As I sit at my computer in our wood-warmed Islesford home, I stop to look out the window at tree branches lined with a thin layer of ice. It was 12 degrees this morning, one of the coldest days so far in a very mild winter with very little snow. January is one of my favorite times of year on the island. It is far from the frantic pace of summer activities and I have just survived my self-imposed expectations of the holidays. I find time to appreciate the wealth of simple things that surround me. The extraordinary opaque light of the winter sun, the pile of books I want to read, the chance to sit with friends over a good meal, and the time to consider upcoming challenges and what I can do to meet them.

A few dedicated residents have been working for months to find a way to meet a challenge that is common to many island communities; the lack of high-speed Internet service. Bruce Komusin, Bill McGuinness, Dan Lief and Island Institute Fellow Eric Dyer and have posted a letter on the and sites to inform everyone of their progress in the search for “reliable, cost effective, safe, and appropriate technology for our community.” They have been making a thorough analysis of many available alternatives; contacting wireless Internet service providers around the state and making numerous site visits. Why is that such a big deal?

A picture is worth a thousand words, unless you have dial-up service. As a columnist, I find irony and frustration with the lack of high-speed Internet. It can take all day to compose 1,000 words so they say exactly what I want. It takes less than a minute to send them off to my editor. The photograph I send to accompany my piece is taken in a split-second snap of the shutter on my digital camera; but with dial-up service, it takes 15 minutes to upload onto the Internet before it is on its way. During that time I can neither retrieve nor send e-mail until the sending process for the photo is complete. People of a certain age or experience with computers will automatically groan at the term “dial-up.” If it means nothing to you, you are surely among the generation who used to groan about having a party line for your island telephone service. The waiting period for the photo to be sent is about equal to the time you might wait for someone to get off the line so you could make your own call. Its not that you

couldn’t do something else with that time, its just that it takes longer than you want to achieve a specific form of communication, and its frustrating.

The first telephone on Islesford was installed at Nathan Stanley’s store, allowing him to place orders much more quickly than a boat could carry the message. The second phone was installed at the Bait Shed on the Spurling dock. Among others, the growing summer community found it quite useful when they wanted to connect with the outside world. Grace Hadlock had a telephone for her teahouse in the green bungalow, but she did not want the nuisance of having one in her home across the street. Eventually, most of the homes did have telephones. The connections were eight-party lines, though you could only hear four of the rings. When I was a child, one long and two short meant the call was for us. Everyone stopped to listen when the phone rang, to see if it was theirs. Sorry, kids, the question, “Is that my ring?” did not originate with cell phones.

Just as the first island telephones contributed to the efficiency of existing businesses, having access to the Internet that is 20 times faster will serve a need today. There is hope that this kind of rapid access to information will attract more home businesses to the islands, keeping the year-round populations viable. Embrace technology. It’s the way to cooperate with the inevitable.

Islesford, Jan. 15, 2007