Notes from a Western Life

The Internet: Connecting to the World from Rural South Dakota

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When we moved back to South Dakota years ago, we contacted a satellite dish company in Rapid City called Wirefree USA, now known as Rapid Choice, and entered into a contract to provide satellite access to our house with Wildblue as the internet provider.

With this system we experienced recurring problems with internet connectivity and slow speeds. After a couple of years, we switched to Hughes Net and after experiencing similar problems ultimately ended up with Exede for our internet provider, based each time on the recommendation of Wirefree USA. At first Exede seemed to work fine, but before long we began experiencing problems with over-running our allotted gigabytes of usage. For an additional monthly cost, we upgraded from our 10 gigabyte plan to 15 gigabytes. Again this seemed to address the problem for only a short period of time. We are now on a 25 gigabyte program with a total monthly cost of over $150.

We do not stream movies; we barely even know what NetFlix does. We live more than a mile from the nearest neighbors, so piracy is unlikely. We turn off our internet connections each time we leave our computers. Still, we’re told, the usage keeps going up. As do the costs.

Even at the inflated cost mentioned above, our service is dismal. Several times in the past few years we have been without internet connectivity for up to a week or more. Wirefree USA cannot send out a repair person without receiving a work order from the internet provider. This then requires us to contact the provider and try to work through a fix over the phone. Sometimes this is successful and other times not.

The last time we contacted Exede with a connectivity issue, we went through the usual routine of unplugging the modem and plugging it back in, as well as rebooting the entire computer system. When these efforts proved unsuccessful, we were told that there was some kind of disturbance in our area and they had people currently working on the problem. We were told to wait a couple of hours and internet service would probably be re-established. We did this and after a couple of hours still had no internet service. We called the provider again and again they had us go through the routine described above. This, of course, was no more successful than before. When I explained that we had been told that our problems were the result of a disturbance in the area, the representative checked and determined that there was no disturbance shown in our area. Clearly this was an effort by the first representative to simply blow off our problem with a false story. The entire effort took most of a working day.

At this point, the Exede representative set up a work order allowing Wirefree USA to send a maintenance person to fix our problem. The next day we contacted Wirefree USA and were told it would take more time to schedule the work order visit. Shortly after this call, we were contacted by Wirefree USA to upgrade to a new, faster system with a two year contract term. Given the poor performance of upgrades from the various iterations in the past, we declined the offer. The next day, a maintenance visit was scheduled for the following Tuesday– more than a week after we lost internet connectivity.

The issue detailed above is just one of many problems we have experienced with our current system and although the problems always get resolved, it requires a great deal of effort on our part and the results are only temporary.

Now that the system is “fixed,” for example, we have lost internet connectivity for periods lasting from a few minutes to several hours. This happens 4 to 8 times each day at unpredictable hours.

The excessive cost and poor performance of our current system, as well as the less than adequate customer service provided by both Wirefree USA and Exede, have resulted in our exploring other options for obtaining internet service.

What can you learn from these experiences? Ask your neighbors and friends who provide their internet service, and explore every option available to you. And good luck.

UPDATE: Before I could post this blog our internet service went out again. The local representative said he could come to do a repair in ONLY (!) 4 days.

So we followed our own advice and consulted a few more neighbors and friends. On the recommendation of a friend on a Wyoming ranch, we visited Verizon, our cell phone company, and in 30 minutes left with a Verizon Jet Pack. We turned it on when we got home and immediately got internet access that will cost us considerably less than what we have been paying.

Another advantage is that when we want to travel, we can simply take the Jet Pack along, so we will have internet wherever we go. Down side: we can’t stream movies– but we don’t do that anyway. After 24 hours, we have explored all the things we normally do on the internet and the Verizon system does them perfectly.

Happy, we called Excede and WireFree USA and told them to come get their equipment, and then spent several minutes convincing them that we didn’t need or want their terrible services any more. Well guess what? They trotted right out here to install our service, but they don’t come back to get their equipment. They will send us a box with instructions on what to return and how to return it, and we must do that within a specified length of time– or they will charge us $300.

Just what we might have expected. Someday soon, with great delight, we will package up their equipment and return it to them. And we’ll be smiling– and emailing our friends through Verizon to tell them all about the experience.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House Writing Retreats
Hermosa, South Dakota

2017, Linda M. Hasselstrom

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