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WiFi slowdown in rural AZ town forces family to Denny's parking lot

Posted at 7:17 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-05 08:26:41-04

CASA GRANDE, AZ — With more families using online learning and working from home, a steady internet connection is a necessity.

Ruth Scherchligt of Arizona City says the high-speed internet connection in her neighborhood has gotten so slow she and her son were forced to start driving around town looking for a stronger WiFi source to get any work done.

"We tried to go to the library. It was closed. We parked outside, but the signal was too weak. We drove to the Holiday Inn Express and they required a password," she said.

Finally she and her son Matthew ended up in Casa Grande in a Denny's parking lot.

"We drove around the building and he told me where the signal was the strongest and this is the spot," she said.

For a couple of weeks now, Ruth and Matthew have been spending hours in the car taking advantage of the strong WiFi. It's a requirement for them both.

Matthew, a music major at Central Arizona College, needs the connection for his guitar classes through video conferencing.

Ruth needs it to connect video conferencing calls with students at the university where she teaches.

"I call it my office at Denny's," she said.

She was already working from home before the COVID-19 outbreak, and says since everybody else started to, her 4.5 Mbps download speed has fallen to 1.1 Mbps.

"I do speed tests to check," she said.

Emails show Ruth has gone back and forth with her provider CenturyLink about it. A representative promised to send a supervisor and engineer to check out the equipment in her neighborhood. Ruth says she has yet to see any improvement.

"They say they have to preserve bandwidth for customers," she said. "I am a customer, preserve it for me!"

CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen would not acknowledge a slowdown in speed but told ABC15 in a statement, "We are sympathetic to customers with limited speeds but, unfortunately, as a new customer this individual has the fastest speed available in her area."

He went on to say that, "In this case 1.5Mbps is the fastest speed available to her. However, there are other important factors that come into play. Some of these factors include customer location, the quality and age of the customer’s computer, and the content or websites accessed by the customer - sometimes graphic or video-heavy sites download slower."

Ruth says she has done days' worth of troubleshooting to get her speed back to where it was.

For now, she and her son are spending their days making the drive to Denny's, hoping the speed will come before the heat does.

"That's all I need just to keep my job and so my son can get an education and we're paying for that," she said.