OP: My ranked list of Silver Valley internet providers

| November 23, 2020 2:50 PM

I see the question floated frequently on Facebook, and it is one of the most common inquiries I get from people- "What is the best internet in the Silver Valley?"

This can change based on a myriad of factors but as of right now, here is my list:

1. J&R Electronics: By far the best and most reliable Internet Service Provider in the Silver Valley. It isn't even close. They very rarely go down, and if/when they do, they let their customers know why and how long.

Pros: Enterprise grade fixed wireless to their NOC which has fiber (leased), this means low latency (ping). Density- These guys have the ability to scale up as demand increases and they can do it economically. This sets J&R apart from nearly every other ISP in the Silver Valley. Upload- you can actually get a decent upload speed that will make your connection feel even faster. Also, they are local, need I say more?

Cons: Line of sight is required . This eliminates many, but J&R are expanding their footprint every day. Cost- They aren't the "cheapest" internet around but in this case, you get what you pay for.

2. Suddenlink: Cable internet is still just getting started. The data throughput potential via coax is pretty darn good, and most of the cabling is in decent condition in the SV. This means faster speeds are possible, even over existing cables.

Pros: Suddenlink owns the coax cabling in the Silver Valley. Another positive is Suddenlink has this cable almost everywhere! This means most can get it. It is also inexpensive. Their 30Mbps plan is adequate for most and 3Mbps up is better than what you can get on DSL or other ISPs.

Cons: They go down frequently. Having just one path out of the SV, puts Suddenlink at the mercy of Syringa Networks, which scaled down their SV presence after hitting a "missing conduit" deal breaker on the I90 corridor. The local technicians are great, but they are limited in bigger picture decisions. Also, Silver Valley Suddenlink is a "limited access" service area designation, meaning 30Mbps is the most you can get (3Mbps if you are a business... woof) even though coax can carry so much higher speeds. Suddenlink and cable internet still have significant potential in improving backhaul & offering faster speeds.

3. Ziply (formerly Frontier): After yet another acquisition, Ziply is poised to make some upgrades to the Silver Valley that will change the game (I'm not holding my breath, I’ve heard such tales and promises before).

Pros: Consistency. They rarely go down. Speed- depending on where you live, you can get a pretty zippy (no pun intended) connection via DSL. I call it the "Rainbow Unicorn Connection" (I still think it's meh until they roll out their "fiber upgrade" but still). Upgrades- According to their site and publicity, they are planning some significant upgrades (again I won't hold my breath). Personally I wish they would upgrade their core (Central office to DSLAMs) so faster speeds would be more widely available, but my hunch is they will target specific neighborhoods and go for full Gig Fiber. This is good but will impact fewer people.

Cons: Slow speeds. DSL is slow and vulnerable to buffer bloat (speed when doing multiple things online). Also if you aren't in a "Rainbow Unicorn" area, your uploads will be limited severely. Ugh. Zoom, Meets, Skype... painful. Your network will come to a crawl at best if you are attempting to upload those photos, or Instagram stories.

4. Wired or Wireless (AirPipe): These guys have been in the SV for a while now and their existing network is OK.

Pros: If you live off the J&R/Suddenlink/Ziply grid... oftentimes WoW can take care of you.

Cons: Line of sight. Relays are limited and mostly north facing. If you live next to a Southern hill you are most likely pooched. Speeds. WoW main backhaul out of the Silver Valley is pretty much maxed out, or close to it, so unless they upgrade, there isn't much room for expansion or higher speeds.

5. Hughesnet/Viasat: Traditional satellite internet. Many who live out of town depend on it...Unfortunately it isn't great.

Pros: Available where other providers aren't.

Cons: Data caps. This is very restrictive. Cost- Super expensive. Latency- satellites are way up in orbit. Data has a long distance to travel, so if you are doing anything that is synchronous (2 way real time), you will feel like you are using a telegraph.

6. The GameChanger (Starlink): OK this isn't actually ranked 6th, but I wanted to include it. Spacex and Elon Musk are launching (pun fully intended) a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite solution that can deliver very high speeds with low latency. It is currently in beta right now and I'm actually trying it out myself. It is FAST and once they get more satellites in orbit, it will get even better. A couple weeks in and my expectations are already surpassed and I think this will truly change the game for many Silver Valley Residents, particularly those out of town.

Pros: Super fast.

Low Latency- Available where many other traditional ISPs are not, as long as you have an open view of the Northern sky to see the satellites.

Cons: Expensive. The beta is invite only and if you are selected you need to pay $500 for the equipment and $100/month. Line of Sight. Similar to J&R and WoW you need to be able to see the LEO Satellites. Download the app and check it out! If you have an unobstructed view, sign up for the beta at starlink.com.

Of course there are other solutions like LTE/Cellular, but I'll maybe talk about those at a later time. I hope this helps. I know we are limited in the Silver Valley, but trust me, we are working on improving this in any way we can! It's a big task and often one that sees little to no results.