I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to everyone, but others probably don’t realize the level of difficulty that goes into getting reliable, reasonably priced, appropriately metered internet in more rural areas. It is ridiculous! I live 0.83 miles away from coverage from ANY sort of wired internet connection. They have it on both sides of my home, but I have found myself in the black hole of internet service providers. Nuts! Ok… Let me slow down. As a rural dwelling Arkansan, I have been pretty much forced to go with satellite internet service. Here is the thing about satellite service… if you like hanging out on facebook, posting to blogs, and watching the very occasional YouTube video, it is probably fine, an it always has been. A few years ago, WildBlue and HughesNet both released their next generation services that offer hugely superior performance to the old versions. The download speeds for Exede (WildBlue’s new service) are pretty acceptable and almost always more than advertised. The upload rate is obscenely bad (I tend to need that feature a lot). Here is a speed test I just did:
I don’t like seeing a grade of “D.” My problem isn’t the speed (although uploads kill me). My problem isn’t even the ridiculous ping (latency). The HUGE issue I have with this and every other satellite plan is the data cap. For those of you that don’t know, a data cap means that you are only allowed to download/upload a certain amount within a given time frame. My exede plan allows 25 GB total transfer per month, and it resets on the 20th of every month. I am also granted unlimited service from midnight to 5:00 AM every morning. That helps, but really… 25 GB isn’t a number that most people can take seriously. In this “day and age,” we stream so much media constantly that it isn’t possible to function like most of society and keep within that 25 GB cap. So what if you go over? Well, you get throttled. A lot. I’m talking the removal of 90% of speed. Yup. Fun stuff. NEVER FEAR! Exede will happily help you remedy this sad state of affairs by allowing you to purchase extra usage. You can do this at a rate of $9.99 for each 1 GB you would like. This is a one time purchase, and if you overbuy, they don’t go to your next month’s total. Boo.. That is seriously expensive when one considers that the 25 GB plan, their largest offered plan, is $129.99 per month, plus equipment rental. Here is my current usage:
Notice the dates? That is 15 days and 3.2 GB remaining! Now… You might be thinking… “Cory, it is pretty irresponsible to let your usage go over so soon since you rely on the internet like one of your lungs.” Here is the thing. If I was to blame, you would be right, BUT IT WASN’T ME! We are always careful with our usage, but for some reason, without changing our habits, the past few months we have reached our limit, or very close to it, within just a week of the reset. Before that time, we never went over, well we did our first month, but not since then. I’ve been told that someone was hijacking, but that isn’t true. I’ve checked the access logs. I’ve been told that it is due to large amounts of file sharing (torrents), but that isn’t true. I’m the only one that uses those, and I have the program set to ONLY download during the free usage period. So, nope. I’ve been told that it is a windows update setting, but with the exception of one laptop, it’s all about the Macs in my house. I’ve checked the laptop, and updates are disabled totally. I was told that online backups were potentially a problem, but I don’t use those. I told them that their meter was broken. They don’t believe me. However, if you do google searches on it, MANY people are having this problem, and it started for them in just the last few months… Hmm. Aliens.
Well, I got irritated, so I have spent a huge amount of time the last few days researching every possible way of connecting to the internet. Verizon has a nifty thing they call HomeFusion Broadband, and it tempted me. Verizon serves my area, and the 4G LTE service I get with my JetPack is smokin’ fast! I almost pulled the trigger on this, but after looking into it, a large number of people have issues with the usage accuracy. No thanks. It is cheaper; it is faster (by a lot), but I don’t get to keep the free download period and I lose 5 GB of data. Not the best deal. Then I thought I would drop the Exede service down to the base service AND get HomeFusion. This would give me 30GB of data (with the middle HomeFusion plan) and the free zone, and it would be about the same price as I’m already paying. Again, I almost did it. I just don’t feel that it makes much sense to move to a service that is experiencing the same problem I’m trying to run away from.
The hunt continued. I struck out with talking to Cox, CenturyLink, Windstream, AT&T, and Verizon. None of them service my area. At this point, I was getting annoyed. I mean really, how hard is it to run a cable between the two service areas? We are talking just a couple of miles… Literally. I kept digging. Then I had a crazy idea…
I should become my own ISP. I dismissed the thought as being stupid, but I filed it away as an emergency backup plan. I kept digging, and since Sprint does not provide service in my area, all of the reasonably priced, fairly metered options they provide over their cell network had to be ignored. That required a lot of things to be ignored. They are VERY heavily supported by third party ISPs. I continued, and I finally found something that was kinda acceptable. Millenicom. They offer a hotspot plan that gives access to 20GB of data on Verizon’s 4g network. The best part is that it is only $70 per month. No contract. No taxes. No fees. This would give the same data I was planning for the HomeFusion. It would also be cheaper, and the data cap is “soft.” This just means that you aren’t instantly charged for going over, and you aren’t throttled. It isn’t a license to go over, and Millenicom makes it clear that continuously doing so will result in account suspension or termination, but it gives me more control of how quickly my money disappears… especially if my HomeFusion decided to go rogue and rack up a $1000 internet bill.
I still wasn’t happy. 30GB of data is really not much at all when you figure in online classes, virtual lectures, video conferencing, and normal browsing. It just doesn’t go very far. I REALLY need an unlimited or at least much larger data cap. This has lead me back to my “emergency” plan. I think the Millenicom option will tide me over and at least provide better service, but I’m seriously looking into the cost and equipment required to become an internet service provider. I have been approved for both a T1 and an Ethernet connection (funny how I can get a business connection), but the monthly cost is pretty high for even the lowest rates. I am also considering something called wireless mesh networking. If I can organize that, I would be able to serve the entire community for cheaper and faster than the current DSL speeds offered. We shall see, but for now, I’m going to go try and conserve data usage.