Friday, July 16, 2010

What To Do If You Hate Your Internet Service

I regularly get inquiries with comments that go something like “I can’t get any broadband” or “I hate my slow Internet access.” Unfortunately, most of these come in as requests for quotes on high bandwidth services that are totally inappropriate. So, is there any real hope for the frustrated individual or small business Internet user? You bet there is.

Don't kill your computer just because you hate your Internet. Find better broadband now.Broadband access is a hot potato right now. So much so that the government is spending billions to help service providers extend their coverage into small towns and rural areas where broadband is largely non-existant. This will help... eventually. But no way is there enough money available to create the kind of universal access we have with telephone service and electricity. In the real boonies, your best bet is wireless.

Before I get deeper into this, are you sure you don’t have broadband options? New build-outs are always underway and there might be something that serves your address that you don’t realize has arrived. Before you do anything else, check for broadband availability using a broadband finder service like the appropriately named “Can I Get DSL?” This free availability check will give you a list of DSL, Cable, Satellite and 3G mobile broadband services for your location.

Notice the inclusion of 3G cellular wireless. Cell towers have become so prolific that you can almost always get a signal, even out in the country where no one is stringing broadband wires. Nearly all cell towers are now transmitting both voice and data on different channels. If you have a smartphone, that’s how you get your Internet access. But you can also get a wireless modem aircard and a data-only plan so that you can put broadband on your laptop computer. Yes, it is also possible to plug one of these into a desktop computer, but beware. There is such a shortage of wireless channels that service providers impose a relatively small download cap. It’s generally either 2 GB or 5 GB depending on the service you order. Most people find this more than adequate for mobile use in checking email and browsing websites. But if you go downloading big software files or movies, you can hit that limit pretty quickly. Go over and you’ll pay overage charges that can be eye-popping.

A faster and less restrictive wireless service is 4G WiMAX, now in some 40 cities. Someday WiMAX may be the answer to rural broadband needs. But for right now, it is rather tightly deployed around major population centers. If you can get it, you’ll enjoy 3 to 6 Mbps downloads with unlimited usage. In fact, this service is advertised as being suitable for both desktop and mobile usage. The strong signals penetrate most structures, so you don’t need an outside antenna. WiMAX 4G isn’t available everywhere, but it’s worth your while to check 4G wireless availability and see if it has come to your town yet.

Another wireless option is the WISP or Wireless Internet Service Provider. These are strictly local operations set up by entrepreneurs to cover smaller towns or subdivisions located too far from the city to get wired services. You’ll have to check your phone book or newspaper ads to see if one is nearby. If so, you can get DSL or Cable speeds delivered wirelessly line-of-sight to an antenna that mounts on your roof. Some of these look like a small satellite dish tipped downward.

Speaking of satellite, two-way satellite broadband is an established technology that will work just about anywhere you can get power and a clear view of the southern sky. Satellite has gotten a bad rap because of relatively high prices, low bandwidth caps and horrible latency. The latency is due to the radio signal having to travel some 22,500 miles up to the bird and back down. It introduces a half-second or so delay into everything. For email or Web browsing, that’s probably no big deal. Just forget about real-time gaming, VoIP telephone or video conferencing. You’ll drive yourself nuts waiting for responses. Even so, for many users, satellite is a decent option. Service prices have come down recently and are similar to many DSL and Cable prices.

A lucky few also have the option to get their broadband delivered by fiber optic cable. The Verizon FiOS service offers large bandwidth and the possibility of bundling telephone and television over the same passive optical fiber.

If none of these will do the trick, you may be tempted to look into business bandwidth solutions. Don’t do it unless you can pay $300 and up per month for T1 lines running 1.5 Mbps and even more for DS3 and Ethernet. Most providers won’t even install service unless your property is zoned for business. If you do have a business location and are willing to pay what rock solid reliable business bandwidth services demand, then by all means request a business broadband service quote and see what options are available to you.

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