Forum Thread

Looking for options for Internet Service Providers in rural NW Montana

Gr8ful2bAlive 514 384 October 9, 2015 at 02:50 PM
Hey guys,

I need to find a new ISP and would like to do so without a landline. What are my options? What am I looking at cost wise?

Any direction is appreciated as I'm certainly not tech savvy these days.

Thanks!

(I do not have cable tv, my only physical phone that I use for calls from time to time is my Tracfone. I have recently been using Skype for online classes and would really like to keep that capability. I'm on disability so finances are super tight.)

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#2
We probably need a more specific location to be of much help (zip code). And names of service providers in your area that you're aware of.

Generally ISP options include:
Cable if it's in your area
DSL
Satellite
WISP - probably not in your area

Rural internet options are often pretty crappy.

It doesn't always include everything, but http://broadbandmap.gov/ is a starting place
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#3
Yes, not much help without your location. If you have land based options, those are likely the best ones. I live in a rural area too far from the village to get DSL, everyone with Internet gets either satellite or cellular if in range of the tower (I need a cell signal booster to use cellular in the house). Most rural options have low data caps for home and family use, even if you spend a lot of money.

You say Skype online classes, so video. Video uses up data caps quickly. Most people around here disable all streaming content on web pages (if possible). Also, online backup services, any automatic updates if possible (in order to budget in). It's not uncommon to disable -images- as well especially during the end of the month. Nobody uses Netflix, or looks at things like Youtube for any amount. I could do that with mine though, haven't done much, not much time and still not used to being able to do it.

Wisp will probably be the cheapest option if available, it's not here. Cellular, low data caps and high prices with the national carriers for home Internet. However, some carriers may have more, and you can tether to the phone. Verizon and US cellular are the only national carriers in this area at all, so I don't pay attention to what Sprint, ATT, TMobile etc offer. I do have a regional GSM cell carrier than has a 200GB cap, that's what I have, up to 4 meg, so check for a smaller regional carrier if available. I'm barely in range of them. Satellite, also low data caps for daytime use. But they have "zones" after midnight with either more capped or unlimited downloads. Devices are not friendly for that though, scheduling is not built in. Things like Directv download content whenever they feel like it, etc. Plus, you won't save money with these options, very likely, $60 with equipment rental is about as cheap as you can get with satellite. Exede is the better satellite company. Latency is an issue with some activities. Slows down things like VPN, multiplayer fast paced gaming isn't practical with the second+ delay, delay in speaking with VOIP, etc. Luckily my cell service is only about $55 with tax, faster and cheaper than the town dsl even if I could get it here ($85 with mandatory line).
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#4
It looks like Verizon wireless might be available out here, other than that, maybe Dish Network. I'd prefer Verizon as I'd been a cellular phone customer for many years prior to moving to this rural community and never had a problem with them.

I'm learning the local phone company a 'co-op' has a monopoly on the community out here, basically you have to have a landline for Internet. How goofy is that. The area was just plastered with fiber so I see no need for a landline unless we're in a stainless steel car with Michael J. Fox...lol.

I'm in NW Montana if that helps. Montanaskynet was our ISP but the local phone peeps raised prices 3-4 times higher than even the closest big city and kicked them out of the market. They were WONDERFUL, completely customer-centric providing affordable services with top-notch tech folks. I don't even want to mess with the phone company, they cannot even offer decent phone service out here.

I'll check with Verizon and DirecTV. If I have to, I can go without Internet and just use it when I can find free wifi. Not the most preferred route, but resources being limited makes it easier in some ways to decide what I can and cannot do. Thanks! I'll update with my findings.
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#5
Here's a home installed option with Verizon if you are in a 4G area. verizonwireless.com/b2c/lte-internet-installed/

Dish Network/Directv may bundle with some land options in your area. However if not they will bundle satellite Internet. They don't have services of their own, it will either be Hughesnet Gen4 or Viasat Exede, same service, equipment, satellites, etc. as if you bought it direct from those companies. In Dish Network's case they label both the same, "Dishnet". Exede is the better company and service in general. They will install either one, or request which you want. Also, you save a few $s bundling, but with Exede, you lose unlimited after midnight (day cap's the same), night zone gets a cap instead. And, instead of US support with Exede, you get a foreign, thick accent call center (not an issue if you can understand heavy accents, myself, I get frustrated). It's preferable to go direct with Exede for better service and better data plan for not a lot more money. I wouldn't get Hughesnet. Satellite performance varies by each location, some areas are full, near capacity, and performance may be poor.

The closest village I live outside of has a locally owned phone company. Their Internet is $50 minimum, plus, like you say, mandatory phone line, $35, most towns require that. Anybody that wants any kind of Internet that isn't capped pays a minimum of $85. They aren't putting out fiber to replace the copper lines any time soon here, so it only works up to 8 miles from town (since I'm double, not going to happen). Phone service was filled with static on the old lines that have been in service since the party line system was replaced ('70s ?). The cellular service I have performs better, but most people further out than me can't get usable cell service, so their only choice is satellite. Also, they don't have any kind of calling plans with the landline, any long distance call adds $10 in additional fees, plus a per minute rate. Annoying for people that use long distance when it gets very expensive to talk.

Zipcode is what people usually need to look up location.

Free hotspot is 30 miles away, I know people that drove up there to take online classes. Pretty annoying when no possible way to get enough data when even the highest data caps offered weren't enough. Only solution would have been to buy multiple systems, or maybe business service (either would be ridiculous cost for a family).

Again, be sure if you switch to something with a data cap that you understand. 10GB is not much on most of the base plans. If you use Windows, 10 update alone was 4GB, almost half a month's use, plus all the auto updating and everything besides that. Apple also has large updates. Plus regular updates, pictures, autoloading video, takes very little to go over, and then factor in multiple devices connected and updating. Sure you can shift some of that to free/bonus zones after midnight, but not many things have scheduling built in. As I said, nobody here uses Netflix. One HD movie can be around 5 GB or so, so for daytime use, you could watch 2 movies per month, and very minimal browsing besides. Standard definition, you could do more of course.

Cell service should be better performing than satellite, possibly even 3G (3G was much faster loading pages and downloading than Exede's up to 5 meg service here). But, satellite has the download zones that cellular doesn't, so you get more data for your money.

Edit: checked a random zip on exede.com, it was full, closed to installs. So that may not be an option.
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Last edited by 1two3 October 13, 2015 at 05:16 PM
#6
Do you have any neighbors inside a couple miles?

Have you thought to ask them what they do for internet access?
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#7
Quote from dale_101798 View Post :
Do you have any neighbors inside a couple miles?

Have you thought to ask them what they do for internet access?
I live in an apartment community with other disabled folks, none have internet (which surprises the socks off me).

The others in town, including businesses, are staying with the local phone company for their internet.
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#8
http://broadbandmap.gov/ shows only the local phone service and Verizon, with AT&T as the slowest of all three.

For the time being, I've just purchased a (no contract) Novatel Jetpack MiFi 5510L 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot Verizon [amazon.com] from Amazon.

I plan on doing a prepaid 2-month deal to see if this works for my needs or not. It's a bummer being so limited out here, but at least if I go with someone like Verizon I can take it with me if I ever travel.

Gone are the days of unlimited internet, such a bummer!!!

Thank you everyone for your input, ideas and experience. It looks like I need to take the hotspot device into the Verizon store 65 miles away to get it activated so will visit with a humanoid at that time.

Oh how I miss having fast internet back home in the city!!!
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#9
Quote from Gr8ful2bAlive View Post :
http://broadbandmap.gov/ shows only the local phone service and Verizon, with AT&T as the slowest of all three.

For the time being, I've just purchased a (no contract) Novatel Jetpack MiFi 5510L 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot Verizon [amazon.com] from Amazon.

I plan on doing a prepaid 2-month deal to see if this works for my needs or not. It's a bummer being so limited out here, but at least if I go with someone like Verizon I can take it with me if I ever travel.

Gone are the days of unlimited internet, such a bummer!!!

Thank you everyone for your input, ideas and experience. It looks like I need to take the hotspot device into the Verizon store 65 miles away to get it activated so will visit with a humanoid at that time.

Oh how I miss having fast internet back home in the city!!!
Know that streaming video will eat a lot bandwidth. You probably want to choose the lowest quality video you can get away with to minimize cost.
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#10
Software updates alone can burn though a lot of data per month.
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