Small town gets quicker connection to world

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HELPER, Carbon County — Like many folks these days, Jarret Sanchez is looking for work.

“Times are tough,” said Sanchez, while recently surfing the Internet at the Helper City Library.

Work is why he came back home to Helper, or more specifically, it’s why he had to come home. His oil rig job dried up and he had nowhere else to go.

He’s finding that jobs here, though, are also hard to find.

"They've had two mines close down, so we're talking a couple hundred employees now out of work,” said Sanchez.

He visits the Helper City Library almost every day using the Internet to look for jobs.

“A lot of families don’t have home computers,” Sanchez said. “It's nice to be able to come down to the library where it’s so close in town and be able to get on the Internet."

Of course, it would be a lot nicer if the library's Internet wasn't ... so ... slow.

"I've had a few (patrons) get really upset and leave, simply because they couldn't get on,” said Leila Andrews, Helper’s librarian. “And you can't blame them. A lot of things are done out of Salt Lake, so if they have to apply for unemployment, or do a lot of work searches and things like that, they have to do it on the Internet."

Internet speeds at the library routinely measured at about 1 megabits per second. For those who need the Internet, it was painfully slow.

“It wasn’t fast enough or had enough capability, so our patrons couldn’t get on there and get the information they needed,” Andrews said.

We don't have a large university here in Helper, but we do have access to one. We can pick any university in the world through the Internet.

–- Jason Llewelyn

The slow speeds caught the attention of new City Councilman Jason Llewelyn.

"My telephone would run faster than the Internet on these computers, which was sad,” said Llewelyn, who has a computer background from the College of Eastern Utah.

He went to the council to ask for money to increase Internet speeds at the library. Llewelyn explained how it would benefit people looking for jobs, children doing homework, and residents with online college courses.

"That education has to come from the Internet. We don't have a large university here in Helper, but we do have access to one,” said Llewelyn. “We can pick any university in the world through the Internet."

The Helper City Council approved the idea unanimously.

For 1 megabits per second, the city was paying $130 a month. Now, for 20 megabits per second, it will cost the city about $150 a month.

"Twenty dollars a month is tight for our city, but we felt that investment in our community and our children was well worth it," Llewelyn said.

There is also room for the city to grow its Internet needs in the future at 50 or even 100 megabits per second.

“When you do decide to upgrade, if you haven’t made these little steps along the way, that giant leap is just way too cost prohibitive,” he said.

Andrews is expecting her little library to get busier now.

“It’s going to make it wonderful,” she said. “Our patrons are going to be able to get on that computer and get the information they’re looking for quickly.”

Sanchez thinks so too. He’s hoping the library's Internet will eventually help find him a job.

"It actually means a lot,” he said. “It's basically what every employer and everybody goes to as far as careers."


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