Google Fiber is only a scant 45 miles away. Jerks.
September 11, 2012 8:44 AM   Subscribe

How do I find a high speed internet provider to install a line in a rural area?

I live about 1-2 miles from the "city limits" of a small town in Missouri. There are DSL and Cable internet options in town. On this side of the tracks, we are limited to satellite and wireless 3G hotspot connections. I work from home for a company the next state over, and my spotty connection is deeply affecting my productivity. Before I rent an office in town and run a crappy DSL line to it to accommodate my work, I'd really like to be able to get someone on the phone who can give me a quote for running an actual cable (or even T1) line to our house. Bonus: some kind of fiber line was installed in our front yard six months ago. Can I find the utility that installed it and quiz them on how we can take advantage of it?

I've tried calling AT&T and don't have the patience to spend another hour and a half on the phone with international tech support - direct numbers to the actual departments that can provide information would be deeply appreciated. AT&T/BellSouth and Verizon both provide phone service out here. MediaCom provides cable in town, but not here.
posted by annathea to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The fiber installed in your yard may be part of your electric utility (they already have rights-of-way for the electrical lines and they may have slid some glass in the ground too.)

Here's a link to Empire District, which has fiber optics. You might contact them to determine if they offer internet connectivity through a commercial account (rather than a residential one.)

There are no commercial T-1 Services (and you wouldn't want one any way, too slow!)

One thing you might want to check into is commercial metro ethernet. You can get 10 or 100 MB with Metro-E. This would be through your local carrier.

You're talking a few hundred bucks a month for these services, although if you want, you can put some equipment and provide wireless Internet to the neighborhood if you want. (I must have talked to fifty-eleven guys in 1998 who wanted to be their own ISP.)

You're going to have to talk to someone in the Business office and it's going to have to be a commercial service.

Check into a Wireless Air Card, that might work for you. You'd do that through Clear, AT&T Mobile, etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:01 AM on September 11, 2012

My parents were in a similar situation (though much farther away from town). They didn't get a high speed option until an awkward cross of a small company investigating interest and a bunch of people in the area shouting that yes in fact they would pay for something other than DSL. I'm not sure how you could jump start that process, or maybe there is an alternative with one of the bigger companies idk.

The solution that is working in above mentioned rural area is a cable line to an RF transmitter mounted on the top of a grain elevator. It isn't perfect, but it works rather well most of the time (storms cause problems from time to time). You may be close enough to town that that route is a bit extreme, but maybe RF is an option if you look further away from town for answers.
posted by Feantari at 9:06 AM on September 11, 2012

I'm in a similar situation in California. One technology that was new to me is Fixed Wireless, Internet delivered over a point to point wireless link. Range is a few miles, requires line of sight, often operating at 900MHz or 2.4GHz. Motorola Canopy is a common set of equipment providing the link. It's not as good as DSL or Cable but it's better than Satellite; 1-6 Mbps and low latency. It's often deployed in a peer to peer network so the further you are away from the central tower, the worse it is.

The trick is finding if a company in your area provides this class of service. These companies are often called "WISPs", for Wireless ISP. At least in California, they tend to be smaller local companies. The DSL reports forums are one place to start looking.
posted by Nelson at 9:19 AM on September 11, 2012

I am in the same boat as you. I used a DSL reports forum that got a reply from Charter (the cable company for my area) who did a survey and said they'd charge me $10k to run cable to my house. I stopped talking to them after I saw the number.

I do have AT&T DSL, but I wish I could have cable. But not $10k for hte right to pay them $120 a month wish.
posted by cmm at 9:57 AM on September 11, 2012

I was in a similar situation, and all it took was getting together enough people to commit to buying the services. In my case it was Cable TV. So if you have a bunch of neighbors in close proximity ( close enough that a cable company could string lines along existing telephone poles.)You may be in business. In other words amortizing the cost of that 10k line between 10 new customers may be worth it to some cable or high-speed provider.
posted by Gungho at 10:04 AM on September 11, 2012

Look into ISDN? I had a similar problem years ago and was able to get ISDN for $79 a month. It's not fast (about 4X dial up) but it is instant on and perfectly usable for basic web and email type stuff.

Another idea, spend a day going door to door in town, particularly real estate and those type of places that might have an empty office they'll rent cheap, internet included.
posted by COD at 12:29 PM on September 11, 2012

Another thought is one of those Executive Suites. You get an office with a door, a receptionist, fax, phone and interwebs.

Lots less expensive than doing your own office set up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:03 PM on September 11, 2012

We have a very similar situation on the farm.

The cost to run a cable, specifically to you, is thousands of dollars a mile. Depending on what's between you and the access point and where specifically it need to hook in. There are a lot of right-aways to negotiate between you and town and is not something I've heard of an individual ever doing, even for shorter distances.

Your best bet is that mysterious fibre line that was run by your house. However just because it's there doesn't mean it's hooked up yet (if it is indeed consumer Internet cable). We just had fiber run by the farm and it won't be hooked to anything for at least 8 months as they roll out the rest of the infrastructure. I'm fully confident that when it goes live that sales people will literally trample a path to our door to get us to start paying for it. They're the only game in town (or country) and they need to get started paying off the investment in that infrastructure.

If you want to find out specifically who that is there should be a contact number on the termination box that should be in front of your property. (Unless the cable is not home-access Internet then there's probably no termination box.) Otherwise I'd call 811. They will know whose cables they are so you can follow up with them about providing data.

For supplemental internet I had good luck with a Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go thingy as long as I was in their coverage area. They use Sprint's network and at the time I looked the only ones that didn't have ridiculously low data caps. I looked at BroadbandBlue (who also use Sprint's network) but they couldn't guarantee coverage in my area and wouldn't take us as customers. No, it's not blazingly fast, and won't be great if you regularly have HD video conferences while downloading GB of files, but is fine for most stuff.
posted by Ookseer at 8:04 PM on September 11, 2012

Along the lines of some of the preceding suggestions, if you can see the tops of any hills or buildings in town from your home then maybe you could set up a free-space optical link with equipment like RONJA and the cooperation of someone in town.
posted by XMLicious at 8:56 PM on September 11, 2012

If you don't mind the latency there are Satellite options. $80.00 /mo buys you 1.5m down, but only 250k up however with a paltry 350mb limit.
posted by Gungho at 10:21 AM on September 13, 2012

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