Wireless Internet FAQs

What's Wireless Equipment

Orcas Online is a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) and provides internet to home and business users via point-to-point terrestrial wireless equipment. This means that we use directional broadcasting from one land-based tower to another. We utilize a combination of licensed and public frequencies to provide service to our island community in North Puget Sound. Customers can expect to have a 1-foot dish installed on their property, usually on a house/structure or a nearby tree. We connect this outdoor receiver (CPE) to an interior wireless router.

How Much Speed Do I Need?

Choosing a speed plan can be difficult, especally if you don’t know what you are looking for. Our general rule of thumb is that our bottom-level and top-level users know who they are. Of our three middle plans, residential users can get away with 10-Mbps while customers who plan to work from home or have +5 people sharing the connection should look towards the 15-Mbps or 25-Mbps plan levels. No matter what plan level you decide on, rest assured it is easy to move back and forth between them so you can find the one that works best for you.

Need more for the week? Upgrade to a higher level while you have family visiting!

What is Metered Bandwidth?

Orcas Online doesn’t use data caps. Restricting how much data someone can pass each month just doesn’t sound like great service to us. Who wants to worry about tracking monthly usage or overage fees? Not us! Instead, every plan we have comes free from restrictive data caps. We price our 5 available plans based on speeds that people will actually use. If you’re a light internet user who occasionally streams but doesn’t work from home, then our 10-Mbps plan will work great for you! Don’t pay for more than you need? Business users can buy our 25-Mbps or 50-Mbps plans and be assured that they have enough speed to get all their work done. Remember, from 12 Am to 6 Am even our speed caps turn off!

Will Inclement Weather Affect my Connection?

Our wireless gear is designed for normal operation in just about any environment, and we have observed adequate performance through such events as hailstorms, sleeting, and wildfire smoke. Specific conditions can cause some trouble with wireless connections. For example driving rain can create a temporary lapse in capacity which our radios automatically recover from over a short time. We have observed that some installations near the waterline can be weakened by tidal action, usually lasting around an hour per incident and no more than twice per day, and mostly in the summer months. Overall our network has performed admirably in the local climate for decades and we are confident it will continue to do so.

Will My Internet Work When the Power’s Out?

Your onsite wireless gear, namely the outdoor radio and the indoor wireless router, draw minimal power and can be powered for a few hours by a battery backup, and add minimal load to a standard generator. It is important to note that our network can be affected by small regional power outages due to the nature of our point-to-point system. Some connections can only be served by transmitting data between multiple radios in several locations, and a loss of power at one of those locations would interrupt the connection. Orcas Online maintains a set of battery backups at its large broadcast sites, and deploys generators to major sites during extended power outages. Our office is also equipped with an automatic generator to ensure that our servers stay operational at all times.

How is my Radio Different From my Router?

We generally refer to the onsite wireless receiver as a radio. The 1-foot dish we install contains a small wireless radio that receives your download data and transmits your upload data. For most of our installs that is the radio’s only purpose. Glass and other material can interfere with wireless transmissions, so the radios are always installed outside. The wireless router that is installed inside your residence serves as the gateway that your devices use to connect to the internet, via the single cable that runs from the router to the outside radio. Your router is responsible for moving traffic from every connected device out to the internet, and vice versa. The router provides your Wi-Fi signal, and its LAN ports, if it has any, allow a number of devices to be wired directly to it for more efficient internet access.