What sort of internet should I get if I can't get broadband cable?
December 10, 2003 10:50 PM   Subscribe

It's possible I may be moving and [ugh] to a location that does not have broadband cable access [/ugh].

This all is only in the infancy stages, and may very well not come to fruition (pending mortgage) but from what I've gathered, there isn't any broadband connections there that I can discover.

Am I overlooking anything? Someone suggested I attempt accessing via AOL Broadband, but I'm clueless to AOL and cringe even posting those three letters in a Meta thread, albeit Ask Meta.
posted by bluedaniel to Computers & Internet (41 answers total)
AOL broadband isn't going to magically make a cable or DSL line appear at your door. It's still broadband, and there isn't any available, there isn't any available (unless AOL does satellite too).

If you are truly out in the sticks, your only choice is to look into a two-way satellite connection. I hear the lag time is terrible (you wait 20 seconds to get a web page) but the speeds are pretty close to DSL (once connected, a page will show up instantly), but they are expensive to setup and I hear they dock heavy users for bandwidth bills and/or they throttle your bandwidth down.
posted by mathowie at 10:54 PM on December 10, 2003

You might as well type in SpeakEasy's Zip code finder to see if they have DSL in your area.
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:04 PM on December 10, 2003

Response by poster: Ouch. Good point.

And thanks for that rapid response by the way, I appreciate it.

At this late hour (for me), I haven't the motivation to even consider moving (I'd rather buy right here, but the costs are now o.u.t.r.a.g.i.o.u.s.)

Of course I knew that without a DSL or cable line that I'm screwed, but I'll confess I so very do not understand this claim of high-speed connection via a phone line. wtf?

Matt knows this, what's the deal with that sort of claim?

(hmmm... house... dsl.... house.... dsl....)

screw the house.
posted by bluedaniel at 11:04 PM on December 10, 2003

I had some experience with a satellite connection where I was working last summer in Westchester County, NY. It seemed to be down quite a bit and the speed wasn't as good as I expected. Luckily there was also cable access. I don't know exactly how much the satellite hook up cost, but I'm pretty sure it was more than cable. Does the new location have cable television? Aren't most cable operators offering broadband? Am I living in a dream world?
posted by anathema at 11:09 PM on December 10, 2003

DSL (Or Digital Subscriber Line) without writing you 5 pages, uses super high frequencies to transmit data over your copper phone line. It can handle over 1Mbit/sec and has extremely low latency, much like a cable modem. DSL is somewhat more expensive because companies have to pay telephone companies to put their systems in place, but for a person like you it may be your only option.

DSL will NOT KEEP YOU FROM MAKING PHONE CALLS. But, you will need to use "caps" on all your phones. These are made to screen out the certain frequencies that the DSL line uses, but you will not notice a change in your phone.
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:10 PM on December 10, 2003

When left with no good options, my cousin finally settled on two-way satellite (Direcway) some months back. Overall, it's not bad. Average ping times were somewhere around 1 sec, which means doing anything interactive is painful, but web browsing is decent. The upload speed is truly horrid, worse than dialup in his experience.

So satellite can be a decent option, depending on what you hope to accomplish with your connection. I'm sure you can find many more testimonials at broadbandreports.
posted by Galvatron at 11:12 PM on December 10, 2003

DSL is in wide use and has a proven track record. Personally, I am surprised you didn't know this already.

Also, Galvatrons link to DSLreports is worth your time; It also gauges other broadband connections in your area of choice.
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:14 PM on December 10, 2003

Response by poster: Checking now ana. And Keyser, cheers for the head's up, I'm on the site now, though have discovered they haven't any availability.

I'm nested directly between NYC and Philly and have enjoyed having access to everything from good beer to lightning fast connections.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but limited access (internet) may actually limit my decision to move. I'm not that desperate to get off the renter's train yet.
posted by bluedaniel at 11:16 PM on December 10, 2003

Wow... shows how valuable the internet is becoming, doesn't it?
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:18 PM on December 10, 2003

Response by poster: You know, years ago I always took pride in being a semi-ludite. No tv (why? it's all crap anyway). I had my NYTimes, I *like* my candlelight reading and listening to Miles and Trane.

Then this girlfriend of mine gave me this thing they called a personal computer.

I'm an old fart now. I'm addicted to CNN, I often write for the NYTimes, I still spin Miles and Trane (though now in 15,000 formats) and I haven't been offline in 5 years.

Life moves on. Keyser Soze, you hit it so damn hard on the head; I said the beer here is good and I'm sending you a 6pack...
posted by bluedaniel at 11:24 PM on December 10, 2003

We had satellite before we moved and it was downright AWFUL. We hated it and it was a total source of frustration to us. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
posted by Shoeburyness at 11:52 PM on December 10, 2003

The "broadband from a phone line" stuff is BS. If you don't have DSL or cable available where you are going, then satellite is your only option. I'm surprised you wouldn't have cable available to you, I thought most all of the eastern seaboard was fully wired for it by now (out in the west there are stretches that are broadband-free but even I'm surprised how often in the sticks it is available now).
posted by mathowie at 12:06 AM on December 11, 2003

Well... If you are totally fucked, try Juno's "speedband". Your connection speed does not change, Junos servers compress HTML data before it gets to you. Streaming video, downloads, etc will still be on 56k.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:38 AM on December 11, 2003

$15 a month. Not so bad for a poorer person.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:39 AM on December 11, 2003

I hope you are serious, because I would like to send you a 6 pack of Oregon beer. E-mail me.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:49 AM on December 11, 2003

My family has satellite internet at home. It costs a fortune and works like crap. Most of the time dialing up over our (radio-) phone lines is actually faster than the satellite. "Faster" is relative though, because compared to the ethernet speeds I'm used to at school, what we've got at home is excruciatingly, unbearably slow. Really, horribly slow. Sure, yeah, living in the woods is great for skiing and the trees are pretty, but who cares about that stuff when the internet moves at a snail's pace?!
posted by bonheur at 12:50 AM on December 11, 2003

"...DSL will NOT KEEP YOU FROM MAKING PHONE CALLS. But, you will need to use "caps" on all your phones..."

Or put a splitter at the demarc point and run the second pair to wherever you want the data half to be. Filter caps do the same thing, more or less, but over and over and over again throughout the house instead of at a single point.

Anyone want my extra splitter? You'll have to be able to manipulate a screwdriver, tack up some 4-wire cable, and connect wires to each other in order to use it, but at least you don't have to do anything so ridiculous as place special CPE at every termination point.

"Aren't most cable operators offering broadband? Am I living in a dream world?"

You're not from around here, are you?
posted by majick at 2:21 AM on December 11, 2003

A data point, FWIW : My folks live off the grid and run a fishing lodge in the far north of British Columbia, and depend on satellite for both phone and internet access.

The phone works, as it should, but the net access is effectively about 34k at best, and they pay upwards of $1000 a month for service. Which is a Bad Thing, even though they love it there, because they're financially getting by and not much more lately with that and cost of generator fuel to keep the lights on and such (not having enough money for the initial investment to go geothermal (there are hot springs, so massive potential for that) or solar)...

I think I may have an AxMe question there, come to think of it.

Maybe tomorrow.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:25 AM on December 11, 2003

I've had nothing but dialup (now at 56Kbps) for about ten years now, and I don't have any problems. Browsing the Web is fine. The only thing I can't do it watch high quality streaming videos or download MP3s in about a minute. But if you aren't interested in streaming or downloading a lot of stuff (I download the odd giant file, and leave a download manager doing the work) then 56Kbps is fine.

And, yeah, I know what broadband is like, I use it at my client's a lot, but it's barely the drastic improvement everyone makes it out to be. Waiting 2 seconds for a page or 10.. I'm not really that impatient or unable to multitask myself (god bless tabbed browsing).
posted by wackybrit at 4:38 AM on December 11, 2003

Don't move to Wrightstown, Daniel. They're stuck in the 1950s there. I work with two people from Wrightstown and they just got touch-tone phones. They have to walk down hallways in their homes to plug and unplug their phones so that they can get online.
posted by iconomy at 4:46 AM on December 11, 2003

I would be interested in hearing anyones experience with satelite broadband. I've considered it for mobile applications but have never actually used it. Is 20 seconds per page reload accurate? That would be 2000 millisecond ping times I was hoping for more around 100 to 500ms.
posted by stbalbach at 5:28 AM on December 11, 2003

If you're truly desparate, you could see if any of the wireless phone providers have high-speed data services in your area. With AT&T Wireless (EDGE), Verizon (CDMA 1xrtt), or Sprint PCS (CDMA 1xrtt) you can usually average ~80-90 kbps with bursts over 100 kbps. It's pretty expensive but it's another option you may have.
posted by gyc at 6:32 AM on December 11, 2003

I've used satellite broadband before, from the Utah desert. Transfer rates were very good, but as you say, the ping time was very noticeable. I think you've gotten mixed up though, because 2000ms is 2 seconds, not 20 seconds (and I would say that a page reload of 2 seconds is about right). Clearly there is absolutely no chance of you playing any real-time games over a satellite link.

If you're in an area with no broadband, satellite is the best and only way to go. You get used to the slow ping times eventually anyway.
posted by adrianhon at 6:43 AM on December 11, 2003

The next generation of satellite broadband will begin operation next year, led by WildBlue. It should be a lot cheaper than current satellite service, and they claim the new technologies will reduce latency to about a quarter-second. It won't be available until the second half of 2004, so there's still a wait.
posted by ewagoner at 7:10 AM on December 11, 2003

Robert Cringely wrote an interesting column on what it would take to set up your own DSL service. I haven't tried it myself, but I love the idea.

He makes the point that there's really nothing magic about DSL: you need to have a clean connection between the DSL modems at the endpoints, but other than that, you're just running over a normal pair of copper wires.
posted by adamrice at 7:29 AM on December 11, 2003

I thought most all of the eastern seaboard was fully wired for it by now

I realize that Vermont is not technically the seaboard but my house doesn't even have 56k. I'm lucky if I can pull 44k through my phone lines and even when I do there is one [1] ISP with a local phone number who is also, you guessed it, the telco: Topsham Telephone Company.

My dad has had Starband for a while now. It's fast [1 Mbit easy some days, usually 400-500k] and has its ups and downs. Downs range from not so bad -- high latency in the 200-400 ms range, only super problematic for gaming, but a bit maddening for shell access -- to the pretty bad -- service is down when it rains hard or snows hard. It's also pricey to install [usually about $400-500 or so] but the satellite folks are getting smarter and rolling the install cost into the first year of service so that you pay high prices [between $75-100/month] and then see a price *drop* after the first year. It's better than nothing and if you don't need internet all the time, it's good, but if you work from home or just have a monkey on your back, it can be problematic. He's got the cash to also have a back-up dial-up ISP just in case of rain but then it starts getting really pricey to the average human.

My life in Vermont has really changed since I moved someplace with cable modem. It's not so crazy to make that something that is pretty much a qualification for buying a home. And, just to restate, I worked for Speakeasy for a year, just because you have a phone line does not mean you can get DSL. You have to have a DSL ready switching station within about three miles of your house. In citiers this is a cakewalk, but where I lived in VT the switching station was 16 miles away and wasn't even DSL ready when it was. More and more places are getting on the DSL bandwagon, but it's important to not go on promises of the ISPs ["oh yeah we'll have DSL in your area any day now"] and go with what is already available.
posted by jessamyn at 7:55 AM on December 11, 2003

I don't get why people keep saying DSL is so expensive... it seems much cheaper than Cable in all companies... is $35/month for DSL through Verizon too high? Too low?

It's cheaper, but in my area, it's more expensive when you take into account the amount of bandwidth being used.

My Mediacom cable connection is 1.5mbps down and 256kbps up, and I pay $55.95 a month for it. For the $55.00/mo plan from Qwest I could get 640kbps/640kbps. Also, that $55.00 does not include an ISP. For cheaper prices, you can get less bandwidth.
posted by angry modem at 8:41 AM on December 11, 2003

Oh, also, that 640kbps upstream on the Qwest DSL connection is "up to 640kbps".
posted by angry modem at 8:42 AM on December 11, 2003

it's important to not go on promises of the ISPs ["oh yeah we'll have DSL in your area any day now"] and go with what is already available.

Sometimes this can backfire. Two months after I moved from one Detroit suburb to another in order to get cable Internet service (the cable provider in the first suburb had been saying "in about three months" for a year) -- they finally rolled it out.


Of course, this was five years ago.
posted by kindall at 9:15 AM on December 11, 2003

If you are really desperare, you can look into setting up a "shotgun" modem configuration, which basically consists of two 56k modems, two phone lines, and an ISP that will comply with such a hook up. While it's certainly not broadband, it's at least twice as good as one dialup connection.

Also, no ISDN?
posted by Hackworth at 9:40 AM on December 11, 2003

shotgun modem Q&A
posted by Hackworth at 9:44 AM on December 11, 2003

stav: they pay upwards of $1000 a month for service

This is a typo, right? Missing a decimal?
posted by davidmsc at 11:16 AM on December 11, 2003

Response by poster: WOW is there a lot to read here, thank you all.

MeFi, and only MeFi, has single-handedly proved that friendships on the internet can be genuine.

I need to digest all that I read, but here's a few observations (more later?)...

Matt, yes - virtually all the eastern area is online broadand, there are but a few minor holes that are without still, be it rural or urban (I'm directly in between).

Keyzer linked me to Broadband Reports and the mapping does in fact indicate a handicap of only a few thousand feet for CO connection, with 96% of that area wired, indicating I suppose it to be only a matter of time before the remainder is wired.

Iconomy, Wrightstown, eh? heh heh. I live in New Hope - Lambertville (and commute to NYC). The area in question is Upper Black Eddy. The reason being - skyrocketing real estate costs here now. My house alone has gone from 160 grand to 1.2 million in the last five years, I HAVE to move IF I am to purchase. I found a lovely canal-front property house with the largest f'ing fireplace hearth I have ever seen (echoes that found in a "Cracker Barrel" Restaurant) for 200 grand which I can swing. And the area is as delightful as here, and only up the road by about 22 miles or so, hence not much of a compromise socially (late night hanging at the pubs).

Obviously I'd rather find a house right here, and if I can I will (though the taxes might sting). So you might say I am simply doing homework for now.

Keyzer - you have a deal, I am sending you some River Horse Brewery samples, I will email you.

Matt - Brian and Leonard at WNYC send their best and are still reading us.

Much to read up on, and will not worry too much - if I can access MeFi still should I move, I won't complain.

Cheers all.
posted by bluedaniel at 11:47 AM on December 11, 2003

My parents used to live in Point Pleasant, Daniel. You know that house over the bridge there where Poor Richard's is, on River Road? The house on the left, between the canal and the river. It is such a fabulous, wonderful, amazing house. They paid 60,000 for it and sold it 10 years later for 500,000. I got married there. I wish they still owned it so that they could sell it to me. For 60,001, of course.

Happy house hunting, Daniel. I don't know about the rest of you, but I would trade in my DSL for the world's biggest fireplace any day of the week. Sigh. You can still go online at work.
posted by iconomy at 12:46 PM on December 11, 2003

Response by poster: Talk about a small world...

The house I'm looking at is on River Road, right on the canal.

I know Poor Richard's and I know that bridge quite well. Hell, I know that area like that back of my hand.

By the way, Gobbler's (around the corner from Poor Richard's) was often a late night spot for Bird to play afterhours for the sheer fun of it (Charlie Parker lived here when he died).

My uncle married Bird's widow and they remained here in the Parker house for the next 20 years, that's why I still live here. I drifted away to England and NYC for a time, but I came back.
posted by bluedaniel at 12:52 PM on December 11, 2003

is $35/month for DSL through Verizon too high? Too low?
I pay $50/month for Earthlink DSL through the phone here in manhattan, with no restrictions (that I know of), so yours is cheap. And I checked Earthlink for you, bluedaniel, using a campground address/phone in Upper Black Eddy and they have satellite for 70/month for there. (I've been using them for years and am very happy--use me as a ref if it works out and I get a free month) : >
posted by amberglow at 1:03 PM on December 11, 2003

Daniel, the guys from Gobbler's (which is directly across the street from my parents' old house) played at my wedding. Jazz and bluegrass, it was. Small world, indeed!
posted by iconomy at 1:31 PM on December 11, 2003

Response by poster: LocalFilter = we'll leave the light on for you.

Amber, contact me at npr, we'll send you some wbgo goodies.

Icon, you have my number. Call me.

This, from Erica just now...

Just spoke with DirecTV and they can provide us with internet and cable service in Upper Black Eddy. You get an 18 inch satellite dish that handles both via Ethernet. Total monthly cost is just under $100 and gives us 140 channels. I think we can use our current network box to use both computers at the same time. Currently they are offering free installation, too, and often have similar promotions.
posted by bluedaniel at 1:39 PM on December 11, 2003

It's not so crazy to make that something that is pretty much a qualification for buying a home.

It was a really big deal when I went house shopping a few months ago. I was kind of bummed my local DSL company and cable company couldn't provide me a map of the city with coverage overlay, they both said the same thing: call us up when you find a house you like and we'll let you know if we can deliver broadband to you.

The home I recently bought was on the edge of town and I wasn't sure if there was going to be coverage. I ended up adding a broadband provision to my offer on the house. I put an offer in the same night I saw the house and didn't have time to call the local companies to inquire about service (plus it was a weekend), so I did have an out on the house deal if I couldn't get broadband (which is a requirement if you're going to work 24/7 from home on servers all over the world). I'd suggest anyone serious about internet work does the same, and try and coax your local provider into doing some maps of where you should look in your city.
posted by mathowie at 2:05 PM on December 11, 2003

stav: they pay upwards of $1000 a month for service

This is a typo, right? Missing a decimal?

Nope. And this is the cheap plan. They were paying upwards of $2000 a month before they switched. Horrendous, ain't it?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:47 PM on December 11, 2003

Anyone scanning this for info about European satellite providers: Netsystem in Italy are good at what they do. If you have a dish already pointed at Astra (which carries much euro TV), you just need to add a second head and run coaxial to a PC equipped with a €30 DVB PCI card. Mac-only setups are out of luck, unfortunately.

It's a one-way system, so you need to maintain a dialup account, but for €33/month you get six gigs of download at 300 kilobits/second.

With a download manager you can get a fairly stable 30 kbyte/second - about one third DSL speed, but leaps and bounds better than dialup. Web browsing is significantly peppier as well.
posted by textist at 1:42 AM on December 12, 2003

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