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Offline Spanky

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First Step Internet
« on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 19:58:13 PM »
First off, if anyone local runs into this posting, I'm Nate Rowe from Potlatch. I perform computer repair for the local area: www.natescomp.com

That's my ISP. Living out in the country means that getting internet is difficult since for a company to lay all that cable would be expensive. Luckily out here, they did it cheaply: wireless. They offer services from 800kbps/128kbps (down/up) to 4mbps/1mbps (down/up) through their point to point service. Living where I am, my signal goes about 1.5 miles across my neighbors property, a valley and various trees. It is a line-of-sight service they offer so any interferance relates to higher ping, packet loss and jitter. A couple weeks ago I realized that with no other internet programs running, I couldn't even play BF2 online with my 1.5mbps/256kbps speed. It did work before but it had been months since I played. I tested my connection with PingTest.net and got frequent D and F ratings with packet loss anywhere from 2-25%. Pretty unacceptable. It had been about 3 years since First Step had been out to install the antenna (which is directional) and since then there have been trees that grow but also my neighbor acquired a 35-40ft semi-truck trailer and parked it on the edge of their property really close to the line-of-sight the antenna needs. I got up on a ladder and stood in front of my antenna and while I could see the tower 1.5 miles away, the back of their trailer was parked really close.

This is where the antenna looked: (I held my camera flush against the face of the antenna and took a picture)

The red dot is the tower 1.5 miles away, you can see that it's not centered in the photo and thus the antenna isn't facing it perfectly. Also the back of the trailer, being metal, I believe gave issues with reflections and messing with the signal. There are also trees that are almost blocking out the line-of-sight.

I decided to move the antenna to get a better view that was also more tree-future-proof. I got a pole and mocked it all up and have been using that for a week or so and instead of D's and F's on PingTest.net I was getting mostly C's and the occasional B which is fantastic for me. Towards the end of last week, I almost shit my pants when I saw a First Step car pull up the driveway. Having been scolded for downloading material before and also being warned that if my moving of the antenna were to cause problems on their end, they would charge for a $50/hr repair to fix it. I went outside to meet them, ready to piss myself and this guy's looking around and sees me and says "We were wondering if you guys would be interested in hosting a tower for us and in exchange we'll give you free internet." Wow. Completely the opposite of what I was thinking. Of course the answer was hell yea. That was last week, since then they've been out 3 times. The first 2 were just to look around (mind you this is about a half hour drive to get out here from their main hub in the city so they must be excited about this). The 3rd was today and they had an electrician come out to see about getting electricity to a pole they're going to use for an array of antennas.

I do know that First Step got a $2.4 million grant awarded and I think this is part of the upgrade that they're going to do system-wide.

This thread will be a progress list of information and pictures.

10/7/2010 - First Step crew came out, installed electronics to run the antennas.


10/5/2010 - Electrician came by and wired everything up. Waiting on First Step to come out and install the equipment in the box.


9/30/2010 - First Step crew mounted all the antennas (see twitpic below). Equipment box is still empty as there is no electricity due to the electrician still being MIA. I found out that I will still have as many wireless hops as before but hopefully with this higher vantage point and newer equipment, the signal will be better.
http://twitpic.com/2trlyr


9/29/2010 - Guys came out again. Electrician is MIA, kind of a wasted trip for them to come out but they were courteous and wanted to tidy up and fill in the trench they dug yesterday.


9/28/2010 - Local wireless technician came out today with a trench digger for the electrical lines. Contract officially states 4mbps/1mbps (down/up) free internet while the contract is valid which is 7 years. *EDIT* The guy that came out just left (I would mention a name but, although he's nice, I don't want to overstep privacy). PVC conduit is laid for electrical, CAT5e for my hook up is laid out as well. Little bit more filling in, running the electrical lines and setting up their equipment and it should all be done.
http://twitpic.com/2su9sj


9/27/2010 - Received call saying that their crew will be out tomorrow morning to dig. Internet company digging for electrical lines... confusing along with digging before signing a contract.


9/24/2010 - Met with head honcho over at First Step to discuss contract. Talked it over and a revision will be sent out when it gets written up. Apparently they don't need to order parts so work may start next week.


9/23/2010 - Received the contract. A few thing need to be explained and gone over/changed with it. Hopefully will setup a meeting in person to


9/22/2010 - Finally got the phone call expected almost a week ago. Contract will be written up and sent sometime. Parts will be ordered and work will continue in a couple weeks which is a couple weeks after they said they would start so, who knows.


9/16/2010 - Guy came out to check for phone lines prior to digging for the electrical line. Apparently he was only responsible for the main line, not the line that runs from the pole to our house so his trip was wasted seeing that the main line isn't close to where the digging will happen.


9/15/2010 - First Step crew came out for 3rd time with electrician. I wasn't home but I when I got back home they had installed a box that will house the electronics to run the antennas. They also spray-painted and flagged the existing underground electrical line that the electrician will attempt to dig up and use.
Pictures: (click for a larger view)



« Last Edit: Thursday, October 07, 2010, 16:00:44 PM by Spanky »
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Offline Archeh

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #1 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 20:11:01 PM »
That's incredible. Maybe I have a biased point of view because I hate my ISP but that was not at all what I was expecting when I started reading.
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Offline Spanky

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #2 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 20:13:59 PM »
That's incredible. Maybe I have a biased point of view because I hate my ISP but that was not at all what I was expecting when I started reading.

It was not at all what I expected when I walked out to meet the guy :) At first I had little issues with First Step (they had to come out and realign the antenna and fix something) but pretty much it's been maintenance free and problem free for years. Surprisingly it even works in a blizzard where I can't see much past 50ft outside let alone 1.5 miles.
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Offline Knight

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 20:14:50 PM »
One word, awesome. Can't wait to see more progress, we need lots of pictures! And [email protected] huffing paint.

Also stickied topic.
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Offline BlueBlaster

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #4 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 22:01:31 PM »
Sounds 1337. You should leave donuts out for them or something.



Offline Spanky

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #5 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 22:12:15 PM »
I'll probably be out there with them since I hope they'll work on my setup as well (move my antenna up to the pole or connect me to their antennas or something).
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Offline BlueBlaster

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #6 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 22:16:09 PM »
If your hosting their tower you'll probably connect through that instead of your antenna. It's like people who have the availability of an electric pole in their backyard to steal cable from.



Offline Spanky

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #7 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 22:22:52 PM »
Yea, I wish I knew more about how their end worked. The guy said I could either have my antenna on the pole or have the antenna where it is now and just point it at the pole. I'd like to avoid any un-necessary wireless leaps since that introduces latency and issues.
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Offline BlueBlaster

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #8 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 22:25:27 PM »
Personally I would point the antenna at the pole because I don't know how having the antenna on the pole would make it communicate. I always try to believe that tech is stupid so I set it up the right way the first time.



Offline Knight

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #9 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 22:28:20 PM »
Dish on pole means its going to be taking the net from the same place you get it from now. Dish pointed at the pole means it gets the signal and relays it to your dish on the ground... at least thats what I'm thinking.
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Offline Spanky

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #10 on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 22:35:30 PM »
There's going to be an antenna pointing south and one pointing where mine is pointed now. I don't know if what they're setting up can help me but if nothing else, them putting my antenna on the pole means there should be less obstacles in my way for a good line-of-sight to where it's pointing now.
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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #11 on: Thursday, September 16, 2010, 15:17:33 PM »
Don't you have a telephone phone line, Can't you get DSL down it? Less latency.
There will probably be an Ethernet switch in the box at the bottom of the tower and you will must likely get your free connection from there, You will need to run a CAT5 cable to the tower. Or point your receiver at the tower but that would add another wireless hop.

Offline Spanky

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #12 on: Thursday, September 16, 2010, 16:30:46 PM »
Don't you have a telephone phone line, Can't you get DSL down it? Less latency.
Yea, there's a phone line but Verizon sucks ass and we dropped them. DSL isn't available to my specific location due to distance restraints on DSL (that 1.5 miles is to the center of town, where the DSL substation is located). The guy at the end of my road has DSL but I can't. It would be shitty dial-up (low-quality phone lines) or this. I also believe this provides faster speeds than DSL.

Or point your receiver at the tower but that would add another wireless hop.
This is exactly what I want to avoid. I think what they're doing is basically adding in a powered repeater for more coverage. The antennas they're going to add are bigger than mine so I'm thinking that the signal will be greater but I'd rather just hook into the repeater rather than adding an extra wireless path that can add latency, even if it's a tiny amount.
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Offline Knight

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #13 on: Thursday, September 16, 2010, 16:33:23 PM »
I have dsl and am about 1.3 miles from my substation and...it BLOWS.
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Offline Spanky

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Re: First Step Internet
« Reply #14 on: Thursday, September 16, 2010, 16:38:38 PM »
Quote
Older ADSL standards can deliver 8 Mbit/s to the customer over about 2 km (1·25 miles) of unshielded twisted-pair copper wire. As of 2009, the latest standard, ADSL2+, can deliver up to 24 Mbit/s, depending on the distance from the DSLAM. Distances greater than 2 km (1.25 miles) significantly reduce the bandwidth usable on the wires, thus reducing the data rate. ADSL loop extenders increase these distances substantially.

Again, I'm 1.5 miles away. With the info above, you're talking about 1-3mbps as long as you're closer than 1.25 miles. I'm probably going to be getting 4mbps. I think what my ISP is doing out here is great, I think more rural areas should have something like this. First Step provides coverage for about 100 miles north to south and 80 miles east to west.
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