Preface: Of course Murphy’s Law dictates that this internet access issue rose to a crisis status in the last two business days before the business tax filing deadline on Monday. I’ve been thinking how ironic it would be if lack of internet access is the factor that finally causes me to leave my home office after 25+ years of coping on even slower forms of internet. But the world has changed and I can’t remain functional in business without full time reliable internet. My first internet here was dial-up using telephone wires many years before storms knocked down the wires. Now the local Verizon telephone company has formally applied to stop wired telephone service so wireless cellular is out only connection with the outside world. It’s scary to be so dependent on a service that a large corporation is deliberately withholding us from what has become an essential basic tool of modern life.
I don’t think there are many small businesses struggling with this issue, but for those of us who are affected it is a big deal. My small rural business has access to only wireless interg.net. There are two types available: satellite (Hughes being the dominant brand here) and cellular (Verizon Wireless being the strongest signal here). I’ve tested and ruled out satellite internet as an expensive dismal failure. I’ve tested and ranked different cellular carriers. This is a decades old issue for me by now. I covered it here in a handful of earlier blog posts. As a practical matter, in the end, Verizon Wireless is our only practical internet and telephone solution.
It’s not surprising then that I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer for years and that I purchase their biggest and best data services. My usage is quite normal and typical for a small business accountant. I use a multiple line Verizon Wireless account with iPhone and two WiFi devices. My cellular bills are higher than most others’; that’s a price I pay to work in this beautiful rural location.
An ongoing problem is that Microsoft programs run in the background during overnight hours chewing up tens of gigabytes of data. I can’t yet show exactly what programs but I suspect OneDrive sync and automatic systems updates. Still, there is no logical reason why the data use reported is warranted.
I first noticed the problem more than a year ago. Verizon reports usage that increases each month that far exceeds what I could normally use. At first We were skeptical of reported usage exceeding 20GB in a month. But it grew far beyond that. In some cases Verizon Wireless technicians asked questions like “Are you running some type of server hosting business?”. No, I’m just a normal middle aged business guy who doesn’t even use streaming video other than occasional training pieces. There is no way my usage should be so high.
This problem peaked this past month. Verizon Wireless reported that I used 98 GB of data. Less than 12 GB was “me” (meaning work usage, personal browsing, iPhone and iPad use, updates and our security camera systems) and over 85 GB was Microsoft background programs.
A dramatically ridiculous example of this excess usage came yesterday afternoon when Verizon Wireless reported that I used over 8.5 GB of data in a matter of a few hours while I was not even at my desk, but while the PC was connected to the internet. (See the usage screenshot from 9/18 below).
As a result of this high usage Verizon Wireless throttled me back to unusable speed. In other words, I had an internet connection but it might take a half hour to load a web page at 0.002 Mbps speed. The advertise “up to 600 Mbps” speed but their representative confirms that the throttling is much more severe for me.
We tried to address the problem by using the “metered connection” feature in Windows 10. Theoretically, this cut off access to background programs. It did not. When that failed to address the problem, Verizon’s technician sent me back to Microsoft tech support. Good luck with that! As a practical matter I’ve found that qualified Microsoft support does not exist;at least under the various subscription and single use plans I’ve purchased in the past.
For now, I’m keeping my PC shut off and only connect to the internet when I’m working. Future updates will be done from another location that has normal high speed wifi or wired internet.
This week Forbes magazine ran a short article about a problem with the September 2019 Windows 10 updates. The timing of that updates coincides with a number of problems I am reporting with the latest background spike in usage my Verizon Wireless Internet.
From a user’s perspective, the best immediate solution would be for Verizon Wireless to offer a workaround for the few customers who must rely on this internet where the temporary problems are beyond my control.
As a separate issue, I continue to be involved in the environmental and social justice issue where communities and utility service providers have chosen to avoid installing high speed Internet in America’s poorest and most rural communities. That decision essentially condemns us to a future of continued economic poverty, lack of online education and other resources that benefit the rest of society. But that’s a rant for another blog post.