Bringing the Internet to Anza

Posted On October 10, 2001

For a little over a year now a small task force of members have been actively investigating ways to bring high-speed Internet access to our OCA Observatory site. The members include Jerry Mulchin, Lawrence Leavell, and Vance Tyree. Additionally a number of board members have taken a strong interest with the project and have helped answer questions - this includes Charlie Oostdyk, Russell Sipe and Liam Kennedy.

What would we do with high-speed internet access at Anza?

What would we do with high-speed internet access at Anza?

Our plans call not just for getting high-speed Internet access to Anza - but also to allow for Wireless access to this Internet service from practically anywhere on our site. This will be a truly revolutionary addition to our capabilities at Anza and probably something that very few, if any, amateur organizations are doing.

Below are just a FEW examples of how we would use this facility.

  • Provide E-Mail Access to Report Astronomical Events.
    Being the first to report an astronomical discovery can often be the difference of a few minutes or seconds. This service will allow anyone with the right equipment at Anza to immediately report his or her findings.
    Provide Remote Observatory Operation.
  • Imagine being able to access an observatory telescope at Anza from the comfort of your own home. This is particularly relevant for private members observatories - but also applies to our own Kuhn Telescope. We could stream live images from the Kuhn to our meetings at Chapman University - especially on a "cold" winter evening in December!
    Provide Wireless access for club members
  • A member sets up their telescope and notebook computer on a pad in the public "football field" area. The Member can use their wireless equipped notebook to access the Internet for many different uses. Our plans will allow members to access the Internet from all areas of our 20 acre site.
    Provide Internet access for the Anza Weather Station
  • Currently the WeatherCAM and Weather Station data is transferred to the OCA website by a single dial-up Internet account - we can save the cost of the dedicated telephone line as it is no longer needed.
  • Provide future Internet access for MOCAT operations
    MOCAT is developing the OCA remotely operated telescope just west of Anza house. Internet access will be of great benefit to the project allowing possible remote access to the scope one day.

How do we get high-speed Internet out to Anza?

It is not as easy as you might think to get high-speed Internet access to our Anza site. Due to the distance we are from main telephone exchanges, we cannot make use of high-speed services like DSL - and cable has not reached the area at all. This issue has been the one thing that has held us back for so long.

Throughout the last year various ideas surfaced and were investigated. Some of the ideas including bouncing signals between the observatory and the top of a mountaintop like Saddleback. Other ideas included trying to use new directional wireless capabilities to reach someone in Temecula who could then link us into a cable modem or DSL line. We also considered the costs of installing a commercial T1 line. All of those lines of analysis turned out to either be too costly or impractical for any number of reasons.

n the end we found the best solution to be based upon a commercial version of a satellite Internet service. These services have been around for some time - but we need something to be a little beefier than some of the home based services such as from Starband. After waiting for commercial versions of these services to be released, we finally found a company that is doing this already using satellites in the Hughes Electronics network.

What are the costs of this?

The setup costs of everything above are under $2000. The monthly charges for the Internet access are under $170 per month (updated - original estimate was $300 - now revised service is lower). That of course is a LOT of money when you compare it to your own costs for cable or DSL (I pay around $60 for my internet connection at home). Can we afford it as a club? Yes. There are plans to share the cost among the club and those members who will be making use of it. Initially at least three members with private observatories will be a part of this service and all have agreed to pay a fair part of the charges. Members who wish to use the Internet from their own computer while at Anza will need to purchase a simple 802.11b wireless LAN card (for about $100-$150) and there will be a small fee per month to use this service.

When will this be setup?

This could be setup by December or even earlier. We'll be keeping all the membership informed on the progress.

Please let us know what you think about this service - and especially if you are interested in using this facility at Anza. You can let us know via the Poll above - you may also get involved in an on-line discussion on this topic on the OCA's online forum post your questions/comments here