Tech Question - Alternate Ways to Get Internet Service

Submitted by xtramelanin on August 12th, 2017 at 2:49 PM


We live in the boonies where there is no cable service.  We have a landline phone service that is the sole internet provider in our area and it is 'out' more than it is working, and even when its working it is frequently the speed of a dial-up modem.  The provider has told us that we are the furthest house from service in our area, miles from their equipment, and there's nothing they can do.  Our internet is so bad that when we tried to do a 'speed test' the reply was, 'Not enough internet speed to run the test'.  I should add that we aren't gamers and don't need a ton of bandwith, but we can't even pull up a highlight on ESPN most days. 

Picture of the XM household here: Image result for internet waiting symbol

I have heard that some folks get their internet via satellite, and I'm guessing there are some other ways as well.   My question/request for help is this:

What are the alternate ways to get internet, and specifically is satellite a viable alternative?   If there are alternate ways, I would appreciate your ideas and direction on how to investigate and/or acquire them.

Thanks and have a great weekend.




August 12th, 2017 at 2:52 PM ^

I know about this not from direct personal experience, but I have a place in northern Michigan and see ads for "local" Internet service providers for folks who live in areas with no cable service. But you must REALLY live in the boonies, because my place is somewhat remote and I have Charter Cable and better Internet than I have down here in Ann Arbor...


August 15th, 2017 at 7:10 PM ^

it wasn't. 


epilogue:  phone/cable people have been here for 2 days.  they have made things much better.  fixed all manner of their self-admitted screw ups.  hopefully the fix holds.   the guy left last night and it was working great....for about 15 minutes.   after another hour or two it came back, and since then its been adequate to good.  


August 12th, 2017 at 3:08 PM ^

You could always check out wireless hotspots from Verizon if their towers cover your area. If you happen to get LTE coverage it'll be consistently faster than basic internet through your phone line. 

the fume

August 12th, 2017 at 7:21 PM ^

Go for the T-Mobile. They have the cheapest plan, don't have overage charges, and there's a ton of video that doesn't count against your data cap (netflix, youtube, etc.).

I think they use ATT towers when they can't use their own, so it might work for you. We don't have wired internet either but we do have an ATT tower next to our house and the T-Mobile works super fast.


August 15th, 2017 at 4:44 PM ^

I think the price is up to $80/month now...I signed up awhile back so I'm grandfathered into a cheaper price ($60/month)...still not too bad for fast and unlimited internet when you have no other good options. They have a few different plans which go through diffrent cell providers....I would give them a call and see what they have. 


August 12th, 2017 at 3:19 PM ^

and have looked at satellite service. I think Hughes is still the service provider. Speeds should be better than what you are getting, but latency is an issue. Takes a while for data to get up and down from the satellite. No idea on cost because I never pulled the trigger to do satellite.

I discovered we had a wiring mess that caused the DSL to perform poorly. Once I got a whole house DSL filter installed and the line to the DSL modem isolated, we more than tripled our throughput. You should be able to ask your service provider to do these things for you. Are you getting data rates well below what they are advertising?


August 12th, 2017 at 3:22 PM ^

I had no experience with satellite internet providers

but I read it somewhere

there are two providers, HughesNet and Exede

about $50/per month for 10G with 25mbps download, 3mbps upload 

the pricing is not bad, better than wireless carriers

also try your satellite TV provider if they have any package deal



August 12th, 2017 at 3:24 PM ^

Cellular phone service running 4G data to a hotspot in your home. Or, find out what the area schools/hospitals/EMT/police/industry etc. use for providers and then aggressively lobby a state legislator on your behalf to contact the provider that could serve you best (look at the local cable maps) and request extension of a cable out from a local node to your house via a splitter. You'd be surprised what you might accomplish through a state rep. Also, with 'xtramelanin' in your title, know there may exist various government/industry initiatives to bring Internet to rural historically underserved people and these may apply to your household based on claim to some extra melanin. Don't think twice about availing yourself of such opportunities, everybody does it, and you and your family shouldn't be left out. There is a ton of excellent free education available for children out there online, and I urge you raise this point with the representative.


August 12th, 2017 at 3:47 PM ^

we homeschool the kids, including the twins there in the avatar.  part of our problem is that the various curriculum we utilize, some comes over the net and it has been a real challenge of late.  as they get older we have let the 3 oldest take a handful of classes at the local government school so they could continue with sports on a higher level.  

local legislator idea is interesting. obviously would be years in the making but then again, i'm not planning on moving until the kids put me in a home somewhere. 


August 12th, 2017 at 3:54 PM ^

But I wouldn't rule out expecting a line to your home in less than ten weeks from effective lobbying to installation. If the local rep has no sway in your opinion, contact the Governor's office, no joke, and if that fails escalate to various organizations including national and even international ones. I have almost 100% confidence that if you work the situation hard, you'll get decent speed to your home within 90 days or better. Again, attack the angles.


August 12th, 2017 at 4:19 PM ^

I was involved with some business that were required to use Hughesnet satellite. That was quite a while ago though, perhaps a decade or so, so my experience may well be out of date. Service was reliable but consistently quite slow, like dialup slow. It would have been unbearable painful for video.


We currently use our cell phones as WiFi hotspots at work, and that works well even in rural MT and WY etc. VPN etc.  


August 12th, 2017 at 3:45 PM ^

Quite a few friends have unlimited data on their phone plan and found they didn't really need an internet land-line after moving. They made due at first, then wondered why pay more for something they already have. You can cast to any TV or projector with chromecast, and tether your laptop to your phones internet with the right plan and settings.


August 12th, 2017 at 4:11 PM ^

I used the app FoxFi as on my phone as a hotspot for nearly 4 years.  It was a one time cost of $7-8 and worked like a charm.  If you can get 4G, I'd recommend it.  I assume there is still a demo version you can try.  Just watch your data allowance if you don't have unlimited. 


August 12th, 2017 at 4:17 PM ^

Satellite is really the only option if you live off the cable grid and your phone provider doesn't offer reliable DSL. I have friends in far rural Vermont and they use HughesNet. Visited them last week - not great but it's much better than quasi-dialup.


August 12th, 2017 at 4:23 PM ^

We are in the country south of G.R. There is a company called Michwave. Neighbors let them put a tower in there yard and people around buy the service. It's fast and not to$$$


August 12th, 2017 at 4:32 PM ^

I live in rural California and we have radio base ISP. Here's the link to our local company just so you can see what I'm talking about technologically. 8 years ago satellite was the only option, but the speed and cost of this service is great. Plus it's a small locally owned company so very good about things like service and privacy. If this service does not exist in your area, consider it a start up opportunity as there is a big demand for this in rural areas as you know.


August 12th, 2017 at 4:33 PM ^

I had HughesNet for 10 years, finally got cable ~1.5 years ago.  The service has been greatly improved over the last few years, to the point where its fast enough on basic plans to stream Netflix.  That said, the data limits are still capped low enough that constantly streaming anything will exceed the limit.  When you exceed, you get limited to dial up speeds until the month ends and the counter resets.  There are reset tokens you can purchase ($5 or $10, I forget).  They do provide a meter to show you where you stand against the limit.  Between 2AM - 7AM is essentially unlimited, and does not count against the cap.

The cost for me was $90/month, with a 2-yr contract, but that was the highest speed plan.  It easy to get started, sign up and they'll send a local contractor out to set up the dish and modem.  I didn't have any problems with connection due to weather, although a serious electrical storm can clog it up.  So can snow/ice on the dish (a lot of it).  But not much else interrupted stuff.  There is a throttle during peak times, so it'll get a little slower.

All in all, you'll be happy with it over what you have now, but still wish someone would drag a cable or fiber out to your place.  If you can handle the $70-$90/mth, I recommend it.  And so will your home schooled kids, when they (and you) see what's available to study with!


August 12th, 2017 at 4:44 PM ^

You could try speed connect. I'm not sure if they're available where you're at specifically but the cover a large portion of mid and northern Michigan with wireless internet. They work great for my brother in the thumb where the only other option is dial-up.


August 12th, 2017 at 5:02 PM ^

I used to have Excede and it had decent speed. The issues come when you reach your data limit for the month and they reduce your speed to almost nothing. If you have kids that stream movies/do online gaming the data goes fast.


August 12th, 2017 at 5:02 PM ^

I have Vianet/Exede satellite internet service for my vacation cabin.   It's not blazing fast, but I was able to watch a game live last year when it wasn't on network TV.  I'm not a gamer, so I don't know what the demands of gaming are.  I have been satisfied.  I spring for the 30GB plan, but that's so I can work from up here.  

One nice feature is you can put it in vacation mode.   Say you are going away for the summer, or the kids are and you don't care to have internet service.   I shut mine off for the winter because I'm not up here.   

Another bonus is my personal smart phone network doesn't work very well at the lake.  Just be careful if your kids all have smart phones, or you have a lot of visitors, you can chew through data pretty quickly.


August 12th, 2017 at 7:28 PM ^

Well, my first suggestion was to try and steal access from a neighbor by getting unsecured wi-fi way out there, but since they are a mile or two away satillite sounds like the way to go.

Satillite used to have rain fade issues(heavy rain) and you couldn't let snow build up on the dish.  I'm not sure if that is still true?   


August 12th, 2017 at 9:20 PM ^

I've come across this problem with friends and family more than I'd like, and there are not many good solutions. Satellite internet has been discussed; it can be expensive, has data caps, and high latency.

One solution I've found that works well (relatively) is getting a cellular signal amplifier, such as this. Basically you affix a directional antenna to your house (or a tower or outbuilding) and run cabling from it to an amiplifier inside your house. I've seen it go from 0 or 1 bars to 3 or 4. This website will help you identify towers.

Another solution is point-to-point wireless, which involves finding an ISP with antennas on towers that you can point at, as above. Instead of cellular service this would be standard internet, no voice. Parkjam suggested speedconnect. There are tons of these providers and honestly I always have trouble finding them. Point-to-point wireless can have a very long distance, but line-of-sight helps a ton.

Lastly, you can ask the phone company for a T1, which will be expensive and relatively slow, but still faster than dial-up.