Rural Areas & Internet Access

Bringing Internet Access to Rural Areas

In the modern era, internet access has become more of a requirement for everything from work to entertainment and it’s time to start looking at ways to ensure that everyone has access. Growing up in rural Virginia during the explosion of the internet and the early limitations of personal computing hardware, I feel like I have a good understanding of what it’s like to go without genuine access to the internet. Twenty years ago, dial-up was an acceptable way to access and search the web because websites weren’t as demanding. Now sprawling, media-rich websites, streaming video services, and online games (fun fact: online gaming was valued at about $20 billion dollars in 2016) are being designed with the high-speed user in mind and dial-up just doesn’t cut it anymore. So how do we resolve this?

The speed and quality of your connection is entirely reliant on the available infrastructure that internet service providers in your area have access to. Rural areas are often notorious for the lack of options for internet access-- and that’s if there are any available at all. Wireless radio and satellite options both offer decent download speeds but they suffer from high latency (latency refers to several kinds of delays that happen with the processing of network data; high latency connections can be one cause of a slow internet connection) and signal strength that is sensitive to weather and physical obstruction. Clearly, neither of these options is the ideal solution. So what is the answer? There are a few options and every expert has an opinion but I would ideally like to see the United States connected with fiber optic cable. Fiber is faster, more reliable, and typically enjoys better signal strength. Unfortunately, the cost of laying down this infrastructure would be very high-- too high for any lone provider to handle at this time.

Interestingly, Microsoft has proposed their own idea but they still have some big hurdles to overcome.

microsoft rural internet


Microsoft Wants to Get Rural America Online

The people over at Microsoft have a different idea to reach over 24 million Americans that are living in rural areas without access to the internet. Microsoft proposes fixing this problem using TV signals. By utilizing white space broadband Microsoft proposes they can initially extend broadband to 12 different states and bring high-speed internet access to two million Americans over the next five years. In terms of power and coverage these unused TV signals outperform cellular signals allowing much greater distances to be covered but is it enough?  

To find out more about what Microsoft is proposing, read this article by PC Magazine


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1 Response

  1. We've definitely got the same problem right here in the heart of NYC! I know MANY people, besides myself, in Manhattan that desperately want Fios but [literally] can't have it because of the infrastructure. In our case, it's not due to a lack of available infrastructure, it's due to a monopoly of what's available. Yet one more reason that Net Neutrality is of the utmost importance these days!