High-Speed Internet in the Boonies
According to the US Broadband Map, 5.8% of Americans have no access to a wired high-speed Internet Service Provider, and I just so happen to be among those unlucky few.
For me, the literal end of the line for Cable TV and Internet is almost a mile away and our phone lines are too old to support DSL. AT&T has officially stopped building out their DSL infrastructure in this area in order to concentrate on their UVerse service which is a bundled Internet, telephone and TV service. That service likely won’t reach my home for several more years.
Being an IT guy, the lack of high-speed access is particularly annoying. It makes it very difficult to work from home and casual Internet surfing is rather unenjoyable. I’ve recently decided to stop waiting for wired service to reach me and to explore my options for high-speed access.
Wireless solutions fall into two main categories, satellite and terrestrial (earth-based).
Satellite Internet service is available from two main providers, HughesNet and WildBlue. The primary advantage of satellite access is that it’s available anywhere in the continental US that has a clear view of the southern sky (the satellites orbit near the equator). It’s still relatively slow at around 2Mbps (Megabits per second) which is about half of what DSL Reports.
In addition to this, satellite users experience very high latency or ping times. This is due to the fact that every piece of data has to travel to or from your computer and up to an orbiting satellite before going out on the Internet. This high latency makes online gaming virtually impossible.
Satellite plans are limited in the amount of data that can be transferred in a monthly period, both companies calculate usage differently, but limits are fairly even. If you only casually surf the web and check email, you’ll likely never get close to your limit, but if you want to take advantage of streaming video services and the like, you may see additional charges or speed limiting.
Upgrades to satellite services are few and far between as any upgrades to the radios involves the launching of a new satellite.
The most common earth based (terrestrial) wireless options are provided by Wireless Phone carriers like Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, newcomer ClearWire has been struggling as of late but may be poised for a comeback. Services from these companies use the same wireless data networks that their mobile phones use.
The latest technologies from these companies offer speeds ranging from 1Mbps to a blazing 12Mbps. Like satellite service, most of the plans are limited in total monthly data transfer, except for Sprint’s 4G/WiMax service but that too may be limited before long.
Latency on terrestrial wireless services is on par with wired service, so gaming isn’t as much of an issue and the carriers are regularly upgrading their infrastructure to provide faster speeds.
For my home, I settled on service from Verizon Wireless. I purchased an LG VL600 USB modem from eBay so that I could avoid signing a 2 year contract. Being a USB device, it’s designed to be used only on one computer at a time which is a big disadvantage for me.
Most home routers are designed for use with a wired Internet connection, so I shopped around and purchased a CradlePoint MBR-95 from 3GStore.com. My USB modem plugs right into the router and is then shared throughout my home in the same way as a wired connection.
I’ve had a few problems establishing a steady connection, mostly due to weak signal at my home (imagine that). But I’ve seen speeds up to 12Mbps and I’ve been enjoying the jump to a modern solution after being stuck in the dark ages of dial-up for so many years.