After many years of suffering through 24 kbps dial-up internet “surfing” (more accurately, “slogging”), we got a WildBlue satellite system installed last Wednesday.
It’s working great. I just logged on to three speed tests. Ground Control says I’m getting 556 kbps download, PCPitstop’s satellite bandwidth test says 576 kbps, and SpeakEasy clocked in at 579 kbps down and 151 kbps up (WildBlue is two-way satellite, no phone line involved).
Real-world wise, yesterday I downloaded a 10.9 mb virus/spyware scan update through SystemSuite, the excellent utility system that replaced my piece-of-crap Symantec software. Via dial-up it used to take me over an hour to get a download of that size. With WildBlue it took me a bit less than two minutes.
A download time calculator told me that this translates into about 775 kbps. We’re signed up for an “up to 1 mbps download” plan and one of the speed tests I’ve conducted over the past few days actually came up with a 1.05 mbps result.
Cable internet folks won’t be impressed (like my friend, Jim, who works for Comcast and told me today that 1.5 mbps was hot stuff for cable internet several years ago; now speeds are much higher). But I’ve been reading the newspaper while waiting for the CNN and NY Times web sites to sloooooowly load each morning, so 500-1000 kbps is joy for me and Laurel.
We got WildBlue through D&D Satellite in Salem. And in sort of a strange fashion. I’d been regularly checking the WildBlue website for dealers in our area. My interest in WildBlue has been strong since May 2004, when Qwest let me know that DSL would never be coming to our neighborhood because it would cost too much to get service way out here in the hinterlands, a whole five miles from the Salem city limits.
But there never was any sign of a dealer in our area. I phoned WildBlue and kept getting vague answers about when service would be available in Salem. I emailed WildBlue and never got a response. I emailed Digital Connex in Portland, the only WildBlue dealer currently shown for Oregon, and never heard back from them.
Then, as a last resort before I turned to a competing satellite internet provider like Starband, I decided to call D&D Satellite to see what they knew about WildBlue. “Hello,” said the guy who answered the phone, “how may I help you?” “I’m interested in WildBlue,” I said. “Yes, we’re a dealer” he told me.
“What!” I screamed. “You’re a dealer??!!” It turned out that D&D had only been a dealer for a short time, but it still mystified me that WildBlue was keeping this a secret. That made more sense when I learned that D&D Satellite works through Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications, which is an offshoot of the Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative in northern California.
So we’re GotSky customers with a WildBlue system. I’ve told this tale for the benefit of other people who, like me, have been waiting for a WildBlue dealer to pop up in their area. Check with GotSky because it doesn’t look like WildBlue central is publicizing some dealers who have chosen to associate themselves with Plumas-Sierra.
The installation went very smoothly. We’ve got a satellite dish on our roof that is a bit larger than our DISH network television equipment. A modem the size of a large book sits under a desk. It’s connected directly to my wife’s computer. I get WildBlue in my office downstairs (and also thoughout our house) through a LinkSys wireless router hooked up to the modem.
Installation and equipment cost $334. We’re paying $69.95 a month for the Select Pak plan on a two-year contract.
Getting high speed internet in our rural home makes the cost worth it to us. I’m saving a lot of time each day, though this is somewhat offset by my new broadband-enabled addiction to Google Earth and flying around the world.
[Nov. 29 update: our current speed is clocking in considerably higher at a bit over 1 mbps down and 175 kbps up. It could be that our subscription hadn't been upgraded to the 1 mbps plan when I wrote the post above. At first we signed up for the 500 kbps plan but right away I got greedy, wanting more, and phoned GotSky to upgrade--which may have taken a while to go into effect.]