Monthly Archive for: ‘September, 2012’

Comparison of Interim Connection Solutions

Fed up with Dial up? Interim Solutions

There are interim solutions for those who are fed up with slow dial up data transfer speeds of about 56kbps and need something faster. Such technologies, like DSL, WiFi (3G/4G wireless), or satellite may be available in your area. Below is a quick comparison of what they can provide:

DSL: DSL is a technology provided over your existing telephone lines. It is only available in a 2-3 mile radius from a point where AT&T or other carrier has deployed the service. Check with your local provider to see if your phone system has been upgraded to DSL. MCN offers this service to some locales on the coast and their website is: www.mcn.org. DSL speeds and prices vary from 384kbps to 3Mbps depending on the availability, package selected, and distance from the central office. Surfing the web and checking email can be done with 384kbps. For viewing videos or playing games online plus access to new services like NetFlix online one needs the higher rates. A few communities (Ukiah & Willits) in our county are already receiving a new upgraded version of DSL called ADSL2+ which is broadband quality and will reach speeds of 20Mbps.

WIRELESS: There are various companies within Mendocino County who can provide “direct wireless” which is residential and business DSL without the copper wires required for landline DSL. This can be done using a variety of antennas aimed at the service provider’s node on select hilltops which relay the signal. Technologies used are WiFi, WiMax, proprietary 900Mghz radios and even microwave antennas. Wireless solutions are typically more costly than landline DSL or Cable Modems, but provide similar performance for those who happen to be out of reach or not yet serviced by a major carrier.

CELLULAR MODEMS: Accessing high speed Internet connection through a cellular phone connection is yet another solution. US Cellular, AT&T, T-mobile, and Verizon offer a 3G Internet service in some areas, and other companies may as well. Marginal cell phone reception can be improved significantly by amplifiers and larger antennas designed to support cellular technology. Local offices will offer equipment recommendations and let you test to find out if there is enough signal strength for data access before needing to make the investment. There are also individuals and businesses in the area that specialize in providing cellular connections to homes & businesses. Look at the Using Your Cell Phone for Broadband in your Home page to get the particulars on how to do this from one person who did it successfully.

SATELLITE: Access to the Internet via satellite is another solution available if there is a clear view of the southern horizon where the satellite is. It does have a latency issue which means there is a delay in accessing information due to its travel 46,000 miles up and down to the satellite. This is typically less than one second and acceptable to most people browsing the Internet. Satellite is still advertised as 10 times faster than dial up even though it is not up to the National Broadband Plan standards. Satellite is traditionally somewhat pricey so one word of caution is to check on satellite caps or limits on how much can be used in a day. Heavy Internet users can incur significant cost penalties if they go over the limit so read the terms and conditions carefully.

The Broadband Alliance is offering these ideas to ease the pain of dial up for the short term with no guarantee that anything will work for an individual location but it is a place to start.

Please contact the Alliance at info@mendocinobroadband.org if you want to help the county-wide effort or if you are thinking of starting something locally in order to coordinate local and county efforts for mutual benefit.

Using Your Cell Phone for Broadband in Your Home

Broadband cellphone Internet set up – Offered by a willing party and not an official BAMC document. This is for Verizon but can be adapted to your carrier.

Verizon High Speed Internet Set up in Your Home – Courtesy of Rob Bergstrom

– There are NO cell phone minutes associated with a data plan. The data plan and associated modem is independent of time (minutes) but instead works on a data limit (5 GB for 59.99/month). You can be connected to the Internet night and day but if you don’t download/upload anything you won’t move towards your data cap. After you exceed 5 GB per month there is a per Mb fee.

I wanted to share our experiences with Verizon Wireless High Speed Internet Service in Alpine Peaks (Tahoe Area) . Last year when we moved to the neighborhood we explored options and weren’t thrilled about the cost, long term contract and variable speed of satellite options so we created a solution using Verizon’s EVDO data service. We do not get Verizon cellphone reception at our home and the modem does not work “as is” but with a simple antenna we are able to tie a modem into the tower above Tahoe City and boost the signal despite the fact that we have no line of sight to the tower.

ADVANTAGES of Verizon High Speed Internet:
1. No contract – it is month to month via Verizon if you procure your own modem.
2. Higher speed than satellite and no slowdown during peak times. We get 1.5 Mb/sec downstream and 0.6 Mb/sec upstream regardless of time of day or weather conditions (storms included). Latency is so low that we routinely do video conferencing from our setup without problems.
3. Low fixed up-front cost for equipment.
4. Modem and service works at other locations around the Lake (and country) with a laptop

DISADVANTAGES of Verizon High Speed Internet:
1. 5Gb per month limit – still pretty generous, even for our heavy usage.
2. A hour or two of legwork to procure equipment and install.

Everything you need to know about getting Verizon EVDO data service can be found at http://3gstore.com. I will outline below what we learned and executed to make the service work.
The basic equipment setup to make this work costs around $140. You own the equipment. The optional wireless router to convert this from a single computer account to whole home wireless solution costs an additional $85. I would be happy to test your location with my equipment before you make the investment if you are serious about pursuing this Internet option. Also feel free to contact me with questions.

WHAT YOU NEED:
1. Verizon EVDO USB modem
2. Verizon service contract ($60/month with 5GB/month limit + one time $35 activation fee)
3. Antenna, antenna adapter, and antenna extension cable if necessary
4. Wireless router (OPTIONAL)

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Modem: The revA EVDO capable Verizon USB modem can be one of several models. Compliant models
include the Verizon USB720, USB727, USB760, UM150, UM175, UMW190. There isn’t a speed difference between these modems. You might want to purchase your modem used on ebay or craigslist. This enables you to get month to month Verizon service instead of signing a two year contract with Verizon which includes a modem for a nominal fee of $20-$50. I bought a used USB720 on ebay for $24 including shipping.

Antenna: There are several antennas available for use with these modems. I suggest using a directional Yagi antenna in Alpine Peaks to grab the signal originating from the Verizon tower towards Tahoe City (No line of Sight required!). I purchased my antenna here: http://3gstore.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98&products_id=853.

Connecting Antenna to Modem: You will need an adapter ($13) and may need an extension cable ($20 for 10 feet) depending on your mounting solution to connect your antenna to your modem. See the link above to find the correct adapter.

Mounting Antenna:
Depending on the signal at your location you may be able to mount your antenna indoors or may want to mount on your outside wall, rain gutter, or roof. This will impact the length of the extension cable you need. My antenna works fine indoors but I mounted on my deck for convenience. You might want to mount the antenna with a simple bracket such as the one found here ($6): http://www.wlanparts.com/product/WMB/WMB_Antenna_Wall_Mount_Bracket.html

Wireless option:
If you decide build a wireless network in your home Cradlepoint routers are plug and play
with all Verizon USB EVDO modems. This also frees you from having to leave a computer on to have the Internet working and enables you to have multiple users (computers, iphones ect.) and maybe even share your connection with a close neighbor if you want to do so. The Cradlepoint CTR350 is probably the best value at $85. These can be found at: http://3gstore.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=35

Additional resources:
3g store homepage: http://3gstore.com/index.php?main_page=index
EVDO forums: http://www.evdoinfo.com
EVDO blog: http://evdotips.blogspot.com/

Route 1 Corridor Project

The Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County wishes to inform you of a broadband deployment grant opportunity in Mendocino County. The Alliance has identified a potential California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) grant opportunity in coastal Mendocino and Sonoma counties, along the Route 1 corridor.