I had NYAir out this morning to see if they could solve my longstanding internet headaches. I found out about them at random, via a billboard on Route 9H, en route to getting my car serviced at Kinderhook Toyota. Normally I pay no attention to such roadside blandishments, but being starved for web access here at the last stop on the covered wagon trail to Taghaknic, I’m ready to explore just about any option.
Over the past few years I’ve looked into almost every conceivable internet service possibility—from MHcable, which wanted nearly $2,000 for the privilege of being hooked up, after they returned a huge rural broadband grant—to wireless hotspots to satellite. During that process I’ve dealt with all kinds of horribly unhelpful and ill-informed customer disservice reps at HughesNet and elsewhere, so I was delighted to get someone on the phone right away at NYAir, and an appointment within 48 hours.
“If our guy verifies that you have a line-of-sight to our tower,” I was told, “he can install it on the spot.”
NYAir is a WISP, which stands for Wireless Internet Service Provider. That means they connect a broadcaster on a tower to a high-speed connection, which can be picked up by people with antennas who have a line-of-sight to the tower. After testing the signal out extensively, it was determined that I do have a workable north-westward sightline toward one of their towers. After much debate (by me) about where to mount the antenna, I decided to give it a whirl.
The key advantage here, in comparison with satellite internet providers like HughesNet and WildBlue, or Mi-Fi hotspots such as those offered by Verizon and AT&T, is the absence of any usage limitations. For me, that’s huge. Satellite services limit your daily bandwidth, and 3G networks limit your monthly capacity, both cutting you off entirely or slowing your connection to a crawl once you hit the limit. With NYAir, I now should be able to download large files, buy or stream movies online, and so forth, without that ever-present concern about running up against “Fair Access Policy” limits. That was basically impossible for me with Hughes, whose service made it basically impossible to watch even half of an HD movie online without paying for $10 “restore” tokens.
The setup was extremely easy once their patient technician found the optimal height and direction to aim the antenna. It’s about 4 feet long but narrow, with flanges protruding about 6 inches, available in silver or black—less obtrusive than my existing Hughes dish. It mounts on a simple post attached to a wall or roof, and then an ethernet line is run into the house.
I chose their Premium plan at $55 per month. That may sound like a lot to some, but it’s far less than the whopping fees I’ve been paying to HughesNet for much worse alleged “business” class service. I’ll recoup the installation cost of $300 with no commitment or $200 for a one-year commitment within just a couple of months after I cancel my month-to-month satellite plan. (I’ll give it a few weeks, to make sure NYAir is really all it’s cracked up to be.)
The Premium plan offers speeds up to 2 Mbps download and 768 kbps upload, which is comparable to or even better than what I’ve obtained from Hughes, and that only with extreme haggling and frequent tech nightmares. (People who have DSL or cable modems will scoff at such speeds, but again I’m stuck in the boonies here, with limited options.) I was able to verify those speed via various online resources on the first try. They also have cheaper plans, but it’s certainly worth an extra $10 per month for double the speed. I can’t see any reason not to go with their Premium option, which is identical to their Business plan.
My technician said that their towers can in theory broadcast to antennas as much as 20 miles away. The issue is rarely whether one is close enough to one of their broadcasters, but whether one can get a line of sight to it. Terrain is the key factor, along with trees. (I may have to do some pruning once the leaves come on.)
It’s only been an hour since I got this, but so far I’m delighted. I will save a ton of money, and not be limited in my usage. It’s possible I’ll discover some major downside to the service, but from what I’ve researched about it, the ease of setup, and the speeds I’m getting out of the box, I’m thrilled thus far.
A couple of tech notes for those who care:
- With NYAir you can also, for an extra $10 per month, get a Static IP address.
- Their current system operates over 900 Mhz. If they eventually upgrade to WiMax, speeds and coverage should increase. They already offer VOIP, but that is probably not a reliable option until/unless they upgrade to WiMax, from what I’ve gathered.
- In theory, service from a WISP should be less susceptible to weather than satellite internet, but fog and rain can have some impact on speeds. I don’t expect, however, to ever completely lose connection with their tower as one sometimes does with satellite.
- NYAir has a simple service area map on their site, which shows locations where they have customers already. But it will definitely require a (free) visit to find out for sure whether you can connect with them.
- NYAir is a subsidiary or affiliate of Surferz.net, which for many years provided dial-up to local residents. From what I can tell, they are “backhauling” their signal from MHcable’s internet backbone, i.e. paying MHcable for bandwidth which NYAir then broadcasts to their own customers, much as WildBlue buys time on satellites from Hughes.