So, I’ve had HughesNet (a business plan) for about a month, and thought I’d post a report. Folks here might generally be freaked out by all the negative reviews - I suppose people don’t post as much when things are going well - and I wanted to give a more positive spin. We moved from Los Angeles, where we had a 300Mbps connection, with unlimited data. We were very heavy consumers. My wife and I both work at home, and spend at least an hour - sometimes more - each day in video conferences (using Zoom.) We had an AppleTV, and were cord cutters, so we streamed everything, for both our entertainment and two little kids. We had five Arlo security cameras that were cloud connected. We knew that moving to rural New Hampshire would involve changing a lot of those habits (and more), but that’s one of the reasons we did it. We were lucky enough to be able to take our jobs with us, but we can’t do our jobs without the video conferencing. We chose the 50/100GB business plan. Pricey at $250 a month, which is way beyond the scope of most folks, I know, so use that as a caveat to my report (our Spectrum cable internet was $100/month in Los Angeles.) First, the performance. Though speeds are advertised at 25Mpbs, we have consistently gotten much faster speeds - averaging over 40Mpbs. Latency is definitely an issue, so the connection feels less fast than it actually is, with delayed responsiveness, but I’d say it’s acceptable. The video conferences were the ultimate test - and though there are some slight delays, our colleagues at the home office report that our connections have almost always been satisfactory. We’ve tried streaming a couple of movies on iTunes and Netflix, and - data consumption not being discussed (see below) - we’ve found that the quality is fine, and there’s no stuttering. For your reference, our current network includes: - 2 MacBook Pros - 2 Amazon Alexa devices - 3 cell phones (with the WiFi mostly turned off.) Compromises: Well, there are lots. One is that the video we use has to be at reduced quality. Our crystal-clear HD video meetings are now much lower resolution. I notice the difference, but it doesn’t affect my productivity. Data Consumption: The first week, we didn’t do anything differently in terms of our data consumption. Hughes gives new clients 21 days of unlimited data so that you can measure and moderate from a good baseline. Since I never measured our usage in Los Angeles, I found that we were consuming about 10-20GB daily! Obviously, that had to change. With some careful monitoring, during the second week, we’ve been able to get down to about 2-3GB daily, which fits our monthly 150gb total. Of that, about 1-1.5gb is consumed by our video meetings. I’ve discovered a couple of monitoring tools that are helpful. The Hughes data app/website is a good place to start, but for granular measurements, we’ve had good luck with Circle, the parental control app that comes with our Netgear Orbi routers. You can create limits for every device on your network, but know that they are time limits, not data quantity limits. There’s a great app for Mac called TripMode. It is designed to measure and restrict usage by quantity for folks on tightl mobile plans, but you can install it on each Mac and it will tell you exactly how much data each piece of software you use is consuming. You can block any software or processes you want, and you can set individual or global daily data limits. This tool has been invaluable. Another tool that we found helpful is a hardware firewall box. The $125 Firewalla device also measures data usage for each device on your network, and has some blocking capabilities, though it isn’t super-granular. Cell Phone Usage: We are using our Verizon cellphones as a supplement. Coverage was fairly scant out here, so I installed a Wilson Amplifiers signal booster kit. Now, we get 3-4 bars and speeds between 5 and 20Mbps. So we can use our cell phones for video meetings, if we need to, and some data streaming. We have two Verizon Beyond Unlimited plans, which give us 22GB monthly per phone. What we’ve given up: our home security system, which seems to use a lot of data uploading stuff to the cloud. This is a very safe part of the world, but we’d still like some monitoring, so I may add them to the Hughes network to see exactly what kind of impact they have. An alternative, if they have too much of a hit on our data usage, is to use on of our phones as a permanent hotspot and route the camera data through that. Of course, since security is by definition something you care most about when you’re not home, that’s not optimal, since - like most normal people - our mobile phones are, well, mobile. I’d love to find a camera that records to an SD card, but sends alerts via your home internet connection, which I can then peek in on remotely. It’s the cloud recording that eats up the most data, and I don’t care about that (recommendations, anyone?) Online backup at home: this is a big one. We use Google Drive for work, iCloud for personal use, and Dropbox occasionally, along with the Backblaze online backup service. Huge amounts of data going through. I’ve not abandoned any of these, but I’ve switched off all automatic processes. I’ve added an NAS at home for Time Machine backups, and I’ve reserved Friday afternoons to go to the public library (3 miles) and use their cable modem connection for weekly cloud backups (it’s nice to get out of the house, anyhow, since home working can be isolating.) Our library has private conference booths, so we can even use it for video meetings, and plan to if we are hitting our data usage limits early. Kids and Entertainment: Since we are spending so much on our internet, we’ve decided to forego satellite television, at least for now. Instead, we have dusted off the DVD player and are using rentals from our public library. We may supplement that with a Netflix DVD plan. Our kids were wired - gaming and videos - for 1-2 hours daily in Los Angeles, and that was WAY too much. We now have seven acres of woods, and I’m happy to report that after (A LOT OF) early grumbling, the kids haven’t even asked for their iPads back (so, in that sense, mission accomplished.) This is definitely a “making lemonade” kind of situation, but who doesn’t love a cold glas of lemonade? One nice thing about our new media consumption profile is that it makes watching something together. We’ve scheduled a weekly family movie night, and during my Fridays at the library, I download a couple of movies - we let the kids pick one, and my wife and I pick another - to my laptop. I then use AirPlay to cast them to our television. Overall, I’d say it is easier to limit our data usage than to limit the number of miles we drive our leased car - things are way further apart out here, and since we had no commute in L.A., keeping that under the mandated 10k miles yearly is going to be tough. Limiting data usage has been a little more difficult for my wife, ironically, because she’s less technically savvy and doesn’t like wasting time on measuring, rationing, and learning new systems. But she’s picking it up. The biggest drawback has been cost, of course. The initial investment in the Hughes install and the cellular booster was close to $1,000. Our monthly fee for all data and communications is now about $500. That seems like a lot, but honestly, since we’ve cancelled a bunch of streaming services, we’re only spending about $100 more total than our old bill for cable internet, cell service, HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, and about double the number of ITunes downloads we used to do. This was a lifestyle move, and I think Hughes fits very well into our new lifestyle choices. It’s not significantly cheaper to live out here - we spend more on groceries, less on gas, for example, that we used to - but the benefits to our kids and our peace of mind have been immeasruable. It’s tough to write a check for $250/month for internet service, and it would be even tougher if one of us lost our jobs and we didn’t have the ability to classify that as a business expense. But I’m also guessing, perhaps with too much optimism, that prices will go down in the coming years. Is it worth it? The other night, my seven-year-old son and I stayed up late. We’d do that in L.A., usually watching a movie (how many times have I seen Coco? Not enough, but way too many!). In New Hampshire, we went out to the deck and looked up at an absolutely clear, star-filled sky. No city lights to dim the view. On that night, my son saw his first - and then his second, and third, and fourth - shooting star. The ultimate act of cord-cutting? That’s not saying enough. It was, in fact, magic. Happy to answer any questions.
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