A Geek Cry for Help

OK, this is not in any way Civil 3D related, not Autodesk related, not even CAD related. Since I know a LOT of our readers are true geeks at heart, I’m begging for help here.

Those of you who know me know that I live in the middle of nowhere. It’s nice to sit on 100 acres of pristine forest land and have a house that’s paid for, but living in the country has it’s downfalls. One of those things is the fact that I cannot get traditional broadband internet resources here. Cable internet comes within 1.5 miles of me on both sides, and DSL is out of the question. Heck, they don’t even have ISDN available.

I’ve considered a few options. Satellite internet is one, but I’m afraid that the performance will never outweigh the immense costs (for business type accounts, we’re looking at the $150-$250 per month range, and I’ve heard that speeds RARELY get up to what’s promised.) I don’t really like the idea anyway, because part of my desires for broadband require VoIP and VPN. Neither work well over a satellite connection.

My second option was a cellular aircard. I’m sitting on my front porch now typing on the laptop, because the **** thing won’t pick up in my house. Not only that, but I’m apparently out of the Sprint EV-DO highspeed network area, because I’m connected at a blazing 115 kbps rather than the 2 MBps that the box promised. Luckily, this is a demo card….even with a cell repeater at the house, that’s only going to be twice as fast as dialup.

Third, and what Nick is trying to convince me of, is WIMAX. For those of you who don’t know, that’s similar to WiFi, only over longer distances. Now, thanks to Civil 3D, I do know a few things that MIGHT make this work – I’ve got an access point 2.7 miles from my house – it’s the local fire department (I’m the chief, so I can do what I want). It has cable internet access and a 60′ tower. Now, as I said, using Civil 3D and some freely downloadable DEM files and a few quad maps, I’ve found that from the top of the tower to the ground at my house is a straight line of sight with no hills in the way or buildings. I’m thinking it could work, but it’s a lot of money to spend on something that MIGHT work.

So, faithful reader, I’m calling to you here. Have any of you tackled a problem such as mine before? If so, how, and what were your results? Anyone tried the WIMAX option? How hard is it to set up?

OK, there’s my plea. I’ll take any and all ideas via email or comment….


  1. governa says:

    Have you tried a different cell carrier for the Aircard option? I know in my area, which is similar to yours as far as rural-ness, Sprint, T-mobile, and Singular are hopeless for connection speeds and signal (my BlackBerry which is T-Mobile doesn’t work at the house, which i confess is sort of by design :-), but Verizon has plenty of signal and bandwidth. Maybe you can get a demo of the Verizon card to try out?

    A former Autodesk coleague used the WIMAX at there house out in the foothills of Denver CO and had very good luck. They just pointed the receiver at the tower that had the sender, and got plenty of bandwidth from it. I was there with some other ‘Deskers, and we were all hiting it for email and web browsing wihout problems.


  2. JoshNelson says:

    I know this isn’t a big help, but how much are you willing to spend?




    From what I have read about WiMax, all the installations have been by municipalities and large companies (i.e. google – http://wifi.google.com/city/mv/apmap.html). The City of Anaheim, CA did it. They actually have done it with repeaters or access points on street lights. Do you have anything along the 2.7 miles that you can install boosters or repeaters on?

  3. Peter Adams says:

    Jason, I had the same problem, living in the boonies, which is great except for trying to get high speed. I did the same as you and looked into satelite but the cost was very high. I went the WiMax path, getting a signal from the top of a local ski hill. Of course there were several issues i.e. LOS, distance from transmitter, leaf coverage and humidity. My biggest problems were: 1. leaf coverage and 2. that on days with heay rain or fog I generally lost my signal or it was so slow that it wasnt worth it. Several neighbours and I were going to invest in a repeater (cost of about $600-700) but then Ma Bell saved us by extending DSL coverage to our area this summer. The repeater is a solution and if you can enlist other neighbours then the cost goes down. If you are only a couple of miles from the transmitter you may not even need the repeater. But remember leaf coverage can cause significant signal attenuation.

  4. Murph says:

    I know i told you before but for those reading this, VOTE and fight for deregulation of the electrical industry. No this won’t work for Jason “right” now but once the market is open there will be many options for Internet access to all of the rural folks.

  5. Nick Zeeben says:

    So just to correct jason, as IM conversations can be mildly out of context at times. I wasnt really suggesting he install wimax, I was more asking if they had a wimax provider. I having slightly more geek cred than jason have played with some 802.11b shots that were around 10 miles. Being that G and even N is available these days would also make it possible at faster speeds. The reality is we need to see how deep in thos pockets Jason is willing to dig. If any of you would like to help pay some of his drink tabs at AU I know he would greatly appreciate. Just think of it as giving back to the civil 3d community.

  6. Jason Hickey says:

    We’ve got to get Nick thinking rural. If I don’t have any other options, a luxury like wimax is highly unlikely 😉

    Also, I resent his implications that he’s more geek than I. OK, so he knows how to program. OK, so he’s set up long wireless shots. OK, ….. wow, he does have more geek cred than me.

    However, he’s right. I will take any and all donations to get my country *** out of the stone age. Donations can be made in the form of cash or alcohol….