ChiloquinNews article 12/19/2011
An article by your frustrated ChiloquinNews publisher, Joan Rowe
After working with computers that got their internet connection via high speed cables, there was no way I could go to a dial-up connection when I retired and moved to Chiloquin. I use the internet for all sorts of research. Luckily, or so I thought, I was able to sign up for a DSL connection through CenturyTel even though I was no longer in a big city. Well, it’s been 5 years of frustration. I rarely get the 1.5 mbps speed that I pay for. Last week it was down to 0.3 mbps, and I have to reboot the modem at least twice/week to get any service at all. After numerous calls to CenturyTel and countless wasted hours on the phone, I don’t bother to call anymore, but last week did prompt me to an in-depth study of other options, and I thought other readers in this area might like to see the results. First, some background: A lot of this information came from www.About.com. It’s rather a long article but that’s because it’s not a simple issue.
Dial-Up, High Speed Internet and Broadband Internet access:
* Dial-Up sevice uses your phone line to connect to the internet. It is VERY slow (56 kbps max) and you cannot use the phone for voice while you have the line open to the computer. It IS quite inexpensive.
* High speed internet access refers to the speed at which information is transmitted from the internet to a computer (downstream) or from the computer to the internet (upstream). Information is sent and received as bits of data, which move much faster than analog dial-up connections. The speed is measured in kilobits per second (kbps) and there are 1024 kilobits in 1 megabit. Usually, high speed is considered to be anything faster than a dial-up connection. If you are paying for a 1.5 mbps connection, you should have a connection that’s almost 30 times faster than dial-up. Having such a connection allows you to open web pages quickly, and to download large graphics files, movies and music videos at high speeds. If you want to check to see just what speed you are actually getting, you can do it at http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/
* Broadband refers to the combination of connection capacity (bandwidth) and speed. Broadband connections transmit information digitally over a wide band of frequencies. Because a wide band of frequencies is available, information can be sent on many different channels within the band concurrently, allowing more information to be transmitted in a given amount of time (much as more lanes on a highway allow more cars to travel on it at the same time). However, if there is a lot of traffic (users), then the connection can bog down (think San Fancisco on a Friday afternon). Currently the FCC defines broadband as transmission speeds that exceed 768 kbps,14 times faster than dial-up (which is not very fast when you consider that it is possible to get 100 mbps; 2000 times faster than dial-up!)
Although high speed internet access and broadband internet access have differing meanings, today they are used interchangeably to describe internet connections that are faster than dial-up. We get them via internet service providers (ISPs), through cable, DSL, satellite, wireless and cellular connections.
* Cable Internet Service uses your digital cable television line and is acknowledged as one of the fastest forms of broadband Internet access. I don’t have Cable TV though, so I haven’t considered this option.
* DSL carries data as well as voice at extremely high speeds over standard phone lines but does not tie up your phone line as dial-up does. Many of us in this area can get DSL through CenturyTel, however the phone lines here are old and the speed is VERY variable.
* The very expensive Satellite Internet service utilizes telecommunications satellites in Earth orbit to provide Internet access. It covers areas where DSL and cable are unavailable. Satellite offers less network bandwidth compared to DSL or cable, and in addition, the long delays required to transmit data between the satellite and the ground can cause sluggish performance in some cases. I would rather put up with my slow DSL than move to satellite. Hughes.net provides service here.
* A wireless local area network, uses radio waves to enable communication in a limited area. Wireless high speed broadband is now available here, but it only works if you have line of sight to the transmission tower, which is located on Ball Mountain. Unfortunately for me, I have several trees blocking my line of sight to the tower, and I can’t get it. If you want to check it out, look up http://www.fireserve.com This would be my first choice here if I could get it.
* Wireless high-speed Internet is generally provided by cell phone companies through their cell phone towers, and the services available and how to use them, get quite complex. While it’s great for those who are ‘light’ users of the internet, it is recommended as a supplement to home internet service rather than a substitute for it.
Here’s a rundown of the types of wireless high-speed internet services available:
* Wi-Fi Hotspots: These are public locations (airports, hotels, coffee shops, libraries) where you can connect your smartphone or laptop wirelessly to the establishment’s Internet service. Many hotspots are free to customers (although the owner is paying for the service). You should buy the establishment’s coffee/food/etc. – that’s rule #3 inThe Starbuckian Handbook. Wi-Fi hotspots are also usually unsecured (no WPA encryption), and to use the hotspot you have to locate it first, then physically be within range of the hotspot’s access point. It’s best for using while traveling.
* Internet cafes or Cybercafes: Internet cafes rent out computer workstations. You don’t need to carry a laptop with you, and the cafe may have printers or scanners available, and you can often also buy food or drinks. There are many fewer locations than wi-fi hotspots, and it can get expensive if you need to work on them for long periods of time. They’re best for international travelers.
* Mobile broadband, also referred to as WWAN (for Wireless Wide Area Network): This is a general term used to describe high-speed Internet access from wireless providers for portable devices. There are many acronyms with regards to mobile broadband: GPRS, 3G, HSDPA, LTE, WiMAX, EV-DO, etc. … These are all different standards -or flavors, if you will – of mobile broadband. 3G is not as fast as fixed broadband from cable modems, but is about as fast as DSL. The speeds will vary by a lot of conditions such as your signal strength. It is a growing field, and the latest is 4G (fourth generation). It is not available here in Chiloquin, and a 4G device used in an area that does not support 4G, does not perform well. 4G promises up to 10 times the speed of 3G.
Besides fast Internet access, mobile broadband offers wireless freedom and convenience. Instead of having to search for – and be physically at – a wireless hotspot, your Internet access goes with you. This is particularly great for travel. There are several options today for going online with your laptop or cell phone while on the go:
- If you have a data plan on your cell phone that lets you email or visit websites over your provider’s 3G network, that’s mobile broadband.
- Mobile broadband services can also provide wireless Internet access on your laptop using a built-in mobile broadband network card or USB modem.
- You can also access mobile broadband with a portable mobile hotspot, a device that allows its wireless data connection to be shared with your laptop or iPad.
- Some smartphones can also act as mobile hotspots, using tethering
“Tethering” is the use of your cell phone as a modem for another device, usually a laptop or iPad. The connection is made either with a cable (USB) or wirelessly through bluetooth.
Tethering enables users to go online from their laptops in situations where there’s no other means of Internet access: when there’s no wi-fi hotspot around, for example, or you’re on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. You can also surf the web more securely using a tethered cell phone, because your information is being sent directly through the phone versus, for example, over a public open wireless hotspot.
Although tethering isn’t very difficult to accomplish, the biggest obstacle is just being able to tether your cell phone to your laptop at all. Each wireless carrier has a different set of rules and service plans for allowing (or not allowing) tethering, and each cell phone may have its own limitations. How to tether your cell phone will largely depend on your cell phone service provider and your cell phone model.
You also may not be able to use your voice service on the cell phone while it is tethered, depending on your particular phone and connection method. Using your cell phone’s data service for your laptop will drain the phone’s battery more quickly, especially if you’re using bluetooth to connect. Also, the speed you get on a tethered device may not be as fast as you might expect even on the cell phone itself because the information has to take that extra step over the air or through the wire. Even with 3G service on your handset, upload and download speeds will typically be less than 1 Mbps. If you’re in an area not covered by mobile broadband, you’ll likely get speeds only a few times faster than dial-up.
There are several mobile apps for tethering Android and other smartphones. While the full versions of these apps cost between $10 and $30, for that price you get an easy way to connect your laptop to your smartphone over USB or bluetooth and use your smartphone’s data service on your computer, bypassing carrier tethering fees perhaps. PdaNet is a popular tethering app for most platforms.
With all of that said, how would you like to have free mobile broadband Internet access?
Niklas Zennstrom, a co-founder of Skype wants to set that up. His big idea (and it is big if he can pull it off) is to bring free broadband access to everyone in America and he’s putting his money where his idea is. He’s put together a new start up business called FreedomPop and has signed a deal with a company called LightSquared that will provide the actual Internet access pathway.
In the last half of 2012 LightSquared will debut its “4G LTE network” at which time FreedomPop also plans to start putting customers on the Internet via mobile broadband and other services (the company plans to offer free voices serves as well.) FreedomPop will first start with underserved areas. Chiloquin maybe?
LightSquared’s CEO/Board Chair Sanjiv Ahuja has been quoted as saying the new FreedomPop “represents the kind of disruptive service model that LightSquared is enabling, and shares our belief that broadband access is a right for everyone.” Disruptive? As in watch out Verizon, A T & T and every other major provider? Just how the company will be able to afford to provide free access to the masses hasn’t been announced. An advertising model perhaps, where users will see ads every time they go online?
And while you’re waiting, FreedomPop has a web page where you can sign up to get “early access” and launch dates. http://www.freedompop.com/ I have already signed up. Maybe if lots of us do so, Chiloquin might get noticed…..
So after all this research, what’s my verdict? No cable TV, don’t want satellite, can’t get a local wireless connection, and use the internet too much to go with cellphone company wireless. Guess I’ll have to stick with CenturyTel DSL until (or if) FreedonPop gets going, but I might consider a smartphone to tether to my laptop for those weekend trips to Ashland…..