Out here in Grasonville although in the center of the first English settlement in America some four hundred years ago, amongst many large marinas and with route 50, a busy three lane highway connecting Washington DC to the beaches of Ocean City going rightVerizon DSL Charter highspeed cablethrough the middle of town, this is still somewhat of a remote area!  Most of the motorists traveling route 50 have never heard of Grasonville or Stevensville on Kent Island.  We just about have cable TV but you can forget any notion of Verizon DSL or Charter cable modems here!  Luckily, in 2002 a company called Cloudburst Broadband LLC of Maryland aimed to correct this problem by providing a fixed wireless internet access service to the area, mainly catering to marina users and small businesses that were in range.  They planned a number of base stations near to the larger marinas across the region.  In the Kent Island area they partnered with aFriendly :) local ISP called Friendly Networks.  In fact Friendly Networks designed &  implemented the service with their own capital.  Cloudburst was supposed to finance the project but when the capital was not delivered, Friendly Networks decided to absorb Cloudburst and keep the network under one company, so by November 2003, Friendly Networks had effectively purchased Cloudburst Broadband LLC of Maryland and taken over operation of the entire service.  It appears though that the original Cloudburst mail & web servers are still there, operating as they always did, but if you apply for new service now, you'll get a Friendly account.  The service uses Alvarion Breeze Access radio hardware for the local end and Cisco core infrastructure.  WhenCisco I first applied for service, there was some debate about whether I had a direct line of sight to the base station from my property.  AlvarionLooking from the street or the house there is no way, but from the bulkhead at the very bottom of my garden, there is a clear view across the water, so the antenna is installed on a pole bolted to the fence post by the bulkhead.  Any place will do to mount the antenna as it is quite weather proof.  In my installation, it is common for the waves splashing against the bulkhead to come up and wash right over it!  Other (probably more suitable)  locations would be on the roof, bolted to a chimney or in the loft if the signal is strong enough.  Also the location should be in a place where inquisitive people won't stand right in front of it.  The FCC says 26 inches away is safe but I don't recommend being that close!  The antenna then connects to the radio by a long coaxial cable, about 50 feet in length.  In my case, the cable runs in a conduit behind the bulkhead, then under the grass from the center of the bulkhead up to the house.  The radio then just sits on the floor under the sub woofer of my stereo.  Again, the radio is quite impervious to the elements and could even have been mounted under the house in the crawl space.  Then a CAT5 cable runs under the house from the radio to a D-Link DI-704P residential gateway in my office, which then connects to all the computers and cameras etc. When the radio is powered up, it hunts for the base station and the particular transceiver in the array that it will communicate with.  Once that is complete, there is a Wan light on the radio that comes on to show that it is working ok.  There is also a signal strength meter under the antenna.  This can show red, amber & green with a level to show the signal strength.  Mine always shows all green which is as good as it gets.

In case there is no direct line of sight, there is now new hardware available that is more powerful and has a greater range, but the initial cost of the hardware is higher.  Back in the Cloudburst days, the hardware was leased as part of the service contract and that is how mine still is.  Now however, to get service you need to buy your own gear.  Checkout the wireless internet access page at Friendly Networks to find out about the latest plans.  I have 256kbps upload and 512kbps download for $59.99 a month.  I also have a public IP address so that I can access my WebCams from the internet for which they charge about $14.95.  Again you should check with Friendly Networks to get proper pricing information.  When the service was first connected, they let me have full bandwidth for a week or so to make sure everything was working.  The speed was over 3000kbps!  I wonder how I can get some more of that?  Anyhow, with still nothing else to compare, the 256/512 is working out fine for me.  Not as fast as DSL or cable but still perfectly adequate to allow me to work from home which is the most important thing.  Over the last two years there have been no interruptions to the service worthy of any comment.  Sometimes I have noticed odd interruptions, but by the time I go and check the WAN light on the radio, it's working again!Wireless WAN!

Verizon DSLNow in 2007, Verizon Wireless has finally changed all this! After years of waiting for truly mobile wireless internet access, the availability of CDMA 3G wireless networks and finally an implementation at the base station at Kent Narrows (right by Friendly Networks tower) means that wireless broadband is as easy as sliding a PC5750 PCMCIA card into my PC.  I'm telling you, this thing works everywhere!  On the boat, on the road in the motorhome, at home at the office, everywhere!  When I got mine they were $50 to buy and $60 a month for all you can eat!  By now they are probably giving them away.  No more Wi-Fi crap for me!  It's Wireless WAN!

Antenna on pole by fence post Antenna on pole by fence post Signal strength meter under antenna View from behind antenna to base station Radio with power, CAT5 and coax connections
Friendley Networks in Stevensville Base station close to Kent Narrows Base station close to Kent Narrows Closeup of antenna array (as close as I can get that is) My neighbors installation