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Network Redundancy: The New Normal In a Post-COVID World?

by Jerry Del Colliano October 03, 2020
Internet Connectivity

Internet Connectivity

The blow-up was ugly, because unlike Eric Schmidt or Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg, in the eyes of my wife, Jerry Del Colliano controls all aspects of the Internet. No, I am not Al Gore, as I am convinced that he very well may have “invented the Internet” as some claim. Somehow, I am the sole person in charge of the Internet (at least in our world), and when Spectrum’s 1000 MBPS service piped into my Enterprise-class network of both wired and wi-fi Internet fails, you know who to blame. Me. You know who to yell at. And that person is me and me alone. This is a dark place.

Note: For more info on wireless networks: How to Setup A Wireless Network and How to Extend Wireless Coverage and 7 Tips to Boost Wireless Speed and Reliability

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We currently live in a community of Mediterranean McMansions a mere three miles from the ocean, with stunning views, gorgeous weather and idealic behind-the-gates lifestyle that is pretty nice. What sucks is, our cell coverage cuts off at our gates and doesn’t connect again, no matter what size payment I make to Verizon each month for “unlimited data” until our wi-fi kicks in. Simply put: if the Internet goes down, we lose our Internet, telephone, and cell service. In a COVID-19 world, you can’t just bust it down to Starbucks at the bottom of the hill, as they aren’t open for dine-in services. We can’t go to our golf club and sit in the men’s or women’s locker room to spend a few hours waiting until Spectrum gets back up to speed, as you aren’t allowed to go inside said locker rooms. Maybe you can go to nearby Santa Monica, sit with the homeless folk outside, and use the free Internet, but there is a downside to that, too, which is mainly viral.

The new reality of our specialty AV systems is that we simply can’t live without the Internet. Forget it. It is just impossible.

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After Spectrum’s hiccup, I revisited my experiment with getting satellite Internet for my house. Hell, we live in a world with wildfires, earthquakes, and potentially worse. We spent four whole days stuck at our house in the fall of 2019, waiting for a fire to be extinguished, before we could leave home. Luckily, our utilities are buried underground, so we didn’t lose connectivity or electrical, but we could have. Thankfully, we didn’t. My plan was, at the advice of my AV installer, to add VIASAT (or maybe HughesNet) satellite Internet to my house as a slower but differentiated solution to my connectivity needs, as we have a) me working from home, b) my wife working from home, c) my mother-in-law living with us full time, and d) my son doing both online school and dyslexia tutoring via Zoom. The demands for bandwidth are just absurd.

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This is where things turned into a bit of a shit-show. VIASAT scheduled an installer to come out, but they blew the install date, despite confirming four times. When the installer arrived a day late, he asked me, “Where do you want the dish?” I told him “On the roof, by the chimney, just like the DirecTV dish.” He responded with, “I can’t go on your roof,” which is absurd. Satellite installers are by definition people that go on your roof. I didn’t ask him to install the dish into the clay tiles on the roof. I asked him to do the same thing that the DirecTV guy did just a year ago, simply install his dish up there by the chimney, run a cable down to our “mechanical room” and be done with it. He refused. I suggested, “Then let’s put the dish on the side of the house,” and he refused again. When I asked him what he planned to do, he said “I am going to leave” and leave he did – leaving me still without a backup to Spectrum. This isn’t looking good.

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In a normal world, a someone like me with a $300 per month Verizon bill would at least be able to use 4G LTE cellular as a backup, but the octogenarians who live around me think even the smallest cell towers will somehow “hurt” their property value. They couldn’t be more wrong. This has resulted in my entire street lacking any kind of meaningful cellular coverage, let alone super-fast 5G that could pass as modern redundancy in a data hungry world. I’ve got wi-fi connected to a Verizon repeater, but if Spectrum goes down, as it is apt to do, we are hosed. Fully disconnected.

With things getting desperate, I called HughesNet. They wanted over $100 per month after all of their about-to-sell-the-company-and-we-don’t-care (do you?) AT&T jack-assery and I grew frustrated. I told them that I would call them back with their “lease the hardware” and 25 MBPS satellite Internet connection for about the price of a VW Jetta lease per month for lame, backup Internet. I never called back.

This brings me back to the old days and DSL. After a plea to Nextdoor to see if anybody else had any better suggestions, I ended up ordering up 5 MBPS down Internet for about $50 per month. Welcome to 1998, my friends. They came out a week later and did the “Back to the Future” installation. It works, albeit amazingly slowly.

Battery BackupMy long-term goal is to get said backup Internet on battery backup, powered by a small solar panel, for extreme problems like earthquakes. I think satellite would have been better for this, but the cost and logistics were too complicated at this time. Fiber from Frontier (FIOS) or AT&T aren’t options, and likely never will be. If anyone in the area would allow cellular repeaters, you could have some hope, but hope in one hand and s*** in the other, and see which one fills up first right now. I need a backup Internet.

When this awful virus messed with all of our lives, it also messed with our connectivity. Without solid connectivity, the new-world idea of working from home is pretty much impossible. Perhaps before you get thrown into the tree shredder, as I did, you might want to think about how to find an affordable, diverse backup for data at your house, if you are like us and you are working, consuming media and more from home, as this is the sad new reality.

 

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