Broadband Internet Woes

This weekend I started the process of setting up the utilities at our new house. Thus far, almost everything but the highspeed internet has gone smoothly. When I scheduled the switchover for our phone service, however, I learned that DSL isn’t available at our new house. This admittedly caught me a bit off guard. While our new house is in a country-ish area, it’s not far from town, and there’s a BellSouth switching station barely two miles down the road. Anyway, I wasn’t too worried about the lack of DSL when I first learned of it… After all, while we had planned on doing our TV service through Dish Network, we could always subscribe to cable TV instead, and get our internet that way. Surprise! Charter Communications (the cable company in the area) doesn’t currently service our neighborhood, so we can’t get cable either.

To be perfectly honest, this is something that we could have looked into in more detail prior to purchasing, as opposed to relying on word of mouth. The reason we didn’t is that it wasn’t a big enough deal to sway our ultimate decision. That being said, I’d still like to work out some way of getting a reasonably fast, always on internet connection.

The way I see it, we have two options. The first is to use dialup for the time being, and to simply wait for traditional broadband (cable or DSL) to become available in our neighborhood. The downside here is that we use the internet fairly heavily, and we don’t want the phone tied up all the time. Thus, we might have to add a second phone line until broadband becomes available. The other option is to sign up for satellite broadband through HughesNet (formerly DirecWay) or the like. The main differences here are price and convenience. While satellite would give us what we want right now, using dialup until traditional broadband becomes available is by far the cheaper option.

Here’s the deal on HughesNet… There are two ways of setting up service: upfront purchase or their ‘promotional’ purchase. In the former case, you pay $599.98 for the equipment and installation, and then commit to 15 months at $59.99/month. Under the promotional scenario, you pay $99.99 for equipment and installation, and then commit to 15 months at $99.99/month (at which time the price drops to the regular monthly rate — currently $59.99/month). That’s right… Their promotion actually costs more than the regular price (but it gives you a break up front). The service that you get in return from HughesNet is 700 Kbps downstream and 128 Kbps upstream.

Obviously, this is pricey — for the sake of comparison, BellSouth’s DSL Ultra (they also have faster and slower options) provides speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps downstream and 256 Kbps upstream for just $32.95/month, and without the crazy equipment/installation prices.

Does anyone out there have experience (positive or negative) with satellite internet? Are there other satellite internet vendors that I should consider (or at least check out)? Or do you have any other suggestions as to how we might work around this hiccup?

For more information on moving, check out my Roadmap for a Successful Relocation.

15 Responses to “Broadband Internet Woes”

  1. Anonymous

    I’m fortunate enough to get cable broadband where I live. With my upload speed requirements, it would be nice if I could get DSL, but it’s not available in my area. I have considered Satellite, but found it to be too expensive.
    I’m still looking into some local companies that provide WiFi access here.

  2. Anonymous

    Here is what you need. But I think it is a few years out. But when it comes it will be great.
    I pulled this from some internet site after hearing about it on the radio today.

    Another such technology is Broadband over Power Line, or BPL.Already in wide use in many other countries and currently beingtested in the U.S., BPL is the delivery of broadband internetservice over traditional power lines. A computer is connected toa special modem which is simply plugged into an electricaloutlet. This kind of service could prove useful for those whocannot get traditional broadband services like cable modem orDigital Subscriber Line (DSL), as almost everyone has access toelectricity now. Once refined, BPL could eventually prove to becheaper and faster than these more established services andattract away some of their customers.

  3. Anonymous

    If you do consider going with a cellular provider, you might want to check on Verizon Wireless’s 1xEV-DO offering. I think it’s $80/month for unlimited access of $50/month for some restricted amount, and it would be considerably faster than anything T-Mobile or Cingular could provide on their current networks (if I recall correctly, 1.5Mbps max downlink, 128kbps max upload, though your perfomance will depend heavily on local topology & cell usage). I have seen wireless router/gateways for this technology, but I’m not sure if any of them are commercially available yet.

  4. Nickel

    Wow, WildBlue does look pretty good. Their entry level package ($49.95/month) is a bit slower than HughesNet/DirecWay (512 kbps vs. 700 kbps) but it’s a good bit cheaper. Thanks. I’ll definitely look into it.

  5. Anonymous

    FMF asked that I respond to you on a few of your concerns about
    satellite connections.
    We had gone from dial up, (no dsl or cable in our area) to a two way
    satellite (upsteam and downsteam). If you have no other options for fast
    connection in your area and can afford it I suggest that you go with it.
    We had to buy a dish and have it installed and pointed in a the southern
    sky with a clear view. About $1000 several years ago with a monthy fee
    of $69. (I think it is cheaper now a days.) The speed was good on the
    download but not very fast on the upload. You also had a short pause
    (legacy) while the information was being sent up to the satellite and
    back down to the receiving station (someplace in the Carolina’s) and
    back to the computer. You are also limited to a certian amount of
    megabits of download each 24 hour period. I you exceed this limit then
    the system slows down till the 24 hour period elapse. This sucked it you
    were trying to update several computers with SP2 or something like that.
    Because of the legacy a satillite connection is not good for gaming. The
    weather played an important factor. If you had a storm in your area or
    the Carolina’s it would knock out the signal till the storm passed.
    Sometimes you would be down for three or four hours at the most. Normal
    to cloudy weather and even light rain would usually keep it going. It
    was the storms that took it down.

    If you have cable or dsl in your area I would go with it but if there is
    nothing but 28.8 or 56 dial up in your area and can afford it then give
    the satellite a shot. If you have cable in your area I would go with
    that over the satellite in a heart beat.

    Any other questions, write me back.

  6. Anonymous

    Are you kidding me? I’m lucky to know that the computer’s on and I’m on the web!!!!

    If you want details on the satellite, email me and I can put you in touch with a friend who can answer your questions.

  7. Nickel

    Hmmm… That T-Mobile broadband plan looks interesting. And looking at their map, we’re in an area rated ‘good’ in terms of service quality (although it gets better as you get closer in to town). Any idea how I can feed it into a wireless router? I’m guessing that I’d have to get the PC card version of their ‘phone’ and run it through a laptop?

    As far as Verizon goes, it looks like we’re on the fringe of their broadband-capable area, so I’m not sure I’d want to risk it.

  8. Anonymous

    My mother just recently got satellite, but I have not yet been to visit her to test it out and see how the service is.

  9. Anonymous

    You could be waiting a long time before broadband cable or DSL is offered. Try out dial-up with a second phone line for a month to see if you can get used to it. I suggest staying away from satellite, especially if they lock you into a contract. Everything I’ve ever heard about satellite internet is that it is very unreliable.

  10. Anonymous

    have you looked into wireless?

    This directory (i have no affiliation with them) will help you find a local wireless provider…though this seems like a reach, depending on your local, you may be able to find a reasonable solution without a huge upfront/long-term contract. Let me know if you find anything and need help deciphering their “spiel”.

  11. Nickel

    FMF: Did you have two-way satellite, or did you have to have a regular modem connection for the upstream stuff? Also, was it twitchier than satellite TV when it comes to reception? We’ve always had cable, but have heard good things about Dish, and not too many complaints about dropped service during inclement weather. Was satellite internet more sensitive to clouds than satellite TV?

  12. Anonymous

    We had satellite before DSL. Bottomline: Faster than dial-up, but slower than DSL. Oh yeah, and it went out whenever there were clouds in South Carolina (or wherever the “main station” was located).

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