internet access

SpaceX's Starlink Review - Four months in

SpaceX's Starlink internet service uses satellites in low-earth orbit to provide high-speed Internet to underserved parts of the world, especially places without easy access to cable or fiber.

Jeff Geerling with SpaceX Starlink Dishy

SpaceX's Starlink beta opened up in my area, so I installed Dishy—that's the nickname for the large white satellite dish above—and I've been testing it and comparing it to my Cable internet.

I have Raspberry Pis monitoring my Internet—one on Starlink, and one on Spectrum. And I also have a power monitor measuring power usage. And I've tracked everything since day one to see if weather like snow and thunderstorms affect service, and how Starlink compares to Cable.

Here's the bottom line: Most of the time, I couldn't tell I was using Starlink. And that's good. Everything felt the same.

Setting up Starlink, SpaceX's Satellite Internet

Starlink Dishy and box from SpaceX

In March, I got an email from SpaceX saying Starlink was available at my address, and I could pre-order. I paid $500 for the equipment, plus $25 for a Volcano Roof Mount, and $99 for the first month of service, and a few weeks later, I got the kit you see in the image above.

I was a little too excited about getting Starlink, though, because I realized after I started looking for mounting locations that Starlink needed a 100° view of the northern sky, and my house is literally surrounded by 70-80 ft trees.

So I thought, why not let a cousin who lives out in a rural area try it out while I figure out what to do about mounting 'Dishy' (a common nickname for the Starlink satellite dish) on my own house?

After all, my cousin Annie, who lives in Jonesburg, MO, currently pays for the maximum available DSL plan to her farm (Haarmann Farms), and gets a measly 5 Mbps down, and 0.46 Mbps up—on a good day:

Review of St. Louis Area ISPs - Charter, AT&T, Clear

In my most recent article (over in the Articles section), I review the three main St. Louis Metro-area Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Charter Communications (Cable), AT&T (DSL), and Clear (Wireless).

St. Louis Area Internet Provider Review: Charter Cable, AT&T DSL, Clear 4G Wireless

Basically, by the end of the article, I'm still undecided as to which one is the best for me - for both price/performance ratio and reliability.

They're all not so hot in both regards, but I'm cheering for Clear—if they can get more cell towers up and running, I think they'll be a great contender!

Review: St. Louis area Internet providers (Charter Cable, AT&T DSL, Clear Wireless)

Charter, AT&T and Clear - Logos

For the past eight years, I've been bouncing back and forth from one ISP to another, trying to find one that actually feels worth the load of money I pay for it.

I've used a variety of services from both of the main St. Louis area providers (AT&T and Charter Communications), and am testing Clear wireless (a new game in town, but one that's been around in Chicago and other larger cities for a year or more). I've paid anywhere from $15/month to $90/month (for Internet service alone—I've never participated in the 'Charter Bundle,' 'Uverse' or any voice/data/video bundles).

I'm going to go through the reasons why I've tried all the different services, and what I've liked—and hated—about each. As a prelude, I am still not pleased with the performance I've received from any of the providers (at least, not for what I'm paying/have paid!).

AT&T 'High Speed' DSL

I've tried AT&T's DSL service in three different parts of St. Louis: North county, the Central West End, and Shrewsbury. In all three areas, I've encountered the same problem—an unreliable connection.

I've been through many support calls, and in all cases, when a technician is sent out, he says the line signal is perfect. Go figure. I've used a few different modems, some rather expensive, and they've all exhibited these problems.

How to Get Free or Cheaper WiFi Access at AT&T and Boingo Hotspots

WiFi LogoI was recently in Chicago, lamenting the fact that, to use the Boingo WiFi at the airport for a mere half hour, I'd need to pay $6.95; rather than pay this outrageous amount (since I already have an iPhone with Internet access, and the WiFi would be a convenience, I looked to Google for some help.

It is well documented that you can simply change your browser's "User-Agent" to use the 'Mobile Safari - iPhone' profile, and trick certain hotspot locations into giving you free access (this will work for any AT&T Wireless location, such as Starbucks, as long as you also have a valid iPhone number).

Get Cheaper Access on Boingo

To get an almost half-off discount on Boingo WiFi hotspots, you simply need to do three things: