Sonoma County’s broadband coverage is spotty. Comcast and AT&T are not doing anything to expand cable and DSL service to new areas. There are too many areas with no good options. Random examples: most rural areas in West County; anywhere more than a mile or two from downtown Petaluma or Healdsburg; odd holes near Santa Rosa (Old Redwood Highway north of Fountain Grove, Cleveland Avenue north of Coddingtown); and many more.

A few people have a line of sight for ground-based wireless service from Pogowave or Broadlink or Sonic a couple of other local providers. If there’s a strong cell phone signal, it’s possible to get a decent connection using Verizon’s or Sprint’s broadband wireless service.

And then there’s satellite service. When all else fails, there’s satellite service.

I wrote up these notes about satellite service a couple of years ago. It’s nobody’s first choice. The lag is frustrating and the connection can be erratic; there’s no relief in sight for those issues.

But Sonic, the most lovable company in the world, is now offering satellite service, which means that the installation is more likely to go smoothly and support will be delivered with Sonic’s inimitable charm and good grace.

Sonic has contracted directly with WildBlue, the company that AT&T uses for its satellite service. Reliability and quality of service is actually pretty good with WildBlue. Cost is based on the speed of the connection, starting at $50/month for 512kbps download/128kbps upload, up to $80/month for 1.5mbps download/256mbps upload. Sonic is currently discounting the startup costs for equipment and installation.

A computer cannot be run on a dialup connection in 2008. Web sites are no longer optimized for dialup connections so even simple browsing is becoming impossible, and the volume of updates for the operating system and security programs cannot be handled without a broadband connection. If you’re in the country with no other options, call Sonic!

Here’s Sonic’s page describing the new satellite service, and here’s a forum where Dane Jasper answered some questions about it.

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