Bytes Must Flow – Backup Strategies for SOHO Internet Access

Late last evening there was a fire at Oxford & Barkley, or so we’re told, that took out Comcast service some neighborhoods in Houston, including where we live in The Woodland Heights. As such we are presently without cable TV or our primary internet access.

The loss of cable TV is potentially stressful for Estella, but she’s off to work for the day so it won’t be a problem until this evening. Given my home-office-based work-life the loss of internet access is potentially a show-stopper for me. It’s at times like this that I’m glad we have backup internet access.

Historically, our backup internet access has been a DSL circuit provided by Covad, Megapath, Global Capacity. This dry loop DSL has been installed for over ten years. With >12,000 feet to our local CO it only manages 1.5 Mbps x 768 kbps. It’s slow by current standards, but it’s super reliable.

The trouble is that it’s costly. Running $90 monthly it’s not much less than our 50 Mbps x 10 Mbps Comcast Business Class service. Given that we only use the DSL once or twice a year it’s sometimes difficult to justify the expense. Every time I get close to killing off the service we suffer a Comcast outage, like today, that reminds me of its utility….if not it’s value.

This outage has me rethinking how we provide backup IP access. To be a valid backup service it should have a different mode of delivery than Comcast. The Comcast and DSL services don’t follow the same path through the neighborhood, so no single backhoe or traffic event can take out both services at once.

At some point the slow DSL will no longer be an acceptable backup service simply because it will be too slow to be useful. There’s just aren’t many options available.

  • UVerse – We still prefer to not do business with AT&T
  • Fixed Wireless – I’m quite interested in the new fixed wireless offering from Vivint. However, they don’t offer the service in Houston.
  • Cellular Wireless – I could use a Wifi bridge and tether to LTE via my T-Mobile cellular phone. I doubt that would be adequate to service our IP phones. Further, it could be costly if we have to use that for more than a few gigabytes.

It might be time to talk to nearby neighbors about cooperatively sharing a couple of different network connections between a few properties.

  • Hi, Michael! I’m not sure about bandwidth requirements, but you could
    consider some alternative options. For modest bandwidth and, especially
    if you’re a DISH customer, you can take a look at DISH satellite
    Internet offerings. For more demanding applications, as a backup
    Internet access option, I would consider one of stationary or mobile
    Wi-Fi hotspot devices. Some of the offerings have pay-as-you-go plans. For information on mobile hotspot devices and plans, see
    http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-mobile-wi-fi-hotspot and (similar information) http://lifehacker.com/five-best-mobile-hotspots-1523254435.
    Hope this helps. -Alex (I’m pretty sure that you’re aware of all that info, but decided to share it just in case.)