Heartland connectivity dilemma
May 22, 2006 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Moving to the sticks. How can I optimize my communications-cost curve?

Background: I currently live in a place with cheap and easy DSL with static IP addresses which covers my (and a few clients') web hosting and email needs. I have a land line for local calls. I have long distance through [do-gooder long distance company] and also use Skype when possible. This has worked quite well for the last several years.

Problem: I am moving to a place where DSL and cable are unavailable. Broadband can be had via satellite for $120/mo (for static IP) or else it is dial-up at 28.8 (14.4 actual). I am also accepting a position that requires me to be on-call 24/7 which likely means venturing into the previously unfamiliar world of cell phones.

Satellite + cell (one phone each for I and the Lady Fez) looks to run ~$175/mo with some sizeable start-up costs. Reseller account + dial-up + land line (for dial-up) + cell saves maybe $20/mo and some of the start-up costs but comes with the pain of having to use dial up again. I'd prefer to not spend hundred[s] of dollars just to connect to the world, but I understand this is one cost of moving back to the farm. The "neighbors" aren't much help as they're mostly content with land-lines and dial-up. Has anyone else made a similar move? Am I missing any obvious solutions? What combination of connectivity options has worked best for you?
posted by Fezboy! to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I'm totally cell-phone based out in the sticks. Cell phone will *not* meet your needs for website hosting, and neither will sattelite.

Cingular's EDGE modems and Verizon/Sprint's new high-tech high-speed modems work pretty well. I've tested just about everything but stuck with the lower T-Mobile because I really only need SSH and weather reports when I'm out at The Ranch(tm). I can meet my broadband addiction needs when I'm in town.

On the bright side, being without broadband at night has gotten me unaddicted from the MMORPGs that were slurping down all my time before.
posted by SpecialK at 12:41 PM on May 22, 2006

I live in the sticks and around here satellite is significantly cheaper than that if you can forego static IP and/or pay for installation up front. In fact, it's gotten less expensive as time goes on. I'd also make sure you can get cell service where you are. We can get cable broadband (as of two years ago), DSL (as of last year) but we still have no cell service. If work is requiring you to have one, see if they'll spring for it and then get one home cell phone mainly for your wife and a landline for emergencies with some cheapie service and no long distance (use cell phones or go for cheapie calling cards). My suggestions would be:

- get a city mouse friend elsewhere to host your box on their static IP setup and explore satellite w/o static IP costs. ssh into it when you need to. Pay your friend something if he needs to reboot, etc. One cell phone, one landline.
- get dial-up and an office in "town" (if you have such an option) which has shared DSL with static IP and host your box there. Office landline phone and one or two cell phones.
- some people out this way still use ISDN or a bunch of dedicated lines from the telco that they can get a little more speed out of than dial-up. Make sure you check your dial-up situation because with our rural telco there is no such thing as a "local" call unless you're callign down the street, even the calls to the ISP are metered, though cheap. They recently started rolling out DSL in town so this is changing, but make sure before you decide to invest in one connectivity option.

Also ask around for who the other teckies are in town, I'm surprised at some of the home-grown shared broadband situations that some of the techie people around here have worked out with local businesses.
posted by jessamyn at 12:41 PM on May 22, 2006

*SLOWER t-mobile; GPRS will at most get you 38.8 bps. Helps that we're [sitting directly under / having our brains microwaved by] a t-mobile tower.

Where we are (semi-rural Texas) I called the phone company and asked about DSL and the laughed.
posted by SpecialK at 12:42 PM on May 22, 2006

Out in the sticks you should be able to use ISDN. It's about as expensive as satellite, but is much more reliable and has less latency. The Broadband Reports ISDN forum is generally a good place to learn about getting it set up. Most cheapo nationwide dialup ISPs actually allow you to connect with ISDN instead of a normal modem at no extra charge.
posted by zsazsa at 1:04 PM on May 22, 2006


I don't know all the technobabble, but will this possibly be of help to you?
posted by Pressed Rat at 1:06 PM on May 22, 2006

Pressed - That's about five hours drive from us, unfortunately! Texas is absolutely scary-huge.
posted by SpecialK at 1:15 PM on May 22, 2006

I don't know what I'd do about the overall problem, but I'd stick the webhosting somewhere like pair.com. Even if your clients don't have much traffic, its still going to perform a lot better than something on the end of a DSL line.

That reduces the need for a static IP address, which should help cut your broadband costs (including giving you the option of going with dialup for a bit while you find out what your other options might be once you are in country.
posted by Good Brain at 1:23 PM on May 22, 2006

See if you can find someone else in the area who would be amenable to splitting a satellite link. Set up the dish and if you find even one person to split it you've halved your operating expenses. It won't host a website but it will make using the web a whole lot less painful.

Sharing the connection over a wireless bridge should be relatively painless and it'll be worth it after a few months of less-expensive satellite bills, especially in Wide, Open Texas.

If you're dead set on hosting off of a sat link, nuke the static IP and get a (free) DDNS service and set your DNS records to CNAMEs instead of As or just spring for a proper DNS host that can do both for you.

If ISDN will work a few of those bonded is probably the cheapest non-dialup option. Have a basic no-frills landline for 911 purposes.
posted by Skorgu at 1:41 PM on May 22, 2006

About ten years ago in AZ I had a friend who lived in the sticks in Patagonia. He was able to get USWest to install a T-1 to his house, 3 miles into a canyon. He already had a land-line, and the wiring was mostly there anyway, so it wasn't a huge deal for USWest. It was fairly expensive if I remember, but if you have any neighbors you might be able to resell some bandwidth.

So I'd say try to find the department at your local telco that sells higher-end digital services and see if they'll install a T-1 or ISDN.
posted by ldenneau at 2:39 PM on May 22, 2006

some phone companies may have a IDSL or ISDN Digital Subscriber Line connection available.
its only 144k/144k but a loop length of nearly 40000 feet helps with distance. (bridge taps and other phone company esoterica can reduce the actual distance that you can be from the CO)
As far as I know, Seven and a third miles is the furthest you can get broadband from the telco without paying through the nose for cable to be laid.
posted by Megafly at 2:54 PM on May 22, 2006

Some responses in no particular order:

SpecialK: yeah, they more or less laughed at me. The farm is perfectly triangulated by three exchanges, none of which are close enough for DSL. The lack of population density or potential for growth means it is unlikely DSL is in the foreseeable future. Also, do the cell modems you mention require a dedicated line or can they be piggybacked off the number for an existing cell?

jessamyn: thanks for the great idea on finding a city-dwelling mole. I bet I could recruit an existing DSL subscriber and just pay the extra fee for the sticky IP. That would solve a great many problems. I will have access to broadband at work (in a militant academic library no less) so I can do my heavy lifting there and just use dial-up at home for email/ssh to the server.

Skorgu: I have a vague and probably misplaced distrust of DDNS, but yeah, that's another possibility if we do go the satellite route. The sites in question are definitely low traffic and lightweight so I'm not too concerned about satellite's upstream deficiencies.

idenneau: Do you know ballpark what the fee was for running the T-1 line out? That idea has great appeal and would give me bandwidth to share via wireless bridge. Like I mentioned, the neighbors are mostly aging farmers who ph34r teh interwebs but I might be able to band together a few of the progressive ones to split the cost of running the line out our direction.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:49 PM on May 22, 2006

I have no idea where you are, but I just recently moved from a place that I had set up with a long-ish range 802.11b wireless system, it got around 4Mb/sec down and 1 or so up. Had a flat panel antenna 90 feet up a tree aimed at the ISP's tower about 6 miles away. Generally worked pretty well, and the mom & pop type ISP was a lot more personal to deal with.

That place, FWIW, had no DSL, no cable, no ISDN, no nothing except regular phone. Leased lines could be had, but topped out at 56k.

The big lose with the satellite services (when I looked into them last, about three years ago) was the long round trip times and the draconian bandwidth restrictions (from Direcway, I didn't look at the other providers too much; the long RTT killed it for me as I do a fair amount of interactive things). They weren't cheap, either; several hundred bucks to install plus another hundred a month for service (granted, the 802.11 antenna wasn't real cheap either, but the service cost was much lower).
posted by doorsnake at 4:56 PM on May 22, 2006

Get a cheap hosting provider and don't bother with static IPs behind DSL. It'll be cheaper, and you'll have better uptime and won't have to worry about paying some schmo to keep a pc in their house for you.

Check some of the other ask.mefi threads about hosting providers that give you full access to a box and you should be set.
posted by AaronRaphael at 5:46 PM on May 22, 2006

I guess I have failed to mention that one of the perks of hosting off a DSL connection is that I have absolute freedom to muck around with the server whenever I get the whim. It's a bit of a hobby and helps me keep up with the sysads when I whinge for ponies in the course of my job. As per suggestions, I will look at the cost of a virtual server with root access.

doorsnake: Is this wireless service you mention something like this? We'll be living a bit up and to the right of the dot that represents Memphis on this map. Maybe they can be pursuaded to put up another access point on the west bank of the Platte.

All in all, this thread has been most helpful in clarifying options. I've been talked down from the satellite ledge. Now it's a question of finding the right hosting/DSL mole option. Thanks all!
posted by Fezboy! at 7:41 PM on May 22, 2006

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