Saturday, June 8, 2013

Your Best Connection to Internet

Even more important than your choice of computer may be your choice of internet service. This choice will determine what you will be able to do....and, also more importantly, where!!   When communicating with your doctor or bank, that connection must work and work well.

The choice depends on how you use your computer or devices and your comfort with technology. You may do only email and a little browsing or you may access a fast growing variety of media through your computers and newly through your Internet attached television and tablets.

I use Internet heavily both for online voice dictation and for channels not available on cable, such as Wall Street, BBC 24 hour news, and many others. I keep all my data online for safety. I am able to use any computer or device anywhere with all my home capabilities. Effectively, my computer itself is online and my device just a window into it. 

There are free services. Wifi access is widely available, such as here at Willow Valley in selected areas. Free services, though, are limited in bandwidth, throughput, speed, and general convenience. 

The best choice for most uses would be the service that offers the best bandwidth in your home or where you live. Such a service would offer hi-def movies across internet, for example. In contrast, free service and more limited service, would support email and some browsing but not much more. 

Paradoxically, in general, the better the flow of the service, the more problems you will find with support of that flow, as follows:

To get the best and least cost service here at Willow Valley, Senior Internet, there is NO local onsite support presence, and you are on your own if there is a problem. It is up to you to provide your own equipment such as modem, router, and access point, all needed for full use of internet. You need to be technically savvy or pay someone who is, and therefore consider this situation before making a choice.

You may need all the help you can get.  Tap or click for what may need attention.

(Be aware that it is sometimes claimed by providers that problems are usually with YOUR tablet or laptop, and provider help will often focus on that problem.   However, if the device works out in public areas the problem is not with either such device.  So always check that out.)

Much more expensive but with more support, is Comcast service. Comcast will supply the hardware and support it as part of your contract. Where they provide the hardware, Comcast also makes sure that your equipment is matched and works well with their service.

Both cable services share a fixed bandwidth over a varying number of users so that the more users, the less throughput and speed at your disposal. This means that when there are fewer users using internet the performance is outstanding. In contrast, on a Saturday afternoon, with a high volume of users, there may be slowups. 

Telephone internet service, in contrast, is constant, though slower. It is ust barely able to handle movies, such as Netflix movies.  .Yet our Windstream service here provides full support on site as part of your contract. They provide and support all the equipment you will need onsite. 

Also available here, though not widely used and more limited, is cell phone 4G service. Your computer connects directly to the cell tower like a cell phone and therefore no hardware or support is required other than what they call a cellphone-sized hotpot. You connect to it just as you do with any other wireless internet service.    

I used Clearwire service for over a year with no trouble at all. I am now evaluating FreedomPop service. Although support problems are minimal, these last services are for a limited amount of usage per month and their modem or hotspot must be placed close to an outside wall or window, if not outside. 

You do have the advantage that you may take your hotspot along with you and use it throughout built up areas. For example I found it useful all through Lancaster City and Wilmington, Delaware. Your tablet can double as a cell phone.    No local support is required, and you are relieved of it, without any contract either.

In summary, if you want full use of Internet, you need to weigh support issues and costs, best before you commit. If your needs are minimal, such as just email and moderate browsing, a free service or FreedomPop may suffice.

I use Willow Valley Senior Internet service and provide my technical support myself. In addition I have the FreedomPop service at $18.00 a month for two gigabytes of data, though you can buy as much service as you need. Since I provide my own technical support, I do not have support costs. For that effort I am able to have plenty of bandwith for video and also available connection wherever I happen to be. 

For others who do not have technical savvy, and whose needs are limited, I recommend Windstream or FreedomPop. For the latter you will need to be sure you do not exceed your allotted usage or you will pay a sharp penalty. 

If you use internet heavily and do not want to support it yourself, you may want to pay for Comcast service. Comcast may apply an extra charge for maintenance. When I used Comcast I paid an extra $8 a month for outstanding service at home. 

Footnote: Throughput: 

WV public: .5-3 million bits per second, variable
Senior Internet: 0-24 mbps, variable 
Comcast: as Senior 
Windstream: 3 mbps, constant 
Freedompop: 1-5 Mbps, but 5 at my apt., constant 

Other factors: Waiting for the provider's server at the other end appears more frequent with cable than for telephone based services. That depends on how well the internet service polices itself. It is possible to substitute alternative servers, such as OpenDNS    Here are two resources to assist with Internet troubleshooting.  Tap or click for them or OpenDNS above.

How to Troubleshoot a Flaky Internet Connection

(Gina, who wrote the above, is author of Lifehacker and the power behind the delightful Lifehacker website.)

Basic Troubleshooting Guide for Internet Connection Problems/

YouTube Video on How to Troubleshoot Connections

Before trying anything else, check that all your wired connections are TIGHT!!   Try somebody else's laptop on your system.    Through the process of elimination, narrow down to the cause of problems.

Dictated to and published from my Nexus 7 using Senior Internet service and Google online supercomputer  supported voice recognition.    

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