Internet

16 07 2008

You can learn quite a bit about yourself by taking two things you feel strongly about and putting them in a situation where they conflict with each other.

For me, coming to the Straw Bale House meant an epic battle between my loathing of spiders and my addiction to the internet. More on that in a moment.

There’s basically only one option for internet in a place this rural, and that’s satellite broadband. No cable, no DSL — it just doesn’t exist out here. Even super-slow dialup doesn’t work because the phone line has too much interference to get a solid signal.

For satellite broadband, there’s only one provider, and that’s a company called HughesNet. Other providers such as Earthlink just resell HughesNet’s service and mark up the price. I went with HughesNet directly. Their sales department assured me that I would get their fastest connection speed of 1.5Mbps. All I had to do was buy their horribly expensive, proprietary satellite dish and pay out the nose for monthly service.

What they didn’t tell me was that, even with this ridiculously expensive plan we’re on, every HughesNet subscriber has a limit imposed daily on how much you can use the internet. That limit is a ridiculously low 425 megabytes per day.

Let me break that down for you non-geeks.

A high-resolution photo that comes from a digital camera is typically around 10 megabytes. Try sending or receiving more than 42 photos in a day and you’re over your limit.

Watching a streaming movie on Netflix at the lowest quality setting uses about 250 megabytes per hour. Trying to watch a two-hour movie? Whoops, you’re over your limit again. Better watch half of that movie today and the other half tomorrow.

And if you exceed your limit in a 24-hour period, they “punish” you by dropping your connection speed by 99.2% for the next 24 hours, giving you slower-than-dialup speeds until they restore your normal service.

The reason for this limitation is that they’re basically selling too little service to too many people, so they have to regulate in such a way that they can still call it a “24-hour-a-day internet connection.” Technically, you can access the internet at any time, but you can only use it for a certain amount of time. Kind of shady, huh? You can have it 24 hours a day, you just can’t USE it 24 hours a day.

The big satellite in the sky is like a single, really fast internet connection that everyone shares. The more people who connect to it, the slower it goes. That means every time HughesNet picks up a new customer, my service is going to be a little bit slower than it used to be.

If everyone tried, say, watching a video at the same time, their service would crash. So they limit each customer to a really small amount of internet access each day instead. They call this their “Fair Access Policy.” Makes it sound better when you put it that way, right? They’re just trying to make it fair for everyone. Nevermind the fact that what was advertised and what you’re paying for is not what you’re getting — as long as it’s fair for everyone, you should be okay with getting ripped off, right?

I didn’t think I would really miss Comcast this much, but now that I have HughesNet to compare, I realize just what a great deal I had. Comcast was 4 times faster than HughesNet, it never ran slower than it was supposed to, was not affected by other users, and there were no limitations on daily use.

Oh, and there’s the price tag. Comcast was about $50/month. This inferior service from Hughes? Try $109/month. Plus you have to buy the $400 satellite. Ouch.

There’s not really anything to be done about it, because there aren’t any other options for internet here. Having recently aquired the only other competitor, DirecWay, HughesNet now holds both Park Place and Boardwalk and they have hotels on both. So I guess I’ll just have to smile and be happy about paying more than double for a substandard service. At least I can still email and blog, right?

Going back to my opening thought, the installation made me realize that my internet addiction is stronger than my fear of spiders. When the time came to run the cable from the satellite dish into the house, I had to venture into the crawlspace in the Straw Bale House. It is full, and I do mean full, of spiders and spiderwebs. Even with flashlight in hand, there was no way to step around them, and I emerged with hair, face, and body covered in spider webs. But I got the cable inside and hooked up.

I guess you can’t really move to the middle of nowhere and expect it to be technologically advanced. Really, the more I think about it, it’s kind of amazing to me that you can get internet access out here at all.

And then again, maybe it’s not so amazing when you consider that even in rural Nigeria, they have enough internet technology to send me those email scams asking me to launder their nonexistent $20 million inheritances for a ten percent retainer, if I’ll just be kind enough to send my bank account information and social security number.

But if we end up looking for a permanent place to live in New Mexico rather than returning to Colorado, you can bet that one of my primary criteria will be whether it’s close enough to the city to get an, unrestricted, high-speed, land-line internet connection.

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16 responses

16 07 2008
Mom2

I really still don’t understand it exactly, but enough to know it stinks! I’m just thrilled that you can continue to blog with these great stories. I also know that it will be better when you get into (or closer to) town. By the way, Nigeria doesn’t have to contend with the Navajo Nation and their rules and regulations!

16 07 2008
Janna

I’m still hanging on the word “if” you move closer to town instead of returning to Colorado…

16 07 2008
Emily S

Ditto to what Janna said. 🙂 What a bummer!!!

16 07 2008
Terri Spratte

I’m hanging on the “if” as well if you decide to stay and not return to Colorado. The internet thing..that is crazy to pay such a high price not be able use it 24/7.

16 07 2008
Aunty Penn

What a whiner. Internet, schminternet. All we ever needed was two tin cans and a piece of string. Sheesh. If we needed better reception, we used an old candle to wax the string. And if we needed even BETTER reception, we walked next door and yelled through the screen door! THAT was technology. I bet even Grandad couldn’t have improved on that. Ask him. But he might be a whiner, too.

16 07 2008
Aunty Penn

Ummmmmm…..I might be sort of glad for the internet when we’re out of ‘string’ range, starting on Friday….. But I’ll just be a wuss. I won’t be a whiner.

16 07 2008
Aunty Penn

Of course, if I don’t have ANY internet, I might have to be a whiner, too. Heck, I’ll be a total volcano.

16 07 2008
Aunty Penn

Covered in spiderwebs? Ick. (shudder, gag)

16 07 2008
Aunty Penn

I’m done, now.

17 07 2008
Janna

Aunty Penn IS pretty funny

17 07 2008
tigerlilysandybanks

Holy crap. I have to make sure that Ky reads this one. He was always thinking of going to DSL or something else to try to cut down on cost. I kept telling him that there would be a difference and that it wouldn’t be worth it. We never actually did switch it, but this will be even better proof. 🙂

18 07 2008
Jenn

Ummm … so what about the spiders?? Eeewww…..

18 07 2008
Daniel Nice

Dude, I feel your pain, my parents have a very similer connection up at their ranch near steamboat. Great to hear your stories, I always enjoy reading anything you write. I hope to SEE you soon 🙂

18 07 2008
blythewhite

I think Coloradans vote for you guys to stay in CO. But it will be interesting to hear of whatever decision is best for all of you.

Regarding Wall-E–have the kids hang out with family while you and Liesl see it. It’s very much more adult-friendly and may not keep the kids interested for the first half, as it’s very very visual with very little dialogue. I know that’s a bummer, but I’m just not sure the kiddos would eat it up, as it’s not as colorful or fun as Monsters, INC and other Pixar flicks.

All that said, I still tout it as fantastic. It’s just deeper than most kids are… Ryan might be old enough to see it.

21 07 2008
Aunty Penn

OK. Just one more. Here I am in Berlin….and more thankful for internet-fast or slow–than EVER. Whine.

25 07 2008
Jesse

Try Watania internet in the Kuwaiti Desert!

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