Waiting for the Cable Guy Who May Never Come

Waiting for the Cable Guy Who May Never Come

Waiting for the cable guy who may never come

Satellite may be your best answer for high-speed Internet

By Joe Friendly

Special to the Tribune

Residents of rural areas know it can be frustrating to contact the phone or cable company to ask when better Internet service might be available. In many cases, there’s no timeline for when the infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet via cable, fiber or DSL will be built out — if ever.

The reason for this is relatively simple, if not satisfying: It costs a lot of money to extend cable/fiber or advanced DSL to an area, so from a business standpoint, it makes sense for these wireline Internet service providers to focus on more populated areas. More customers mean more revenue to pay for all that infrastructure work.

Think of it this way: The guy with the ice cream truck is going to spend all his time and fuel driving around neighborhoods with schools and families; you won’t see him in the retirement community — even if grandma and grandpa like a scoop of rocky road as much as any kid!

And yes, rural residents want high-speed Internet as much as people in the city or suburbs. Does that mean they have to wait forever?

Well, no. If wired services are not available in your neighborhood and you’re fed up waiting for them to arrive, it may make sense to explore wireless options for high-speed Internet. Here’s a look at some of the options that are out there today, all of which are typically available just about anywhere:

WISPs: This stands for ‘Wireless Internet Service Provider” and it refers to local towers that provide a wireless signal to subscribers within a limited range. An antenna on the home receives the signal from the tower and connects to a modem in the home.

Service from a WISP can be pretty good if you’re not too far from the tower, the line-of-sight remains clear (no trees or other things in the way) and there aren’t too many people on the service. Once the tower loads up with subscribers, speed and reliability can drop.

3G/4G/LTE: If you can get cellphone service at your home, you should also be able to get Internet from the provider. This can mean creating a Wi-Fi “hotspot” with your phone or using a device that plugs into your computer to connect you.

Like a WISP, cell service can vary depending on distance to the towers and line-of-sight. Typical speeds and data plans are limited, while the price can be on the high side — especially if you go over your data limit and incur overage charges.

Satellite: This is a technology that has advanced tremendously in the past few years. In 2012, one American company, ViaSat, upgraded its original WildBlue service to a new one called Exede, which delivers up to12 Mbps download speeds from the highest-capacity communications satellite ever launched. For comparison, 12 Mbps is about twice the average speed for DSL service, 8times faster than original WildBlue and 240 times faster than dial-up.

Satellite service does have data caps, since even a high-capacity satellite has limits. But unless you’re watching a lot of video or moving around very large files, a satellite service such as Exede could be a great option. Plans start at about $50 a month, and the service requires installation of a small dish on your home, similar to a satellite TV dish.

Bottom line: There’s no reason to suffer with painfully slow Internet while waiting for the phone or cable companies to upgrade service in your area. Alternative solutions such as satellite exist now that will enable you to use today’s Internet for all the things you really need it for.

Joe Friendly is owner of ABC Satellite in Anytown, provider of Exede Internet. Contact him at or visit