Rural High-Speed Internet

My satellite TV signal is going south on me, so I’ve ordered a new antenna. The old one is an ancient Hughes “DirecPC” antenna, which got me thinking about rural high-speed Internet.

When I first returned to Oregon, I used dial-up. It was painfully slow and consumed a phone line. I quickly switched to DirecPC (now HughesNet), which was a huge improvement. No comparison. I got satellite TV at the same time, using the same antenna for both.

Satellite Internet works in places that have no phone service, which is useful for people who are way out yonder. This doesn’t apply to me, though.

While satellite Internet is a lot better than dial-up,it’s a lot worse than DSL. The reason is that a signal going up to a geosynchronous satellite and back again has to travel over 50,000 miles, which adds a delay amounting to a significant fraction of a second to everything you do. If your phone lines can support DSL, that’s what you want. This is true even if the local DSL service is slower. That is, a 768 kpbs satellite link is a lot slower in practice than a 768 kbps DSL link.

People in town can also opt for cable Internet or various forms of wireless Internet served by local antenna towers, but these are typically not available in rural areas.

DSL piggybacks onto an existing phone line in a way that’s invisible to your telephone, so you can use your phone and Internet at the same time.

No one is allowed to use my computer but me. This means that I have to provide the kids with their own computers. With high-speed Internet, everyone can connect to the Internet simultaneously, without fighting over the use of the link. I have Ethernet cables running all over the house to hook everything up. Wireless is easier, though it may not give adequate coverage over the whole house. Inevitably, the room that’s the most impossible to reach with a cable is the one that can’t receive a wireless signal, either. My recommendation for DSL: get a DSL modem that supports both wired and wireless access between itself and your PCs.

Modern computers all have Ethernet ports as standard equipment; just plug in the cable. For wireless, you need a wireless adapter that plugs into a USB port into a slot in the PC.

Speaking of PCs, folks in the country are often subjected to frequent power outages. The most convenient way to deal with this is to use a laptop computer rather than a desktop system. Laptops have batteries and will continue running for a couple of hours after the power fails. This is far more run time than you get with a desktop system and an affordable UPS (uninterruptible power supply). This may not be practical for anyone interested in state-of-the-art games on their PC. Laptops capable of such things aren’t very affordable.

I have found that both desktops and laptops work well off a generator. If you want to combine a UPS and generator use (which makes sense, since it means your desktop systems won’t crash when the generator runs out of gas), I recommend the APC Smart-UPS line, which is better-suited to generator use than other UPS systems. Other UPS units I’ve tried freak out at the least little voltage deviation and switch to battery, exhausting their batteries even when the generator is running. The Smart-UPS doesn’t do this.

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Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, is an expert on free-range chickens, and is a semi-struggling novelist. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years. In addition, he holds down a day job doing technical writing at Workspot.

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