I never thought much about satellite Internet. Where I lived cable was the only viable choice. While far from perfect it was fairly reliable and the speeds have been gradually increasing (along with the price.) That all changed recently.
How I Came To Need Satellite Internet
After decades of suburban life we acquired a beautiful piece of property out in the country. It was basically the old family homestead, minus the house, which had been sold off long ago. So we had this beautiful acreage and a small 100 year old barn.
First up was a travel trailer which served as our base away from home. This year we added a building that will serve as a studio for my artist wife. We have electricity, but no phone or Internet. Even cell service is very spotty. Getting a couple bars usually means climbing to the highest hill on the property!
You don’t know how much your life revolves around the Internet these days. I do a lot of writing and web work, and really missed my connection! We are spending more and more time at our country spot and we hope to eventually build and move there. An Internet connection is a must. My research began.
Cable is not available. I thought about DSL or Satellite. A call to the local phone company confirmed they are not willing to put in a phone/DSL line, even though the property across the road has phone service. The phone company referred me to a satellite provider, my only remaining choice.
Satellite service is not cheap for what you get. It is about $100 a month, with a discount the first couple months. They require a 2 year contract in order to get the dish and equipment for free. Phone service is an additional $30.
The installer was a contract worker paid by the installation. He was friendly but had difficulty finding a location to mount the dish.. The dish needs to be pointed at a fairly low angle and with all our trees even attaching to the barn didn’t work. He ended up attaching it to a telephone pole and ran the coax cable to our trailer. It just wound through the brush and laid on the ground. But it worked and for the first time I was able to check my email from our rural location! One additional Issue was that since we are not at the location full time the power is turned off. The installer assured me that the modem would just reset itself once the power came back on.
Two weeks after the installation someone was apparently turning around near the telephone pole and sliced the connection. Be that a lesson to Immediately bury the cable! I checked the Internet and spliced the connection.
The modem does not seem to reset itself reliably when the power is disconnected. I usually eventually get it working each time but it involves a number or hard resets and “playing” with the connection in various ways. I’d say I manage to have a reliable connection about 75% of the time (more on this below)
As I expected Satellite is way slower than Cable. I wrote a little Python program to measure speed and my very unscientific measurement averaged between 8 and 15 MBPS. For email and working with Google Workspace this is OK. YouTube and Udemy videos usually work with occasional interruptions. Amazon Prime Video and Netflix do not work at all.
Storms and Weather
I had heard that snowstorms affected satellite service but didn’t realize how much weather affected the connection. Thunderstorms anywhere around kill the connection and it takes quite a while to come back. Even rain has an effect; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
With my connection issues I tried to contact Customer Service. The result was questionable. A phone call put me on hold forever. A chat option did connect me with someone. Unfortunately, they were just reading from a script. They kept insisting that I call from the modem’s location which is impossible because there is no cell service and the satellite connection was broken, which was why I was calling! I asked if they could send out a service technician but they insisted they would not do that until I called from the modem’s location (impossible,) and performed a modem reset while they were on the phone. I was frustrated and almost cancelled but since there aren’t any good alternatives I just play with the connection myself, which usually works eventually.
Well the good news is we have an Internet connection of sorts most of the time. I guess it will have to do until there is a better option. Maybe Elon Musk’s Starlink service will be that option. I have also researched and found a nearby business incubator. So if I decide to move my web business to our new location I may be able to get a better connection there when my business requires it.
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay