Life with a low-bandwidth connection

I recently purchased a small farm in a rural area of Washington’s Olympic peninsula. We have all the basics: heat, water, and power; but (so far) no high-speed Internet. I can live happy without the Web for a few days, as I’ve done when traveling into the backcountry, but there are good reasons to have a good broadband connection at the farmhouse. After some initial research, it was obvious that setting up a high-speed connection wouldn’t be easy. The short-term solution was obviously a cellular hookup through my iPhone.

Being a bit cheap, I had a minimal AT&T service plan. Adding about $10 to my monthly bill gave me access to tethering and bumped my data plan up to 3GB; sufficient for checking email and reading the morning news on my iPads. But watching a couple of Netflix movies was a tight fit.

Two changes solved that issue. Without much notification or added cost, AT&T bumped my up to 6GB of data per month. I also discovered I could go into the Netflix user settings and set a lower resolution for downloaded media, which had no real effect on video quality.

With that established, I set up a spare Apple TV to the HDTV I’d dragged out to the farmhouse. (I had initially tried a Google Chrome cast device, but couldn’t get it to connect to my tethering iPhone.) Surprisingly, watching Netflix movies via Apple TV and the iPhone was perfectly fine. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for iTunes movies. I could probably download them, if I was willing to wait a few hours. And as far as I can tell, there is no way to downgrade iTunes video.

So far the only hitch with Apple TV is that it occasionally refuses to automatically connect with the iPhone. Sometimes it just takes a minute or two; other times, I have to restart the Apple TV box. Eventually, it always works. Tethering is an excellent way of setting up a temporary network.

At some point, I will have to have broadband at the house. More research to come on that front.

6 thoughts on “Life with a low-bandwidth connection

  1. The price of satellite broadband via a dish, has dropped a lot over the last couple of years. I have friends in both Italy and France, who live in Broadband “notspots”, who are now using satellite. They are getting speeds of around 40-60 mb/s and the cost is only about 50% more than fibre broadband would be.

  2. At least you have cell phone access!! We live in Eastern Ohio and (Verizon) cell phone is one bar at best. For internet we had a 900 mhz antenna on our barn roof which got a signal from a mile and half away. It gave us 1.5 mhz until trees grew up to kill the signal.

    Now we are on Hughes Net Satellite service which has a 4 second delay to the satellite and back. Websites, esp. https, time out because they don’t get a response in time. thinks I am in Kansas and takes 750ms to ping. Download is 1.8mbps and upload about .5. It costs about $55/mth

    1. I would look at changing at renewal time from Hughes to Exede satellite. From what I hear, they are both faster and cheaper.

      1. I think that Hughes, Dish, and Exede use the same satellites that are owned by Echostar They own or lease 24 satellites, starting with the Echo 1in 1960.

        No matter what company you contract with, the ping times are 10x what you will see on cable, DSL, or antenna. It’s limited because of the distance the signals have to travel ~ 22,000 miles for a geosynchronous satellite.
        The only significant differences that I found were installation costs (free or $100), set-up charges ($100 or free), and how long the contract was.

        Everyone gets the same ping times but the difference in charges depend mainly on amount of data allowed per month, and to a lesser amount on the download speed. But the ping time is what really slows you down.

  3. We’re lucky to have a big cell tower on one of the nearby hills. And I think cable might be a half-mile down the road. We also have tall trees to the south which might cause problems for satellite. I’ll be checking phone line for possible ADSL soon. Thanks for the tips.

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