An upcoming option for Internet access

While Monterey is in the process of offering high-speed access to the Internet, and New Marlborough will offer Charter/Spectrum cable access available this spring/early summer there are a few other options, and one more literally on the horizon. (If you’re interested in Monterey’s fiber, you can get early sign-up discounts here.)

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay. Open license from Pixabay

The existing options used to include getting a slow DSL line from Verizon, but apparently they’re not installing any new ones. For the past few years, many on the Lake have had access via their cell phones to what is now a T-Mobile cell tower. More recently Some of the Lake gets access via a Verizon tower. In both cases with a service plan you can browse the Net on your cellphone or use your cellphone as a wifi hot spot by “tethering” it. You can get better reception and sometimes special plans from the mobile companies by buying a special router designed for Internet data. The routers can be a bit pricey, and virtually all plans — even ones that tout “unlimited data” — drop you down to 2G speeds good for email and other text-based communications if you go over their monthly limit. Some of them let you purchase more data for the month, but many don’t.

Our 2 two towers: Green is T-Mobile. Red is Verizon. From

Verizon coverage map
Verizon’s map of coverage. Red = covered (source)

T-Mobile claims to have complete 5G coverage (including 4G) (source)

If you’re going to rely on those cell towers, offers the only truly unlimited data plan that I’ve found. (Chime in in the comments.) You have to buy a special industrial strength router that has the advantage of being able to get a strong signal from the AT&T tower, and it doesn’t cap your “unlimited” data. At about $300 for the router and about $100/month for the data, it is not the cheapest plan. (Last year they ran out of SIM cards for the router. They hope to have them this year. And of course the prices may change.) Also, now has a plan that cuts in half the usual price per gigabyte for data once you’ve passed your limit, if the company lets you buy any extra data at all; the extra data costs $5/gig at Ting. You may discover better deals elsewhere. If so, please consider posting them in the comments. (Disclosure: I have friends at Ting. I’m also a customer, but have no commercial interest in them.)

Now for the new possibility. You may have heard of this Elon Musk guy. One of this projects is becoming real, or at least it’s in beta. His company, Starlink, is putting 12,000 communication satellites into orbit. With a ground antenna you’ll be able to connect to the Internet. The current plan is for the dish antenna to cost $500 to install, and the monthly fee will be $100. So, not cheap. On the other hand, early users are reporting speeds of about 100mbps (megabits per second). This is at least twice as fast as our best speed when connected to the T-Mobile cell tower. And, as far as I know, the plan is not to limit the amount of data you can use.

No word on whether you’ll be able to subscribe only for the summer months.

Also, people’s speeds will depend at least somewhat —but how much? —on the simultaneous usage by others connecting to the same satellite.

Starlink lets you sign up for the beta for free and without committing to the service, but there’s no indication of how likely it is that you’ll get onto the beta. We may well have to wait until it’s actually in production. When will that be? Ask Elon Musk.

Starlink’s download speed is one tenth of what fiber connections provide. But if and when Starlink is available, and if it actually works as promises, it should at least give us more than enough Internet connectivity for streaming and zooming, if somewhat short of providing Star Trek “Beam me up” capabilities. Whether it works as promised and makes economic sense for us is TBD.

Please use the comments to correct any errors I’ve made and to report on your own experiences. Happy connecting!

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