BPL : Martins Store Substation Update : 4.24.09


This is the latest update received from IBEC on Friday 4.24.09

Nelson County, Virginia

Martins Store Substation BPL Update
April 24, 2009

This has been a better week. We have had crews most of the week and have been able to work on issues, although they were rained out Monday and part of Tuesday. While we recognize that it is no comfort to those of you who cannot yet connect, the number who can connect is growing. Those of you who are online will now start seeing a bill for the BPL service on your power bill, if you are billed but feel like you should not have been, please contact IBEC and not your electric cooperative. All billing inquiries are handled by IBEC and not by your electric cooperative. We can be reached at 1-888-IBEC-BPL (423-2275).

We continue to work every day to get the rest of you up and online and will continue to do so. BPL Service is now available at the Rockfish Valley Community Center subject to their terms of use.

IBEC Customer Service

(Editor’s Note: Presently BPL Service is not 100% totally used at RVCC, only a portion of that service is in use at the Hamner Theater, the main source of high speed wireless is provided by nTelos Wireless in Waynesboro, Virginia not IBEC.)


  1. Great news Rev Thompson! Wish we could share in the happiness. Over here, when it has been working, (was down all weekend long) we have been getting no more than 200kbps down and around 90K up 🙁 Until we can tap those 2-3 mbps advertised speeds it’s not much help to us personally. Though I certainly see for people that have only had dialup, this will be a tremendous step forward and great advantage! Great news from your area! That’s excellent!

  2. Tommy,
    I agree…offering a 256kbps connection is hardly “bridging the digital divide.” As technologies are getting closer to Gb/s, we are just now getting a connection that is a little faster than dial-up. More and more, its gonna be hard to go online with such slow connections as the people making the most popular sites are considering DSL speeds to be slow…haha. Hopefully those 3 and 5mbps will be offered before too long…or maybe at least someone will try offering rural america something other than a brand new technology that will only cause the divide to become wider…

    But as far as what IBEC is offering, there service has been consistent over the past month…with more consistency, the 1-5mbps offerings may become a reality.

  3. Unless IBEC can improve the ping time and speed their offering is worse than the slowest DSL typically available in suburban areas.

    I have been using Ntelos Wireless Broadband for 5 years, since it was first deployed for the northern Rockfish Valley (Afton) area. This is the dedicated wireless system, not the new cell tower based system. Ping times are about 100 ms when there are few users. Speed is usually 500-700kbps down, 300-500kbps up. Late at night the download speed sometimes goes above 1Mbps. During the day ping times vary from 100 ms to 2000 ms, averaging 150-250 ms.

    A big problem with wireless systems is latency (ping time). Good DSL and cable modem connections provide consistent ping times in the 50 ms range. Anything over 100 ms degrades Voice Over IP, I think 150 ms is the absolute limit. The same problem occurs with Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) used in many home office or business environments. VPNs work best with ping times under 100 ms.

    My Ntelos wirless broadband connection is not suitable for quality VOIP and barely good enough for VPNs. It looks like the IBEC system is in the same category. I was hoping IBEC would have consistent ping times well under 100 ms.

    I wonder if the new cell tower based offerings from Alltel, Ntelos, etc are going to be suitable for business or home office connections. The cell tower systems may be great for casual web browsing or email but they might perform poorly when hundreds of customers sign up and try to share the available bandwidth.

    It is sad to see so much money being spent deploying something that (at least so far) is worse than the slowest DSL. For the same expenditure it might have been possible to run coax cable or optical fiber along our power poles and bring true high speed internet to lots of people.

  4. Hi Michael, What you are saying is correct, right on the money! Though I will say when we were testing the IBEC system, many times their pings were in the 30-50 ms range, very good, but the speeds were never great. And as I have said here many times before, 256K or even 300-400 kbps, doesn’t do us much good. nTelos 3G while better speed wise on a consistent basis, still has ping issues as well. The best I have ever gotten is around 240 ms or so. And as you said, when the net becomes clogged, it slows down as well, sometimes as slow as 300-400 kbps down or lower. When it’s doing well we get 1.2 – 1.3 mbps here in our office setting with a 3G aircard via a Netgear 3G router. We do know the newest 151 site near 6E has not been activate yet and we are currently getting signal from Devil’s Knob overlook, so that may make a difference when that tower activates in a few days. You speak complete truth when you say none of these are real broadband so far. None of them, they all still fall short of the advertised performance, and yes are better than previous options, but for a business or serious heavy residential home/office user they all fail in the true high speed category. 3G was a better option for us because it didn’t have the FAP bandwidth limitations that satellite had (no more than 385 mb usage in a 24 hour period) but the speeds and latency are no better than sat. Sat was actually better on download, just limited on how much we could use.

    We, unfortunately, have arrived at the conclusion that we are going to have to eventually shell out the money for a T-1 here if we really want reliable, true broadband that works. It’s costs lots, but it’s the real thing. Darn shame no one really has gotten this yet except in areas like Stoney Creek, Lovingston, Wintergreen, etc where you can get cable or Verizon highspeed for much, much less.

  5. I heard something on NPR a week or so ago about a broadband cookbook. I am not sure how it works or really what it is, I only caught the end of the conversation. It peaked my interest.

  6. Hi Tommy,

    In the past year we have observed head ends for BPL and Wireless 3G being deployed along the Rockfish Valley Rt 151 corridor. That means that a basic internet backbone already exists. Each head end probably needs bandwidth in the 20 Mbps or greater range.

    In the case of Tanbark Drive, Verizon recently provided the internet backbone link to a BPL head end. 30 feet away are the Verizon cabinets that terminate copper wire telephone circuits. The analog telephone signals are digitized at that point for transmission back to the Greenwood Central Office.

    Verizon could install a remote Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (known as a DSLAM) at Tanbark and provide DSL to anyone within a 2-3 mile radius. I think DSLAMs might cost $100-$200 per user connection so a DSLAM for 200 customers in the Tanbark area could be $40,000. 40K must be a small fraction of what IBEC has spent in the past 6 months.

    Verizon seems to have zero interest in providing DSL to a few hundred, or even a few thousand semi-rural customers. In urban environments they can serve many more customers for less cost, so why do anything in Nelson County. Yet they own the copper wires that could provide the high speed connections.

    DSL is not magic, it just costs money to deploy. Lately I have wondered if the money spent by IBEC in the past 9 months could have paid for DSL over a large part of the Rockfish Valley.

    Perhaps the Nelson County Broadband Authority that is having a public meeting in May can accomplish something. That meeting should be worth attending.


  7. Mike, know exactly what you are talking about. We have the exact same scenario here in Greenfield. We had a Verizon tech tell us over two years ago that all we needed to have DSL here right on 151 was a DSLAM card in the cabinet 75 feet away. No one in Verizon was interested in doing expansion to DSL. IMHO, they are leaving lots of potential $$$ on the table. -T-

  8. MIke, nTelos cut their new site yesterday here in Nelson near 6 & 151, and though not DSL or true highspeed as we have been discussing, we are now getting a consistent, at least, 1.0 mbps down and around 200-300 up. It made a significant difference. I suspect data packets aren’t being dropped now as much. So some improvement, for sure!

  9. Hi Tommy,

    What ping times are you getting with the new cell tower ? 1.0 Mbps download speed is very good. Our dedicated non-cell Ntelos wireless broadband system worked great for the first year (about 4 years ago). More customers kept signing up and the bandwidth available to each user went down. The system still works fine on most days but ping times to ntelos.net have much variation, ranging from 100ms to 2 seconds.

    Maybe IBEC will activate our BPL service soon (Tanbark 3 area). Then I can compare it to the dedicated Ntelos service. Several of my neighbors have the Ntelos service. At the west end of Tanbark we have good signal quality – the Ntelos tower on Bear Den mountain is line of sight and about 6 miles north.

  10. Hi Mike. My nTelos ping rates aren’t impressive. Not awfully terrible for 3G, but not great. I checked after your comment and I was pinging 228ms with a download of 885kbps and up of just under 200kbps. Like I said, IBEC actually has had good ping rates at times in the neighborhood of 50ms, but their speeds vary and haven’t been reliable in our personal experience thus far. We aren’t keeping stats on them anymore since it was down so much. We finally just disconnected the units. If they can get those true high speeds of 2-3 mbps up and running reliably in the future, we’ll re-visit something there.

  11. Is the ntelos tower in Faber working yet? I live < 2 miles away and haven’t noticed change in cell phone or aircard signal.

  12. Has anyone heard a peep out of IBEC recently? I haven’t received an email updated in two months. I called last month and they told me they were working on my box, doing tests and stuff. But they said the same thing the month before that!

    I’m on hold with them now, waiting to speak with some one. Not expecting much – oh wait, got some one on the horn.

    He’s “checking with somebody.”

    …some funky on-hold music jammin right here…

    apparently they’re STILL (as in two months) trying to work out some problems with the Nellysford circuit. and apparently they’re sending an engineer out there next week to look into it.


    I’ll check back with them next month.

  13. HI Grover, we have heard nothing, zero. Though in fairness we finally had to cut them lose. We tried to be patient but they never could get their equipment or CVEC’s to “jive” with one another. We finally went with a 3G wireless option and networked. It’s been over a year since the service was to have been installed for most residents here in Nelson, and even if you gave them a 6 month grace to get it right, it’s still not as it should be. We personally like the guys at IBEC, and CVEC crews are great! But as a business model, a total failure, and very poor planning on both company’s part. -T-

  14. IBEC Stoney Silence on Dogwood Lane. We are just back from Toledo over the weekend, and trying to catch up. I’ve not sent my IBEC modem back YET, but getting real close. We had a bitterly funny group gripe with a number of total strangers at the Nelson Farmer’s Market a week ago Saturday about IBEC. People would hear us talking and just walk up and join in the session. IBEC’s lack of communication and positive customer relations is astounding in this day and age.

  15. Greg we are still dealing with getting the billing straight where we canceled our BPL service. It never worked correctly here. IBEC was pretty responsive in the refund for the modem itself, within 2-3 weeks, but we are now in the third billing cycle with CVEC and still have not gotten the IBEC charges properly resolved. Though I like and highly respect one of the IBEC principals, Steve Turner, the implementation here in Nelson County has been a total blunder. For the very reasons you mentioned in your post along with others.

  16. I finally got hooked up to BPL yesterday. I’m not sure how to determine ping rates or actual download speeds but the system is faster than my dial-up. It is pretty slow compared to what urban areas have available but at least now I can use the Nelson County Life webpage.

    The outlet with the best reception is on the 2d floor of my house–the computer is on the first floor. To get the best speeds I’m going to have to buy a router/receiver. IBEC says I can get both at Walmart for about $50.

    The two N-telos options I tried were slower than dial-up.

    Is anyone going to the Broadband Summit that Sen Mark Warner is leading at PVCC on Monday? I hope someone from Nelson Co gov’t is going since the summit is focused on grant money that is available for providing broadband to rural areas.

  17. When earthlink became available on my road, Witts End Lane,in Nellysford, I switched from Verizon. I have not had a moment’s trouble with their DSL. If you go to the earthlink web site and enter your address and zip, you will know if you are able to hook up with them. I chose the middle speed and have been very happy.

  18. Thanks Tommy for the link to speedtest. My average ping rate is about 190 ms. The upload and download speeds are averaging about 220 Kbs. My dial-up speed was about 44Kbs so BPL is about 5 times faster.

    The connection was very poor during the thunderstorms last night. I never lost power but the upload/download speeds very extremely low.

  19. That’s great news C.R.! – No question, for folks that have been tied to dial up, this will be a tremendous improvement. Like you, we did find the speeds to vary greatly not only during bad weather, but at other times as well. But sounds like you may have gotten way ahead from the dial up days, and that is great news!

  20. Hi all,
    My service has been very inconsistent over the past few months. Currently, I am at dial up speeds. It varies from those slower speeds up to 350kbps. I am really hoping IBEC is able to offer the 1-3Mbps soon. I am beginning to doubt that however, as it seems that they cannot even consistently keep us in the 300kbps range…

    Anyone heard of any other alternatives other than an air card?

  21. I am a bit late to this party, and I’m on the Colleen substation, so I have a slightly different axe to grind. I am willing to tolerate longish ping times, up to 500ms, and I would be quite happy with 256k symmetrical throughput, but even after three modem replacements, and (purportedly) one CAU replacement, I’m still seeing roughly 50% packet loss…which is basically unworkable. This is without a doubt the worst service I’ve ever dealt with. After a little over two years, I’m finally ready to give up and go to Wildblue (which I’ve avoided due to horrific latency).

    Who is using the Navini wireless offered by Ntelos? I think I’m too far away (Fortune’s Cove), but I had that service once upon a time elsewhere, and really liked it.

  22. Scott, you might look into nTelos’ 3G wireless. That are not putting in anymore Navani as I understand it, but are going to 3G. We love it! Not quite DSL, but good and very reliable. Wildblue and Hughes are both expensive and have limits on how much you can use in a 24 hr period. We always blew through the threshold, at least once a month.

    nTelos uses the Sprint network when you are not on their native sites, so you might have it down there regardless. They will let you try it for 30 days to see if it works. No obligation.

    Call or email this guy, he’s been fantastic at getting folks working here:

    John Apesa
    nTelos Wireless

    I know of two more people that switched to them just this week!

  23. Thanks NCL! I have been considering switching to 3G and I would be delighted to get back to Ntelos (I subscribed to their DSL service in c’ville when they offered the first DSL in the 90s). I will look into that – 3G is plenty for me.

  24. just wanted to drop in to say that I’m now online in Nellysford!

    not with BPL though. I signed up for it a couple of years ago and ran out of patience. the last few times I called (over the summer) they said they were working on technical/programming issues on my branch but that was months ago.

    called nTelos on monday and by tuesday I had an air card and was online at 3.1 mbps. it’s not lightning fast but it’s totally usable. as a matter of fact, I’ve been streaming online radio all morning with no problems.

    if you can get a cell phone signal at your place, it should work. I’m getting only 1 bar here, but as I said, it has been pretty consistent.

    – John


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