November 12, 2004

Another Llama Tech Question

Does anybody out there have any opinion one way or the other about satellite broadband service?

We are getting sick to death of our AOL dial-up. Its latest trick is to lose the connection about every five minutes or so. As a general rule, I'm not much of one for conspiracy theories. But I really do believe AOL is doing this on purpose in order to hustle us into upgrading to their broadband product. (Like I'm gonna stick with them once I make the change. Riiiight.)

Anyhoo, I'm once again trying to figure out the options. Verizon doesn't offer DSL in our neck of the woods, so that's out. I could go with cable, of course, but we've got satellite TV now and I don't want to have to go through all the bother of switching that if I don't have to.

So now I'm trying to get a feel for how good the satellite option might be. It certainly would be easy to do, but I wonder about the service quality. Rain fade is sometimes a problem with satellite service, but we seem to manage pretty well on the teevee side. Also, I think I read somewhere that satellite broadband is not a true two-way BB service, but instead uses a narrowband uplink, and is therefore actually somewhat slower than cable modem. For the kind of uses we would put it to, I'm not sure this really matters very much.

DirecTV is flogging their broadband very heavily. A red-headed chick in their commercials keeps inviting me to come on over, promising the moon and the stars. As you can tell, I'm kinda leaning towards taking her up on it. If this is just beer-goggling on my part, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know.


Posted by Robert at November 12, 2004 10:05 AM | TrackBack

I'm a cable modem user. I have used DSL as well. Cable is good.

The problem (technically as I've never used it) with satellite is the latency. The time it takes for your request to get to someplace on the network, and then the time to ping back. We are talking speed of light here, so the experience might not be that bad, but you got a heck of a long way to go to get a signal to a satellite and back down to earth, and if it takes that route back and forth a few times (once for a DNS look-up, once for a web-request, once for the web-return (then all the various other lookups on a page (blogrool, TLBEcosystem, SiteMeter, etc) you might have quite a lag loading a page. (FWIW, forget gaming, the latency would kill you (so I've heard)).

There might be ways through caching, and some landline services to decrease the time, but it is 'in the system'...

Satellites - Big Pipes, but also BIG latency.

Posted by: Jon at November 12, 2004 10:19 AM

Satellites are just slow. How slow depends on the solution. There is the dial-up uplink/satellite downlink solution where you will need dial-up anyway. The downlink is fast, but the response is delayed because of the distances involved. The other solution is the satellite uplink/downlink. No phone line needed, but the delay is greatly exacerbated.

Posted by: kbiel at November 12, 2004 10:41 AM

I don't know anything about DirecTV's satellite service, but I have to think it's better than dial-up. Yet, and I hate to say this, this whole discussion is probably moot until you get a new computer with more memory.

Forgive me if you know this already, but in case you didn't, if you're running on a 98 Gateway, I'm assuming you have something less than 256mgs of RAM which is the memory that dictates how fast your computer processes information. Just for comparison, the husband's main computer, Gandalf, which he built almost two years ago, has a full gig of RAM, and it speeds along quite quickly. Even if you had broadband, Robert, your machine wouldn't be able to process it simply because you don't have enough memory.

We've had Qwest DSL since it first came out, in 1999. I remember using it when I had a machine like yours. While the uploads are quick, your machine (particularly if you're using that awful Windows98)will crash more frequently because it can't process all the information.

Sorry for the bad news, dude, but honestly, it will save you mucho frustration in the long run if you upgrade before you get broadband. In the meantime, I would see if there's a local dial-up ISP in your neighborhood. Use that instead of AOL.

Feel free to harrass me via email if you have any ?'s. I'll pass them along to the husband and make him answer them. Since he supposedly a genius with this sort of stuff.

Posted by: Kathy at November 12, 2004 10:44 AM

Be careful about the DirectTV broadband offers. Many of them actually wind up selling you a DSL connection - or not selling you one if Verizon doesn't offer the service in your area.

As for the true satellite service. I've heard from one friend (who lives out in a very rual area) that the latency concerns expressed by Jon (above) are problems.

Additionally, when you have a bad storm and your Direct TV goes out - so does your Internet.

Posted by: The Maximum Leader at November 12, 2004 10:49 AM

AOL is getting out of the broadband business.

Satellite suffers from latency and pricing is out of line with terrestrial alternatives, so consider either DSL or Cable Modem if it is available.

I have been very happy with Earthlink DSL for over two years.

You might also consider SpeakEasy:

I have found DSL Reports to be a decent resource for investigating broadband alternatives....

Posted by: Any A. Mouse at November 12, 2004 11:04 AM

As a resident of the rural redneck ignorant Midwest(per the Dems), satellite was my only alternative to dialup. Our dialup providers here deep in Jesusland left much to be desired service-wise. I could handle the slow speeds, but the constant outages and spotty email service finally pushed me to satellite two years ago. We have Direcway - our modem is probably older than what they're selling now - it was probably $500 or so all told for the modem and upgraded dish - they let me spread that out over a year with my monthly payments. Now my bill is $60 a month - but since I was paying $20 a month before for bad dialup service, plus another $20 a month for the extra phone line - I'm really only paying an extra $20 a month now. Overall I'm satisfied with them - I do lose the signal in heavy rain or icy conditions, but is it manageable. Email is fairly stable - there was a time a few months ago when the email was spotty - they claimed it was due to upgrading their equipment, and it is better now.

My only real complaint is their customer service. Trying to get any real information from their reps on the phone is hopeless - they are obviously non-native English speakers - which I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with - but they are so coached to follow a certain script that you can't get an honest answer out of them for anything. I've also tried emailing on their website for customer service questions - and no response. So far this hasn't been a huge issue as the my connection is generally pretty good - but if I ever had a real need for customer service it could become a deal breaker. Of course - where I live I don't have any other options, so I accept it.

It is slower than the cable connection my husband has at his office - but much faster than the old dialup. Just my .02 with Direcway!

Posted by: GLK at November 12, 2004 01:00 PM

The first thing to do is get rid of AOL as a browser!!!!!!!!!!
It is only useful for children and old ladies.
Netscape is far superior (better than IE, also). You can download it free and then take your time deciding which broadband system to use. You won't have any of the AOL problems, either.

Posted by: O.F. at November 12, 2004 01:48 PM

After much research, here's what I did: Comcast cable modem for internet and satellite for TV. Yeah, it's a moderately pricey luxury, but we've got four PC's in a little in-house network all pinging away at once over our connection, and it's been pretty darned reliable (near 100%).

Posted by: Ted at November 12, 2004 02:16 PM

Well, we have DSL out at the family farm where we'll be moving next year, and it seems great. But that's not one of your options.... Hmmm.

I don't know anything about satellite, really, pro or con.

DON'T go with AOL broadband: my parents have it (and I admit, they're AOL poster children), and my mom complains constantly. Of course, God only knows what kind of drek she has on her computer, since she doesn't "get" anti-virus and antispyware programs....

Looooooove the cable modem we have here in the-soon-to-be-sold-house (anyone want to buy in South Virginia? LOL), although Cox Cable can be a bit of a pain in customer service (I'd give them about a B-/C+).

So, from my experience, I'd say ditch the dish and go cable, if you can't go DSL.

Posted by: Romeocat at November 12, 2004 02:30 PM

Out here in the hinterlands our cable company offers broadband Internet without the need to sign up for cable. Costs about $50/month, which is just outside of my budget range.

Another option is wireless. The company installs a receiver on your roof and point it towards a transmitter sitting on a hilltop or tall building somewhere. The receiver hooks into your home network. The speeds offered are as good as or better than cable or DSL and the rates are competitive. You will probably need to lay out some cash for the equipment.

Checkout theispguide - dot - com for info to help you get started.

Posted by: Remy Logan at November 13, 2004 11:54 PM
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