May 22 2009

Day 41: Favor

by andrew

YHWH is finding favor with us at this campground. He has given us a neat relationship with the owner even though we didn’t really do anything special to seek it out. The family that runs the gas station / campground here is really nice and helpful. With my background in computers I was in a position today to help the owner get his wifi broadcasting from the coffee shop into the campground again (he had an antenna / repeater / booster that was unplugged for the winter and I made sure it was all connected correctly and verified the signal for him).

He’s interested in expanding the range throughout the whole campground, so I went around with my pocket pc surveying the current signal strength per site. After I had a picture of how the layout and foliage affected the coverage I walked around with him and made recommendations as to how many repeaters he might need and what existing structures / poles / etc might make ideal locations for them to cover the rest of the campground.

I was happy to help! And the immediate benefit for us is that WE ARE NOW FULLY CONNECTED RIGHT AT OUR SITE!!!

Actually, this is a huge deal, because I’ve been battling the Autonet Mobile connection for days. Their support team has been excellent, but what we’ve discovered together is that Canada is a problematic no-man’s land of wireless data service when it comes to roaming. We’ll see what the final outcome is, but for now I will be diplomatic and protect most of the guilty with some anonymity. Basically it works like this: Autonet advertises data coverage for the U.S. and Canada because the carrier / provider they use advertises coverage in the U.S. and Canada. Essentially, Autonet themselves are a customer to this carrier on behalf of their own customers. Their carrier in turn has roaming provision agreements in place with Canadian carriers to (in theory) provide data and voice service to their customers. Confusing?

Well, the Canadian companies, it turns out – and I’m thinking of one in particular – seem to be (at the very least) somewhat unconcerned about the data connections of the customers who are on their network via a roaming agreement. In fact, looking at the logs and observing continuous ping behavior, it seems like their network is actually terminating data connections at a fixed interval. This has been the source of our woes.

Autonet is still working with me to get a solution – and they’ve been fantastic. Ultimately, I’m hopeful, however – I’m keenly aware that the reality is this: I’m the customer of a customer of a customer of a service. When you boil it all down, that’s the true picture, and there are a lot of moving gears in the overall scheme of that arrangement. It would only take one uncooperative gear at any level to translate into my service not working reliably.

Also, I’d take issue with the statement on Autonet Mobile’s FAQ that says: “Autonet Mobile is the Internet Service Provider…” I guess this is true from a certain vantage point, but traditional broadband ISP’s generally have their own infrastructure and Autonet does not. To the marketing team’s credit however, the web site has already been updated to correct their ignorance in advertising. The original page pulled from Google cache as of May 7th (which sold me on the service) states: “…to give you the broadband speed and expansive coverage in both the US and Canada.” The cached page also includes a link to a coverage map that clearly shows the US and Canada. The new page, by contrast, states: “to give you broadband speed and expansive coverage over the entire United States,” and includes a link to the coverage map of their service provider.

This might all sound like I’m trying to slam Autonet Mobile. Well, I was quite disappointed that they didn’t deliver the reliable service in Canada that was advertised, since that was one of the biggest requirements I had as I was shopping for service – knowing we’ll be spending a lot of time up here. However, their support has been superb, and I’m still hopeful that they will work something out on behalf of the customers who need connectivity throughout North America. I really hope that they don’t decide to give up on Canada and take a minimize-the-losses approach. The ridiculous state of affairs when it comes to cross-border data sharing and service really needs to be kicked into the 21st century. Maybe Autonet will take the mantle and be one of the pioneering catalysts.

But, for the meantime YHWH has looked out for us anyway – we now have a solid connection through the wifi at the Campground all the way inside the trailer – and for that we are very thankful!!! Thank you YHWH! Thank you Welcomestop! No more packing everything up to go spend a few hours at the coffee shop; no more leaving the laptop at friends overnight to get some bulk uploading done; no more sneaking in email checks and uploads when we’re with family for dinner… and, truth be told, the upstream data rate over wireless here (even with only 2 bars) is actually FASTER than either location that I tried in the city hardwired to a cable connection. Ah… it’s the little things in life.

Ok, back to the work I should have been getting done instead of this little praise/rant before Sabbath sets in.