Thursday, May 15, 2014

Alternatives to Willow Valley Internet Service

One of the joys of having worked with computers over many years is to sit with seniors and open up a new world of connectivity and enrich their lives.

One of the greatest frustrations is to have them buy a new tablet and then have troubles connecting with Internet, especially when I am powerless to help.

Here at Willow Valley we live in the best of all possible worlds... except for Internet, surprisingly. Surprising because Willow Valley leads in providing staff and training to residents in use of tablets.

To its credit Willow Valley has provided a low cost connectivity. The problem is that much of the time there are problems with it.

Unless everything goes exactly right, this internet service does not work well. Reliable connectivity requires high technical skills and constant monitoring. Problems can occur anytime along a long chain.

Those of us who worked computer networks over the years have always been ready to jump in whenever needed and keep things running. Sometimes we had to call in super experts and sometimes super super experts to assist.

While Willow Valley provides the pipeline, it does not have the technical know-how needed to keep things running well for residents in their apartments.

The main alternative is Comcast of course. Comcast is expensive though reliable.

So residents come to me nearly every day with problems with Willow Valley service. I find myself with the responsibilities without the authority, equipment, and resources to be of any help. Almost all problems are elsewhere than in the apartments of residents.

I can keep my own systems working and there are others who also can do the same. I do maintain back up Internet connections at times when there is no other alternative. I have written a number of postings describing problems and solutions.

So what are those alternatives for residents just wanting to use a tablet to widen their lifestyle and keep connected to the outer world?

We have different choices depending upon where we are in the Willow Valley world.

Now that smartphones are really easy to use and the prices are dropping drastically, a no contract smart phone can provide connectivity to your laptop or computer.

For example, a $130 smart phone with a $50 a month contract, can support your needs not only at Willow valley but anywhere else, a huge advantage.  A large smartphone can even serve as your one and only tablet.

There's a major drive in the industry to move to such devices, demonstrated buy the Microsoft acquisition of the largest smart phone company in the world for a new emphasis separate from PCs. In the future many will not ever need PCs  at all, according to an official at these companies.

However, if you do not have or want a smartphone, you can obtain an even simpler and less expensive solution.

This is managed by obtaining a socalled hotspot device to which you can connect. I have had this service for years as a backup. Currently Freedompop provides it at an extremely low cost, less than Willow Valley service, with plenty of access for most residents. You need a window facing the tower to use it.

However, if you will be streaming movies you need more bandwidth. Here at Willow Valley alternatives are available, such as Windstream, which I have found extremely reliable with one caution. It is too easy to get to the wrong person at Windstream, even though they are here maintaining the telephone system regularly. Windstream is only available in certain locations here.

But in other places here Verizon services are sometimes available.

There is even a service available from Willow Valley itself in the public areas or close by, as opposed to apartment service. This costs nothing and is reasonably well maintained.

One way to use this service is to download content in these areas and then access it wherever you like.

Meanwhile there are initiatives to provide reliable service more widely. This will certainly happen as cell phones take over from old technology.

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