We’ve been living on Scream for about 100 days now. There have been various ups and downs, but the biggest surprise is that our internet provider, Broadband Express, is terrible.
I remember using the internet via dial-up fifteen years ago. And while my current service is faster than 1200 baud, it isn’t nearly as reliable. Day after day I wonder if I will be able to get internet. Some days I can’t. More than once Darusha has had to go to an internet cafe late at night to upload work that she’s been unable to upload via Broadband Express despite hours of effort.
Typically connections work as follows: First we connect to the BBX wifi network, which is up almost 100% of the time and works seamlessly as you would expect. Next we try to log into the service by connecting to a webserver. That webserver usually takes a preposterous amount of time to reply. On average getting a page from the login server takes about 20 seconds. The login process takes 3 pages at the best of times, but when the server is slower than usual any number of error pages appear letting us know that our login has failed and that we should try again. That cycle regularly takes 15 minutes.
We have to repeat this every time we start using our computers as the internet side of the Broadband Express network logs us out as soon as we are inactive.
And as for bandwidth, the service is not competitive with Cable, ADSL or Wifi at cafes. We’re docked about 100 feet from their access point and use a $500 long-range Wifi antenna. We typically get less than 100 KB/s, sometimes closer to 0 KB/s. We used to use a number of cool internet technologies: Voice over IP, IP Television, Skype, etc. Now we avoid AJAX enabled websites because, even when we can connect, we don’t have enough bandwidth to use them. Google mail, for instance, is a site that I have loved for years but that I have had to give up because it doesn’t work well with flaky internet.
I’ve never used competing services (EVDO comes to mind) but I encourage anyone who is investigating internet access for their boat to examine the alternatives to Broadband Express.