ISP for remote places?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by daniel_smith|6, Sep 13, 2007.

  1. We are having major problems with the phone dial up internet service where we
    live in North Dakota. The fastest is 24kbps and the real speed for
    upload/download is 1 to 2.7kbps, way short of that blazing 'connection speed' we
    start at when first turned on.

    We are looking for a provider that uses satellite or other methods that will
    give us enough speed to actually upload photos (300kb to 6 or so MB in size)
    without preventing computer use for hours due to the file size/speed problems.

    Wild Blue and Hughes have both been suggested. Anyone with experience with them
    in rural areas as to how they perform in real world situations? Their ad stuff
    doesn't say much. If you have experience with one or both, what are the
    drawbacks? Are they really worth doing or should I live with speeds that mean
    leaving the computer on for three consecutive overnights due to slowness and
    'kicking us off' during downloading updates?

    Any info on how they perform in inclement weather such as winds, heavy rain or
    snow, heavy cloud cover and such is appreciated. If real cold weather has an
    effect it would be nice to know. (-40 or more farenheit mid winter) The ad
    blurbs all sound rosy and great but the guys who write that stuff don't live
    where the roads aren't plowed for 2-4 days after a blizzard at times and we have
    to use the tractor & blade to get out of the drive after wind driven snow piles
    up a bit.

    Would like something faster so I don't have the one to 8 hour download times
    when upgrading computer programming.

    There is NO DSL or similar here. We are the next to last customer on a rural
    line and it just isn't available and there are no plans to get it out here in
    the forseeable future.
  2. I don't have any real specific info. A friend of a friend has Wild Blue in rural Wash. state and is quite happy with it. Good speed. To me the price is high but if you need throughput, and if it's a business matter, well, there are few other choices.

    Have you looked at wireless? If there's cell phone service, there may be a wireless Internet solution.
    Lists 1.5 download and 384kbps upload which s thier slowest for 149 per month pluss 900 for equipment.
    Another option is cellular coverage, but it will not be that fast.
  4. another thing that you need to check is your throughput. many of those services will charge you more if you use more than 1 gigabyte or so.
  5. I had a Hughes setup on an RV awhile back. It worked well enough, but at the time the upload speed was erratic. Heavy rain and snow will totally block the signal since these systems work at microwave frequencies and moisture in the air greatly attenuates the signal. However, in the picture below the system was still working fine. Cold won't affect the system at all and may actually help since sub-zero air contains less water vapor. Cloud cover won't affect it much either, unless it's actively raining. We had the same problem when we lived out in the boonies. Satellite didn't work for us since we needed to interactively login to remote servers -- a satellite system bouncing a signal 4 times to geosynchronous orbit -- 25k miles up -- has a lot of latency. We were able to get a commercial T1 line strung out to us for just under $1000 a month -- we needed it for our business but even that isn't available everywhere. You might look into cell service, too -- if you're lucky you might have access to a tower with G3-ish internet capabilities that might work just as well as satellite -- that's what I do when I'm on the road nowadays. There's some new long-range wireless services available in rural areas where they put transmitters on grain elevators and such, but I don't know much about 'em except it's line of site and limited to flat areas. Oh, random trivia that I just noticed -- in the attached picture that's Philip Greenspun's RV in the background. He stored it at our place when we lived in New Hampshire. -Mike
  6. Do they not have broadband in those parts? I thought modems were all but dead these days.
  7. "Do they not have broadband in those parts? I thought modems were all but dead these

    Nope, not really.

    For those of us that live in cities it's easy for forget that there's technical limitations on the
    common types of broadband (cable-modem and DSL) that limit their use in rural areas.

    [ I did my time in the country and I'm now a city dweller next to a major Intel campus and
    have fiber optic connectivity at 50-Mbit for a fraction of the cost I paid for a 1.5-Mbit T1
    in New Hampshire (let's see what's the term I'm looking for? Oh, yeah: w00t!) ]

    If you're more than several miles from a telco trunk or outside an area with cable TV
    service (that is, most of the rural US), you're screwed when it comes to broadband. More
    people than you realize are still stuck on dial-up.

    Part of the interest in the recent FCC 700-MHz frequency band auction by folks like
    google is that this frequency is ideal for longer-range broadband applications.

    And if the cell phone companies could ever get their act together and roll out their
    broadband services country-wide we'd all be better off and folks in rural areas could at
    least get reasonable connectivity.

  8. 50 mb/s would be nice - I'm "stuck" on about 7 mb/s.

    I'm not too familiar with what's common in the USA - the ADSL we use here is good for around 5 to 6km to the nearest exchange - but we also have wireless thats just as fast, and covers much wider ranges - I would have thought that that would have taken off more in the rural parts?

    We also have 3G networks coving most of the country :)
  9. Cell phone usage for internet in our area is a waste of time and money both, per the provider for the only two services that actually work here. A lot of dropped calls and even outside the house on the second story or in the hayloft of the barn (doors open at both ends and standing at either) we seldom get two bars on the signal strength.

    The phone system is slow and slower. No fast connection available where we are. No one has plans to put any in for a half dozen rural farmsteads any time soon. Downloading photos is an exercise in futility as at 1 to 2.3 or 2.7 kbps it takes a LONG time for photos to load. Needless to say we don't watch any youtube stuff and seldom visit websites with fancy pages. They take too long to load and who wants to wait 5 to 20 minutes or longer for a webpage.

    I am very interested in the limitations put on for downloading information by Wild Blue and Hughes and others. I see them and am trying to keep tabs on how much we do now with the phone lines. I do not see any limitation to uploading so I would think they don't care if I upload 200mb of images to a website, just that I don't download that much in a day.

    The phone company was talking of putting in a tower nearby. It was 'going in by late Spring'... and this was back in February. They wanted to wait until the ground thawed so they could dig the trenches for the cables and such. Then it was 'summer', late summer' and now 'maybe sometime in the next year or so'. So much for customer service. Even the Reservation gets better service so I guess the BIA has a lot more pull than farmers in this area even though I don't know many Indians that have three $300,000 tractors.

    Anyhow, thanks for the info so far and what may yet come. It is helpful in looking for a new provider.
  10. Daniel, I think satellite access is your only hope for now.

    It's been 5 years since I used it, but overall the Hughes system was certainly acceptable. I
    don't think you'll have any problems with uploads since the bandwidth up is limited, but
    there may be download caps you could run up against since total bandwidth to and from
    the satellite is a fixed and expensive resource. I suspect you'll be ok if you refrain from
    downloading pirated movies and such.

    You might want to do some online research at places like the forums on
    (which isn't limited to DSL like their name suggests) and see what people think of the
    satellite offerings nowadays. Just keep in mind that folks having trouble are more vocal
    than those who aren't.

    Colin, 50-Mbit/sec sounds impressive, but the overall surfing experience isn't much
    different that regular 5-Mbit/sec DSL service. The limiting factor becomes the server at
    the other end, and a surprising number of hosts still have equipment plugged into 10-
    Mbit/sec Ethernet switches and routers. Of course, if I need to download something like a
    Linux ISO from a well-connected server it goes pretty darn fast.

    I'm not sure what country you're from, but unlike a lot of Europe, here in the US the build-
    out of the cell network has been done by multiple corporations with competing and
    incompatible networks. So you'll see stupid things like three or four cell phone towers
    right next to each other on hilltops and ridges. It's such a waste of not only resources but
    of frequency bandwidth since these systems must all have their own frequency bands.

    Of course, they say the competition is good and drives prices down. Somehow it hasn't
    worked out that way. Most countries have cell service that's much, much better than what
    we in the US have at much lower rates.

  11. I had 8 months of experience with Hughes, and can't say I would recommend it, although it is unquestionably better than dial-up. My experience came from cable broadband, so Hughes seemed glacially slow in comparison. There is always a slight delay with satellite, that is to be expected. We had the top end dish, and paid for the pro level service, and I still ran into the "fair access policy" when streaming internet radio. (but not all internet radio, just bandwidth-heavy services)

    Their customer service is awful, and we had to have the dish realigned twice in the 8 months we used it. Heavy snow on the dish definitely knocks it out, but you can carefully brush it off. For the most part heavy cloud, thunderstorms, etc had no effect, but occasionally I did lose the service briefly. Interestingly, I am still using the Hughesnet webmail (long story), accessing it through a cable system, and I find that it is extremely slow, so perhaps not all the delays are to be blamed just on the satellite dish.

    To sum up, it is a vast improvement over dialup, but I strongly recommend you go for the high-end modem and the pro-level service.
  12. (but not all internet radio, just bandwidth-heavy services)

    How can I tell which would have problems? Also, when they said you exceeded their 'fair use' amount, what happened? I was told by the Wild Blue sales guy nearby that when you do it with them they cut you off for a week or more.

    In reading the agreements they are big on nothing 'pornographic', racist or controversial. Since is blocked at the public library and schools due to 'adult content' as well as at the Fairfield Inn I stayed at last night... what happens? And racist... what happens when I scan a WWII poster and post it for sale? Can't get much more racist than a government poster showing how 'slanted eyes don't allow the enemy to aim the machine guns and canons in their planes accurately' and 'due to this and their poor diet they cannot bomb with accuracy'. Will they cut me off for this? I do collect and sell WWII posters and can imagine what they might say.

    Then the old 'if it is illegal anywhere' crap. I email or post something that is fine here (like some of the fine art nudes that apparently have censored on so many public machines) but some small town in Kentucky or Arkansas has someone who takes offense... Am I shut off?

    I know the speeds won't be near cable. I had that in Idaho and it was great. Now the fastest we get is 26 kbps and normal download speeds are generally 1 to 2.7 kbps. Really slow. Have to leave the machine on all night and hope it doesn't cut off mid download for program updates. A few weeks ago we had to try five nights in a row for a 9 MB update file. Kept cutting off sometime during the night so we tried again the next one.

    Dial up is available and it isn't going to change as we are way out of range of their speedy offerings. As I said, am looking at the options.
  13. It sounds as though the Wild Blue sales guy is wildly exaggerating potential issues with Hughes. Shady sales practice IMHO. With Hughes, when you exceed the FAP (fair access policy), your speed goes down to that of dialup for the 24 hours it takes your average to clear. You are not cut off, nor does it last more than about 24 hours. At dialup speed you simply can't download enough to hit the FAP. I had no problems with Yahoo launchcast or with Accuradio. I am sorry I cannot remember the name of the system that hit the boundary, but you find it out very quickly and know not to use it again! There is an easy way to check your use, using a tool that gets set up on your system when you sign up. It shows your usage hour by hour, so if you choose an internet radio and are concerned, you can check after a couple of hours and see if you are going to have problems. It is not a case of large amounts immediately cutting you down to dialup speed. The Hughes people liken it to a bucket continually filling and emptying. If you overflow the bucket (and it takes quite a few hours of heavy use), you have to wait for it to empty before you get back to regular speeds. The one radio station I did continue to listen to that I knew would cause issues, I simply limited myself to a two hour session and then did something else.

    Upload speeds are always a lot slower than downloads, but I had no problems uploading files to my website, including a set of full (uncompressed) RAW files.

    As for what Hughesnet was being used for and whether they check for perceived inappropriate usage I have to say I was completely unaware of any such clauses in the contract and even if I had been, it would not have concerned me. Unless you expect to run a porn site, I doubt you need to be concerned either. I had no difficulties with or any other sites.
  14. No, I don't plan on running a porn site. But then, pornography is legal. It is obscenity that is illegal in the US. That said, porn is in the eye of the beholder. Some folks think that nudity of any kind is pornographic whether in a painting, photo or a kid in the backyard pool.

    I bet if you read a lot of the use terms and conditions you find a lot that can kick you off if for some reason they decide to get picky. Almost anything is illegal somewhere and that is all the excuse they need per the agreement. Whether it would really stand in a court battle I don't know but until someone with big dollars hits them that way we won't find out.

    It is interesting that a lot of filter programs will lock out and John SEXton, among others, but I can go on them and open a number of sites with the infamous bullwhip photo done by Robert Mapplethorp. Somehow they have it backwards and don't trust people to be able to make up their own minds.

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