Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet
Something in the Air
By Mike Gould
Connection, I just can't make no connection,
But all I want to do, is to get back to you.
Rolling Stones, 1967
In my case, I need to make a connection to the internet from my new house-to-be, deep in the country, far, far from any landline. And as Mick sang above, I kinda need this to receive and send email, files (including these articles), and to do everything else we do in the space we call Reality rev.2017.
OK, no cable to the house, now what? Wirelessness, that’s what.
I’m researching this like crazy, and haven’t decided on my final move. But here is what I have learned so far, for anyone else out there in a similar situation.
Needs To continue functioning in civilized fashion, I need:
TV (lotsa channels)
Phone – this I have: we are comfortably close to a cell tower somewhere, and I get four bars in the basement. (Unlike my present location where I had to install an M-Cell repeater to use my phone – see my article about this, Repeaters, URL below).
Providers As I said, research is on-going, but it looks like my main choices are:
ATT wireless hotspot/DirectTV
Are You Holding?
To find out more, I have been on hold a lot with various communications companies.
1. Phone lines have really bad audio bandwidth – they are designed to optimize vocal frequencies, which have no need for high fidelity treble and bass response. So any music is going to sound tinny and thin from the get-to. You can get around this by designing your hold music from scratch with this in mind, but very few companies bother to do so. See #3 below.
2. The audio signal of the hold music is frequently miss-matched to the electronics driving things down whatever system you are listening to. What I find most often is that the music is turned up way too loud, overdriving the sound circuitry in the next step in the audio chain, resulting in ear-aching distortion of an already bad signal.
3. Companies with on-hold systems don’t care if they subject their listeners to tinnitus-inducing torture. Hey, this is a customer service area, right? Customer service doesn’t generate income so screw ‘em. Well, except it affects the over-all customer experience, but few sales are missed by hold music, right? So what the hey?
I always complain about this once I eventually make it to the human being on the other side of hold. (Sounds like a good name for a band: The Other Side of Hold…)
Being a current and mostly-satisfied Comcast customer, I started with them. No joy: no wires in the new neighborhood, and no plans to run any there. Unsurprising as we are in solid boondocks, maybe three neighbors in the area, which is hardly a profitable scenario for a cable company. The nice young man I spoke to did say he would put in a request to run a line to us, but I’m putting that in the flying swine timeline.
My realtor said that Frontier is the ISP of choice in the area, so I called them next. Got put on hold for ten minutes. Is there an audio equivalent of road rage? Phone rage? Tele-tantrum? Once connected to another nice young man, I got the pitch and a range of TV and internet choices in channels and download capacity. They work with the DISH network for this, and I saw a receiver being installed on a neighbor’s roof when we visited our new digs, so this may be the way to go.
I currently get around 90Mbps (Megabytes per second, a measure of how fast you can shove data through your connection) download and 12Mbps upload from my wired Comcast connection. Frontier Simply Broadband Ultra is 12Mbps down and 1Mbps upload speed. Ouch. I think I see an internet café in my future (if they still exist).
Their TV channel listings look about the same as other vendors, and various deals are available for premium channels. I am mainly interested in the Science, Discovery, and History channels, and Salli needs NFL football, so I think we’re covered.
AT&T Then there’s ATT – I use them for my phone service for my new iPhone 8 (!), and they offer a wireless hotspot that is supposed to be good for up to 100mbs. I’ve got my doubts, as this varies from place to place, but I’ve been using the phone-as-a-hotspot service for quite some time and I’m pretty happy with it. I haven’t done much uploading with it, mostly email while on the road.
ATT bundles their internet service with DirectTV, and there are a number of deals available for various channel packages. They provide a small base unit that acts as a wifi hotspot, talking to the nearest cell tower – as I get good connectivity with my phone, this may be the way to go.
HughesNet They advertise 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds, the uploads the fastest I’ve seen. Nowhere near the 12Mbps I get from Comcast, but doable. Problem is that this varies all over the place depending on the time of day, according to reviews (mostly negative) I’ve read on the web. This is internet only, no TV. I think I’ll pass.
The above is what I’ve been able to find out so far, and I don’t need to decide for another month.
If you live away from cable, what do you use, and how happy are you with it? Please let me know at the email address below.
So What Do I Recommend?
I’ll get back to you on that. Stay tuned.
Update: I went with ATT hot spot via unlimited phone account.
Mike Gould is going to paint his mailbox blue. He was a mouse wrangler for the U of M for 20 years, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Training/Photography mega-mall, is a laser artist, directs the Illuminatus Lasers, and welcomes comments addressed to email@example.com.