Diary of a Transplant: Off the Internet Superhighway

Each week, Greene County resident, writer and ex-Brooklynite Larissa Phillips tells us tales of life in the country. This week: adjusting the realities of rural Internet access.

I had my first dose of the realities of country life when I called to set up internet in our new house. I should have known it was going to be bad when the sales rep simply couldn’t comprehend that I didn’t want TV, just internet.

“But you get all these premium channels,” she kept saying.

“We don’t want TV,” I kept saying. “We just want internet.”

“But it’s not just TV. It’s movie channels. HBO, Showtime –”

“We don’t need TV,” I finally explained, “because we stream movies when we want to watch something.”

That stopped her in her tracks. “This is satellite internet,” she practically snorted. “You can’t stream movies with satellite.”

What? We can’t stream? Oh my god. Are you joking? Is it too late to move back to the city?

It was, of course, too late, but it turned out she was only partly right. We actually can stream movies with our limited, slow, cumbersome, terrible, pathetic, satellite internet service. The movie stops every 30 minutes or so for rebuffering, a process that takes about half a second in Brooklyn, and up here is more like a commercial break. Or, sometimes an intermission. Occasionally a long intermission. We got used to it.

We have gotten used to the slower speed of almost everything up here. Isn’t that why we left the city? So we could slow down? Yeah, sure. So, we’re okay with slow internet, right, kids? Uh, yeah. We guess so…

What we had a hard time getting used to is our maximum download capacity.

You see, there’s this thing called a Fair Access Policy. To prevent internet-addicted people like ourselves, people whose kids will burn through four “Malcom in the Middle” episodes in a night, people whose mom can go through half a season of “Downton Abby” in one fridid, flu-ish weekend, from hogging the bandwidth and affecting the internet access of other customers, there is a maximum bandwidth allowed for each account. The amount varies based on how much you pay. We pay for the platinum version, of course, because we are addicts and need our fix, every day all day long.  But we still don’t get enough bandwidth. Once we’ve exhausted our limit we go into the “penalty phase”. This is a humiliating period in which we have extremely slow internet until our daily percentage average drops. It’s like rehab, this odd place in which we are expected to learn to live without constant access to the dopamine highs found through constant Internet connections.

I could tell you the exact amount amount of data we are allowed to download, and exactly how it all works, but it would mean going on the Internet, and we’re in the penalty phase right now, and it’s just too irritating to wait that long for each page to load. So, just trust me: if you’re moving upstate and depend on the internet for anything big, check out your servers before you buy.

And by the way, it’s not like this everywhere upstate. It’s just our particular rural area. Friends who live minutes away pay half of what we pay, and have no complaints about their service. But we are just that much further from town, and the local internet company won’t serve us.

Once we got past our initial shock at being detoured from the Internet superhighway over to this rutted, windy little back country road, we adjusted. To keep from going into the dreaded penalty phase, we’ve had to curb our mindless surfing habits, and we avoid clicking on every YouTube video that comes our way. And there’s no way around the fact that I have to wait for “Downton Abbey”‘s second season to come out on Netflix, instead of streaming it from PBS. Oh well. We borrow DVD’s from the library, we go to WiFi-friendly coffee shops in Hudson, and we hang out in this place called ‘real life’. It’s not so bad, once you get used to it. Slow, and kind of close-by. But otherwise, not so bad.




Category: Greene County, upstate new york

By: larissa | 24 April 2012 04:00 PM | 9 Comments

9 Responses

  1. mike says:

    May I ask you what area of Greene County you live in has the poor internet access, Larissa? I’m planning a Catskills move and I, no offense, I don’t want to move where you are. LOL. ;) I love my internet too much.

  2. larissa says:

    Hi there, I don’t think it’s so much specific areas, as being out of town. Friends of ours live five minutes closer to town than we do, and they have great internet. But it’s definitely something to ask the realtor about. I’d stay away from satellite internet!

  3. Kim says:

    I’m almost reluctant to post this since with satellite internet the more people on the service, the slower it goes, but we just signed up for Exede satellite service which is the new service from Wild Blue. http://www.viasatresidential.com/
    It’s FASTER than Hughes and most importantly, it’s cheaper $50 bucks for the cheapest plan. Rather than charging you more for speed, they charge you more to download more stuff. We have the basic plan, and we’ve been careful about what we’ve been downloading (no movies yet) but so far, it’s been good (except not connecting during a thunderstorm) and faster than we’ve seen our neighbors who have Hugesnet. Plus I read so much about horrible service from HN, that I decided I’d rather not have internet than deal with them. There’s a 2yr contract (same with HN) but if you’re coming up on your contract end, you might want to look into switching.
    We’re in West Kill and don’t have cell service either, so MiFi wasn’t an option. Lots of areas of Greene Co don’t have broadband or cell phone access – especially the areas within the Catskill park.

  4. larissa says:

    Kim, thanks so much for your tip! I will look into Exede.
    xoxo to you and anyone else who gives me internet service tips! –larissa

  5. jp says:

    Hi there, I realize this is an older post but I just stumbled on it. Love the blog/site and I like to ignore it for about a week and savor a nice casual peruse through all the fun posts. This may seem dumb but can you get DSL in your are? Most phone service will have some DSL option. We have a place in Sullivan County and get DSL service from Frontier. I have to say it is far better than the service we get in Brooklyn (and in Brooklyn we have Time Warner Cable for Internet only and we also have a Verizon DSL line). Yes, we are junkies. In any case, many of my friends who also have Catskill places use DSL and they say the same thing. Perhaps worth looking into.

    • Kim says:

      We definitely can’t get DSL where we are. We can’t even get ‘advanced’ features on our phone like call waiting and voice mail because it is all still old copper wire. We talked to a Verizon guy who was fixing something across the road and he basically said that DSL is being slowly phased out in favor of Fios and they are concentrating that development in more populated areas.

      When we were house hunting if aplace didnt have broadband access was a deal-breaker for us, but we loved the place we bought so much that we broke our deal-breaker.

      It is a BIG problem in this country that there is such limited real broadband access in rural areas. It puts kids and workers at a disadvantage. With real broadband, I would probably spend one or two more days here each week and work from home and I know others who would do the same. That would mean me spending more money here rather than in the city. But unfortunately the phone/cable companies don’t see enough money in it so they don’t build the infrastructure.

      • jp says:

        Got it. Sorry about the DSL. By the way, what town are you in? Sorry to keep an old topic alive but I am on a constant search for broadband where ever I am. In Brooklyn Time Warner is absolutely awful and we are begging Verizon Fios to come to our block. One other thing–have you tried any of the mobile wireless solutions? I have one for business travel and it is surprisingly not bad. Not sure how it will work in your area but Verizon has a small wireless model that servers as a mobile hot spot for up to five users. There’s also a company called Clear that does a pretty good job from what I’ve heard. Just another idea. I totally understand your thirst for broadband.

  6. Nhlanhla says:

    I originally puhesarcd a Linksys DSL/Cable router because of a clerk’s recommendation. It never worked even after I took it back and got a replacement. I then puhesarcd a Netgear ProSafe router which sort of worked with the BellSouth DSL modem but still had all sorts of packet losses. I went back to the store and puhesarcd the Belkin Cable/DSL router and it worked flawlessly right out of the box! I ran the set-up cd-rom, attached the cables, and I was on-line in 3 minutes. I then hooked in my wife’s computer and laptop and they too worked after booting. If you have BellSouth DSL or any other finicky ISP, this router is the one to get, it saved the day!!

  7. [...] blogged a couple years ago about our internet woes. We are in a tiny pocket of limited internet service, like a terrible Bermuda triangle of slow [...]

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