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In Virginia, Delivering Broadband To the Customers Big Telecom Forgot

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the bouncy-bouncy dept.

Networking 127

cheezitmike writes "A Washington Post story tells how former automotive engineer Paul Conlin just wanted to get broadband at his rural home in Fauquier County, Virginia, and ended up forming his own wireless ISP: 'Paul Conlin, the proprietor of Blaze Broadband, is not a typical telecom executive. He drives a red pickup and climbs roofs. When customers call tech support, he is the one who answers. Conlin delivers broadband to Fauquier County homes bypassed by Comcast and Verizon, bouncing wireless signals from antennas on barns, silos, water towers and cellphone poles.'"

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127 comments

Wait for it... (5, Funny)

Wizarth (785742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500168)

Sued by Comcast and Verizon for "unfair competition" in 3, 2, 1...

Re:Wait for it... (3, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500216)

There's no revenue there. That's why they didn't run expensive stuff. The last mile, when it's rural, is the most expensive. That's why, in the US, there was a tax to subsidize rural phone after it worked for rural electric. Coops are a great idea when the fat cats are distracted by low-hanging fruit.

Re:Wait for it... (3, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502142)

You are naive. The corps will not pay for the last mile but they will pay lawyers and lobbyists to crush competition. I think it was Pittsburgh that wanted to set up a city run wireless service when the big boys didn't show up to the party. The (mostly Republican) state legislature passed legislation preventing the plan after being bought.... um, I mean bribed.... um, I mean "incentive-ized" by the wireless companies.

That's how the real world works.

Re:Wait for it... (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503234)

It may have been due to the fact that it would not have been profitable, and thus subsidized by taxpayers who may have not wanted-- or even been able to use-- the wireless internet service. Regardless, Clear now has a presence.

Re:Wait for it... (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503610)

Last miles in cities are a lot different from last miles in broadband. No one wants to do free/cheap wifi in the middle of a city because it's, gasp, not cost effective. Long before the population density got high enough to support wifi, the population density got high enough to support "cheap" cable and DSL (good enough for almost everyone involved), and probably even good 3g (although its not as cheap). No one is stopping companies who can stand on their own from starting up city-wide wifi, but amazingly very few have successfully done it. The legislation, while you did a nice job of vilifying it, was directed at limiting the governments involvement in free/cheap wireless (read: don't spend my tax money on it.)

But there IS revenue! (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 3 years ago | (#35505776)

There's a local WISP called Digital Path [digitalpath.net] that has gone the wireless route. Just like the guy in the article, they bounce WiFi around the hills with directional antennae and itty-bitty homebrew routers that run some micro-version of Linux on embedded-scale "servers" running on CF drives.

Their focus is on outlying areas... Just East of the California Central Valley is the Sierra Nevada mountains and there are LOTS of customers that really appreciate having a few Mbits connection beamed in at a few hundred bucks/month.

They seem to be doing pretty well for themselves.

Re:Wait for it... (4, Informative)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500286)

Verizon sued a local WISP service where I live (very rural southern Indiana), and they lost. That was around 2004. The company now covers the county.

Verizon (now Frontier) put in DSL a few years later.

Re:Wait for it... (5, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500306)

Re:Wait for it... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500422)

They sued EPB too. EPB prevailed in court, but then the cable companies lobbied to change the laws.

Fortunately for all the 1GBps customers, EPB was grandfathered in.

Re:Wait for it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500990)

Jesus Christ!
I haven't been so angry since a few hours ago!
Time to stay away from the news for a few days...

Re:Wait for it... (2)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501414)

Already happened in some locales: Telco wouldn't install fiber network, sued to prevent city from doing so [arstechnica.com] (Another Article: we sue because we care [arstechnica.com])

It seems that Monticello's FTTH initiative [monticellofiber.com] must have succeeded, as they now provide fiber to the home, and with fairly reasonable residential pricing [monticellofiber.com], such as 30/30 Mbps for about $50/month.

Re:Wait for it... (1)

The Moof (859402) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503596)

Yes, the judge sided with the municipality (if my memory serves). It doesn't mean that the big Telcos will stop suing others, though. I know if I decided to go out and fire up my own ISP and got sued, I wouldn't have the resources to defend myself.

Re:Wait for it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500406)

Anyone who provides broadband who isn't Comcast or Verizon gets sued. This is why they can go on charging monopolistic rates. This is why they never have to upgrade service. This is why they're jacking the rates up on existing service that is approaching 10 years old and not upgraded.

Artificial scarcity (3)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500172)

He'll figure out just how "expensive" broadband is when the telecoms tie him up in court. That is, if this ISP is large enough to affect the bigwigs.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500348)

Why is this legal?

Having a monopolist sue for unfair competition? Who is the monopolist?

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500880)

Why is any regulatory capture legal?

Because 'utility' companies have bribed municipal and federal government for protectionism(IE: preventing society from voluntarily trading with people in the same industry). They have bribed government to restrict our ability to voluntarily associate with each other. They have utility 'rights'.

http://mises.org/journals/rae/pdf/rae9_2_3.pdf

Re:Artificial scarcity (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501176)

Except they call it 'campaign contributions' and 'lobbying.' Polite and legal, but in effect just regulated bribery. It doesn't matter if it's a wad of cash under the table or a vague promise of a large donation to politicians that do as the company would like, the end result is the same: The law is made to the whims of the highest bidder.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501422)

How is this legal? The bribery, the protectionism, and most of all suing fair competition? Aren't there any anti-trust laws in the US? In the EU they'd probably get a multi-million dollar fine (10 years later, because the EU moves glacially, but at least it makes the point that it should be illegal).

Re:Artificial scarcity (0)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500352)

Why in gods' names would any telco waste money suing someone that's providing service in an area they aren't? Do you even think before you post, or is it all just knee-jerk reaction for you?

Re:Artificial scarcity (3, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500382)

I'd love to know myself, as it has occurred at least twice. See here [arstechnica.com] and here [arstechnica.com].

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500936)

Did the telecoms that sued already provide some form of broadband access in those regions? Because the area TFA is talking about doesn't have any form of broadband AT ALL.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501808)

I think the difference here is that this is a private company/individual providing service, not a local government.

So unlike the other cited cases where governments and local authorities want to build out networks, the telcos cant make claims like "taxpayers money shouldn't be used to build broadband"

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500500)

Do you even think before you post, or is it all just knee-jerk reaction for you?

Nothing particular came to mind. [arstechnica.com] As you mentioned a minute later:

At least in America, there are no real monopolies to broadband, and this guy proves it. All you naysayers who complain about Comcast or other ISPs need to STFU and GTFO.

You shouldn't brazenly accuse others of something you're obviously prone to.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503070)

That case has nothing to do with this one. It was a broadband provider suing a municipality to stop them from using taxpayers' money (including theirs, since the company paid taxes as did their employees) to build a competitor. So nice try, but it doesn't pass the smell test.

Re:Artificial scarcity (2)

JohnRoss1968 (574825) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500510)

Why, that's simple. Greed and control.
Now the big question is......
Do you even think (or research anything) before you post, or is it all just knee-jerk reaction for you?

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

yoshi_mon (172895) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501556)

It's all knee jerk far far right wing wackoness. Look at this little exchange I had with him a bit ago. The best part was when he shut up after realizing what an idiot he was.

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2030288&cid=35447450 [slashdot.org]

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503118)

No, I "shut up" when I realized you were more interested in partisan finger pointing than in solving any actual problems (you still haven't given any reason why it's so important to focus on who ran up the debt; both major parties ran it up, which anyone who pays attention to the government would know).

And anyone who would call me "far far right wing" hasn't been paying attention to any of my posts.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503140)

OK, genius, go find one instance where this has happened. I'll wait.

The only record of a broadband provider suing a potential competitor was TDS suing a local city to prevent them from launching a competing service using tax dollars. Do I have to spell out for you why that situation is drastically different and not at all comparable?

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500532)

By suing the guy they ensure that they will have no competition if they decide to work in the region in a distant future.

Re:Artificial scarcity (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501184)

Because,
1. If the newcomer gets established in that area, they might expand and start competing in adjacent areas.
and
2. Just because the telco doesn't service that area now doesn't mean they won't in future, and they'd rather not have an incumbent with loyal customers already in place when that happens.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

badran (973386) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501236)

So that people in areas that do have service would not get the idea that it is cheaper to do it yourself.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501548)

I can think of a couple of reasons

1: If the new upstart is succesfull they (and/or copycats) may spread into areas where the incumbent telcos do offer broadband.
2: Just because a telco doesn't offer broadband in an area doesn't mean they aren't offering service at all. In the absence of broadband there is presumably money to be made from dialup.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

anyGould (1295481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503724)

Easy - it prevents them from moving into that market later. (Or more properly, from maximizing their margins when they do move in).

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

Felix Da Rat (93827) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500610)

Have you ever bought anything from someone that produced it face to face? Because it really isn't about how 'expensive' it is, that's a given in the transaction - materials have cost. It's about the 'how much extra is this worth?'.

This guy is looking to make a profit, no doubt, but doing so by providing a service where the big telecoms have said there is no profit to be made. I hope he does well, and I hope he makes his way to NoVA (Northern Virginia) 'cause I'll sign up just to support diversity - even if I keep on with my higher level service.

What is profitable for a "Big Business" is gratuitous for most townships in the US of A. The margins most that business runs on at that level are so small that only the scale keeps them from falling apart. What do we get as the consumer? Cheap goods, crap support, but we get a great price from a locked in provider.

Hell, I love my FiOS, but I'd ditch it in a heart beat if someone local could give me similar speed and no Verizon tech support. Or billing dept. run around... Unfortunately, the entry cost is too high in the metro areas, so small companies have to start in the cracks...

tl;dr - Guy sees a market and is going for it where big business isn't. He must be evil.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500750)

This has happened in a few area's in australia. Telstra wouldn't put in Wireless infrastructure as it was not profitable. People lobby for years to get something in their area. Local company spends a few hundred thousand to get infrastructure in place and people sign up. telstra realise it is profitable and then puts up their own towers in competition and prices below what the other guy is charging. they run for a loss till little guy is bankrupt and then jacks up the price.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

sjwaste (780063) | more than 3 years ago | (#35504736)

Not to nitpick, but if you tell someone in Fauquier County that they're not in "NoVA" they get mad! I went to college in Harrisonburg, and even they self-identify with the Northern bit. So be careful. I'm a NJ native, so nobody likes me anyway.

I don't know that I'd dump FiOS for a wireless ISP. I could do that now - there's a Clear tower like half a mile from my house. FiOS has been 100% reliable over the 2 years that I've had it here. Not an outage (literally, not one).

I'm a Virginia-barred lawyer (although not practicing right now, working for "the man" instead). VA is very business-friendly, but I'd still have a hard time seeing a suit get off the ground against this guy. Then again, I'm pretty ignorant in regulatory/telecom.

Re:Artificial scarcity (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35505786)

If they try such a thing, it should be thrown out on summary judgement, as Verizon and Comcast have already had an opportunity to serve those areas and chose not to. Therefore, they do not have standing.

Mesh (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500280)

We were working on stuff like this using mesh wireless, which would have been a great option for those the big boys leave behind. It was possibly a bit early for its time, although a lot of competition was going for the line-of-sight option. Line-of-sight though isn't so good in many places. When we stopped making them we had a large number of smaller ISPs still interested, but the company was more interested in getting a big name telecom to purchase from us rather than a lot of tiny customers (always the snag, need to make money). What I'm finding interesting now is that in the intervening years it seems like mesh has taken off again.

Re:Mesh (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500962)

LoS can be improved, signals are more stable in inclement conditions, people get more clever with punching the signal through a rainstorm (etc etc)

Re:Mesh (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#35505198)

Wasn't the Mesh idea part of the OLPC since it would be primarily used in areas without infastructure? And I believe they use this in Tibet as well.

Been doing this since 2004 (4, Insightful)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500336)

Climb roofs and towers, run cables mount radios, answer tech support phone calls...done it all.

Hard way to make a living, but very grateful customers. Two other WISPs in town could not make it.

Re:Been doing this since 2004 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500636)

Used to do that for mom-n-pop WISP locally (in Texas). We covered 4 counties, and by my estimate, coverage was around 2400~ square miles. I was doing the job of 4 people after my coworker, the lead Engineer, got fired. Left 6 months after that when they didn't hire anyone new and attempted to use the pc support monkeys as substitutes.

Still miss the outdoor work and customers. Rural Texas folk are great! They give you food and beverages (beer!!!) and are eager to learn about technology! Don't miss the owner of the WISP though.

there are no monopolies (0, Troll)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500360)

At least in America, there are no real monopolies to broadband, and this guy proves it. All you naysayers who complain about Comcast or other ISPs need to STFU and GTFO.

Re:there are no monopolies (2)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500408)

That's excessive, although on track.

The sad, sad truth is that people would rather someone come and save them from "the corporations" rather than even attempt the sort of work the incumbent providers did to offer the service in the first place.

Re:there are no monopolies (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500416)

That's right, everybody just shut up and start your own damned ISP!

It strikes me that this guy can do so precisely because there is no competition. It might work in Fauquier County, VA. But drive a bit east to, say, Arlington and tell me how likely it is that someone there will start their own ISP?

Re:there are no monopolies (2)

xnpu (963139) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500424)

How does he proof there is no monopoly by running business in an area that's void of competition? If anything, he has unintentionally monopolized the local void.

Re:there are no monopolies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500442)

...Except they didn't even provide internet in his area at all - thus no competition and no barrier to entry?

Re:there are no monopolies (4, Interesting)

jroysdon (201893) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500482)

The reason this works is the guy can charge a premium ($89 is not cheap for the speed of Internet he is offering, more like 3 times the cost if it was DSL or Cable of the same speed), but he can do it because they have no other option.

His business model works because it is an affluent county without another choice (how many people do you know that will pay $300+ install fee?). It would not work in any market with DSL/cable with costs of $30/month and no install fee/contract (mind you many DSL will try to lock you in with a contract, but you can go without a contract in most cases if you pay $5/mo more, which is what you'll pay when the contract runs out anyway).

I'm not saying what he is offering is bad. It's a great deal for those people with no other choice. But it's not a model the telco/cableco will follow, and it's hardly a good example in the case of the US's dualopoly ISP model.

Even my local WISP, Fire2Wire [fire2wire.com] won't post their prices, because they're not anywhere near competitive. The only reason anyone will get them is because they have no other option but dial-up. I believe they also charge $300+ install fees and prices comparable to BLAZE Wireless (WISP mentioned in the article). Further, WISP speeds are often just barely on par with low-end DSL/cable. Worse still, if your downstream neighbors are hogging the bandwidth, you're pretty much out of luck (QoS could help here, but effectively you're still sharing the "max" that you could get if they were idle).

I know one business which hosts an antennae for the local WISP and they get free Internet. They only use it as a low-end backup, but instead pay for a carrier-grade ISP T1 for their production business needed. They'd never pay for the WISP, and it's only because of the free deal that they have them at all.

Re:there are no monopolies (5, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500870)

won't post their prices, because they're not anywhere near competitive.

I would say they ARE competitive.

A guy walks into a store and asks what the price for potatoes is. 2,50EUR a kilo. "That is crazy, the store around the corner only ask 25 cents a kilo".
+ "Go buy there", says the store owner.
- "They don't have anything left"
+ That's just crazy If I don't have anything left, my prices drop to 15 cents per kilo

Re:there are no monopolies (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501098)

Even my local WISP, Fire2Wire won't post their prices, because they're not anywhere near competitive. The only reason anyone will get them is because they have no other option but dial-up.

Dial-up and satellite.
Once you've been quoted the prices and speeds of a satellite connection, you'll appreciate what a terrestrial WISP can offer.

Re:there are no monopolies (1)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503298)

This. I did installs for a wisp for a while...we did $150 installs and $50 - 80 per month plans. That place barely made any money

Re:there are no monopolies (1)

anyGould (1295481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503798)

The reason this works is the guy can charge a premium ($89 is not cheap for the speed of Internet he is offering, more like 3 times the cost if it was DSL or Cable of the same speed), but he can do it because they have no other option.

I'd suspect there's two other forces at work driving that price up. One, he's likely getting gouged on his broadband costs (and thus has to pass them along to his customers). Two, the whole thing started as hobby work (which means he probably doesn't *want* to be too cheap.)

Re:there are no monopolies (2)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500582)

Oh, I guess I'll just imagine that I have more than one option in my area, then.

Re:there are no monopolies (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503144)

You do: the local provider, or following this guy's example and creating your own. There, two options, now get to work and quit your bitching.

Re:there are no monopolies (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35506042)

Oh, I see. I'll just spend money that I don't have while using knowledge that I don't have to create my own ISP. Be right back.

Expensive and old technology (2)

moment22 (468532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500372)

I am a board member of a newly started association that are going to build fiber-optic network in rural Sweden. All members own their real estate and will be members of the association who will own the network. The projected cost for 150 members are around €2500 per connection for building the network and €30 per month and connection for operation (100Mbit with triple-play). The fiber-optic cables will only pass thru real estate owned by the members. I own around 430 acres of forrest so there is a long way between each house/real estate/member. Our website www.sodrakindsfiber.se is only in swedish.

Finland ? (1)

SomethingOrOther (521702) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501788)

"I am a board member of a newly started association that are going to build fiber-optic network in rural Sweden."

That is interesting.
I seam to recall that Finland (with a similar low rural population density) was committed to providing broadband for all it's citizens. Has Sweden done the same and/or do you get any other support from the Swedish government?

I would suggest broadband is as important for economic growth as a functioning road/rail network. I'm surprised so few governments are putting up public money where appropriate.

Re:Finland ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502026)

No, although at start of 2000s ADSL/Cable modem deployment was fast, nowadays we're lagging behind other European countries. Fiber-to-the-home is still a far dream even in cities. Finland has essentially two major players in telecoms provider field and they're dismantling last-mile copper cables, substituting wireless connections (not WiFi, but 3G connectivity) which might work on good weather in rural areas. Heck, they've even suggested decommissioning already-built fiber cables built to remote areas such as Finnish archipelago citing high support costs.

Yes, we might be committed to broadband, but the level is set so low (1 Mbit/s), without any delay targets or availability-per-month targets that it's more of a joke.

And oh, they did open the 450 MHz frequency (previously used by NMT analog mobile phone), dubbed @450 technology (http://www.datame.fi/index.php?17). The network is run by Digita Oy (which own, runs and maintains terrestrial digital TV network in Finland and the @450 network). Digita was sold by Finnish government in phases during 2000-2005 to a France Telecom subsidiary, now major stakeholder is Texas Pacific Group. Guess how widely-used @450 is now....

Re:Finland ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35503662)

I would guess the big difference in this is that Finland is much smaller in scale. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_E11_m
Since the total area of Finland is according to this comparable to a single US state, and the population is mostly smaller than that of a US state, the task might be somewhat smaller for us to overcome.

And most people live in "cities" here anyway so actual rural areas in the traditional sense are pretty much history here. That is, in those areas, there's really no one living anymore. And you can get decent 3G in some of these areas too.

Still, the fiber-for-all dream is just a dream.

But there aren't many places here that you CAN'T get any internet access to.

How does one become an ISP? (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500456)

Don't you have to have physical access to a router or something? Also: Google said it was going to roll out 1 GB/S out in select locations. But I haven't heard anything further. I've chosen my place of residence based on high speed internet before, I might move again if I can get in to 1 GB/S Internet. That could be good for writing next generation video game P2P protocols. I have a theory on how to make 1 million players at the same time Fighter like Tekken with 1 GB/S Internet. I have the game and the protocol written right now, but I don't have all the moves for every fighter done, and I have no artists to do modeling. You can play 10 players at the same time, just one fighter,sorta boring, but if I had the tech to see it realized, I may put in the extra 3 months to finish it.

Re:How does one become an ISP? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500576)

One becomes an ISP by leasing a line and sharing it same way you share it in your house. It's a bit more complicated than that, but small ISPs are kinda like the smallest branches of a tree and you are the leaves. They need a trunk to support it.

WhiteHouse.com (3, Funny)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500470)

FTFA:

Fauquier might be 45 miles from the White House, but many residents can't look at WhiteHouse.gov in their homes.

They mean Whitehouse.com, right?

WhiteHouse.com is not a porn site any more (1)

alispguru (72689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503192)

Pity ... it was such a good joke for a long time.

Re:WhiteHouse.com is not a porn site any more (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503556)

Yeah, I know it was outdated, but it's still funny if you proxy all your browsing through the internet archive.

Ah High school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35504740)

Back in high school in our computer class we were doing some internet search exercises and the teacher accidentally slipped up and told us to go to whitehouse.com (ah, the days before internet filters). The outbreak of snickers caused her to realize her mistake and promptly started loudly saying "Whitehouse.gov, Whitehouse.gov!!!!". It was too late though and over half of the students eyes were sullied with what I believe was the sight of Mr/Mrs Clinton lookalikes dressed in Bondage leather & chains.

Welcome to central Illinois about ten years ago (4, Interesting)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500508)

I'm glad to see this guy doing this, but it's not exactly unprecedented. It was done on grain silos, grain elevators, water towers, leased space on other people's towers, and even on flagpoles all over rural Illinois and Missouri a decade ago. I worked for some ISPs that did this and did some of the server consulting work for more than one startup doing this, too. I wasn't the one climbing to do the radio work.

The startup cost for the customer is still pretty high for this sort of thing, usually around $200 to $275. Then it's typically $50 to $70 per month for around 400k to 600k down and 128k up or 256k or 512k symmetric, depending on which company and how far you are from their towers.

Frontier is putting 6Mbps DSL in lots of former Verizon territory in towns as small as 3,000 or 4,000 people. Only the really rural places will need this sort of thing in Frontier's areas soon, and it's much more expensive even with radio equipment to get the people on 80 and 120 acre or even larger plots miles from towns covered. That is, much more expensive compared to using the same radio towers closer in. It's still much cheaper than running new cables to all those customers.

It's not a perfect solution, but when weighed against dialup in the countryside or having to move closer in and change your lifestyle just for decent Internet access, a lot of people who don't prize low latencies and high throughputs as much as your typical Slashdotter will be happy to have it.

Re:Welcome to central Illinois about ten years ago (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35504378)

The startup cost for the customer is still pretty high for this sort of thing, usually around $200 to $275. Then it's typically $50 to $70 per month for around 400k to 600k down and 128k up or 256k or 512k symmetric, depending on which company and how far you are from their towers.

Speaking as a relatively happy customer of a local WISP in Lake County, CA [airlinkweb.com] I seem to now get about 1.25Mbps peak for $75/mo. (they have recently bumped up what you get for your money a bit.) Of course at peak time I tend to get about half of that because it's a bit oversubscribed, but they're trying to hang on to existence so it's hard to get upset. It cost me something like $325 for the install, but of course I own the hardware, which is a Mikrotik Routerboard in a nice external enclosure with a PoE injector in my closet and one of those bent-BBQ-grill-with-a-dildo-on antennae on my roof.

DSL is available at one end of my road, about three miles up. Last place I lived up on Cobb Mountain was even worse, not only could I not get LoS to get access from this WISP but my road was a lower fork of a road from which I could throw a rock at the upper fork... which had cable, but my road didn't. And all my neighbors were assholes, tweakers, or asshole tweakers, so sharing was right out.

Naturally 3G doesn't exist here, either (at least, there's no coverage at my home.) I'd be lost without my local WISP.

Re:Welcome to central Illinois about ten years ago (1)

pseudonomous (1389971) | more than 3 years ago | (#35504486)

According to the article, blaze customers can get "up to 10mbs" of bandwidth, though they don't specifiy if that's up/down or split symmetrically. This probably reflects an improvement in the technology over the past decade. As long as the latency isn't horrible, this sounds quite competitive vs. aDSL, although aDSL is also much, much cheaper (at least in areas with a reasonably dense population). Of course, the whole point is that there's really no other option besides dial-up.

Hahaha (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500552)

Fuck your county too!!!

Lookout, "big-wigs" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500624)

I have been working technical support for Sony Playstation for several years, and I have actually had the pleasure of speaking to one of his clients for troubleshooting support. From the way he was portrayed in conversation, the big-wigs definitely have something to be afraid of: a caring person willing to help.

Re:Lookout, "big-wigs" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501166)

a caring person willing to help.

"Caring and willing to help" doesn't generate the level of profit said big-wigs are after. They'll simply undercut him in a year or two with zero service. Let's see how loyal his customers will be then. They'll run as fast as they can to save 50c a month, while at the same time complaining how local businesses are dying and how horrible their new service is.

Re:Lookout, "big-wigs" (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503466)

I think you should try reading the statements of some of his customers in the article. 50 cent discount? Seriously? Some of them WERE with the the big satellite providers, and it simply didn't work.

So you're saying... (4, Funny)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500704)

'Paul Conlin, the proprietor of Blaze Broadband, is not a typical telecom executive. He drives a red pickup and climbs roofs. When customers call tech support, he is the one who answers.

Yes, Virginians, there is a Santa Claus.

jeff & rob planning covert babys et al rescue? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500828)

it just looks like a movie set? are there bigger guys, or what? & planning to go right back in to scoop up the remainder of the League of Smelly Infants? that's the spirit? that just leaves the Small Damaged Females, & a few million others, in that area? see you at the play-dates. real life is less believable than fiction ever was, all the time now?

ALL MOMMYS, GET YOUR BUTTS TO THE MIDDLE EAST, JAPAN, DC, LA, GA, NY, FL ETC.... WE'VE HAD IT. WE'RE DYING HERE. they hesitate to use theatrical terms due to the stuff that matters topic of the previous/next story, but they are feeling extremely overextended (even for the advanced lifeforms they are), &/or almost dead. most of us would be a little cranky/colicky in their situation? help's on the way?

good thing they're still little/waiting to applaud us?

unprecedented evile down to skeleton crew? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35500908)

adrian(s)? actually, they were invented without their own minds or hearts. the rest was... almost over.

there'll be no need to discontinue the photon showers, as they will help. there'll be no sequel (since/until forever), or seroquel, as there will be no need?

the creators are participating

for every byrd living in a guildead cage... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501210)

800,000,000 must die? yikes. sounds contrived? not really, if we look at; the cesspools over/under the cage, the crap constantly flying into & out of, the cage, the ever increasing cost of fueling the cage, the suffocation of the 800k byrds resulting in less poison food for babys, easily countable malcontents & others who do not even have (imagine) a poison spewing cage, let alone a chariot of fire,,,,. on & on it goos? has anyone even looked in the sky lately? if it's just #'s/stuff, it doesn't matter at all. how big & smelly is our cage entitled to be? phewwww digit changing? guiltdead? why nowadays, if one's extreme unction (or any of the other many ponzi schemes set up by unprecedented evile's minions to finance their murder/mayhem/depopulation sprees) is paid up, one can remain 'innocent', after proven to be not so, even of murder?

good thing for us that the creators are still participating, so we get to watch/help some of those fauxking foulcurrs (eugenatics, kings/minions, weapons peddlers, religious crusaders, political doublespeakers etc...) flying out of windows with rats in their mouths, using their butts as propulsion sources, & still hoping the rats will provide fuel for their 'flight'. chariots? honestly?

evile hates/fears the photons, holycost ending? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501348)

that's right. you feel/use them (gathering), evile flees. sounds simple enough. could be why they (evile) are trying harder than ever to suffocate us at this time. pure intentions (gathering) cannot be stopped. it's real math/chemistry, ours. as for our losses thus far..., for each of the creators' innocents harmed in ANY way...there is a 'cost'.

Did this up north (2)

Teunis (678244) | more than 3 years ago | (#35500896)

Recently, sold to one of the bigger boys. It was ... too much work, really. (bunch of "entitled" folks in community made life difficult)

Don't regret doing it. There was NO chance of anyone in that area getting connected without our work. But - glad to be free of it.

How about Ad-Hoc? (1)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501200)

Is it possible to build a own network in public places with Ad-Hoc what would start living like a Internet until all cells have turned connection off?

What is my idea, is that someone sets WLAN connection ON and others can connect to it and start sharing the connection from own point.
When there is enough users, you end up to situation where you have own dynamic network where every point is just growing the Ad-Hoc network.
And every user could set up a own service (hub like on Diaspora) where to attach information.
The basic idea is that there would be a global CHAT channel for everyone (using IRC) where everyone could be.

And when the government, ISP or the nature turns off the Internet, citizens can build own wireless network and share information, discuss and offer even own basic services.

The services could not be any typical HTTP/FTP servers but very simple small ones. Size of the twitter. Send just photos, videos and share map (OpenStreetMap). So no ZIP files, no EXE files, no documents and other. (yes, you could write a virus for JPG, MPEG and many other data files).
It would be a massive network on areas where are lots of people. Almost every smartphone sold now has a WLAN connection possibilities. It is true mobile a network coverage extender. Laptops and desktop computers acting more like a permanent nodes.

As it just sounds so stupid that even today, we can not easily build up a own network to share data on smaller areas (like 1x1km area where is 7-10 house and WLAN can connect every house) without going trough internet or other permanent connection. Think about where small town could build own network without routing trough Internet or placing permanent WLAN networking. How about schools where kids could make own network and pass the whole school network to share data?

As far I know currently it is impossible to connect and share (bounce) a WLAN connection on cellphones and even setups what could be technically possible, are just too hard to do for normal users. As it should be just to be so easy, user scans networks and see the number of nodes on it and connects to wanted and can already find data.

Re:How about Ad-Hoc? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501318)

maybe because starting any idea on parasiting on other's expenses isnt the best thing to do?

Surprise, free market better than government (2)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501440)

"We are going to have to solve this problem creatively ourselves. "...fearful the county won't qualify for broadband infrastructure grants...[officials] are pushing to expand homegrown services such as Conlin's."

That's what the free market is all about. Entrepreneurs will provide solutions far cheaper than the government ever could, and create jobs in the process. How about we just eliminate all of those broadband infrastructure grants, and let people like this build their businesses?

Re:Surprise, free market better than government (1)

tarogue (84626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501644)

It's not cheaper and it created exactly 1 (one) job. Gov't could have put in cable lines and had FIOS put in creating a lot more than one job, at a much higher speed, for a much lower cost. Yes, taxes would go up, but so would quality of life; and you wouldn't have to rely on just one guy and his truck if something went wrong. What this guy has done is a short-term solution to a long term problem.

Re:Surprise, free market better than government (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502248)

Cheaper than what? Did you read the article? WISPs aren't a panacea, $300 installation per customer and $80 a month for broadband speeds and latencies you'd find a decade ago. And it created maybe two jobs for the county. Having tried something like this on a small scale, it's not a solution that easily attracts investment, and having seen other WISPS operate, it often does not attract much entrepreneurial interest either, it becomes more about helping the community than earning money because the money really isn't there for the debt and stress that the operation causes.

I'd be curious what it really cost South Korea to roll out nationwide fiber, and what it gained them.

Re:Surprise, free market better than government (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503502)

$300 installation per customer and $80 a month for broadband speeds and latencies you'd find a decade ago.

He's offering 10 Mbps. While that was available "a decade ago", sadly it's still quite fast in most of the USA. It's faster than my DSL service, although my DSL includes voice and is cheaper.

Re:Surprise, free market better than government (2)

Sleepy (4551) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502466)

You are not being pragmatic. You are looking at this issue through the "filter" of partisan dogma, and then describing the problem and solution so it creates the fewest conflicts with your filter.

Libertarian principles -only- work if you can get everyone else to play along.

For example, Virginia could be competitive with rural South Korea and rural Japan without government support... IF you could convince rural South Korea and rural Japan to not ask their government to wire them up at high speed. In effect, they would be asking to get crappy rural Virginia bandwidth. Why would they ever do that?

In the US, it now looks like we will not be able to successfully lobby our government to maintain network neutrality. As a result, our Internet is now going to start moving backwards as ISPs move from common carriers to actual owners of the Internet itself. If you are building the next great Internet media project, good luck attracting fiscal and brainpower capital if your idea at all steps on the toes of Comcast-NBC (as Skype, Netflix, and Google did).

Re:Surprise, free market better than government (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503588)

For example, Virginia could be competitive with rural South Korea and rural Japan without government support... IF you could convince rural South Korea and rural Japan to not ask their government to wire them up at high speed. In effect, they would be asking to get crappy rural Virginia bandwidth. Why would they ever do that?

Only if they don't believe in taxing others to fund their broadband. Libertarianism is not a failed ideology just because others are socialist.

Too bad they can't do Broadband over Power Lines (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501608)

Talk about an unbelievable chicken and egg problem, it seems this steps on a lot of toes!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_line_communication#Broadband_over_power_line_.28BPL.29

fir the while article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_line_communication

Provide very affordable broadband.... (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502100)

Comcast, Verizon, ATT... all could provide very affordable broadband to small remote communities and individual homes/farms, but as I said C*Os, politicians, and clerics are typically Luddites for profits/perks.

Wave-making technology, economics, social change/innovation is against their personal ethics of greed/avarice...hubris.

Is it 802.16 that might work for US re-motes?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/802.16 [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deployed_WiMAX_networks [wikipedia.org]
http://www.wimaxforum.org/technology/downloads/WiMAXNLOSgeneral-versionaug04.pdf [wimaxforum.org]

Antenna Towers
http://www.cellularmaps.com/3g_compare.shtml [cellularmaps.com]

Telecommunications Multi-Function Platform
http://www.worldskycat.com/markets/skycom.html [worldskycat.com]

When industry/C*Os fails to work, act responsibly, and/or blocks innovation, then governance must demand and do for US!

Re:Provide very affordable broadband.... (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35503790)

The "perfect last mile technology" is in the same boat as Fusion energy. Every few years something "groundbreaking" comes along (first it was private packet radio, then 802.11, power-line data, wireless mesh, wimax/4g, blah blah blah on and on and on. Yet all we see are incremental steps (not nearly enough to keep pace with data demand) and so the cost goes up (as it should.) What a shock, no miracle has happened to grant us all unlimited bandwidth for no upfront or over-time cost. I am so surprised it hurts.

Are you really saying that it's a conspiracy that this "perfect last mile technology" isn't getting traction? Yeah, where have I heard that one before.

I've been in an underserved area (3, Informative)

Michael Meissner (520083) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502220)

I live on a pond with 6 houses on the side of the pond I live on. Because there were so few houses, it was never economical to improve service. We never had cable. When I was a work at home programmer, we originally went with ISDN, and later T-1. Being a regulated service, the phone company has to provide it to anywhere they string wires, but it is not cheap. I recall it was an $1,800 installation cost just to prep the wires. After I parted company with Red Hat, we paid for it on our own ($400/month), but when the T-1 provider jumped the price to $700/month, we finally bailed. Fortunately, when we dropped the T-1, the lake had gotten a cell phone tower (that in fact helps pay for some of the lake improvements), and we were able to switch to cell phone networking for casual use. I did have to watch the bandwidth carefully, and not update my photo album from home in order to stay under the 5g limit Sprint charged. About 6 months after we switched to cell phone networking, one of the two towns that the lake straddles was getting Verizon FIOS, and fortunately that town government required the phone company to make FIOS to every house in town, even the houses on the ponds where access was more difficult. So all of us got FIOS. It would be nice the other town (the one I live in) would sign the paperwork so that I can get TV over FIOS to allow me to turn off my DISH TV satellite service.

Blaze is a valuable service for Fauquier (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35503324)

Blaze is not in business to compete with existing providers. I contacted them because I was fed up with Comcast and they were up front and explained that they could provide me service but at a higher cost and more than likely lower speed then I get with Comcast. They are just trying to extend a service to the minority of folks in this area that Comcast and Verizon have deemed not profitable enough to serve.

Our company president... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35503360)

... lived out there. Her solution was satellite internet. I am not sure if it was more or less expensive than this would be. Also she depended on the IT staff to keep her system running and quite a bit of effort was required to keep it going. I don't work there any more so I have no recent details.

Re:Our company president... (1)

Michael Meissner (520083) | more than 3 years ago | (#35504696)

Satellite networking has extreme bandwidth caps (worse than cell phone 5 gig plans if memory serves). Because everything has to go up to the bird and back, latency is real high. You also have to have a clear view of the satellite, which can be problematical in some areas, such as if a neighbour's trees block your view.

Re:Our company president... (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35506286)

Satellite has data caps and overage charges that make Bell look generous (e.g. 500MB/day, 20GB/month). You're also looking at 1000ms+ latency.

Sounds Similar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35503542)

We've got a guy doing much the same in our area (SE Michigan). I think he's got 4 sites now, one of them on a water tower. Basic service is ~$30.00 a month, I know of one small business using it, while there are occasional signal issues (they are in a hilly wooded area) the rest of the time of flies. I wish the FCC would free up a few of the decent frequencies for not licensed communications usage, if people could set up a simple, ad hoc communications relay on top of their house, barn, silo, or tower rural wireless broadband would get a big boost. While you would still need an ISP the real problem is the "last mile" gap, if all an ISP had to do to get a couple dozen more customers was put a couple hundred dollar relay on their roof and plug a Ethernet cable from it into their network I imagine they'd do it in a heartbeat. There might be a few isolated issues real world (long daisy chain of users, one close to the ISP takes down their relay, everyone down the chain looses connection), but nothing the market couldn't solve (ISP/Users rent a site to put up their own relay to reconnect the chain)

Fauquier Resident (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35503992)

I live in Fauquier county but we are "fortunate" enough to have a fast (most of the time) Comcast cable internet connection. However, a couple of days ago I received an email fowarded from a neighbor from a guy who lives across the street from our development. The development I live in is about 40 houses on larger properties. Across the street are mostly farms. The guy living across the street did not have a wired internet connection and emailed us asking what we have here. He had thought that Verizon was installing FiOS nearby (they're not) as his wireless signal is weak and he wanted something more reliable. In the end, he is considering Blaze Broadband since Comcast will charge outrageous fees to bring the line to his house.

Fauquier county in general is a very "self reliant" community. A lot of people that live here are in the local foods movement and are all about neighbors helping neighbors. My wife and I recently bought a quarter cow of beef from a local farm, we have our own vegetable garden, I brew my own beer and one of the state's top wineries is in walking distance. The mayor of Warrenton is also pushing an initiative to create electricity from the county landfill. If someone can't get a service from one of the giant service corporations, someone here will pick up the slack, as shown in the WaPo article.

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