High speed internet unavailable in most of county
Living in a rural area has many advantages and some disadvantages, compared to living in a metropolitan area. We all know and love the clean air, beautiful scenery, light traffic and low crime rate in Morgan County.
Disadvantages are that some services, which are second nature in urban areas, are not available. One service so far denied to many Morgan County residents is affordable High Speed Internet.
Recently I looked at internet service offerings that are either available now or planned for Morgan County. What I found was that affordable High Speed Internet is only available in a few areas.
But help may be on the way.
Verizon DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is a technology that allows high speed data transmission and reception over an existing telephone line. There are several levels of service.
Residential customers can subscribe to a 768 Kbps (kilobits-per-second) service which is 15 times faster than dial-up, or a 3.0 Mbps (megabits-per-second) service which is about 50 times faster than dial-up service.
Rates are comparable to dial-up internet service rates. Verizon also offers broadband packages that bundle DSL Internet with unlimited long distance telephone and satellite television for a fixed monthly rate.
At this time, Verizon DSL is only available in Berkeley Springs and down U.S. 522 to Cacapon State Park. Verizon says two additional installations are planned for the county in the future.
SkyWeb is currently in the process of installing antennas and communications equipment that will provide Wireless High Speed Internet access to most of Morgan County. SkyWeb needs to secure rights to mount antennas on existing towers, or build their own towers.
SkyWeb is not signing up subscribers until the antenna work is completed. Antennas are planned for installation near Coolfont, Great Cacapon and in South Morgan.
SkyWeb expects to start signing up customers next month. Several levels of service, from 512 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps, will be available. Rates are somewhat higher than DSL.
The Morgan County Commission has entered into a contract with World Airwaves of Winchester, Va. to bring Wireless High Speed Internet Service to the U. S. 522 Business Park in the southern part of the county. Once there, the company plans to expand service to a wider area.
County Administrator Bill Clark said work has not yet begun in the county. He said World Airwaves needs to complete work on a microwave tower in Hampshire County before a signal can reach the industrial park.
World Airwaves is focused on building the next generation internet service using IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6). Current technology uses the earlier IPv4. It may be some time before this service is available.
One internet service that is available anywhere in Morgan County (provided you have an unobstructed view to the southern sky) is a satellite-based offering from Hughes (formerly Direcway).
Like satellite TV, the HughesNet Broadband Satellite system requires a satellite dish mounted on or near the home or business. Again, several levels of service and pricing are available.
My experience with this service is that it is very reliable, reasonably fast, but more expensive than the other services mentioned. Subscribers must purchase the satellite dish and associated modem equipment.
In addition to a monthly service fee, there is an additional cost of about $400 for the equipment and installation. Other satellite services such as StarBand by Spacenet are also available.
One caveat is that certain types of internet services do
not work over satellite. This
is due to slow upload speeds
and propagation delay.
All non-military communications satellites orbit the earth 22,000 miles above the equator. A time delay of several seconds elapses in each direction during transmission and reception.
Since the satellite dish is only a little bigger than a TV dish, it doesn't emit enough power to transmit at high speeds. The Hughes system receives at speeds from 700 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps, but only transmits 128 Kbps to 200 Kbps.
Therefore, transmitting voice over internet (VOIP), playing interactive games and sending large files or streaming video is prohibitive.
So, for some, satellite internet service may be the answer, but many people may choose to keep limping along on their existing low speed dial-up until other high speed internet services become available.