Please make sure to see my updates at the bottom of the page.
I have talked with Lincolnites citywide who share similar frustrations with the ISP options in town. The big guys tend to overpromise, underdeliver, have over utilization problems, and reliability issues. For me, the last 6 months have been worse than average, with huge fluctuations in speed, especially during peak times. I had techs out, replaced modems, talked with support and there just was not much that could be done. On top of this, new fees and a fairly high bill have been enough for me to start looking at other options.
In Lincoln there are not a ton of options. Lincoln has a fairly limited market. We have one cable provider and one traditional POTS phone provider. There are a few resellers but they mainly use the infrastructure of the first two, thanks FCC. There have been other options, but they typically have not been able to offer the price/performance ratio I was looking for, especially delivering a faster upload speed.
Wide Range Broadband (WRB) is a small, locally owned and operated ISP, wanting to give Lincolnites another option to get Internet, phone and TV service. When I first ran across them in late 2012 they didn’t have service in my area, but this has recently changed as they expand to cover more of the city. View a coverage map here. WRB is a point to point line of sight Wireless ISP (WISP). They use a RF technology and mount an antenna on a high point of your home and then run CAT5 inside. More on the install later. They are using fiber for the backhaul between their current 5 towers in town.Their main provider is Level 3 who dumps to the internet in Dallas TX. The transmissions from the antenna to the providers tower is encrypted using 128 bit AES, which is a great thing.
This is the rooftop antenna on my house.
The install at my house took about 1.5 hours on a weeknight. It was refreshing to have an appointment time that was not a 4 hour window. During the install, Aaron, the company owner, installed an antenna on my rooftop. They had a lots of options, and I chose to put it on the side of my chimney. Another common install point was the PVC exhaust vents many roofs have. This is a good choice if you can’t put holes into the structure. The install is similar to a satellite dish install, with the mount actually being from a satellite dish. From there he ran a length of outdoor rated CAT5 wire down the eave of my house and inside, with the rest of the service wires. The antenna and CAT5 blend in pretty well, I think. You can see them if you’re looking for it, but if not it blends in pretty well. Inside there is a simple small POE injector that plugs into electricity and a patch cable to your router.
I will admit I was a little skeptical at first of a wireless point to point service. I have two pretty heavy users (Gaming, Streaming, Online Backup and more) in the house, so low lag and performance is a must. Point to point systems of the past are associated with having problems when there is weather, and high ping times. So far I have not found this to be the case. I am on the top residential package (21×5) and am seeing download speeds between 18-20mb/s and uploads of between 5-7mb/s Upload speeds to seem to vary some, but they don’t dip that low, and are still significantly faster than I was previously receiving with my old ISP. Higher speeds are being seen at non peak times. The speed test screenshots speak for themselves. There are no bandwidth caps with the service either.
Service is dependent on distance from the towers, and according to Google Maps I am about 2.5 miles from the tower. My housemate reports his ping times when playing online games are about 1/2 or 1/3 less with the new service. Ping times to Google during peak hours are less than 30ms. Youtube and Netflix performance are a lot better; much less buffering and no throttling. So far we have not had any thunderstorms roll through to see how that affects the service. WRB told me that rain or snow would not affect the service. So far in the one storm we have had I didn’t notice any performance differences.
After having the service about a week, I can easily say it’s the best ISP experience I have had in Lincoln and the best value. The top package is quoted as a (21×5) for $60 a month. With my old ISP I was paying $65 for (15×1) and that was not being delivered, so this is a much better value. Other packages are available as well with various levels of speed and price. I also like supporting a local company.
WRB also offers a referral program. If this post has made you interested in signing up please let them know LiquidRetro referred you.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below or find me on Twitter at @Liquidretro and I will reply back.
UPDATE1: I just wanted to write a quick update on the performance in the crazy weather Lincoln has had in the past 2 days. On Tuesday some very significant thunderstorms rolled through town. These brought with them some intense hail, that did cause a problem with my service. After talking with the ISP they acknowledged a bit of downtime due to the weather. The hail had struck some of their antennas. This was unexpected and they were looking deeper into the cause of the problem. Good news is the outage only lasted about 20 minutes. During the rest of the rain in the later thunderstorm there were no problems. Today Lincoln has received a at times heavy wintry mix of precipitation I have not had any problems with reliability or speed. Speeds are still nice and fast.
UPDATE2: As of October 2017 I no longer was a Widerrange customer. I had the opportunity to get Allo Fiber to the home which is the best thing to happen to the Lincoln ISP market. It’s a fantastic service with great customer support.
Since my Update 1 My service with Widerrange declined in speed, because unstable and customer support suffered greatly. Running a WISP takes knowledge of the wireless spectrum above general networking and it woudl appear the new owner is lacking in this. My service required resetting due to vulnerable firmware that was known to the ISP but instead of being proactive they were reactive when users called in about a problem.
At the current time I do not recommend Widerange if you have other options. The product being delivered did not meet expectations nor did the customer service. Lincoln now has better options, and I would recommend using one of them if possible.