Posted: 11 August 2013
This page provides announcements and important notices from me regarding this ETX site.
One of the joys of living in a rural area is having very dark skies. That was one of the reasons we purchased our "retirement land" in Oracle, Arizona. In the past four years I have enjoyed many wonderful nights with my telescopes, as reported on my "Cassiopeia Observatory" web site.
But the downside of living in a rural area is the lack of truly high speed Internet access. When we were building our home in Oracle a local Qwest engineer told me in 2008 that although the then available DSL speed was 1.5 Mbps, we could expect to have 7 Mbps by the end of that year. In July 2009 when DSL was activated after we moved in to our new home, we still had only 1.5 Mbps service. Nothing faster was available here. In March 2011, Qwest (soon to be bought out by CenturyLink) Customer Service said that we could upgrade to 3 Mbps service (for an extra $10/mo). We upgraded. However, over the next year, that speed proved to be too unreliable, frequently falling to below 1 Mbps. A local CenturyLink technician finally gave up and reverted the DSL speed back to 1.5 Mbps in August 2012. Eventually, a refund was received from CenturyLink for all of the increased monthly charges during the time we had the unreliable 3 Mbps service that we should never have been offered.
We continued to use 1.5 Mbps (actually more like 1.3 Mbps download speed), but frequently wished for a faster speed. As this is a rural area, no cable companies provide Internet access here. We occasionally looked into satellite Internet access services (i.e., HughesNet and Exede) but those services are expensive and have very restrictive monthly data usage limitations that would constrain our Internet use. So, we stayed with the 1.5 Mbps unrestricted data service from CenturyLink.
Unfortunately, due to the aging copper wire in our area, even the 1.5 Mbps service began to be unreliable in July 2013. Since CenturyLink has no incentive to upgrade their existing infrastructure in a rural area like ours, we began to seriously consider the satellite providers. I asked CenturyLink for our DSL data usage during June 2013 and learned that we had used 39 GB down and 11 GB up during the month. The best satellite service from HughesNet provides a speed of 15 Mbps down (2 Mbps up) with a monthly data usage allowance (down + up) of 20 GB anytime and 20 GB after-hours (2AM-8AM) for $100/mo. Exede has 12 Mbps down (3 Mbps up) with a monthly allowance of 25 GB daytime and unlimited late-night (midnight-5AM) data usage (down + up) for $130/mo. When you consider that we have to watch the local TV station news and weather broadcasts on the web (due to the misguided and out-of-date Nielsen and FCC "Designated Market Area" rule that DirecTV must comply with), and with software updates frequently being hundreds of megabytes or even 1-4 GB, it is obvious that our data usage would have to be curtailed in other areas if we were to dump DSL and switch to satellite Internet access.
After much contemplation and number crunching, we have decided to switch to HughesNet satellite Internet access. Due to the monthly data usage restrictions, I have very reluctantly decided that "Weasner's Mighty ETX Site" will have to stop being updated and my "technical support" via email will end, both effective 1 September 2013. The web site will continue to be available as an online resource for ETX and other telescope users worldwide, just as it has been since September 1996.
Alternatives for technical support are listed on the "Discussion Groups" page, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of one or more of the resources listed there if you need support. If I receive email or a question on Twitter requesting assistance after the effective date of this change, I will have to respond by referring to this Announcement in order to keep data usage manageable. Please accept my apologies in advance.
I am very appreciative of the 17 years of support, both technical and monetary, that Site visitors have provided. It is very difficult to be forced to end that, but given the current state of Internet access in our area, I have no choice.
I hope to continue updating the "Cassiopeia Observatory" web site with my observing and imaging reports, but even that (and our other web pages) will likely see some curtailing of what is posted due to the monthly data usage restrictions.
I still plan to support the ETX Community going forward. I will not know the exact nature of that support until I get some satellite data usage experience. If you are following me on Twitter (@mweasner) or use one of my web site RSS feeds, please continue to use them as I will provide updates as appropriate.
Many thanks to all of you for the past support, shared experiences, and friendship.
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