In Which I Become An Elonista

I know some of the people who are working on the system, that’s my excuse. But the real motivator is my profound and passionate hatred of Verizon.

I live in rural broadband zone, which is where the FCC made a deal with Verizon and AT&T that they could take the gloves off and charge customers ridiculous rates, in return for – I dunno – offering them broadband. So, in “the country that invented the internet” in 2021, I have an LTE cantenna that costs me a base of $250/month and has a 20gb data cap. There are people in the “third world” that have better and cheaper broadband service than I do. That data cap gets blown through regularly, whenever Apple and Microsoft hawk up another loogey of patches and spit it in our faces. I have 2 iOs devices and 2 Windows 10 devices and when you add Steam updates for games, which nowadays weigh in at double my data cap, I am paying more for the download than the game. I know, first world problems, right? That’s why I don’t complain much.

But, if I can ever dance on the grave of Verizon, I promise I’ll finally learn the shuffle-step “Walking Man” and do it until I collapse from exhaustion. Besides, it’d be good cardio. I have a photo of a $1,000 internet service bill I got a few months ago:

You can imagine I have been watching the evolution of Starlink with some interest. I know a few of the people who are working on the security aspects of the up/downlink and it looks like a typical Elon Musk gig: get the smartest people you can, tell them to design their ideal system, and do it. Then take credit for it. Some aspects of how Starlink works sound like genius although really it’s just “IP networking” with a software-defined control plane. That’s the good stuff, when you consider that Verizon and AT&T (outside of the cities) are doing virtual thing over virtual thing over some fiber that looks like virtual copper to some other thing.

I’ve been monitoring Starlink’s sign-up portal and yesterday it switched from “we can’t find your location in our service area” to “give us money.”

I have no idea when I’ll get the Starlink base unit and have time to set it up (my roof is covered in 10″ of snow right now!) but I’m going to have to leave the two systems in parallel for a month or so while I see if Starlink works.

The last time I got excited about internet service it was when Verizon started offering an “unlimited” plan for only $300/month – but then buried down in the fine print it said that “unlimited” means “we throttle it down to 100k/s if you use more than 3gb” It was so bad that I couldn’t even look up Verizon’s service number so I could call and get my plan switched back (for which they charged me). Ajit Pai. Ah, Ajit, what a useless water-carrier for the exploiters who rape the world, you are.

I may have some postings about my experience with Starlink, assuming I do actually have experiences with it.

“Let’s have our own cell phone” is a red-flag for me that a business has gotten so big and powerful that it has become stupid. But one of the things about Musk’s operations is he understands how to compartmentalize them so they run on their own steam. Starlink is powered by SpaceX but it’s a whole different train of thought, but with a sweetheart deal on lofting the satellites. Musk has said that they plan to offer a handset that is basically a Starlink phone, and if they are able to power through AT&T and Verizon’s inevitable frantic lobbying-attempts to regulate them out of existence, there’s a good chance that they could rip the bottom out of one of AT&T and Verizon’s biggest cash cows. And, as the Ballad of Brave Sir Robin goes: “and there was much rejoicing.”

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By the way, Verizon marketing people: making your bills larger (right now about 5 pages) because of all the fonts and colors, and more “friendly” does not matter. There’s only one number we look at. And it’s why we hate you.

In fairness, nobody hates Verizon more than Verizon’s own employees.


  1. Ketil Tveiten says

    Who’d have thought that «ruin ground-based astronomy» was going to be the fix for this particular aspect of US monopoly capitalism?

  2. Dauphni says

    No but see, ruining ground-based astronomy is part of the plan to sell more launch capacity for space based telescopes!

    Two birds with one stone!

  3. Bruce Fuentes says

    We have ATT DSL and it sucks. We live down a rural road 13 miles from the city limit of Superior, WI. ATT tried to tell us we could get 20Mbps a few years ago. They installed it and it was down every couple weeks and speed fluctuated widely and we never got over 12Mbps. So we are back to 10Mbps. It is fun when both boys are in virtual school and my wife has a webinar or zoom meeting. In other words it doesn’t work. To be honest we don’t pay a whole lot for internet but I would if anything were available. Our only other choice now is Hughesnet and whatever name Exede is going by now. They don’t have hard data caps, but I don’t want to be throttled down to nothing the end of each month. My wife and kids like to stream movies and I listen to music on my Sonos. Movies, music and system updates for 4 WIn 10 devices, 4 Android devices and an Iphone will put us over any data caps. A local company got a grant from the state to put up a wireless 4G LTE tower that will cover our area and supposedly give us 25Mbps, but they have done nothing since getting the grant and don’t respond to inquiries. A buddy 5 miles away gets 100Mbps because he is in Spectrum cable territory.
    I will be interested to see what your experience with Starlink is.

  4. Bruce Fuentes says

    I just went on the Starlink page. They found my address, but there is to me what is a huge red flag.
    “Starlink is targeting coverage in your area in mid to late 2021. You will receive a notification once your Starlink is ready to ship.”

    But they still want $99 today.

    “By placing this order, I agree to the Starlink Pre-Order Terms and Privacy Policy. Service availability is limited. Placing a deposit does not guarantee service.”
    Sounds like something from Indiegogo or Kickstarter. I understand they want serious customers and will probably have demand outstrip their capability, but ultimately this is something that will further the digital divide between the haves and have nots. It will just allow the haves to gentrify rural areas, which I have to admit we are guilty of.

  5. Owlmirror says

    I wondered if it might be possible to download the patches/updates to one computer, which could then be served locally to the other computers needing updates.

    It looks like Microsoft supports this in Windows Server (Windows Server Update Services):

    For iOS, you can perhaps set up a caching server, so that again, updates are downloaded once, and served to local devices:

    Another idea I had is to put the patch/update server on something portable, bring it into the nearest city with free WiFi, update the patches there, drive home, and serve the patches locally.

    Maybe it’s not worth the hassle of setting up the servers, and maybe driving to the city to do updates, when you have just 2 devices of each type, but it seems to me that cutting your downloads in half is cutting your bill in half. Think of it as giving Verizon the finger.

  6. kestrel says

    re: your bill: Christ of the Andes. That’s ridiculous, and I would be furious.

    We got super lucky here. There’s a guy in a town relatively near us whose passion has been to get internet everywhere in these twisty turny canyons way up in the mountains, so sometimes when someone comes in to see if he can hook them up, he’ll make a deal with them if they will let him put a repeater, tower, or something like that on their property. As a result he’s covered areas that would be difficult to get a signal to. It is unlimited service, so we could watch movies 24/7 if we chose and never “max out” our service. And of course once we hooked up with him, we could all of a sudden stream movies or videos which had never happened here before. I’m rounding up, but our bill, with taxes and all that, is $60 a month. But you know, he’s someone who has the weird idea that he’s part of a community and wants to help others as much as he can, he’s not trying to become a billionaire. Very un-American I guess. **rolls eyes**

  7. TGAP Dad says

    My neighborhood is bound by highways, a river, and a major university, so for years Comcast had a lock on our ‘hood. Then one day a local provider started running fiber through the area, and charging $49 per month for 1gbps service and no cap. Comcast actually made a frantic plea for customers which went about as well as you’d expect. Can someone please coin a unit of measure quantifying customer service horror? What would one Comcast be? Or perhaps a (Wells) Fargo?

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    You want the customer service stories? My internet provider sent me a bill before they even strung a cable to my house.

  9. Bruce Fuentes says

    Lets just agree that the US has some of the worst internet in the world. Shortly we are going to see what happened in Texas with electricity, happen with internet in many places in the country. There is no reason for these companies to invest in and improve their systems. Sooner or later there will be a cascade of failures.

  10. blf says

    The OP’s bill is ridiculous. Here in France, I have Fibre-into-the-home as part of a package that includes my mobile (and a few other things) for a totally of c.80€/month (c.96$). There’s a cap of several tens of GB over 50GB/month (it was raised from 50GB, for free, early in the pandemic to encourage work-from-home, and I’m too lazy to look up what it is at the moment).

    I am extremely unkeen on supporting cybercontroller’s plot to ruin ground based astronomy.

  11. outis says

    Holy crud, and I get mad when my unlimited-everything monthly bill with stupid Deutsche Telekom goes over 50€. “Your bill is a click away”, forsooth.
    Best of luck with Starlink, but what I can see from here (Germany) is:
    “Starlink is available to a limited number of users per coverage area at this time. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis. ”
    So either they are not giving Europe much love, or at least the service you get at the start will be pretty spotty. Yet, they have supposedly 1000 birds up already, we shall see…

  12. publicola says

    Remember the good ol’ days when scrapping a party line for a private line was a cause for celebration? Or when UHF became available? Man, we thought we were livin’ it! It might have been Pearl Buck who said, “We travel faster now, but do we go to better things?”

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