Satellite Internet offered to rural homes

Boone Electric enters the high-speed Internet business by partnering with WildBlue.
Monday, November 21, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:10 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Nearly 70 years ago, Boone Electric Cooperative changed the lives of rural residents by bringing electricity to their homes. Now, the company is bringing a different technology into rural areas of Boone County by offering satellite Internet service.

The county contracted with a company called WildBlue in July to provide high-speed Internet. In some places, slower dial-up Internet was the only connection option before WildBlue.

Teri Johnson, an employee of Boone Electric, uses WildBlue at home.

“We did some searching because my son wanted to do gaming online,” she said. “We couldn’t find anything fast enough until we got this.”

She said that out of the three packages that WildBlue offers, she uses the slowest one, and it is only a little slower than the digital subscriber line Internet access she has at work.

To date, 73 people use WildBlue in Boone County, and 25 more are expected to start within the next three weeks. According to Chris Rohlfing, manager of member services for Boone Electric Cooperative, several hundred more have inquired about it.

WildBlue costs from $49.95 to $79.95 a month, with faster speeds costing more. Additional features, such as security options and more memory, add to the cost. CenturyTel bases its digital subscriber line pricing on speed as well, with the slowest speed costing $24.95 and the fastest costing $59.95.

When someone orders the service, Boone Electric sets up a mini-dish outside the user’s house to send and receive signals from the WildBlue satellite. From the mini-dish, the Internet connection goes through a modem in the house to the user’s computer.

Marylou Mayse, who lives outside Columbia, had heard of satellite Internet, but not of the WildBlue system.

“I am pretty satisfied with what I’ve got,” Mayse said. She uses DSL Internet from CenturyTel and said she has no plans to change her service anytime soon.

Boone Electric isn’t the only place people can purchase satellite Internet. One company in Columbia, Ziggy’s Satellite, also offers WildBlue Internet. Another local company, Orbital Data Net, will offer the service in January.

Don Neely, public relations manager for CenturyTel, says his company offers dial-up and DSL Internet service for rural areas in Boone County. CenturyTel’s DSL service is available for most communities in Boone County, including Columbia, Ashland, Rocheport, Hallsville, Centralia and Sturgeon.

Neely said 94 percent of Columbia households and 91 percent of Boone County households are DSL-capable.

Neely said he has never heard of the WildBlue system but is familiar with other forms of satellite Internet.

He said sometimes people have problems with satellite Internet. Satellite Internet “has always had its share of issues with line of sight and weather,” Neely said.

Rohlfing, on the other hand, said that the only drawback from satellite Internet is latency. Latency occurs when the satellite signals are being transmitted such far distances that sometimes the information is delayed.

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