A Picture's Worth

Barbara Langille
Beacon Correspondent


          It's been an interesting 15 months since I purchased a computer and got on the Internet. While I still feel like a novice, I now have at least gained some experience after making the toughest decision facing me in this venture; sifting through the many internet service providers and their various services, options and plans.

          At first my decision was one based solely on cost. Having just spent major bucks on the computer, I wanted cheap internet access. There are two computer users in our household: one adult and one teenager. I knew that we could immediately and cheaply sign up for Chebucto's text-based service for $12.00 per year (or what we could afford - the Assisted membership), or a Full membership of $20.00 per year. Personally, I really liked the concept behind Chebucto being a community net (and at those rates, virtually free) and we started getting used to the text-based browser and email services. Our initial progress was slow and it was occasionally frustrating since we had no training in how to make it do what we wanted, and we lived too far away from any available training. But we managed to send and receive email and did some surfing. Still, there was a lot of pressure from the teenager to have graphical service.

          Having purchased the computer mainly as an educational tool for the teenager, I figured that our internet needs would probably not exceed 30 minutes per day (or roughly the amount of her homework time spent on research). I calculated I was shopping for a service of 15 hours per month. I had seen several ads in a computer newspaper for ISP's (Internet Service Providers) so I proceeded to haul out the Yellow Pages and call them all for a rates comparison. At that time, a year ago, a lot of ISP's were offering these $30.00 per month packages for a lot more hours than I thought we would need and I certainly didn't want to pay for something I wouldn't use. However, I did find one local service that had a package for 15 hours for $6.99 plus tax with an initial signup commitment of 3 months. So, on a trial basis, we had graphics.

          I could certainly see why the teenager had been pushing for the graphical service compared to the text-only service. The difference was like night and day! A pre-computer analogy would be the difference between listening to a drama on radio and watching it on television. Being able to see all those pictures was quite a thrill.

          The only problem was that the teenager quickly ran over the 15 hour per month plan and had to purchase more time. Apparently chat lines are a big thing for the teen set. I suggested that she use the phone for chatting since most of her chat friends were local. The response was 'oh MOM, it's just not the same, this way I can talk to all of them at once and besides, their phone is always busy because they're on the internet'! Well, this certainly was a conundrum I wasn't prepared for. The teen resistance to reasonable limits whether it is for phone use or for internet use is overpowering. However, the possibility for adding another $30.00 a month to my budget for an unlimited (or at least a higher limited) graphical browser went against my better judgement, not to mention the budget. So, after the 3 month plan, we went back solely to the text-based CCN and I stoicly suffered the complaints of the teenager.

          I liked the way we could almost always dial into Chebucto, and that it would set a limit on the amount of hooked-up time depending on the number of users dialing in. I've heard the whines of people connected to other ISP's who dial and dial and can't get through. I've also heard of people who have unlimited internet use who stay connected even when they're at work, just so they'll ensure they have a connection when they get home. No wonder the lines are always busy!! The reasonable time-sharing at Chebucto makes a lot more sense.

          I also really appreciate the notion of Chebucto as a not-for-profit organization committed to providing internet access to all. I was so pleased when Chebucto began offering their Chebucto Plus service. This is the 'full meal deal'. For the price of a Sustaining membership of $100.00 per year (as opposed to the basic text only Full membership of $20.00) we now have a graphical service that doesn't charge by the hour, but sets reasonable limits (if needed) due to traffic demands. So let's do the math. For an additional $80.00 per year (that works out to just $6.67 more per month) we have anytime access to one of the most sophisticated ISP services available. Also, the system sets reasonable time limits (I hated the user-pay-by-the-hour service) and in six months, I've only been asked to get off once to let someone else have a chance to dial in.


          For all you text-only people, I don't think you'll find a better deal. And if you're a parent of a teenager, it's a wonderful Christmas gift at a reasonable price.


You may direct comments or suggestions about this article to:

Barbara Langille,  ax952@chebucto.ns.ca


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