Internet Option in Round Valley, and surrounding areas (v2)

There are many beautiful things about living in our area. The stars were beautiful last night, and I probably saw 5-10 vehicles on my drive home last night. Among the many, many reasons that bring people to our community broadband Internet is not one of them. It is a trade off we make for living where we do. In 2016 I updated my previous list of options, and wanted to refresh it for a new look based on what the last three years has given us.

I’m going to provide a bit of background information first, but feel free to scroll down to skip to my recommendation..

The FCC updated their definition of the word broadband, and how funding is allocated to areas based on what can be provided in those areas. The new baseline is 25Mbps download and 3Mbps per second upload. A few defitions for you:

  • Download is the speed at which data comes to you.
  • Upload is the speed in which you can send information to the Internet.
  • Mbps or Megabits per second is a measurement of data. For example, Netflix recommends that your download speed be at least 5Mbps to maintain HD quality downloading.
    • Further explanation: A megabit is different from a Megabyte by a factor of 8. When we talk about Internet speeds it is measured in bits per second, and when we discuss storage it is measured in bytes. Knowing the difference also factors in when you have a plan with bandwidth caps or limitations (Satellite and Cellular) as these limits will be calculated in GigaBYTES of overall usage. Confused yet?! Netflix provides an estimate to their customers for an average of data consumption based on the setting the users chooses for their video quality.

Back to our options and my recommendation!

I wanted to update my list of the options we have in our area for Internet connectivity with a recommendation for what I believe is the best, all-around option for the typical, residential household. Here they are, in the order I would recommend them to a residential customer. There are obviously caveats based on the needs of the user, and specific limitations of each service. Please feel free to contact me with questions about what option is best for you and your home/business.

Recommendation – AirMax (CellularONE)

Bronze Plan – up to 6Mbps download and 2Mbps upload – $40/month

Silver Plan – up to 10Mbps download and 4Mbps upload – $55/month

  • Public IP addressing, if needed for port forwarding or remote services, is available in most areas.
  • Unlimited Data – no cap or throttling based on usage.
  • Service is based upon line of sight to one of the towers in your area.
  • Best upload speeds available. This means sending photos and data to the Internet occurs much quicker. If you perform backups (Carbonite) then this product will be appealing to you.
  • $80 installation fee & a two-year agreement

Most customers choose the Silver plan because the additional speed for $15/month is appealing when multiple devices and children are present in the home.

AirMax topped the previous list, and I still feel it holds it’s place at the top. In full disclosure, I am the local representative for this product, but I remain that representative because I feel like it is the best overall option for us. AirMax provides Internet via a wireless signal from a number of towers in our communities. There are currently two towers in Round Valley, one in St Johns, and one in Concho. There are also towers in Show Low, Snowflake, and Taylor for those a bit farther from Springerville and Eagar. This product is supported by a team out of Show Low, and I feel this helps reduce response time for outages and concerns. They are a smaller business, in the context of Internet Service Providers, so that can manifest itself also.

Alternative – Cellular (Verizon Wireless)

Verizon Wireless provides the greatest availability to bandwidth of all the options, but the service is capped. Your traffic is either deprioritized (on mobile devices) or throttled to 600Kbps up and down (routers, jetpacks, tethering). This impact is not felt as much on mobile devices, but completely changes things on devices meant to power computers and other wireless devices. Prices vary based on your need and the plan you currently have. I leverage this almost daily while I am away from my home to get my mobile devices online, but the data caps and cost keep it from being my primary Internet Connection. If you do not stream a lot, and only need minimal access to the Internet on your computers throughout the month then this is a good option to consider.

Alternative – aDSL (Frontier Communications)

Cable in the ground is what we all look for in an ISP. Reliability is increased and latency is typically decreased when we are hard-wired to our connection. Frontier has many limitations that hinder it as the best option in our area. While the service has no data caps, there are a number of caveats:

  • Limited upload speed ~400Kbps upload on most plans,which makes it hard to send large amounts of information to the internet.
    • This service is also an aDSL or asynchronous connection. Due to this your traffic down hurts your upload speeds, and your uploading hurts your download speeds. This cripples your connection when you try to send large amounts of information to the cloud or web services online.
  • Lack of availability to speeds higher than 6Mbps
    • Residents in Springerville have access to different plans based on their physical location. These users can get 12Mbps aDSL services, which make it a more enticing option. You call their local office for availability and pricing based on your physical address.
  • Lack of availability to new users. I hear from many residents that Frontier will not provision new services to their addresses. They have limited availability on their equipment for customers.
  • Pricing is all over the place for the same plan.

Alternative – Wireless (Wi-Power/TWN Comm.)

This service functions similarly to the recommended AirMax solution, but their pricing structure is different. I recommend Wi-Power under other options because similar speeds are more expensive with Wi-Power. They do not publish their pricing online, but when I spoke with them last they provided similar plans to AirMax for $10-45/month more based on your area and line-of-sight to certain towers in the area. While this is better than Frontier’s aDSL option, you can get more bandwidth up and down for less month with AirMax. Agreement lengths and installation fees vary based on current promotions.

Alternative – Satellite (Various Providers)

Satellite brings broadband speeds to areas with not other options. There are many different vendors who all provide similar plans and pricing. These plans all have low data caps where you either pay more money to “boost” your speeds back up, or are throttled to slower speeds until the end of your billing cycle. There is also an inherent latency issues with satellite because of the distance the data must travel to get to you. Pricing is not comparable to the other services listed above. For those with no other access to the options above, this is your only real option for connectivity.

To wrap things up..

We all wish for more bandwidth today in a world of streaming everything. I have found a balance of services that work best for my family and work needs, but each need and family is different. Drop me a text or call today at (928) 251-0005, and we can discuss which option will help you the most.

Internet options in the Round Valley Area

Updated list with new information found on my latest post.  CLICK HERE!

Updated: February 21st, 2016.  

Your current Internet options in the Round Valley area: (new recommendation of AirMax.  Scroll down to see why).

1 – AirMax (Microwave) – AirMax offers a number of plans that cater to different groups of Internet users.  Most common plans are $40 per month (6Mbps down/2Mbps up) and $55 per month (10Mbps down/4Mbps up).  This technology relies on line-of-sight to the tower.  The link provided above has a map of locations of towers in our area, and the AirMax team continues to build out the network to provide more coverage to more addresses.  I have performed extensive testing on this service since September of 2015, and have been satisfied with the over-all service levels in various weather conditions.  My concerns about it being a wireless technology, and having latency has been minimized the longer I have the service running.  Streaming content as well as on-demand needs such as online gaming are not hindered over this Internet connection.

  • For the gamers reading, NAT level 2 is provided for this connection.  This allows you to host games from your Internet connection.
  • As of 2/21/2016, the updated date of this post, there is no public IP/static IP option with this ISP.  It is the only big caveat I have found with the service that makes it limiting.  I have found workarounds for my own needs, but have also engaged AirMax to begin conversations in expanding their service to provide this as an option for their customers.  It would enable more businesses to make AirMax their primary Internet connection if they have hosted services at their location.

2 – Verizon LTE (3G/LTE) –  I’ve seen ~50Mbps down and ~15Mbps up. The obvious downside to this is that unless you have a grandfathered “unlimited” plan, you will find your data cap rather quickly.  Since the upgrade to LTE, I have seen these speed be consistent.  I also use Verizon’s data services through my iPhone or iPad when traveling.  It is a much safer option while traveling when your other option is the Hotel’s free/pay wireless Internet.  Public WiFi in general is a great way to contract a virus or malware.  It is ZNET’s recommendation to avoid public WiFi when transmitting personal information of any kind.

3 – Frontier Communications (aDSL) – My provisioned 6Mpbs connection usually runs in the 3.5Mbps range with a constant .36Mbps up. It is aDSL so you upload speeds will be affected by the amount of your current downloads. The service appears to be oversold and saturated in local markets, which cause speed issues or total unavailability of service to certain areas.  Frontier has also placed a new WAN link between the Springerville C.O. and Show Low.  This was anticipated to increase and stabilize existing provisioned speeds for aDSL users.

  • Frontier Communications offers dry-loop or “naked” DSL for those not wanting a “home” phone service coupled with their aDSL connection.
  • Frontier Communications offers dedicated circuits as well, but these are not covered in this post as they are not a typical solution for most residential/business users.

4 – Wi-Power (Microwave) –

Wi-power now offers a “media” plan offering a 10Mbps bursted service with dedicated speeds of 5Mbps if you have line of sight to that particular tower.  Pricing is ~$100 per month as of late 2015 for the media plan.

I have called and spoken with their local and regional staff. They will sell “bursted” data, but will only guarante 1.5Mbps up and down.  While discussing my options with Wi-Power they asked what I used the Internet for and how many devices I had.  At the end of our conversation they recommend I stay with my current ISP because they couldn’t guarantee the speeds I was requesting.

5 – DishNET (Satellite) – Offering allowance-based Internet similar to Verizon and other cellular data plans.  The difference is, once you download/upload your allowance your speeds are “significantly reduced for that data allotment period for the remainder of the billing cycle.”  When I installed HughesNET in the early 2000s, this equated to around dialup speeds.  This is also not a good option for any real-time data needs such as stocks and online gaming.  The sheer distance the data is traveling causes latency.

6 – CellularONE (3G/4G being built out). Cellular Data Plan similar to Verizon LTE. Pricing available per GB of traffic.  CellularONE is currently working to build out their 4G network.

7 – Various dial-up services. Do we really need to discuss these? Synchronous 56Kbps connections dependent upon the quality of the cable ran between the C.O. and your computer.

UPDATED Recommendation:  The all-around best choice is AirMax.  I have always looked for a faster, more reliable option for my Internet connection.  I rely on it professionally for work as well as personally for media streaming.  Finding AirMax, meeting their team, and beginning to use it in Q3 of 2015 resulted in me dropping my previous ISP.  I have also became the direct reselling agent for AirMax in our area.  It is both the product I have in my home, and the product I recommend for almost every residential and business Internet need.

WiFi Reliant Cellular? – Republic Wireless

 

A new beta has been opened called Republic Wireless. The concept is that most people are around WiFi roughly 60% of the time, and Republic Wireless wants to leverage that by being a hybrid cellular/VoIP phone system. They have an algorithm that determines if you fit within their limits of use while on a cellular network. The hook, $19/month + tax with no commitment. The first phone, the LG Optimus, is an Android-based Gingerbread phone, that will handle the switching between cellular and WiFi. I am not certain if it can hand a call of on-the-fly from WiFi to cellular, but that would be a big hang up for me if it was unable to do so. The phone and first month are $199 + tax, so I want to know what everyone else thinks..

UPDATED: Fun iPhone Keyboard/Accessibility/Sounds Tweaks

Firstly, sorry for the very long post, but I wanted to have all the images included so it would be very easy to follow along on your phone while making these changes. With that said..

With the upgrade to iOS 5 on your phone there are a few, fun additions to the keyboard, sounds, and virbation notifications that really allow you to personalize your iPhone. (Yes, it is something that Android has had available for a while and I’m sure you could have done it with a Jailbroken iPhone, but now it is officially supported. Here are a few tutorials to add some fun customization to your phone.

Reply to a message from a locked iPhone screen.

1 – While your phone is locked, and you receive a notification of a new text message tap on the green Messages icon. It will allow you to slide to the right to reply to the message sent to you. It is a tidbit, but a neat add I think.

Add the Emoji Keyboard to your phone so you can have the cute smiley faces and icons.

1 – Open Settings.

2 – Tap the General menu option.

3 – Tap the Keyboard menu option.

4 – Tap the International Keyboards menu option.

5 – Tap the Add New Keyboard… menu option.

6 – Tap the Emoji menu option.

7 – From the Messages or Mail App tap the Globe icon near the space bar.

8 – Enjoy all the cute icons that other iPhone users will be able to see in your messages.

Add custom vibrations to your phone.

1 – Open Settings.

2 – Tap the General menu option.

3 – Tap the Accessiblity menu option.

4 – Turn on the Custom Vibrations option.

5 – Return back to the General Settings and tap the Sounds menu option.

6 – Scroll to the bottom and tap the Vibration menu option.

7 – Either choose a pre-packaged custom vibration (I use heartbeat), or tap the Create New Vibration menu option.

8 – Tap the screen and create your own custom vibration notification, and tap Save. Then return to the Vibration menu option and select your new vibration.

Add custom shortcuts (commonly called a text expander) to your iPhone.

1 – Open Settings.

2 – Tap the General menu option.

3 – Tap the Keyboard menu option.

4 – Scroll down and tap the Add New Shortcut… menu option.

5 – Enter the phrase you’d like to be expanded, and then add the shortcut you’d like to type. Return to the Message or Mail App and type your shortcut in and a space and see your shortcut filled in. Handy if you constantly need your address, email, anything long or hard to type inputted into a message or text.

Customize the notification tones on your iPhone.

1 – Open Settings.

2 – Tap the General menu option.

3 – Tap the Sounds menu option.

4 – Tap the Notification menu option that you’d like to change. Custom sounds can be added the same as a custom ringtone, but must be under 15 seconds in order to show up in the menu to be a custom tone. I use iRingtones (Mac OS X Application) to create my custom ringtones. It worked like a champ to get my Sonic the Hedgehog, Zelda, Mario Brothers, and Call of Cuty: Black Ops sound effects onto my iPhone.

Frontier Voicemail Email Forward

Frontier Communications

Frontier Communications has updated their voicemail system to allow for many features that I didn’t know were available until recently. (Thanks Kellie) You have the ability to login to a webpage that will let you listen, delete, and manage your voicemail. (Frontier Messaging)  The feature that I really like is the ability to forward voicemails to your email inbox.  I have had this feature turned on for a few days, and I really like it.  I have such a hard time checking my voicemail on my landline.  I think this will be the solution to helping me not have 10+ voicemails that I have not been able to respond to.

To turn this feature on:

1 – Log on to https://webmail.frontiermessaging.com with your phone number with area code as the username, and your voicemail pin is the password.

2 – Click Settings on the top right of the menu.

3 – Click Messaging in the sub-navigation menu.

4 – Under Voicemail Auto Forwarding, check the box that says “Auto-forward all voicemail messages as emails to:”

5 – Enter the email address under that you’d like to receive your voicemail on.

6 – Click Apply.

You are all set.  Your voicemail will appear with the number that called you if the Caller ID is available.  The attachment will be a .wav file that is playable on most smart phones.

My iPhone plays them back just fine, but one caveat is that the voicemail is seen as a music file by your smartphone so the voicemail will begin to play through its speaker.  If you are worried about the contents of the voicemail I would recommend wearing headphones, or remove yourself from earshot before clicking on the message.wav file attached to the email.  It is not quite as nice as Google Voice, but a huge step in the right direction.

Cellular Nostalgia

While waiting for my iPhone 4 to be delivered yesterday I began to think of the list of cellular devices that I have used in the past.  I was surprised at how extensive the list was so I began to type up my history with cell phones.  Then again while even beginning this post I had to return to the list to add AirCards.  While insignificant at first I thought, I realized I have used them on three different carriers.  Here’s my list:

These analog phones were before your cell phone did anything other than make a phone call unless you had a cool Nokia phones that had snake (nibbles) on it.
Nokia 252 – Nice compact phone for the time period.  It was my first phone, and I even had to convince my parents to sign the contract to let me get a pre-paid phone because I was under 18..
Motorola StarTAC – This phone was truly ahead of it’s time, but wouldn’t be the last innovative Motorola flip phone that I would own.
Nokia 5110 – The Nokia that everyone had a the time.  It had the first run of games and RINGTONES!  These were pretty amazing MIDI tones that made the Motorola nine different rings looks pretty sad.  The original Nokia Tune still carries on today on their phones. Out of no where while typing this I had *#6391# come into my head.  I believe that is the code to initialize programming on the Nokia phones. The Motorola method involved thirteen pressings of a particular button (it’s been too long!).
Motorola Vader – This phone was the StarTAC’s little brother but was the sexy phone of it’s time.  The compact design made it a must have phone!  I remember spending a couple hundred dollars on this phone in High School and thinking what a ridiculous amount of money that was for a phone.  Little did I know what I would be getting myself into.
Nokia 3310 – Very sad day when my Vader was the casualty of being thrown across a room and breaking in half. 🙁  I was given a Nokia 3310 (very, very similar to the previous Nokia’s in software) as a replacement from CellularONE.
Motorola v120e – The first phone that I modded.  It was as close to the v60 that I could get at the time, and was given to me by a CellularONE rep.  I replaced the number pad with a “waterfall” set of numbers that would light up and dance around when you got a phone call.  I’m sure my dad just loved that feature when he ended up with the phone after I moved to college.
Motorola v60i – My first text messaging phone.  I remember having to convince my mom I would pay the extra 5 or 10 dollars a month for 200 text messages (I was still under 18), and then had to call and have her up it because I texted too much.  Wow things were simpler then.  CellularONE didn’t have service outside of Northeast Arizona at the time that was very cost effective at all so I migrated to Alltel.  I got a discount on the phone from the Radio Shack in Globe where we stopped on our way down to move me to the valley.  This was the business man’s phone, and was another amazing piece of Motorola hardware.  This and the 120e allowed you to compose your own ringtones, and Riley Trickey made me a ringtone after a song that he had written.
Motorola T720 – Again working at Radio Shack (a real corporate Radio Shack this time), I was eligible for employee discounts on Verizon Wireless plans.  For 25 bucks a month I had my first cell phone (IN MY OWN NAME!!).  I remember getting the very first camera phone into our store that Verizon carried.  It was a big deal!  I got a ridiculous amount of minutes and messages for the time, and loved that phone.  It was my first colored screen phone.  There were some pretty handy Hex editing tools that allowed me to upload my own wallpapers (not even an option back then, I had to hack my phone to get some sweet 120 pixel images on my phone), and even get some ringtones on there.  There were the higher class polyphonic ringtones mind you!
Motorola v60s – Right before my mission, I upgraded to the new hotness of the v60 that had a built in SPEAKERPHONE!  My mom was kind enough to help me build credit by using the phone while I was gone.  Dang parents are awesome!!  I never did get that phone or number back.. hehe  She still has it to this day with a Droid R2D2.
Motorola RAZR v3m – Fresh back from my mission I was ready for my third amazing Motorola flip phone.  The V3m version of the RAZR was amazing!  A camera phone with text messaging integrated that worked well.  The phone was so thin, and to this day is still one of my favorite phones.  We were way past polyphonic ringtones now, and I could convert a mp3 to a mid file that was smaller than 250k and less than 30 seconds to the phone and have real ringtones.
Palm Treo 700w – Windows Mobile 5 – Things went spiraling down hill from here.  My first smartphone.  I got hooked up with this phone from a friend of a coworker, Brad for $150.00 I think.  A steal for the phone at the time.  This phone was so horrible compared to today’s standard of phone, but it was one of the best smart phones of the day.  My employer, Azstar Communications, paid for my data plan and I was in business.  I had Outlook mobile hooked up to multiple email accounts (Exchange and IMAP), and we were off.  That phone served me very well, and my mom even used it for a few years after I upgraded.
HTC Mogul (XV6800) – Window Mobile 6 – My first HTC phone, but last Windows Mobile phone.  This slider was a step up from the Treo because of the newer version of the Windows Mobile operating system and larger touch screen, but it was still a Windows Mobile phone.  I used this phone without a data plan because we had just moved into our home and were trying to save money.  Pay-As-You-Go data is not the smartest idea, but using the built-in 802.11 wireless card made it a usable phone.
BlackBerry Storm 9530 – The timing on this phone was pretty spot on.  My employer was getting me a BlackBerry, and it timed to the release of this fail of a phone.  It was slow, and slow.  Definitely not the best introduction to the RIM line phone cellular phones.
BlackBerry 8830 World Edition – I finally caved and got rid of my Storm to inherit a phone with no MMS support (because RIM decided if it didn’t have a camera you didn’t need the ability to receive picture messages either) and a QWERTY keyboard.
Palm Pre – This phone was loaned to me for a summer to provide internet access to rodeos that I was live streaming.  I didn’t like the phone at all, but the built-in and free Mobile HotSpot feature made it a home run for what we needed.  Thanks Verizon! (Please bring the free HotSpot back!!)
BlackBerry Tour 9630 – The last phone RIM had on Verizon to offer the ball for navigation.  it was a nice functioning phone running the BlackBerry OS Verison 5.  The newer OS made the phone a much more pleasant experience.
BlackBerry Bold 9650 – My current BlackBerry.  Basically a Tour with more memory, and a the optical track pad in place of the notorious ball.  The 3.2 Megapixel camera takes sharp pictures of still objects.  The focusing takes some time, but pays off for snapping pictures of serial numbers and other small information on technological devices.
T-Mobile – Sony Vaio TX770P Integrated EDGE Modem (Unlocked).  EDGE was definitely slow, but I can’t complain about having an integrated modem in my already ultra portable laptop.  I still have that laptop because I can’t bare to sell it.  It is a nice live stream computer using UStream.
Sprint – PCMCIA EVDO Modem (When Sprint offered truly umlimited data plans).  Sticking out of the same Sony VAIO laptop it was always on.  I don’t even know how many GBs I would rack up in a month.  Amazing coverage in the Phoenix Metro area.  I found myself using my work VPN even while at work with that laptop instead of switching to my WiFi card.  It would use Verizon’s towers when I would travel home, but only at 1x, so the dial-up speeds, similar to my T-Mobile EDGE experience, while away from the valley were less than stellar, but at least there was service.
Verizon – Multiple USB Pantech and Verizon modems.  Verizon has consistently had great coverage for the majority of places I travel.  It is slower than it’s competitors, but I drop connection rarely in the many situations I’ve used either an aircard or my Blackberry as a modem.  it sure makes my trips up to Colorado to visit Amanda’s family more bearable.  Travelling drives me crazy!

iPhone 4 Review (Verizon)

Like many others I stayed up on February 2nd to pre-order my iPhone at 1am Arizona time.  Again, like many others I have been hitting refresh on my FedEx tracking seeing it make it’s journey from California to my doorstep.  Activation was painless (although I have heard of people having issues with activation due to the overwhelming number of activations today) after the mandatory application of  Ghost Armor on my screen.  Ghost Armor is a nice Arizona-based company that provides screen protectors for all sorts of technology.  My iPad, BlackBerry Bold, and my wife’s HTC Incredible all sport the protectors.  It was slightly weird using my Droid X to a picture of my iPhone, and post it to Facebook letting everyone know that beautiful piece of Motorola and Android technology would soon be gathering dust.

Once activated and dried off, I booted up the device and setup my mail (gmail using Microsoft Exchange support for calendar and contact syncronization), my voicemail, and Google Voice number.  After my core messaging applications were in place I plugged the phone into my MacBook Pro for the initial sync (which is known to be notoriously slow and drawn out).  Many of my iPad applications that had been designed for both iOS devices were synced over (including my “must-have” LogMeIn Ignition, DropBox, and Documents ToGo Premium among others).  45 minutes had my music and apps installed and ready to go.  The process was painless, and surprisingly easy.  My only wish would have been to have the option to import all  the settings, accounts, and logins from my iPad to my iPhone.  A small qualm, but it would have made the process even more plug-and-play.

So far the experience has been great.  I have not dropped any calls (but that has never been a problem for me on Verizon Wireless‘ cellular network), I have the familiar iOS experience from my iPad, and at the end of the day it is an Apple product.  I do not see the inability to use voice and data services simultaneously a problem, because I like most other geeks are never too far away from another piece of tech.  Those who enjoy Apple products will enjoy the iPhone.  For many in the tech field we desire technology that “just works”, and while my background would dictate that I would be an Android phone supporter (which I am, I have a Droid X, HTC Incredible, and a Droid R2D2 currently on my family share plan even after my switch to the iPhone) I need a phone that just works.  I do miss Swype a little, bit but I’m sure having it auto-correct me incorrectly more and more will will be a short-lived downside to switching to the iPhone (I would be okay with the option if it was available on my iPhone someday).  This device, much like my MacBook Pro and iPad, is reliable and ready for me consume and create content whenever and wherever I need.