and a few of the access providers.
First, I want to clarify one point: While we attempted to contact each of the companies listed in the Yellow Pages as an Internet access provider, a number of companies listed there didn't appear in our results, either because they no longer offer that type of service, aren't in business any more or simply didn't reply to our repeated requests for information. Pacific Bell made the "didn't reply" list.
FROM READERS, Larry Anderson of HRC Child Care Resources wants to see UUCP newsgroup support added to the list of questions, as well as a more in-depth article about DSL availability and plans by the phone companies and others to expand the availability of DSL locally.
Anderson also wanted to see a comparison between available services at three different requirement levels: small family with one computer; larger family with two or three computers; and small business with five or so computers all needing Internet access to each computer.
As did other readers, Anderson notes: "I myself have not been completely satisfied with the services in the area and have to mix services." He states he and his wife use a router and a dial-up account to connect two home computers to the Internet. They use a third party newsgroup provider for newsgroup access, and another company to host a 20-plus megabyte Web site. "Combined my total cost is still less than similar plans from any one local ISP," he writes.
These are all good ideas and, as I assured Anderson, we'll be revisiting all these subjects from time to time.
THERE WAS also an e-mail from a reader in the Tuolumne area. I misplaced the e-mail so I can't quote and give the writer credit, but the gist was that he was lucky to get half of 56K on his connection, and he groused about the quality of the phone lines in our general area.
FROM THE ISPs came a number of questions and comments about the wording of our questions.
In response to the question, "Do you offer e-mail screening?" AccessPCWeb responded: "No, we believe software that screens all e-mail is an invasion of privacy. We do, however, have anti-spam measures on our mail servers. Remember the old saying 'one man's junk is another man's treasure.' We, however, do NOT allow spam to be sent from our servers."
From Brian Curnow of Sonnet Networking, in response to the question "What part do you play in the 'connect speed' determination?" comes the following response: "This is a misleading question. It feeds into the customer myth that the ISP has cheap hardware, which is virtually 100 percent false. Every ISP I can think of is using one of three or four pieces of hardware, which use an even smaller number of chipsets. We use Lucent/Ascend MAX. Customers with connect problems should call the phone company for a line check, change their modem (which are by and far cheap little jobbers made in China, with bad software drivers), take all splitters and other phones/faxes off the modem line, or change ISPs and see if they have better luck with one of the other pieces of hardware. But don't blame the ISP or expect them to do anything about connect speeds.
"Another interesting thing most people don't know is that the customer's modem (for V.90 connects) controls the connect speed negotiation process, since the customer is the one on the end of a questionable analog line, making the customer modem quality quite important. ISP 56K modems are required to be on a digital line, so there is not much to worry about on the ISP end."
ANOTHER RESPONDENT, Dan Porter of Twin Wolf Communications, said this about the same question: "The same as every ISP connect speed is determined by many factors including customer equipment, phone line condition, telephone company equipment and our equipment.
This question either is phrased incorrectly or shows a misunderstanding of how connection speed is determined."
Both these responses touch on an important issue: Where you are located and the quality of the telephone lines you are using to connect to the Internet, combined with factors such as your modem type, "correctness" of installation of modem drivers and the like, all have more to do with the speed you are getting than anything the access provider is doing, all things being equal.
FROM TOM WEATHERS at ComputerVan Inc., came the following: "The questions do not support any complex or sophisticated Hosting provider including those such as us, Yahoo, etc.
"It is imperative that you provide proper description of our service types and its vast difference from those provided by ISPs such as Mother Lode (whom we use and sell), etc.
"Since the phone book is your source and it puts restrictions upon the presentation type and services provided in a single listing category, you need to be aware and point that out so that others are not confused by or given denigrating views of our type of service.
"As to what we do, we do not provide ISP local connections. We do provide Web hosting services, custom software and database interactive connectivity, whether from our server or a client's."
Last, this from Dennis Dahlin at Mother Lode Internet: "We appreciate Mr. Dealy and The Union Democrat's efforts to provide timely and useful information to the public regarding the Internet. Any information that helps inform the public and raises awareness of the services available to them is a win-win for our industry and the Internet users."
SO, DEAR READERS, there we have it. Possibly more than you wanted to know about local Internet access.
Because this is a topic of interest, and because we need to keep track of changes in the types of service available, we'll revisit this subject from time to time.
Marv Dealy is a lifelong computer enthusiast and businessman in Tuolumne County. His columns can also be found on The Union Democrat Web site: www.uniondemocrat.com. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.