Little late in the game,but I have a lot of rural experience
I used direcway/hughesnet for more than two years and it was a miserable experience. Tech support was typically indians who asked if there was a cloud in the sky, anywhere and told you to call back tomorrow if there was. The daily download limit at about half of tupical dial up download limits was a problem, but at least it reset daily. Unfortunately, the radio transmitter had to be replaced about 5 times in two years and that typically took 3 to 5 weeks. Additionally, the initial installation didn't go into any studs and the dish wandered, which also required about a month after a few months of hassling with support about clouds.
I thought wildblue would be the answer after reading their hype machine and talking to people with it in other areas. It turned out to be a bigger 1.5 year nightmare than hughesnet could ever be. They wanted service contract payments whenever there was defective hardware...worse, the "local" contracted servicing agent lives 250 miles away. My service stopped working and I called to get it fixed, at the next available appointment time was more than 6 weeks away. But that is only the major events. On a monthly basis, even with an upgraded plan, I went over their bandwidth nearly every month, resulting in weeks at a time of below dial up speed. And this was just from using the Web! I hadn't yet even discovered youtube and I listen to music online maybe two hours a month. (I could rant about webdevelopers using flash, but I'll resist). If you complain about bandwidth, someone who knows nothing about what the term means will argue about how you could download 700 cds worth of music a month on your allowance...therefore you must be abusing the system to use so much bandwidth. I didn't download one CD(and no, no file sharing or torrenting).
Mercifully, I was forced to move on to the next option (having already been blocked from several ISPs for being connected too many hours a day on an unlimited dial-up account) - cellular Internet. Ahh, finally, broadband for the masses...err. I did 20 days on verizon and realized I was approaching 3gb, even though I'd hardly used it because I'd been hitting hotspots daily. So I took up the 30 day cancellation option. A bill for nearly $900 arrived the next month! Apparently the 5gb doesn't apply to those who cancel early. And of course, the small print mentions a .49 per mb charge! To their credit, they fixed it after a couple of hours of discussion (I was calling them from a vacation in the Philippine islands). So even after sending me a bill that nearly gave me a heart attack, verizon ranks WAY ahead of wildblue and a step up over hughesnet.
Well, then of course cricket advertisements hit the airwaves about 18 months ago. But they didn't have USB modems and modern laptops don't have PCMCIA ports. After a few months of dial up I finally got one of their first USB modems. This time I had read all of the fine print and knew about the 5gb limit. So I bought 3 modems (about same price as hughesnet premium or wildblue anyways...plus extra mobility). I switch modems every ten days, and seem to be able to get by without intentional throttling from cricket. I still don't bother with youtube or music (in spite of both being used heavily in cricket advertising). Such is life in the country, huh? Between 2pm and 11pm the connection almost doesn't work, but the rest of the day it works great so long as I have the modem taped in a window in a certain corner of the house. There is no signal at all in most of the house at any time of day. If I really need online during the day, I can drive towards a city and it starts working during the day too. So cricket has by far been my best rural Internet experience, but most urbanites would have to be talked off a bridge if they got this kind of Internet service. I'd never recommend this to someone in the city.
I'm still waiting on Bill Clinton's promise of equal broadband access across america. Bush couldn't care less about it when he came around, but my federal taxes dropped 80% under him (I own a small business with one partner and no contract employees) so things didn't hurt so much. Obama ran on the promise of getting broadband out to the rural people, and then among his first presidential acts was to delay the digital conversion, which would finally allow all cellular companies to use spectrums that could reach in nearly all homes to compete for business. Thanks Obama. I can't wait to find out who the next liar for president will be.
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