Archive for February 6th, 2010

Status: connected

By Tom Read

Our latest Internet access technology sits on a table in the livingroom, with a 9" antenna (not shown) in the window nearby. It's smaller, uses less power and is less expensive than our previous set-up.

One of the most frequent questions we hear from prospective Texada Island residents is “do you have high-speed internet access?” The answer is “yes,” and we’re fortunate that our island now enjoys a range of internet access technologies and service options. But this wasn’t true when we first moved here in 2000.

Ten years ago, only one choice existed on Texada for internet access: dial-up, at 56kps. By mid-2001, however, a new satellite-based system became available and our household was among its first customers in western Canada. Connection speed jumped to 400kps for downloads and 125kps for uploads. We stayed on that system through various technology improvements and confusing changes in company ownership — until last week.

That’s when we migrated to internet-over-cell-phone technology, popularly known as an internet stick or modem. Our island has solid cell service in most places and after some tricky technical work, so do we. Physically, for most people this technology is just a 3”-long “stick” that plugs into a USB port on the side of one’s computer. That approach works fine in most places on Texada. Frustratingly, it does NOT work at our house, because we live behind a rocky hill down in a small creek valley. We’re in a cell phone dead spot.

The answer, for us and anyone else living under similar low-signal-strength conditions, is a booster antenna. Our service provider sells such an antenna, designed for use with motor vehicles, but it can be adapted quite easily to a house, too. With the further addition of a  wireless router both Linda and I can share one internet connection, just as we did using the satellite system. There are two main differences, however: 1) our internet stick service is in some ways faster than satellite because it’s earth-based, not space-based, and 2) it costs about a third less.

Now I have an unobtrusive little wireless internet icon occupying the bottom right side of my computer screen. It tells me that my status is “connected” and my signal strength is “very good.” And that’s good enough for me.


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February 2010
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