Rural, Meet Technology: Advancing the Remote Home, One Step at a Time

Eighty percent of Americans live in urban areas, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. If you're one of them, it's probably hard to imagine that not every place has the same access to Internet infrastructure as the rest of the country. One of the major issues in rural areas is broadband penetration; Internet options are highly limited, and some locations are still stuck in the dial-up age. Advances in technology are opening up alternatives for these rural areas, so they can take advantage of faster Internet speeds as the rest of the country does.

Satellite Internet

The go-to Internet option for rural areas, other than dial-up, has been DSL or satellite. DSL works in some areas, since the phone lines are already running to all those houses. However, some companies don't feel it's profitable to expand into small areas with the rest of the necessary equipment to support a DSL connection.
Satellite Internet, on the other hand, provides coverage no matter where you are. ArsTechnica.com reports the latest satellite Internet technology supports up to a 12 Mbps connection anywhere in the United States, putting it on par with other broadband options. Satellite gets a bad reputation because previous generations were nowhere near this good, leading consumers to swear off of satellite Internet before they even took a look at it. It will take time and consistent service for satellite to shed its stigma.

Wireless Networks

On the other hand, mobile data networks don't share the same stigma, and 3G data is available nearly everywhere. A growing amount of locations, even in rural areas, is also beginning to pick up new gen4 technology coverage. 4G is fast enough to compare to basic broadband Internet packages, allowing you to stream videos, download updates for your computer and not have to go into town just to get to a mobile hot spot. The only current downside is that 4G has not yet spread as far into remote locations as 3G has, but both networks offer a viable alternative to satellite-based Internet.

Rural Apps

What's the point of having a great Internet connection if you don't use it to download some of the many apps for your smartphone or tablet? If you run a profitable farm, you'll benefit by pairing up your smartphone with day-to-day farm life. Crop Life recommends Aphia Speed Scout, which helps you get rid of pesky levels of aphids on soybeans; YieldCheck, which does all of the estimation of corn yields; and iCropTrak, which gives you every utility you could need in tracking historical trends with your crops, spray management, employee management and geographic data tracking. It also does not require Internet to function, in case you have a network drop, or your fields don't have any coverage other than satellite.

The Challenges

The main challenges that face faster broadband options from penetrating rural areas is profitability and geographic issues. Populations living in the mountains have a lot of signal interference due to rock faces and other formations, making it more difficult to get 4G networks that have good signal. FIOS companies may consider laying fiber optics to remote locations, but the amount of customers they gain doesn't offset the cost. Technology development will slowly bring this type of broadband, along with government subsidies, to the area.

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