Currently, the biggest issue with Central Solutions is the problem with service and getting someone to return the phone calls that are made or the emails that are sent. That is a big source of frustration for many prospective customers as well as current customers. Something must be in the works with Central Solutions, but the silent treatment is making several current customers switch to TDS DSL. The newest customer, the Beaver Island Community Center, is still awaiting a working setup for the public. As of the morning of July 11, 2008, the connection for public use was still not working.
Don't be mislead by the idea that this writer is 100% sold on TDS DSL either. There are some issues with DSL and the routers that are currently used. Let's say that you would like to offer DSL access to your customers for free. Then let's say that your customers would like to be able to access their business network to prevent them from having to travel back to the office. This will work with the DSL router only if there is one person wanting to make a connection to his/her business at a time. The DSL router is limited to one Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection at a time. The manufacturer of the Actiontech modem states simply: "The router was not designed to handle more than one VPN connection at a time."
TDS DSL never goes down, right? That is also an issue. There have been several individual outages on the same router at the same location over the last few weeks. "This shouldn't happen" is the basic response from TDS support, but it is happening. The Internet access is usually restored with a reboot of the router, but sometimes takes 10-15 minutes to resolve. No one seems to know why or how this happens. At least support doesn't tell you what is going on even if they do know.
So, what about the Central Solutions router? Does it limit VPN connections. The router has the ability to allow at least two concurrent VPN connections based upon actual connections being completed. The research was limited by the fact that there were only two computers connected to the router. So, the router is not limited to only one at a time.
What about download speeds? Both the CSYIP and TDS have periods of much slower than suggested download speeds. TDS DSL is limited to the slower upload speed of 256, and frequently takes as much as five-ten times longer to upload the same size files as the Central Solutions connection. It's a toss up as to which connection is best. For this writer, the uploads of photographs and video clips is significantly faster with Central Solutions than with TDS, but this is a system design difference and not a customer service issue, as well as a personal preference.
Now what about the Beaver Island District Library (BIDL) and the Harbour Market Internet Cafe? Some might suggest to you that the Harbour Market Internet Cafe (HMIC) will replace the BIDL as the most popular spot for Internet access. This seems quite unlikely unless the HMIC is up and open soon, and unless the HMIC's prices for coffee and other food is reasonable. Most libraries across the entire country offer free Internet access computers and free wireless Internet access. The Internet has become the Information Highway, and libraries across the nation have had move forward to continue to provide what services were requested and needed by their users. While the building project is going on at the BI Community School, the BIDL is using a TDS DSL connection. Their choice between CSYIP and TDS was simple. No installation costs for TDS DSL, versus over $500 equipment and installation costs for Central Solutions. Most people are using the Internet at the BIDL for email and to maintain contact with their home or their home office.
Right now, the busiest location for Internet access is the Beaver Island District Library. There seem to be very few days when the public computers are not busy, sometimes putting 50 people through their use in a five hour day. What a busy parking lot! What an unbelievable number of people, and this does not include those who bring their own laptop computers! The tables outside have been completely filled with privately owned laptops and owners doing whatever business they need to complete. On rainy days, the inside of the library is filled almost to capacity. This service is obviously desired and needed by the patrons.
Several businesses on the Island are offering free WIFI to their customers. Some of these are Stoney Acre Grill, Island Airways, and Fresh Air Aviation. Will these take business away from the Harbour Market Internet Cafe? No one will know this answer until the Cafe is open and operating. Is it possible that this is too many WIFI locations? There simply could not exist too many of these locations. Businesses offer this for the simple convenience of their customers in exactly the same way that the BIDL offers the access to its patrons. The service attracts people who want to continue to communicate over the Internet while awaiting whatever service or activity that is going on in the building that they are in.