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Old February 15th, 2013, 01:28 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 3G speed caps at halfway through month?

I have had to tether my computer to my phone because my main internet is down and looks to not be coming back (it's a WISP and they are having interference on the 900MHz band from a new farmer who is keeping tabs on his cattle using the same band) and for the first 13 days of this month i have enjoyed 3-4Mbps download rates. never went over a gig though according to my tether app, and when i am offline i turn data OFF and just leave the cellular part on (no 3G/EDGE just the phone portion). then i went out for two days and left the phone on airplane mode. coming back, it's the 15th now, and guess what? i'm capped to 256Kbps again, although i have used NO data the last two days. is this a half-of-month shutdown? never heard of such a thing. last time i was tethered it was still going 3-4Mbps. this same phenomenon happened about the same time last month, and it was not tethered until the last two days...i found out by a speedtest app on my phone itself, and was only using EDGE for keeping widgets up to date.

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Old February 15th, 2013, 01:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Just a suggestion. You might get better answers if you ask in the Android Phones and/or Android Carriers section, so that you get help from others who know and have experience with your particular phone and carrier. If it's a data cap, I'd put it in your carrier's part of the forum.
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Old February 15th, 2013, 01:58 PM   #3 (permalink)
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'Net10 Wireless' is not listed under the carriers section, and honestly i am not sure what it is. it could be a cap, could be a traffic shaping at certain hours of day, or could just be my crappy little cheap phone. i wish i knew which. i never got any texts from the service, or any warning, it's just clocking down every month on the 15th through the remainder of the month regardless of data used. never heard of that type of policy though
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Old February 15th, 2013, 02:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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'Net10 Wireless' is not listed under the carriers section, and honestly i am not sure what it is. it could be a cap, could be a traffic shaping at certain hours of day, or could just be my crappy little cheap phone. i wish i knew which. i never got any texts from the service, or any warning, it's just clocking down every month on the 15th through the remainder of the month regardless of data used. never heard of that type of policy though
That's TracFone. You might get help in Simple Mobile or Straight Talk. They do business under a bunch of names. It does look like a mass of a company! They resell other carriers' services, so it might be related to your phone hooking up to a different carrier's signal. Looks like you're stuck with "No Bills, No Contracts, No Help."
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Old February 15th, 2013, 02:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Says AT&T under Field Test Tool, with 'HSPDA' under data type. DNS is 8.8.8.8 but i have already tried changing it on the clients connected to the phone's hotspot and all that does is kill the internet completely. the APN is wap.cingular. what is curious is the proxy server goes through Tracfone. i wonder if that is where they enforce any caps?
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Old February 16th, 2013, 12:51 PM   #6 (permalink)
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That 8.8.8.8 IP address is Google's Public DNS server. I seem to recall reading something recently about it being the source of some problems.

Google Public DNS service not ideal for everyone | Ars Technica

Why using Google DNS / OpenDNS is a bad idea

What's not clear is whether your ISP (the cellular carrier) or your phone's OS maker (Google) is choosing the DNS server in this case.

One thing about 3rd party resellers is that they aren't necessarily offering you the exact same level of service that you'd get if you got it directly from the host carrier. Another thing is that it's reasonable to expect resellers who are competing with the carriers that spent all the money to build their own infrastructures to get second rate service, or worse. Now that we have more mobile data demand than capacity, it's really only fair for a major carrier to give the lion's share of the data to their customers who are paying top dollar for the service.

I know it's a touchy subject, but is your credit rating too low for you to get a regular cellular contract? I've been there myself, and know all too well that being broke can be a very costly way to live. Is there some way you can get a regular cellular service? Pay as you go is an especially bad deal for data!
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Old February 16th, 2013, 08:32 PM   #7 (permalink)
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a contract would involve me having to deal with AT&T or Verizon's tethering plans and yes, like Net10 apparently they do have data throttles/caps. so the problem would not be solved. plus i am unsure how successful it would be to port a pre-paid number to a contract. last time i tried that AT&T said no.

i can change the DNS in the tether app but as i said before, the internet dies immediately. something requires that DNS for some reason otherwise it just connects to the computer but no internet.

my credit rating was just good enough to get my WISP line going (but of course now it is dead and they are no longer billing me for the downtime) but i never knew why. i have never owned a credit card, just a pre-paid VISA debit. if i am going to sign any contracts it would be for DirecTV so i have my TVs back up and running. for the last three years i've been using Netflix exclusively as i can choose the show and episode i want and no adverts, but since the internet is down and since my phone is a lousy replacement other than for browsing the web, my TVs are essentially dead in the water for the time being.
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Old February 19th, 2013, 02:12 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Getting a credit rating is a necessary evil if you want to pay reasonable prices and be able to get the better services. It's also a factor in deciding whether or not to give you a job! So it's in your best interest to establish a good credit rating sooner than later.

AFAIK there are no tethering plans for cellular data radios. You just plug it into your computer, load the software and start using the Internet connection. There are even data radios and "routers" for data radios that give you a LAN connection (mostly Wi-Fi, but some are Ethernet) so you can use other devices. I have a Candlepoint WAP device that takes a USB radio, and if my wired Internet connection fails, it fires up the cellular data radio and keeps on going.
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Old February 19th, 2013, 10:56 PM   #9 (permalink)
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i already pay $50/mo for the Android phone i am using now. wouldn't having a mobile hotspot (with a tiny 5GB cap from what i read, which means Netflix remains a no-go) mean even more money spent? from what i am hearing around the area, unless i go for Satellite internet (i'd rather have satellite TV just for having my TVs back up) which is super expensive it's either pray the WISP can fix the problem with interference nearby or live with slower-than-dial-up tethered web browsing only. this is horrible. i miss playing Black Ops
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Old February 20th, 2013, 01:22 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Getting a credit rating is a necessary evil if you want to pay reasonable prices and be able to get the better services. It's also a factor in deciding whether or not to give you a job! So it's in your best interest to establish a good credit rating sooner than later.
Now in here China it seems to be the complete opposite, the best deals for wireless data are all pre-paid, which means no credit rating is needed. If anything, having a phone or data on a contract can actually be rather expensive. Probably because they assume you're rich, and can therefore afford it. You have to be rich, just to have a credit rating and be eligible for a VISA or Mastercard here.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 06:03 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Now in here China it seems to be the complete opposite, the best deals for wireless data are all pre-paid, which means no credit rating is needed. If anything, having a phone or data on a contract can actually be rather expensive. Probably because they assume you're rich, and can therefore afford it. You have to be rich, just to have a credit rating and be eligible for a VISA or Mastercard here.
If I go over there, can I get people to treat me like a minor deity because of all the credit cards I have?
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Old February 20th, 2013, 06:26 PM   #12 (permalink)
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i already pay $50/mo for the Android phone i am using now. wouldn't having a mobile hotspot (with a tiny 5GB cap from what i read, which means Netflix remains a no-go) mean even more money spent? from what i am hearing around the area, unless i go for Satellite internet (i'd rather have satellite TV just for having my TVs back up) which is super expensive it's either pray the WISP can fix the problem with interference nearby or live with slower-than-dial-up tethered web browsing only. this is horrible. i miss playing Black Ops
If your WISP is having "technical problems" that is keeping you off their service for an extended amount of time, my first thought is that they're probably struggling to not go out of business and to treat them accordingly.

As long as you can get one or more cellular signals, and the WISP is out of the picture, I'd say that signing up for an unlimited data plan is the best deal you're going to get. Cost aside, satellite Internet has a lag that makes it unusable for playing real time games. Can you find out if you can get Sprint 3G where you are? Sprint is the only carrier that promises "no strings" unlimited data, which they keep as long as you're on their 3G frequencies, and I have a couple of Sprint data radios (with accessories) that I'm not using. You might check for sales in your area as well. I've seen some on TV where I live.

Since you're alone out there, you don't want to get any kind of hotspot or captive portal. Just a regular data radio will do best. The ideal product would have an Ethernet port built-in, but I have yet to see one. If you have a spare laptop, you can make an Internet gateway out of it.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 07:34 PM   #13 (permalink)
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If I go over there, can I get people to treat me like a minor deity because of all the credit cards I have?
Oh don't them you're a rich foreigner, and probably a very bad idea to show an AmEx card. Many places outside of the major cities, just don't take any credit cards at all, cash only. Make out you're a Russian, especially in Beijing. You'll get into a taxi and the driver will shout "METER NOT WORK!, METER NOT WORK!, TAKE YOU HOTEL, 50 U.S. DOLLARS!"...and that will be the only English they know .. the actual real metered fare might be something like equivalent of $5 USD. And if you do get into any car, rickshaw, pedicab, etc, always negotiate the price before the journey.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 08:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Oh don't them you're a rich foreigner, and probably a very bad idea to show an AmEx card. Many places outside of the major cities, just don't take any credit cards at all, cash only. Make out you're a Russian, especially in Beijing. You'll get into a taxi and the driver will shout "METER NOT WORK!, METER NOT WORK!, TAKE YOU HOTEL, 50 U.S. DOLLARS!"...and that will be the only English they know .. the actual real metered fare might be something like equivalent of $5 USD. And if you do get into any car, rickshaw, pedicab, etc, always negotiate the price before the journey.
No Amex! Discover! (Amex burned their bridges with me by ripping me off too blatantly.)

I think I could pass for being a Russian. I do a pretty convincing bored / annoyed "don't make me angry" bureaucrat as well. I might even have some old Soviet Yuan...
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Old February 22nd, 2013, 02:24 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Sprint is a dead zone for me which is why I traded my Virgin Optimus V for the ZTE Merit on Net10 which uses AT&T. Also I recalled tethering from my Virgin phone only giving me a paltry 9600bps. It sucked. The reviews of Sprint as a hotspot are less than stellar, too. All the mobile hotspots from reading their TOS have a five-GB cap and then you're throttled. Same issue I face now only now my phone throttles on the 15th of every month regardless of data used or amount of tethering. A five-GB cap is still no good for Netflix or gaming, and I may have to live without either which really makes me angry. Correctly my phone already has an unlimited data plan and any other carrier has limits on how much data used so its not truly 'unlimited'
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Old February 22nd, 2013, 05:44 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Sprint is a dead zone for me which is why I traded my Virgin Optimus V for the ZTE Merit on Net10 which uses AT&T. Also I recalled tethering from my Virgin phone only giving me a paltry 9600bps. It sucked. The reviews of Sprint as a hotspot are less than stellar, too. All the mobile hotspots from reading their TOS have a five-GB cap and then you're throttled. Same issue I face now only now my phone throttles on the 15th of every month regardless of data used or amount of tethering. A five-GB cap is still no good for Netflix or gaming, and I may have to live without either which really makes me angry. Correctly my phone already has an unlimited data plan and any other carrier has limits on how much data used so its not truly 'unlimited'
That's not good news. I feel bad for you. It can't be fun in this day and age.

The only other thing that I can think of is to have multiple accounts. Have a second phone that you begin to use after the first one gets throttled. I know it's twice the cost, but that's the price of doing business where you are. If you can manage to fit it into your budget, it's worth a try. If not, unless you can uncover some other ISP, I think you're stuck.

On the bright side, you don't have an axe stuck in the side of your head.
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 10:18 AM   #17 (permalink)
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well if there was a method to use Call of Duty offline and play against AI 'Bots' like i do in Forza 4 i'd be a bit happier. so far all the multiplayer modes in CoD require internet and high speed, including the bot-battles like Combat Training...oh well at least i can take my frustration out on M.Rossi in Forza. worst thing is my TVs are dead; i have not enough movies on VHS or DVD to keep me occupied very long. if i do add a new plan it's going to be DirecTV...if i have to live without either high-speed internet or TV, i'm going to choose high-speed internet. i need my TV to unwind.
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 03:02 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Do you mind if I ask where on earth you live, and how you got to a place with no wired services? Just curious.
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 07:30 PM   #19 (permalink)
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i have a travel trailer i live in full-time, in a remote backwoods area that cable/DSL won't reach. no phone lines here = no DSL. no cable lines = no Time Warner internet.

i may just try the 'buy a new Merit, activate and use it the rest of the month' idea. i'd pay the same price i already pay for the WISP, and have a spare phone if all else fails .

slow speed doesn't inhibit browsing the web, so the throttle isn't that bad but it does kill Netflix/YouTube/gaming (it's only 256Kbps down, and 1Mbps up. not sure why upload is faster). currently my cell is my only home phone. all i got out here is electric, water and sewer. everything else is wireless. WISPs, Satellite internet, and cellular data. problem is farmers love this area, too, and the FCC rules must not touch those who use the same frequency as our WISP here with the one used to track their cattle. it's the only tower with the issue and only seems to affect the campground, and i'm the only customer who is using their company here in the campground. so it's only going to affect myself. the farm is somewhere between where i live and where the signal is hitting me. it is just a random drop, (modem has fried though) at first it was ok until the cattle tracker transmitted or received, then i'd lose the connection like for a minute or two tops. it was sadly, just enough to kill Netflix or boot me out of an online game.
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 08:27 PM   #20 (permalink)
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i have a travel trailer i live in full-time, in a remote backwoods area that cable/DSL won't reach. no phone lines here = no DSL. no cable lines = no Time Warner internet.
Nick, I'm sure there's many places in The States that will never have wired communications, it's wireless only that's it. I've been without wired internet so many times myself in recent years, with just metered cellular wireless, either tethering or using a USB modem.

BTW this is one reason why primarily use Linux Mint rather than Windows, because of metered wireless data consumption. Windows always seems to be some background data activity going on, like it's constantly pinging and phoning home to Microsoft, checking for and downloading updates in the background etc. Mint on the other hand, if I've got nothing running, there is no background data, it's silent.

My father was in a similar situation for a long time in the UK. Although he had a hard-wired phone line, it was just too far from the central office/exchange to make DSL broadband work, and no cable either.
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Old February 24th, 2013, 01:13 AM   #21 (permalink)
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problem is farmers love this area, too, and the FCC rules must not touch those who use the same frequency as our WISP here with the one used to track their cattle.
Actually the FCC rules are on your side! I don't know if there's anyone left in the gutted agency to enforce it for you, but if you can, the farmer will have to find another frequency to use. The needs of rural telecommunications customers trumps that of business.

The first step is contacting your local FCC field office and making an interference complaint. When you do, don't volunteer any information about the cellular service in your area. Just stick to the WISP and how it's the only ISP that you have available to you. Don't mention the broken modem, or your cellular data use. If they ask, tell them that service is spotty where you live (which is always true ) and say in as many words that the data that you get over cellular is problematic, not meeting your needs (compared to the WISP) and costs a lot of money to do it that way.

Keep it simple. Remember that the FCC doesn't want your life story, only enough information to make a decision. Also remember that what you say can become public record. So you don't want to give away any information that the farmer's lawyer could (mis)use against you. There's nothing dishonest about telling the story in a way that's biased toward your needs. In fact that's how the system was designed.

Good luck!
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Old February 24th, 2013, 09:12 AM   #22 (permalink)
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The WISP is the one referring to the farm, but I have no such proof on my end. They say only that there is interference on the 900MHz band and from where they were seeing it and how random it was, they guessed it was either a cattle tracker or road crews using hand-held radios, but seeing as the interference never changes location, and since road crews don't do much out here, the latter was unlikely, but without proof what do I got?

They will be attempting another service call sometime this week or next and want me present, so I will see what I can get from them.
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Old February 24th, 2013, 10:02 AM   #23 (permalink)
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The FCC isn't a court of law. They don't expect you to have the equipment necessary to figure out the source of the problem; they have that equipment. All you need to do is report the problem.

Of course if your WISP is the source of all your info on the matter, and they aren't replacing your dead modem, that changes things. Like I said earlier, they may be quietly going out of business. But since the WISP is the only common carrier ISP available to you, it can still help to let the FCC know that you're not getting service. A call from the FCC asking if they're still using their license may be just what it takes to get them off their butts and restoring your service. A more directional antenna at your end should mute local interference, if that is actually what it is.
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Old February 24th, 2013, 03:15 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Right now I am on a very large Yagi that is supposed to be the strongest antenna in their arsenal. All they told me is their test modem also seemed to get nothing until they went up high on a hill. They say there is interference somewhere between where the signal comes from them to me. The only thing besides pine trees that have been here for decades is a free range farm. I was told that farms like that often use the same 900MHz band for tracking cattle. Also cordless phones but I have none of those and phone lines do not exist here, so that seems to point to the farm. Not sure why the subscriber module "froze" but all six of the LEDs are on which they said is a bad SM. they do not know why other than it blew trying to use more power to re-establish a connection (its adaptive and operates in three levels of TX/RX power to maintain a signal depending on signal quality ). Before that it would be intermittent, at least working perfectly fine until noon through late evening hours where the connection would go offline for a minute then come right back, only to drop every hour or half-hour in a very distinct pattern.

The subscriber module is a Motorola Canopy. They are going to try in the next two weeks to test signal and see if it can be replaced. But they cannot guarantee the signal won't go intermittent again. If it helps, during the last test when I still had some service they said my signal was excellent but the two links that offer the Internet, one was horrible and the other they said was non existent. They couldn't explain it and since no other customer was having that problem that their tower isn't the likely culprit. This is why they escalated to the directors who actually run the thing
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Old February 25th, 2013, 05:41 PM   #25 (permalink)
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I'm familiar with Canopy, and frankly I'm not at all impressed by this proprietary and costly system. Having to look through trees to see the master antenna is not helpful either. Although 900MHz is a lot better than the gigahertz frequencies, it's still a poor performer through foliage. VHF frequencies do a lot better when "shooting through trees."

Are you able to build (or have someone do it for you) a mast that your Canopy receiver can be mounted on top if? Don't they have parabolic reflector antennas? Yagi-Uda is OK, but these days a well-made dish tends to perform better.

When I read "test modem" and news that "it blew", I start thinking that they gave you old pre-production hardware. I'd ask for a replacement. I wonder why they haven't just replaced it already.

If I was you, I'd stay in dissatisfied consumer mode and not accept excuses and keep on demanding that they get it working. Escalate it. Ask for supervisors and stuff like that. It's their product; it's their responsibility, period.
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Old February 25th, 2013, 11:26 PM   #26 (permalink)
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i know very little about the system or if it would work with the same things that used to benefit the ol'e rabbit ears back in the '70s..but they recommended a tower that extends 10 more feet from my trailer's roof. that isn't going to happen as i am on rented land and having one attached to a flimsy camper roof is very unstable. currently the thing is mounted on a satellite dish style mast that goes five feet above my roof line (which is roughly ~15' from the ground). they have already told me that parabolic/dish antennas are not in their stock. the Yagi i am using now is the best they got. it's longer than the one they placed when i started service due to the original not having enough signal quality. they also will not give the login so i can increase the power level or disable the adaptive part to avoid problems. i cannot even see the stats or logs of the unit, and have only been able to find out from their end via phone. before it fried (all six LEDs lit) it would, from around noon through around 8-9PM, randomly 're-register' (LEDs indicate this by going to one LED (power) to scanning mode (1-6 light in a scrolling pattern) to sync/register (power, link, act, sens1 and sens2) to connected status (power, link, sens1, sens2 (steady and bright green) act (flashing rapidly) and GPS (off)). this pattern will repeat at random intervals and eventually it will stop trying (scrolling endlessly in scanning mode) until i power cycle the unit. eventually it would stall/freeze with all six on and amber (hardware/firmware fault) this is all info i found in the user guide in PDF format online.

they have already escalated as i keep calling them. when they do come i will be present and they said it will be their supervisors and directors, not techs.

they have replaced the SMs, usually as a fixit (change parts until something works like shoddy auto mechanics) measure. that was when cold weather used to kill it. (would go offline when temps were at or below 28 F). the one thing that has never been replaced is the power supply and PoE. they are adamant about those never failing but since the last SM or two have fried it is possible there is a low voltage issue. they did mention both 'low voltage' and 'capacitor' a few times over the phone....it is the one part of the link i have not eliminated yet.

as for my 3G issues, i am starting to think it is not a throttle (happens regardless of data consumed plus i have never received the text/phone call to cease and desist that i am told i should get) and doing some speed tests today i was around 156Kbps in EDGE, and oddly, 50-60Kbps in 3G. ping times varied. normally my 3G has hovered around 256Kbps to around 512Kbps and has spiked to as much as 2-3Mbps usually in the beginning of a monthly cycle post-refill. but i think those were flukes (see the 'holy wifi tether' thread). given the nature of AT&T here and how many smartphones are on it (plus i have changed the APN where it no longer points to Tracfone) i am guessing the network is just overloaded..
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Old February 26th, 2013, 12:11 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Hmmm... I don't know. It's your life of course. From what you've told me, I'd say that the WISP is a dodgy organization that's hiding behind lots of doubletalk and blaming everyone but themselves. As tempting is it may be, if they refuse to do what it takes to get you service, I'd cut them loose and make sure you aren't charged for all the time that you had no service.

The good news is that you have an antenna mast that you can use to mount a directional cellular antenna, if you should want to maximize your signal reception and transmission (and therefore the overall throughput) on whatever carrier/tower serves you best.
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Old February 27th, 2013, 02:35 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Well they came by and replaced the whole works, and for now it seems to be up and remaining connected at roughly 2-3mbps down. I watched some Netflix and it never rebuffered. They said to contact them in a week and let them know if it was still working. They did a spectrum analysis and saw no farms, or others using the frequency at the time (1PM) and they 'cheated' the aim to shoot through a gap of large pine trees, claiming that those cause a lot of issues. I was watching their computer and the stats were:

Signal quality ~ -81 to -86 dBM
Jitter: 5-6 out of a max of 8.

They also reconfigured the Canopy to the maximum timeout value and gave it a static IP address. I gave it hell with bandwidth through Netflix for about an hour without a single hiccup, but they did warn me that the signal will likely be more unstable and likely to drop during a storm or wind, so it would be as reliable as satellite TV and may not work in bad weather. They did tell me they are a very small company and the four folks at my home were basically their entire staff with the exception of their boss

They did have parabolic antennas but said my camper would be damaged by the weight of one (80 lbs) so it was not an option. Btw they did suspend charging me for the time I was offline and I have a small credit on my account
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Old February 27th, 2013, 03:31 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Looks like good news! I'm glad to learn that the WISP company responded. It seems to me that this time they were not giving you the run-around, which is another coup for you!

Since RF power drops off exponentially with distance, so a signal strength that's a little better than a millionth of a milliwatt (0dBm == 1imW) is actually doing pretty good.

Congrats! I hope it holds up.
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