Darrington retiree knits while her Internet loads

For Teri Dashiell, surfing the Web is hardly a high-speed pastime. When she’s online, Dashiell doesn’t surf, she knits.

She’s not clicking those needles for love of multitasking. Dashiell belongs to a shrinking minority of people, computer users with dial-up Internet access. She knits while she waits — and waits and waits — to sign on, to view Web pages or do Google searches.

Dashiell and her husband, Dale, live about five miles north of Darrington, along Highway 530 on the way to Rockport. Their home is near the Sauk River at a spot called Bennettville. It’s picturesque and peaceful. In terms of technology, it’s a place that time forgot.

“We’re just in the shadow, I guess. There are mountains close by,” said Dashiell, 62. “We’ve never had cable, and there’s no DSL line up here. We don’t have cell phone service, for that we have to drive to the city limits. We don’t even have TV.”

The couple has an old black-and-white television, but with no reception they’ve never considered upgrading to a color set, to say nothing of high-definition TV. With digital broadcasting about to be standard, the ­Dashiells are decades behind.

A satellite dish is a possibility, but they haven’t seriously explored one. “We don’t want to spend money on this now,” she said.

Dashiell recently retired from the Darrington Library. “Besides missing my co-workers, the biggest withdrawal has been no high-speed Internet,” she said Tuesday. She visits the library often, to connect with friends and go online. At home, she said, “I’ve adjusted. I’ve taken up knitting.”

The Darrington Library, part of the Sno-Isle Regional Library System, has a high-speed connection linked to the system’s service center in Marysville, said branch manager Linda McPherson.

I tracked Dashiell down because I share her agony. For reasons I can’t explain — inertia, or thrift maybe — I still have dial-up Internet. Sometimes I think I’m the last person around with an America Online e-mail address at home. Until now, it hasn’t bothered me much. I’m mostly a text person. When I go online, it’s to read The New York Times or send e-mail to my parents or kids.

I never think to go looking at YouTube videos. I don’t have an iPod. It’s only recently that I’ve become frustrated by the glacial pace of dial-up. Web sites are more complex, taking longer to load. And we’re all doing more online. For me, it’s checking nightly on homework assignments.

And remember the real pain of dial-up? It ties up your land-line phone — if you even still have a land line.

Unlike Dashiell, I have a dizzying list of options for the day — it’s coming soon — when I dump dial-up.

A neighbor in north Everett just signed on to Verizon FiOS, or fiber-optic service. It’s an alternative to cable not available in all areas. The company unveiled the service Sept. 9 at the Lynnwood Convention Center. Packages combine Verizon’s FiOS TV, including options for HD premium channels, broadband Internet and phone plans.

Just this week, Comcast, the cable business, announced it’s ramping up from broadband to wideband, bringing faster Internet service to much of Western Washington.

I’m not yet informed enough to choose, but I do have a choice. That’s not true for Dashiell, whose dial-up provider is Glacier View Internet, which serves Darrington. “I called Verizon a year ago to see if there was any chance high-speed would ever come our way,” she said. “They said, ‘Sorry, but no.’ ”

Dashiell said her husband is used to dial-up speed for reading news and checking the stock market. “When I search for something, I want answers now,” she said. “We feel like the forgotten people.”

“Generally speaking, we offer some form of broadband, DSL or FiOS, in about 80 percent of the country,” said Jon Davies, a Verizon spokesman for the western United States. “As the infrastructure matures, we’ll be able to send it to more and more customers,” he said Tuesday from Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Even so, he said, there are pockets with low population density that may not get a high-speed connection. “There are other technologies coming, more wireless,” Davies said. “I guess living in these remote places has some benefits. It’s quiet and there’s less traffic. I sympathize with their predicament, but we can’t build everywhere.”

Up past Darrington, the Dashiells make do.

How did they spend election night? Not flipping channels for vote tallies and watching President-elect Barack Obama give a speech in Chicago. No, they heard it all on National Public Radio, a low-tech solution.

For much of their free time, it’s no-tech.

“We go to high school basketball games,” Dashiell said. “And I love to read.”

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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