City folks take high speed internet connections (DSL or cable) for granted. You can get it everywhere, and don’t even think twice about whether it will be available. That’s not necesarily the case in the country.
Generally, high speed internet is available anywhere in Sullivan County where there’s cable — which tends to be in town and along main roads. Time Warner (the cable provider for most of the county) does not run cable up most of the country back roads. You can pay to have the cable run up a back road to your house, but the cost is about $3.50 to $4.00 a foot! Running a mile of cable can cost $20,000!
DSL is available from Verizon in Monticello and Liberty and the immediate surrounding areas, but not further west in the county. You’re in luck if Frontier Communications serves your area — generally the SW part of the county around Glen Spey and the northwest, west of Roscoe — in that they offer DSL throughout most of their territory.
So where does that leave you, if you’ve fallen in love with a place on a back road that’s a mile or more from the nearest cable run and you need high speed internet? Your only option, unless you want to shell out to run the cable, is two-way satellite internet. I have it (through Hughesnet, formerly Direcway) and its generally fine, with a few shortcomings.
Satellite internet is generally reliable, and only slightly more expensive than a cable or DSL connection. But there are a few drawbacks, mainly related to ‘lag’. The satellites used for high speed internet are about 65,000 miles up in the sky. When you send a page request, it goes from your dish, up to the satellite and back down to an earth station. The return page goes up from the earth station to the satellite and back down to you. The entire process involves about a 250,000 mile round trip! Amazingly, that only takes 800 to 1400 milliseconds (.8 to 1.4 seconds), but in internet time, that’s an eternity. (A cable or DSL connection might only take 50 to 150 ms to make the same trip.) Satellite internet is fine for web surfing and large downloads like FTP transfers or music. Streaming generally works fine, too — I get lousy radio reception at my house, and now listen to WJFF over the internet.
There are issues, though, with services that require more immediate responses. Voice over IP phones (like Vonage) just don’t work. VPN’s (Virtual Private Networks) that require constant ‘handshaking’ to maintain a private, tunnel connection can be slow or spotty. And real-time gaming is a drag with a lag.
Overall, though, when you think of the technology involved, its practically a miracle, and opens up location options for those who need high speed connections.
The two providers are Hughesnet and Wildblue. (There’s a 3rd, Starband, but it seems to be losing ground to the other two.) People I know who have either system are pretty happy with it. One difference is that only Hughesnet offers a "static IP" address (most likely for connecting to your company’s intranet – check with your company’s IP person.) I also strongly recommend that, if you’re going to purchase either system, that you go through Cronk’s Electronics in Liberty (845-292-0324). The price is the same whether you order online or go through Cronk’s. They’re good people and they service what they sell. Most important, they’ll check out which service will work best for you. Both Hughesnet and Wildblue require an unobstructed line of sight to the southern sky. That’s where the satellites are, but they’re in slightly different places. So if you have an "iffy" line of sight, Cronk’s can come out and figure out which satellites you can hit from your location.
Hopefully over the next couple of years there will be new technologies that will widen the options for high speed internet in rural areas (like a number of proposed wireless technologies.) But don’t hold your breath —keep in mind how spotty cell service is in this county, and cell technology has been around for years.