For the past seven years, I have been living with slow, unreliable internet. In 2004-2005, the Weis Ecology Center was on dial-up service. Camp McDowell in Alabama was also on dial-up service, shared on a wireless network. If you can remember far enough back when dial-up was the forefront of home internet technology, you might also remember how long it took for webpages to load and how it would randomly lose connection, and then the busy signals trying to reconnect. In 2006, those problems had not improved. Ferry Beach had a more reliable connection, though it was still slow. I’m not sure if, at the time, they were on cable, DSL, or satellite. But when I settled at the Sheridan School Mountain Campus in Virginia, the facility’s only option was dial-up or satellite, and satellite is just a little bit faster and more reliable than a dial-up connection. In my last year at the Mountain Campus, DSL became available, and we finally had a decent connection to the outside world.
Meanwhile, Erin was living in Hagerstown with cable. My parents had cable internet at home, too, so in between my working stints away from civilization, I had my technology fix. The funny thing about cable is that you rarely get the speeds you’re paying for. Today, this is probably not a problem. The lowest priced plans are probably around 3 Mbps which is more than plenty fast for just about anything you’d want to do online. But when Erin moved to the farm, we took a bandidth cut for a satellite connection that was very cranky and often unreliable.
Then we moved out here. The town of Deary actually has cable and DSL capabilities, but we live just 2 miles out of town, and that’s far enough that we can’t have either. Our only option at the time was satellite. I suppose I was just grateful I could have internet at the house, but it became increasingly frustrating. We paid for 512 kbps service, but saw actual speeds around 300 kbps or slower. Periodically, the service would just lose connection, sometimes for hours at a time. The other downside of satellite is the bandwidth usage caps. I could probably live with the slow speed, but we can’t even do things like stream movies because we’d use our monthly alloted download usage pretty quickly.
There was another potential option that we looked into, and that was wireless. First Step has wireless antennas throughout the palouse and surrounding region providing high speed internet to very rural places. There was a tower in Deary. The caveat is that you must have a direct line-of-sight to a tower to recieve a signal, and at the time of moving in, we did not. In the past year, First Step put a new tower in Deary on top of Spud hill, and we do have sight of the summit. So I requested a site survey, we recieved approval, and I signed us up for service. It was installed yesterday.
Suddenly, its like we’ve caught up with the present. Sort of.
The good news, we’re paying less for 1.5 mbps service than we did for our crappy satellite signal. We’re also seeing realized speeds in the vicinity of tthat which we are paying for, something that doesn’t always happen with cable or DSL, and certainly not with the satellite. Oh, and there are no usage caps. We can now stream movies, use skype, download large programs and OS updates. So, I may sign up for Hulu Plus and Netflix Streaming, since we don’t have TV service, and keep up with the shows I’ve been missing.
The novelty will wear off soon, but its nice to know we can have fast, reliable internet out here in what seems like the middle of nowhere.