While living a self-sufficient lifestyle, especially in rural America, does mean doing without some modern conveniences, such as the ability to run to Walmart any time you like, it doesn’t have to mean doing without internet. I am a computer programmer and my income depends 100% on my ability to be connected to the internet.
Out here in the sticks, getting internet can be problematic to understate it greatly. DSL or Fiber simply aren’t available in many rural parts of the country, and where I live is no different.
This lack of connectivity has created an industry all its own. WISP is an acronym for Wireless Internet Service Provider. Typically a WISP company will install a large radio tower within 20 to 30 miles of where you live. They may also use existing towers such as your local water tower, etc.
So long as you have an unobstructed line-of-sight to that tower, the WISP can install a microwave radio transceiver dish at your location and connect you to their service. Sometimes this requires you to install a relatively small tower to obtain that clear line-of-sight. There are numerous websites online that can show you if you have a clear line-of-sight or not.
In many rural parts of America, WISPs are popping up all over the place. If a WISP is available in your area, they can be a valuable asset. However, be warned, most WISPs are NOT network engineers. There is a very real potential to fall victim to people on the internet who ARE network savvy. These hackers exploit the WISP’s lack of experience and can easily do things like monitor your network traffic, glean passwords, sites you visit, etc.
In general, most WISPs are really nothing more than buying into someone else’s hobby. The owners know enough to install a couple $80 microwave transceiver dishes and connect you to their shared bandwidth, but little more. I highly suggest, if you are going to use a WISP, make certain you have a good quality firewall capable router between the WISP’s radio and your computing devices. Failure to do so is playing with fire. You will get burned. The only question is when.
Another shortcoming of WISPs, is that most simply share a single public IP address with all their subscribers. This is common and there isn’t anything wrong with it, but if one of their customers gets infected with a virus that sends a bunch of spam emails, the IP address can become blacklisted on the internet. When blacklisted, even simple services such as Google become unavailable to anyone sharing that blacklisted public IP address. This is a direct result of the WISP lacking the knowledge of how to mitigate network traffic issues. This recently happened to a WISP in the area where I live. That small start-up WISP has been blacklisted for more than six months as of this writing. I feel sorry for their customers.
If a WISP isn’t available in your area, there is still hope for a decent internet connection. A newer satellite provider called Exede has an excellent service. In days gone by, companies like HughesNet and Starband, gave satellite internet providers a bad name. Those companies all used a wide-area signal and the service quickly became oversold and overused, creating a horrible customer experience with slow internet.
Exede uses much better technology and a spot-beam to isolate usage in a particular area. This results in a much faster service that is less likely to become problematic. I don’t sell Exede and don’t profit from recommending it in any way, but I like to recommend it because it is such a great service. The internet speeds are approximately 25mbps download and 5mbps upload. The service is highly reliable and rarely affected by storm clouds, etc. The typical account costs $59 per month.
One word of caution though, you are limited on the amount of bandwidth included in that price. If you are wanting to watch streaming movies, etc, you will no doubt need to purchase more bandwidth and it isn’t cheap at about $10 per gigabyte. There are ways around that using programs that download the movies at night to your computer for you to watch later. These programs work at night between the hours of midnight and 5am since that time is free of bandwidth restrictions on Exede.
I sort of built my own WISP to get internet to our property. Fiber wasn’t available at my property without spending upwards of $120,000 for the installation. However, high speed was available in the little town closest to where I live. So, I rented space in that town; signed up for high speed service and constructed my own 60′ tower there. I then constructed a 130′ tower on my property where I live. Placing an inexpensive microwave transceiver dish on each, links me to the internet. The microwave radios can easily keep up with the highest speed offered from the phone company so the speed is very suitable; highly reliable and never affected by the weather.
In addition, we also have the Exede satellite service as a backup. All told, the cost of internet for us is manageable and I am guaranteed that I always have a connection.
If you are interested, you can see some videos of our tower construction on this article’s website page.
Until next week…
Vern Six is a freelance computer programmer and entrepreneur. He is a United States Army certified survival expert and former Christian missionary. Vern has been a hobby blogger for nearly five years and now has his “According to Vern” blog published in numerous newspapers around the world. You can learn more about Vern by visiting his website at http://AccordingToVern.com