What's a modern nerd to do without modern telecommunications? Never mind that; what's a 21st Century American to do without being able to (if I may paraphrase AT&T), reach out and touch everyone?
The telecommunications systems that we've come to expect rely on substantial infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, this infrastructure is more readily found where there are people: the cities and the suburbs. When we decided to move into the countryside, we knew that we'd be leaving much of that infrastructure behind us. Some people might consider that to be a good thing. As for us, we neither desire to unplug, nor do we have the luxury to do so. So before we made an offer on our new home, I researched what would be available to make sure that it would fit our needs.
|Electricity and telephone are the|
only hardline utilities available
|Having the TV dish at ground level|
makes it easy to remove snow.
For "landline" telephone service, we've elected to forego the traditional twisted-pair landline and use a VoIP (voice over IP) service; that is, one of the many companies that provides telephone service through the internet. Why? Cost, plain and simple. Even after our first-year discount ends, the VoIP service is half the cost of the traditional phone company's service. The downside is that it depends on our internet service being up, but I have battery backup for our electronics and I'm pretty confident that the physical link isn't going to be threatened by a falling tree or a wayward backhoe.
So what about that internet? The options are limited when you leave Suburbia. According to this map, we're among the unfortunate Americans who don't have access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband (full story here). 25 Mbps downlink, 3 Mbps uplink? Wow, I remembered when I dreamt of having my very own T1 line -- we're talking wall-to-wall 64 kbps, baby! Anyhoo... a "cable modem" isn't an option -- see the earlier comments about no cable service. A "MiFi"-like device that provides internet through the cell company? See the earlier comments about cell coverage. DSL is available, at 768 kbps/128 kbps. Yeah, I considered that fast, back in 2001. There is satellite internet at 15 Mbps downlink (unspecified uplink datarate), but a radio signal requires .12 seconds to travel between the Earth's surface and a satellite in geostationary orbit. House to satellite, satellite to ground station, then response from ground station to satellite and satellite to house -- that's a half-second of latency before we add switching and server latency. The Boy's online school requires the occasional videoteleconference, and latency is a pain in the neck for real-time conversations; enough latency, and it's nearly impossible to hold a conversation. Fortunately, there's another solution -- a Wireless ISP ("WISP"). WISPs place a microwave dish on your house, pointed at one of their hubs at nearby tall locations (such as water towers), to deliver internet service. We got a 12 Mbps/1 Mbps package from a local company with good reviews. They particularly impressed me when I called to get some basic information and the guy who answered was able to get into geeky details. That might not be important to some people, but it gives me the reassurance that if I ever call with a problem, I'll quickly be able to talk with someone who understands the technology and won't have to climb the tech support tiers. As it turned out, I'd spoken with the owner of the company after he'd returned from performing some maintenance on one of their hubs -- yup, there are certain advantages to working with small businesses.
|In a former life, our internet dish was the|
main deflector on the starship Enterprise.