Friday, May 4, 2012

Beyond the Limits of Technology....almost

I have spent the last year trying to identify the best way to get a decent internet connection here at my mountain home.  In August, as a last resort, I chose a satellite delivered internet provider.  It was expensive -- 80 bucks a month -- and slow. Faster than dial-up, but not by much.  It was also impossible to make Skype calls with this system. This was another reason I was reluctant to sign up and I literally mean sign up.  It was a two year contract.

Whenever I would call to report that I was never getting the speed that I was paying for -- the robotic sounding person on the other end would take me through the same drill.  Turn off your router, then turn off your modem and now turn off your computer.  Reboot everything. 

Afterward, the speed would increase slightly, but not by much. I would complain again and then the robotic individual on the other end of the line would say "I'm sorry. This is all we can do. However, if you would like to schedule a service call I would be happy to do that for you. By the way, you will be billed 95 USD for the service call."

Living in a rural area, this is what people who want internet have to deal with on a regular basis. It's absolutely unfair and maddening.

So, last week, a friend brought over one of those credit card sized 4G hotspots and we tried it out.  I was not optimistic since mobile phone signals don't usually work here because of the mountains.  Yet when he turned it on -- the gadget started blinking green. "This is a good sign," he said.  We connected a small antenna to it and suddenly it was picking up a 4G signal from a cell tower over the mountain.  I could not believe my eyes.

I tested out this little gadget for the next few days and found it to be very reliable. So much so, I went out and bought one -- outright -- no two year contract -- just pay as I go -- just the way I like it.

Today, I am connected to the internet via the "hotspot" and even though it only gets "one bar" on the signal strength meter -- one bar is enough. Suddenly, I am getting faster internet, much faster -- up to 6 or 7 megabytes fast. 

I still find it hard to believe that it works and I'm told that if it's working now, it'll work even better in the autumn because leaves on the trees can block a cell phone signal.  So I feel lucky.  However, I will have to keep close tabs on my monthly bandwidth usage -- that's the only downside.