Rumors flew around our neighborhood lately, the kind of rumor that I doubt would be heard in most U.S. neighborhoods: Starband plans to shut down.
Starband provides satellite Internet connectivity for almost every household on Mud Bay, along with a large portion of bush homes throughout Alaska, and rural homes in the Lower 48.
We signed on with Starband in the autumn of 2007. I hauled the dish and pole over the ridge to the property, along with a bag or two of cement and a bucket of gravel. A neighbor and I anchored the pole on the beach with the cement and another one on the neighbor’s property. A local installer came out and mounted the dish and receiver, aimed it at the proper satellite, and wired it to a modem in the cabin.
Back then only a few homes had satellite Internet. In 2008, as part of the economic stimulus package, Starband received federal funding to offer service widely. Just about everybody around us signed on.
The increase across the nation apparently became too much of a problem for Starband. We immediately noticed degraded service, long unexplained outages, price increases, and worse customer service from the company—something that had until then seemed rather impossible.
Recently, a neighbor who lives Outside much of the year came home for the summer. As usual, she called Starband to restart her suspended Internet service. They told her “no.” They offered no explanation. People started asking questions, and heard that Starband would either shut down by the end of November or sooner, or would “retool,” which implies the possibility of improved service.
Finally, we received word: Starband will shut down on the last day of September. They will evict us from the Internet.
So be it. Times have changed, technology has improved in the years since we cemented those poles. At first, we assumed we’d need to find a new satellite provider (a few exist) but thankfully, we can also switch to new cell phone technology for Internet service.
Cell phone coverage used to be pretty spotty on our property, but now we can get pretty strong, dependable service. We signed up with the phone company for a portable WiFi hotspot, reducing the old system—pole, dish, receiver, modem, and wire—to a unit no bigger than a smart phone.
Not only that, but it offers faster connection and data speeds, allows more bandwidth usage, and costs about $20/month less than satellite service!
This represents significant changes in our life. No more going out to sweep snow off the dish (see Neither Rain, Nor Wind, Nor Dark of Night – Blogging in All Weather). We won’t need to turn on the inverter to go on line anymore. We won’t have to get up between midnight and 6:00 a.m. for large downloads.
We’ll have to dispose of the equipment, but that shouldn’t be problematic. The cement-based pole on the beach will hold up one end of a laundry line, and maybe a flag pole. The dish should make a handy cover for a compost bin. We will likely have to recycle the modem and receiver, which will be useless for anything else once Starband disappears, but it may be worth it in the long run.
Of course, we’ll have to watch our credit card statements carefully. Starband’s Website says they don’t want the equipment back, and that customers should recycle them. However, Starband told a neighbor who had to upgrade his equipment to recycle the equipment, but then turned around and charged him for that outdated equipment they didn’t want back! He protested, and got the charge removed, but we take that as a warning.
I’ll describe our new solution and next steps in the next post.