High-speed internet service in the U.S. is a classic case of the haves and the have nots.
In heavily populated states and metropolitan areas, most people have access to 4G technology today. In large urban areas, such as Chicago, people are now even tapping into 5G technology.
That’s not the case in many rural parts of the country. At least 14 million farmers, ranchers and residents in rural America don’t have access to broadband service, according to the 2018 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Broadband Deployment Report. Some companies report that the numbers are even higher. (The FCC defines broadband internet service as a speed that requires at least 25 megabits per second [Mbps] download and 3 Mbps upload.)
The reason high-speed internet service lags in rural America, in many cases, is because providers don’t see a sufficient return on investment to offer it in areas with a low population base.
But slow internet service can be a serious problem, notes Victoria Smith, a staff researcher for SatelliteInternet.com. It can negatively impact a population’s quality of health care, education and even its financial well-being.
Smith encourages rural Americans to research their internet options now, if they haven’t done so recently.
“Become educated on what internet plan is best for you, and make sure you understand what you're getting and what you need," she says.
“Satellite and DSL (digital subscriber line) are perhaps some of your best options in terms of availability. Satellites can beam down an internet connection to pretty much anywhere, and DSL hooks up to your existing phone lines,” she adds.
Most people will probably want DSL only if their other alternative is dial-up service. Compared to dial-up, DSL offers the benefits of being able to use the Internet and make phone calls at the same time; it’s faster, and you usually have a choice of price plans based on the speed you’re willing to pay for or want. Prices for DSL start at around $45 per month.
At the other end of the spectrum is satellite service. It is available in the U.S. through Viasat (formerly Exede) and HughesNet. Costs range between $50 and $150 per month, depending on which service you select.
Along with DSL and satellite are a couple of other service possibilities, including fixed wireless and mobile wireless.
For a quick look at your internet service options, check out BroadbandNow, a data aggregation company based in Los Angeles. The company claims to be able to help you “see plans, prices and ratings for every internet provider in your area.” You simply share your zip code, and the results are immediately available. The service is free of charge. Just go to www.broadbandnow.com.
Below are additional considerations, with more details on each service available at www.satelliteinternet.com. The company recently completed a study to identify rural communities in the U.S. with the slowest and fastest internet speeds, ranking nearly 600 in the process. The full report is available at https://bit.ly/2IxyOWr.