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Internet Alternatives

Posted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 3:06 pm
by Stephen Hart
After several years of good DSL, we've had a lot of problems in 2014. CenturyLink's response this week was to cut our service to 634/254, which, I'll admit, has been stable for almost 24 hours now. Previously, we were getting intermittently much higher speeds, but retrains every couple of hours and many total disconnects.
This kind of works for minor web browsing. I assume the lack of errors sort of makes up for the lack of speed. But it's a total failure for software downloads. The latest FinalCut Pro X and associated apps are reporting download times in the tens of hours.
I've been told by CenturyLink (and previous names for the company) techs for many years that the company needs to put a "stinger" or "deeslam" at Lake Dawn. They tell me techs are coming up to the neighborhood very often. But CenturyLink is too cheap.

So, I'm wondering if MiFi might work for us. We get consistently good Verizon cellphone voice here. For a while, we got LTE at home, but mostly now it's 3G.
Are any SMUG users familiar with MiFi? I'd be happy to give CenturyLink the boot and go entirely cellular if there's a chance it'd work.

Re: Internet Alternatives

Posted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 9:40 am
by Stephen Hart
We're going to test out a Verizon MiFi here at our house starting next week. I will post once I have some data.

Also see this SMUG thread about MiFi in the Joyce area:

Re: Internet Alternatives

Posted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 10:43 am
by Richard Serkes
What kinds of speed does Verizon think you'll get? Assuming there are data caps for each program, how much do you expect to pay for your program and what's the data cap?

Re: Internet Alternatives

Posted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 2:34 pm
by Stephen Hart
Richard Serkes wrote:What kinds of speeds does Verizon think you'll get? Assuming there are data caps for each program, how much do you expect to pay for your program and what's the data cap?
Answering your second question first, data is the same as with a phone on Verizon. (Buying the device online is exactly like buying another phone, including adding another phone number to your account.) You can buy more data in 2 GB/month increments at $20/month. You get a notice if you're approaching your limit, and can add to or subtract from your plan on the fly (online). The device shows data used right on its display.

If you get 4G/LTE with the MiFi device, Verizon says you should get 5-12 mbps. I guess that's "fast" internet speeds, but I've never had fast internet. Reports I have read about previous versions of this is that 10 mbps is normal and seems very fast. (When I've used LTE for downloads downtown and in Seattle on my iPhone, it's seemed much faster than our internet at home.)

If you get 3G on the MiFi, it would be 1/10 of that range, according to the rep we talked to.

Also, with 4G, the MiFi supports 10 devices using WiFi simultaneously. With 3G, it supports only five.

Re: Internet Alternatives

Posted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 3:09 pm
by Stephen Hart
More details:

Verizon sells four models. We eliminated the one without a removable battery and the reconditioned discontinued model. Of the remaining two, which cost the same, one has a bigger battery and is slightly heavier but slightly smaller. We get power outages every fall, so we opted for the bigger battery, the Verizon JetpackĀ® 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MHS291L. If it works, we may get a car charger and and extra battery, but see below.

It's just like adding another phone to your plan. The MiFi has a phone number, a full price, and a discounted price with a 2-year contract.
We had to change plans because our current plan was grandfathered in from many years ago. The "More Everything" plan costs more, but provides unlimited talk, unlimited text and personal hotspot. (So, for example, we could use an iPhone in the car to create a WiFi hotspot for our iPad. That might make the issue of using the MiFi in a car moot.)

We'll test the heck out of it for a couple of weeks and meter our usage carefully. You can return it in 14 days and go back to your old plan for a moderate restocking fee.
If the MiFi works, and we cancel our CenturyLink DSL and landline and our ISP (more below), the cost for the MiFi with 14 gigabytes of data per month will be almost exactly the same as we were paying before.
Because DSL is not metered, I don't think there's a way for us to figure out how much we use at home. We'll have to play that by ear.

If the MiFi gets only 3G, like my iPhone 5 does now, we would probably have about the same internet experience we've had with DSL before the problems began around the beginning of 2014. That is to say, we almost never got 1.5 mbps DSL down, but probably didn't drop below .8. (We clearly noticed when CenturyLink fixed our service at 1.0 mbps.) And we had a lot of DSL modem retrains, some requiring a power cycle of the modem. At the worst, a couple of weeks ago, we were getting 2 retrains per hour and many, many long-lasting dropouts.
So if the MiFi varies, and is mostly in the top half of the range quoted, and doesn't lose the signal for long periods of time, we'll be OK.
If it gets LTE, we're golden.

Regarding the ISP:
If you get internet from Verizon cell data, your ISP is out of the picture. will support a single e-mail address (we only use one) for $5/month. But I may see about switching my hosting service to and see if we can roll the address into that.

Regarding the landline:
There are ways to keep your landline phone number and forward it to your iPhone. But we may not want to, even though we've had that number for some 30 years. We get around 99 spam calls for every one legit call at that number, and never answer when it rings.
There is a point to be made that landlines with plain old phones may stay viable during widespread power outages. That could be a safety factor.

Re: Internet Alternatives

Posted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 5:12 pm
by Richard Serkes
Vehly interestink. Keep us posted.

Oh, have you considered satellite I'Net service?

Re: Internet Alternatives

Posted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 7:04 am
by Stephen Hart
Richard Serkes wrote:Oh, have you considered satellite I'Net service?
Yes. Wasn't it you who said the latency kills you? And it's expensive. And the size of the dish... We get serious wind here every fall, so installing on the house would require serious carpentry to build in supports. The only option on the ground is a tall pole right in our view. Nonstarter, really.

Re: Internet Alternatives

Posted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 7:49 am
by Richard Serkes
Latency is a problem for gamers. Do you play those "shoot-em-ups" against other online players? If so, satellite service isn't for you. The prices have been coming down and the speeds have skyrocketed...much faster than my DSL. The problem is data caps. If you go over your cap you're going to pay a hefty penalty. You usually get more data "off-the clock" from 02:00 to 08:00 but who wants to stay up until 02:00 to start downloading big files.

I don't know about the roof mount situation for the dish. My dish was bigger than the typical satellite TV dish but it was installed in 2004. My guess is the dishes are a lot smaller these days. You could always call and have an installer come out to see where your dish would have to be placed. Things might be as dire as you suspect.

I'd go back to satellite for the speeds if it weren't for the data caps. With DSL I have no limits. So big downloads like a new Mac OS I just start at night before going to bed and it's usually waiting for me in the morning when I get up. When I want to watch a streaming movie on Netflix I just have to wait a couple of minutes for it to cache enough data to start the movie.

Re: Internet Alternatives

Posted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 8:11 am
by Stephen Hart
DSL or cable (or fiber optic) are probably the best these days. We've heard rumors for some time, most recently August 2013, that CenturyLink would do something to really fix the situation here at Lake Dawn. The problem is that there will probably never be more than 50 customers, even if they got every house on contract. The DSL and phone techs would love to actually fix the situation because there are constant problems here with DSL and phone lines, and there aren't enough wire pairs available.
Ironically, having good-enough cell phone service here probably makes it less likely that CenturyLink will ever fix the problem.

Verizon might be able to do well by beefing up the signal here a little, then touting LTE and MiFi in the neighborhood. There must be enterprise-level MiFi thingys.
A factor my wife suggested is the prospect of Verizon and ONP supplying WiFi in Heart o the Hills campground.

It also occurred to me that consumer MiFi should be speed scalable. We could add another one to our plan and use two different WiFi networks, one for each Mac.

Re: Internet Alternatives

Posted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:37 am
by JerryFreilich
I would NOT place any hopes of the Park Service creating or prioritizing WiFi under any circumstances! Despite the various pressures of "the public" I'd like to think that National Park land should not be prioritizing people's electronic fetishes.