After a recent move, I’ve had to re-evaluate the way I connect to the Internet. Before the move, I had DSL. It was pretty dreamy for a couple of years. It was especially nice after having survived with a satellite ISP for three years prior to the DSL connection.
The satellite was much faster than the old back-roads country dial up that I had – which topped out at 24K and often refused to work at all if there was a heavy dew. Rain didn’t affect it much, but dew and heavy humidity would knock it out completely.
Now I’m back looking at ISP options and was appalled to learn that my new city has a single ISP provider with a monopoly – and that provider sells out the service to other ISP providers – which keeps the prices inflated. In the first month on the “city” DSL I had two days of complete outage and other times of extreme creeping-slow service. My “country” DSL was bullet-proof. It was a much better product. With the latest move, I started looking for other options.
Satellite ISP: It’s Not All “Dishy”
I was seriously considering getting a satellite again – just so I can stay mobile. I could get it attached to my RV and pumping it out wirelessly from there for use inside the house or outside in my mobile office. I could take it with me when I moved back to the farm or stay connected while I did some traveling. It would be a final solution. It would be perfect!
Then I did a bit of research…
My former satellite service (on the farm) had stared to slow noticeably just before I moved to the location where DSL was available. I thought it was just me… that I’d become even more impatient than usual. But my favorite online speed test (http://performance.toast.net/) proved that wasn’t the case. It really WAS slower.
Now, according to user groups and forums web-wide, the continued overselling of satellite bandwidth without adding any additional infrastructure has created a “slower than dial up” status for many subscribers. (Slower than dial up at broadband prices? No thank you.) And the equipment is not cheap. Incidentally, the satellite dish I had two years ago is no longer “supported” by the ISP, so I’ll have to reinvest over $1200 to get what I already have replaced to hook up to satellite again – if I don’t want it mounted on the RV. Mobile mounting really shoots the cost up.
Cable is Constricted
Cable, the other local option, is experiencing the same issues as satellite – at least in my market. Although not as dramatic as what’s happening with the Satellite ISPs, cable is being speed-throttled because all users in a geographic area share a common bandwidth. The bigger the subdivision, the more pronounced the problem, but even the less populated areas are noticing a speed and service lull according to my techie sources in town.
Maybe, since I work primarily during the day, my cable wouldn’t be too choked. The children would be at school and the majority of adults would be at work – using their company’s ISP – so maybe I could rearrange my work schedule a bit to facilitate better upload and download speeds for client work.
But, the fact is… I don’t want to. I want to have full and unfettered access to the Internet any time I get the urge. I’m spoiled. I’m demanding. I want fast Internet access!
Wringing Out the (Cell Phone) Waves
I used my wireless 3G cell phone SIM card in my computer during the transition period while DSL was being hooked up two months ago. It wasn’t a pleasant option. It was better than no option, but only marginally. I could work, but the speed was frustratingly sluggish and I had to abandon any attempts to perform multi-media downloads (which I do often — when I have the capacity). And the cost per month for this sub-standard data option? $60 over and above my cell phone plan, the cost of the “aircard” and let’s not forget taxes.
Wireless Webs Aren’t Woven in Kentucky
Here, there’s no news of the in-town wireless LAN options that I read about in other, more progressive, communities. It is my understanding that they also get throttled, but at least the cost is commensurate with the service. Many areas are offering community wireless LAN access for free or at an extremely low cost. A few of those available worldwide are listed here: http://wiki.personaltelco.net/index.cgi/WirelessCommunities.
Alternative Options… It Costs HOW Much?!?!
The only other option I’ve investigated is a pricey one. There is a business-quality dedicated satellite ISP that doesn’t get “choked down” via overselling – at least that’s what the company representative tells me. But the snag is the cost.
I called a “business satellite specialist” and was told that my bill will come in at $13,000 for the installation I’d need to run a business quality dish on my RV. And then there is the monthly fee, ranging from $179 per month up to $599 per month. PER MONTH! This is not a viable option for most small business owners, IMHO. It’s not viable for me right now.
In conclusion, I see no real options other than DSL (which currently has me on the back end of a 12-day wait for service) or taking my chances with the bandwidth available through cable. Even DSL is subject to dramatic fluctuations in quality of service, depending on where you live.
I live in Kentucky, a state ranked 32 in the line-up for ISP onramp and download speeds. Rhode Island, the top ranked state, is over five times faster than South Dakota, nearly ten times as fast as Alaska and is over three times as fast as my own state. Check out the broadband statistics on your own state.
With the current lack of viable options and an ever-increasing demand for Internet access I can only imagine what it will be like in a few more years as the lag in the infrastructure and broadband service in the USA becomes even more evident.
According to current reports, the median download speed in the USA is just under 2 megabits per second, whereas in Japan, the median is over 60 megabits. Discouraging isn’t it? How will those of us who work on the web in the states compete online with substandard broadband?
It’s a serious concern for those who live and work online. It’s time to push for real alternatives. Not later, but now.