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Networking The Internet Wireless Networking

In Virginia, Delivering Broadband To the Customers Big Telecom Forgot 127

Posted by timothy
from the bouncy-bouncy dept.
cheezitmike writes "A Washington Post story tells how former automotive engineer Paul Conlin just wanted to get broadband at his rural home in Fauquier County, Virginia, and ended up forming his own wireless ISP: 'Paul Conlin, the proprietor of Blaze Broadband, is not a typical telecom executive. He drives a red pickup and climbs roofs. When customers call tech support, he is the one who answers. Conlin delivers broadband to Fauquier County homes bypassed by Comcast and Verizon, bouncing wireless signals from antennas on barns, silos, water towers and cellphone poles.'"
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In Virginia, Delivering Broadband To the Customers Big Telecom Forgot

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  • by jroysdon (201893) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @12:16AM (#35500482) Homepage

    The reason this works is the guy can charge a premium ($89 is not cheap for the speed of Internet he is offering, more like 3 times the cost if it was DSL or Cable of the same speed), but he can do it because they have no other option.

    His business model works because it is an affluent county without another choice (how many people do you know that will pay $300+ install fee?). It would not work in any market with DSL/cable with costs of $30/month and no install fee/contract (mind you many DSL will try to lock you in with a contract, but you can go without a contract in most cases if you pay $5/mo more, which is what you'll pay when the contract runs out anyway).

    I'm not saying what he is offering is bad. It's a great deal for those people with no other choice. But it's not a model the telco/cableco will follow, and it's hardly a good example in the case of the US's dualopoly ISP model.

    Even my local WISP, Fire2Wire [] won't post their prices, because they're not anywhere near competitive. The only reason anyone will get them is because they have no other option but dial-up. I believe they also charge $300+ install fees and prices comparable to BLAZE Wireless (WISP mentioned in the article). Further, WISP speeds are often just barely on par with low-end DSL/cable. Worse still, if your downstream neighbors are hogging the bandwidth, you're pretty much out of luck (QoS could help here, but effectively you're still sharing the "max" that you could get if they were idle).

    I know one business which hosts an antennae for the local WISP and they get free Internet. They only use it as a low-end backup, but instead pay for a carrier-grade ISP T1 for their production business needed. They'd never pay for the WISP, and it's only because of the free deal that they have them at all.

  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @12:22AM (#35500508) Journal

    I'm glad to see this guy doing this, but it's not exactly unprecedented. It was done on grain silos, grain elevators, water towers, leased space on other people's towers, and even on flagpoles all over rural Illinois and Missouri a decade ago. I worked for some ISPs that did this and did some of the server consulting work for more than one startup doing this, too. I wasn't the one climbing to do the radio work.

    The startup cost for the customer is still pretty high for this sort of thing, usually around $200 to $275. Then it's typically $50 to $70 per month for around 400k to 600k down and 128k up or 256k or 512k symmetric, depending on which company and how far you are from their towers.

    Frontier is putting 6Mbps DSL in lots of former Verizon territory in towns as small as 3,000 or 4,000 people. Only the really rural places will need this sort of thing in Frontier's areas soon, and it's much more expensive even with radio equipment to get the people on 80 and 120 acre or even larger plots miles from towns covered. That is, much more expensive compared to using the same radio towers closer in. It's still much cheaper than running new cables to all those customers.

    It's not a perfect solution, but when weighed against dialup in the countryside or having to move closer in and change your lifestyle just for decent Internet access, a lot of people who don't prize low latencies and high throughputs as much as your typical Slashdotter will be happy to have it.

One person's error is another person's data.