Current "Real" ISPs (Internet Service Providers)
Telus (The Phone Company)
It'd be so nice if Telus just made an announcement telling us that ADSL was now available. But, life isn't that simple. I've spent many hours on the telephone with Telus and think I have a bit of their thinking figured out. This is just a guess, but it seems that provision of ADSL is expensive and not profitable (I understand that the capital cost to install a ADSL switch in a community like ours is around $70,000.00 ... you do the math for payback).
It'd be nice if Telus were a bit more honest with small communities. They say that the provision of ADSL is demand based, but they don't seem to have a way to measure demand. They talk about lists, but there don't seem to be any (certainly there doesn't seem to be a way to get ones name on a list). Oh, and "demand driven" seems to translate to "if a competitor comes to your community we'll be there real soon."
A friend (who just happens to work for Telus in Calgary) suggested to me that Telus might supply ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) lines here. So, another call. After finding someone at Telus who knew what I speaking about, I finally got to the right department. A few more phone calls back and forth to find out that it would cost ABOUT $200.00 to install and the monthly cost would be ABOUT $100.00 ... and, NO, it is not available in your area. And, then the nice person at Telus asked me if I'd considered a dialup connection. Really, she did!
I've pushed for additional information from some more high level people at Telus and repeated the inquiry at the provincial government. Same story.
Bottom line on Telus ADSL: my guess is at least 3 to 4 years (2008) ... updating this—never. The deal Telus has struck with the government ensures that they are off-the-hook and they are now free to deploy their capital in the big cities where they may actually see a profitable return.
Frankly I don't think that Telus gives damn about the rural communities. And any promises and/or expenditures on their part will be carefully framed to benefit them. Not the rural community.
Update April 2012: Telus did step up to the plate, a little bit. They signed an agreement with the BC Government to supply connections to communities, and the communities could then do the “last mile” stuff. To further “help the communities” they signed non-competition agreements which gave them a legal excuse not to install DSL lines. Neat. And that agreement was resigned for 3 years starting in 2012.
Shaw (The Cable Guy)
The cable operator Shaw doesn't work here. They do have services (both television and internet) in nearby Creston and rural areas to the south. We have an abandoned cable infrastructure here, but before it could be used as part of an internet solution a lot of time and effort would be needed to update it. There are also questions of ownership, and hydro-pole charges. We should not discard this completely, but anyone I've talked to has suggested that we put this at the bottom of our options list.
But, thinking a bit more about this I really think that someone should make contact with Shaw to see if there is any interest.
More investigations have been made. Not a lot of joy. I've cut a few more numbers in this proposed cable plant upgrade and they don't look that good.
Update April 2012; Rumors are running like something though a goose that Shaw will soon be connecting rural folk around here to cable. Being a doubting thomas I'll believe it when I see the Shaw truck rumble up my driveway. But, I'm really, really hoping!
Fortis (The Electric Guy)
Another consideration in looking at alternatives is Powerline Broadband. With lots of magic, this technology piggybacks a high frequency data signal onto the existing electrical distribution system. There are still many problems. I've talked to a representative of our local utility, Fortis, and he tells me that they have no plans to even do testing at this time. A Canadian powerline test (rollout?) is in Sault Ste. Marie. One problem as mentioned in the FAQ above is the old urban density vrs. rural sparsity. The Sault Ste. Marie test seems to be in an urban area already served by a telco and cable operator. Gee, I guess more competition is a good thing, but I wonder if it applies to our less-dense community?
The major (only?) supplier of powerline broadband is Amperion. Interesting stuff and news links.
Powerline Broadband is very cool. If you want an overview of how it works (and doesn't) check out this article: How Stuff Works, BOPL.
Satellite (The Eye-in-the-Sky)
Yet another alternative available today is internet via satellite. I've done a bit of research on this and it doesn't seem to be all that positive an alternative. The only Canadian supplier I can find is Bell-ExpressVu which offers a connection via their televison satellite package to DirecPC. This is a one-way system which means that you still need a dialup connection to the internet. And this is usage restricted (only about 4GB traffic per month) and requires Windows-Something operating system (I refuse to use software from that particular company). Pricing: about $200.00 installation and $50.00 to $90.00 per month (with bandwidth overage changes, dialup ISP and extra phone line you're looking at a monthly total cost around $150.00).I've also read that it doesn't work all that well, but I'd like to see it actually in operation. In the USA there appear to be commercial 2-way satellite systems, but I don't know if they are available here or the costs. I've heard for about 5 years that Starchoice is going to have a 2-way system ... but I'm still waiting.
Telesat have announced the launch of their Anik F2 satellite and that they will be offering two way internet service to homes and business. No prices at this time, but my contacts tell me that initial hardware will be in the $200 to $500 range (correction, the upfront charge is more like $900) and monthly prices for home in the $50.00 to $75.00 range. InfoSat are currently looking for partners to do installations, etc. and hope to have offerings early in 2005.
Update on infosat (Feb/05): I've subscribed to their newsletter(s), but am still waiting for the first issue. Seems that they are delayed. Not sure what the problem is, there's not much to find on this. However, it appears that WildBlue is the major player in all this, and they are delayed as well. It might be that this is all "vaporware", but there seem to be some very large players involved and a great deal of money at stake.
My hopes right now are with this solution. I think other locally driven alternatives are, as opposed to "WildBlue", just Blue Sky.
Canadiana: It's been announced that Xplornet have been awarded a multiyear contract with Telesat to provide Ka-frequencey band service to all of Canada.
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