Bits & P.C.s: A buried treasure

Recently, the City of Rockford agreed to lease from Metropolitan Fiber Solutions the 22-mile fiber-optic ring of cable that runs under the northeast side of the city. If you read the local newspaper accounts of this story, it appears as though this is the greatest discovery since penicillin—it’s going to bring new businesses to Rockford in record numbers.

When the cable was installed some 20 years ago (I believe for the Federal Courthouse), there was no real Internet, there was CompuServe and in the late ’80s Prodigy appeared on the scene. Computer communications worked at a “blazing” 300 KBS, and most were attached to the telephone by placing the handset into a set of cups on the modem. Real Internet did not arrive in the Rockford area until the mid-’90s, with AT&T offering one of the first dial-up services.

Today, with cable and DSL Internet service in the city, there may be little need for fiber-optic Internet. Insight offers their high-speed service for about $50 per month for home use and starts at $100 for business. SBC offers their DSL high-speed services for $30 per month, regardless whether it’s in a business or home. If you were to download a 12MB file through a dial-up Internet connection, it would take about an hour. DSL or cable could download the same file in a couple of minutes.

If you have a high-speed connection, you can go to and watch movie trailers, music videos, and short films. If you go to, you can watch mini-movies from top Hollywood directors. Both of these sites, as well as others, will show that it is possible to watch a movie over the Internet without the need for fiber-optic.

The city plans to work with Rock River Valley Technology Partners, a group consisting of: Trekk Cross-Media (an advertising agency), Global Enterprise Technologies (a Premier Cisco Certified Partner), Entre Computer Solutions (authorized sales and service for major hardware and software manufacturers), Kelso-Burnett (full-service electrical contractors), Crescent Electric (electrical supplies), Tricomix (security, support, networking and eBusiness offerings) and Lexxon Networks.

One of the best lines in the local daily article was “Police officers can touch a screen in their squad car and see bulletins about possible terrorist activity from the Department of Justice in Washington.” Since this is a cable that is buried under the city, I don’t quite understand how a squad car will be able to connect to it.

The plan calls for the city to lease access to customers starting at $400 per month. Based on the cost of $3.5 million, they will only need 72 accounts at $400 a month for 10 years break even. I don’t believe you will find many businesses that need to download a DVD in four seconds to justify the cost. But of course, the taxpayer can subsidize it like we do with the white elephant known as the MetroCentre.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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