High speed Internet access slow in coming to Truckee | SierraSun.com

High speed Internet access slow in coming to Truckee

The world of high speed Internet access is slowly making its way to Truckee.

The slow pace of high-tech improvements is a paradox that has frustrated local businesses and residents who use the World Wide Web as a primary avenue for communication.

While most Internet users still use standard dial-up phone connections, other services available in the area include wireless, DSL, ISDN or cable access.

Mary Davis of Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors thought she and her coworkers would be able to enjoy the speed of DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines) access, but were disappointed to learn Pacific Bell was taking orders for services it could not deliver.

“We called to place the order. They even called to confirm the order had been placed,” Davis said. “But the woman who took the order two weeks ago called on Monday to say they had made a mistake, and that we couldn’t get a DSL line. She said it would be three-plus years before we could expect the service.”

Davis is one of thousands around the country who placed an order with a high speed access provider only to find the service is not yet available in their area.

However, high speed access is making its way to Truckee, and there are several providers offering slightly different services.

SBC Communications, the parent company for Pacific Bell, does provide DSL service, but only within 3.3 miles from their center in Truckee. DSL is a dedicated method for moving data over regular phone lines. A DSL circuit is much faster than a regular phone connection, and is capable of delivering data and phone service at the same time.

“DSL guarantees a minimum of 384 kilobits per second,” said Heather Alexander, a spokeswoman for Pacific Bell. “That’s 50 to 200 times faster than a regular dial-up connection. For enhanced service, speeds range from 1.5 megabits to 6.0 megabits downstream.”

Currently 4,400 DSL lines are available for households and businesses in Truckee. Customers beyond the DSL service radius can still receive ISDN lines.

Couloir magazine owner and publisher Craig Dostie uses an Integrated Services Digital Network, an ISDN line, to deliver information over the World Wide Web.

“The concept of high speed access is everywhere, the reality is elusive,” said Dostie.

ISDN connections use the phone line and are less expensive than a DSL. Many find ISDN delivers data at 56 to 64 kilobits per second, although the rate varies.

“There aren’t a lot of options in town,” said James A. Maass, technical coordinator for Truckee Tahoe Unified School District. “We are at T-1 speed at the high school which is 1.5 megabits per second. Other areas of the school district use an ISDN line which is slower.”

“Sometimes I’m using half of the pipe at the County office in Auburn. We’re one of 19 districts in Placer County and we frequently use up to 50 percent of the capacity.”

There are 1,100 computers in the school district, each connected to the ISDN line.

Cable provider USA Media has partial high-speed connection available in Truckee called USA At Home, where downloading is accomplished via cable, but uploading via the phone line.

“With USA At Home, downloads are blazing fast, but because of some hurdles, uploading is still through the phone line. It’s an interim measure,” Roger Terneuzen, USA Media’s director of operations for California and New Mexico, said. “The cable system needs to be a fully compatible two-way cable system. We are moving forward as rapidly as we can.”

Terneuzen added that Glenshire should have optical fiber cable hookup by Christmas, and the rest of the area by next year.

Jack Schwartz, founder of the Sierra High Technology Group, has a cable Internet hookup. While it doesn’t meet his standard for service, Schwartz prefers cable to any of the current alternatives.

“I can download at about 500 to 600 kilobits per second. With some tweaking you can get a little over a megabit But it has been unreliable. Service has gone out several times and it had a lot of downtime. They have been down a lot more frequently than they should. The phone company really needs to upgrade,” he said.

However, Schwartz said cable is the best value as far as speed and price.

“It’s the best bang for the buck. If they get reliable I’ll stay with them, but right now I have a regular phone line back-up for when they go down,” he said.

For those who prefer one of the newest alternatives, there is wireless access through Lake Tahoe Online, currently the only wireless provider in the area.

John Delee, owner of Lake Take Online and graduate of Tahoe Truckee High School, said his wireless service downloads data at approximately 500 kilobits per second.

The cost for wireless service is less than ISDN lines and is accessible in areas that are slow for regular dial-up connections.

“We’re available in a lot of places that aren’t accessible to services such as DSL,” Delee said. “Areas must be within line-of-sight to one of our four relay stations at Donner Summit, two on North Shore and one at Alder Hill.”

Types of Internet services and terms you should know


(Bits-Per-Second) A measurement of the number of bits that can be transmitted every second. A 28.8k modem can move 28,800 bits per second, theoretically.

Cable Access

Internet access through fiberoptic cable. Speeds are highly variable as is the availability of service.

Dial-up connection

The most common method of connecting to the Internet, using your phone line to connect to an Internet service provider. Typically, dial-up service is slowest.


(Digital Subscriber Line) A method for moving data over regular phone lines. A DSL circuit is much faster than a regular phone connection, and uses the same phone service. DSL lines are commonly referred to as dedicated lines, which mean their ability to transmit data is not divided by other members who may be on the server network.


(Integrated Services Digital Network) A way to move data over existing phone lines, slower than DSL, but less expensive and more readily available. It can provide speeds of roughly 128,000 bits per second over regular phone lines.


A special integrated line capable of carrying data at 1,544,000 bits per second. At maximum theoretical capacity, a T-1 line could move a megabyte in less than 10 seconds.

Wireless Access

Internet access through satellite connection up to 400,000 bits per second. Can be used anywhere a satellite dish can be installed.

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