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Rural ISP | Update March 2016

USDA Awards $85.8 Million in Funds to the Small Internet Service Providers That Serve America’s Farmland

USDAIn late July of this year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded $74.8 million in telecom loans and $11 million in Community Connect grants to local Internet service providers (ISPs). These funds are currently at work subsidizing a range of rural broadband expansion projects in seven states.
 
Although (unlike the Federal Communications Commission; FCC) telecom is not a main focus of the USDA’s work, the department has reiterated several times that the benefit of broadband to farmers is enough to justify the agriculture regulator’s involvement in its expansion.
 
The USDA sees Internet access as, in this day and age, a basic utility. In a July press release, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack compared the department’s investments in rural broadband expansion to its investments in the expansion of the electricity grid 80 years ago. Vilsack’s bold comparison places a great deal of importance on, in general, the government’s, and, in particular, the department’s rural broadband expansion initiatives.
internet_accessVilsack’s importance may not be misplaced. Farmers use the Internet for a diverse range of work-related tasks including ordering equipment and monitoring grain-drying bins [1]. Broadband coverage also benefits farming communities in the same way it benefits all rural communities – by improving access to information, increasing the potential for social and business-related communications, and expanding entertainment services.
 
Over the years, the USDA has made a significant sum of money available for broadband expansion including $77 million in Community Connect grants alone. The $85.6 million cocktail of loans and grants it awarded in July goes to sorely needed infrastructure improvements in the following seven states (listed by total amount of funds received):
 
– In Minnesota, the USDA awarded Garden Valley Telephone a $12.6 million loan to upgrade their fiber and electronics systems. Consolidated Telephone received a $12.27 million loan to, among other things, expand bandwidth capacity and add a new fiber ring to their infrastructure. Minnesota’s Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) received two $3 million grants for two projects that extend broadband access to the Fond du Lac Reservation. Since the USDA began funding broadband expansion, it has put $20 million towards providing broadband service to tribal areas.
 
– In Montana, the USDA awarded Triangle Telephone Cooperative Association a $29.95 million loan to upgrade their system with fiber. The upgrade will increase reliability, bandwidth capacity, and data throughputs.
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– In South Carolina, the USDA awarded FTC Communications a $12.38 million loan to upgrade their network to 4G-LTE. The transition will increase data throughputs up to 10 times over 3G.
 
– In Wisconsin, the USDA awarded the LaValle Telephone Cooperative a $7.61 million loan to deploy fiber and replace a switch.
 
– In Virginia, the USDA awarded Scott County Telephone Cooperative a $2.1 million grant to build a broadband network with one gigabyte of bandwidth for 540 locations in Dickenson County.
 
– In Oklahoma, the USDA awarded @Link Services a grant of nearly $1.5 million to expand broadband services in Seminole County.
 
– In Alaska, the USDA awarded the Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative, Inc. a $1.4 million grant to extend broadband coverage to Point Hope and to prepare the network for the construction of an undersea fiber connection within the next two years.
 
The awardees listed above constitute a mix of small, local telecommunication companies and customer-owned cooperatives. National ISPs often neglect sparsely populated areas where the profit margin is small and, therefore, they have little to gain. Local companies and cooperatives have more than profit to gain by serving their communities. They operate at a lower profit margin because they are driven, also, by the very real need to bring Internet to themselves and their neighbors.
 
USDABecause they are serving themselves, local companies and cooperatives sometimes go above and beyond the call of duty. While mobile broadband and satellite are the easiest ways to reach rural communities, we can all agree that neither is the objectively ideal way to get online. But, out of the frustration of 500 millisecond latency are born great things.
 
Many of the USDA’s awardees deploy fiber-optic cable to areas where rural users desire a faster, more reliable way to access the Internet (i.e. a cable connection). Fiber-optic connections increase throughputs dramatically. The LaValle Telephone Cooperative, for example, is able to offer customers download speed bursts of 60 Mbps [2].
 
If you live in one of the areas targeted in the USDA’s most recent funding distribution, look to your local ISP for rural broadband developments. Perhaps surprisingly, local ISPs sometimes offer plans that trump what national ISPs offer in a given locale.

Rural ISP | Update March 2016

Rural Internet Service Providers Guide

Internet service subscriptions are sold in metropolitan areas and suburbs based on their throughput speeds alone. Out beyond the suburbs and into the rural market, providers sell subscriptions as blocks of data with a limiting data cap on each plan.

Internet service subscriptions are sold in metropolitan areas and suburbs based on their throughput speeds alone. Out beyond the suburbs and into the rural market, providers sell subscriptions as blocks of data with a limiting data cap on each plan.

Our Rhoonet ISP guide covers the top 10 regional and national ISPs throughout the United States and Canada. Alternatively, we have also compiled a list of local fixed wireless, DSL, and T1 providers, separated by state, in our

Rural ISP Directory.

 

Since there are inherent geographic challenges (mountains, valleys, etc.) in providing Internet access to rural areas, users may experience vast differences in quality of service from a provider depending on their location. In places, both satellite and mobile broadband can be finicky, which is why, on online forums, rural users give Internet providers almost universally negative reviews.

Because customer satisfaction varies so drastically with location (and, in the wrong location, can be so negative), we decided to exclude online feedback from the list. When choosing a rural Internet provider, look for reviews or recommendations from users in your geographic area. Good local service is key.

The providers listed below use satellites or radio towers to reach users who live, work, or travel out of range of traditional cable and DSL Internet providers. Each bio summarizes the extent of the provider’s coverage, its legal obligations on the user, and its service and hardware costs as of publication.

 
We invite listed providers to send us updated information about their services directly to update@rhoonet.com.
 

The First Step: Choosing Between Mobile Broadband and Satellite Internet

Before deciding on a particular provider, rural users must decide if they want to purchase mobile broadband or satellite internet. Here’s a quick summary of each service’s capabilities:
 
Mobile Broadband
Downlink: 5-12 Mbps (4G LTE), 1-4 Mbps (3G)
Uplink: 2-5 Mbps (4G LTE), 1 Mbps (3G)
Latency: 75-100 ms
Cost: $50-$60/10GB/month

Mobile broadband connects subscribers to the Internet by transmitting radio waves through the cellular network. It can either be installed on a device (like a smartphone, tablet, hotspot, or laptop with a built-in wireless modem) or installed on an external modem that provides Wi-Fi to an entire residence.

PROS: The user experience of a good mobile broadband connection is faster than the
user experience of satellite internet because mobile broadband has a shorter latency.
Gaming and video streaming are smoother on mobile broadband than satellite.
CONS: Mobile broadband throughput speeds vary drastically based on the strength
of the signal the user receives from the nearest tower. Unlike satellite, which a user
can install almost anywhere on earth and get a decent signal, a mobile broadband
signal is finicky.

Satellite Internet
Download speed: 5-15 Mbps
Upload speed: 1-2 Mbps
Latency: 500-1500 ms
Cost: $50-$90/month

Satellite Internet connects subscribers through orbiting satellites. If you have trouble getting a signal on your cellphone in your home, satellite is a more reasonable option than mobile broadband. Note that, although satellite Internet providers advertise impressive speeds, the user experience will be slower due to high latency.

PROS: Decent throughputs (in theory more decent than mobile broadband) make file
sharing with satellite easy. For any internet task that doesn’t require a real-time
response, satellite is effective and, GB for GB, typically less expensive. You can
download some large files and watch video from services like Netflix™ with no issues
on your satellite internet product. However, keep an eye on your capped bandwidth
consumptions.
CONS: For online gamers, satellite internet is not a viable choice because a latency of
up to 1500 ms equals a mean lag time. It is nearly impossible to play real-time games
like first-person shooters, on a satellite connection.

 


 
Satellite Internet Solutions
 

Dishnet™

DISH’s satellite internet service, Dishnet, provides Internet access to users anywhere in the United States that has a clear view of the Southern sky (where its satellites orbit).

A service contract with Dishnet lasts 24-months. It has a graduated early termination fee (ETF) of up to $420.00 and an unreturned equipment fee (UEF) of $200.00 [1]. Dishnet charges the UEF only if the customer does not return their satellite modem and TRIA within 30 days of cancelling service.

The three Dishnet plans offer between 10 GB and 50 GB of “anytime data” – data that can be used any hour of the day [2]. Every plan also includes 50 GB of “off-peak data” –data that can only be used between 2:00 PM and 8:00. If a user exceeds his or her monthly data limit, Dishnet reduces the connection speed from 10 Mbps download to 256 Kbps or less.

Dishnet is oft lauded as the best value in satellite Internet. Indeed, with plans that cost between $39.99 and $69.99 (plus a $10.00 monthly equipment fee), Dishnet is the most affordable nationwide satellite Internet service.

Dishnet Summary
Technology: Satellite
Coverage areas: National
Plans: $39.99 (10 GB) to $69.99 (50 GB) per month
Hardware cost: $10.00 per month to lease equipment
Cancellation fee: Up to $420.00 (depending on the remaining length of contract)
Disclosure customer needs to pay attention to: Beware the unreturned equipment fee (UEF) of $200.00.

Pros: Best value in satellite
Cons: High latency, of course

 
 

HughesNet™

HughesNet provides satellite Internet access to users in the United States, Brazil, Europe, and India. In the United States, HughesNet’s broadband service is available in any location with a clear view of the Southern sky (where HughesNet’s satellites orbit).

A service contract with HughesNet lasts 24-months. It has a graduated early termination fee (ETF) of up to $400.00 and an unreturned equipment fee (UEF) of $300.00. HughesNet refunds UEFs for users who, after terminating service, return their modem, power supply, and radio transmitter in working condition.

HughesNet has a complicated data allowance system. Each plan has a daily data allowance of between 250 and 850 MB [1]. Each day is separated into two periods. For the period between 2:00 PM and 8:00 AM the monthly data allowance is 50 GB, for remaining period the monthly allowance ranges from 5 to 50 GB [2].

Satellite Internet through HughesNet costs between $49.00 and $89.00 per month [3].

HughesNet Summary
Technology: Satellite
Coverage areas: National
Plans: $49.00 (5 GB) and $89.00 (50 GB) per month
Hardware cost: $10.00 per month to lease equipment
Cancellation fee: Up to $400.00 (depending on the remaining length of contract)
Disclosure customer needs to pay attention to: Beware the unreturned equipment fee (UEF) of $300.00.

Pros: Most popular satellite provider in the United States
Cons: Higher costs than budget satellite

 
 

Wildblue™

Wildblue™ provides satellite Internet access to users across the United States. Wildblue™ is owned by communications conglomerate ViaSat™, which provides high-speed broadband satellite to both commercial and military markets.

A service contract with Wildblue™ lasts 24-months and has a graduated early termination fee (ETF) of up to $345.00. Wildblue™ charges an activation fee of $149.00 and an equipmentlease fee of $9.99 per month [1]. Installation is, however, free.

Wildblue Monthly Subscription Plan Table

In 2011, ViaSat introduced Exede, a high-speed alternative to the original Wildblue Internet service. Exede can reach speeds of up to 12 Mbps, eight times faster than ViaSat’s original satellite service. ViaSat now uses Wildblue to sell Exede to eligible customers. (Exede is currently less available than original Wildblue but, for those in qualifying locations, is typically a better purchase).

Satellite Internet through Wildblue/Exede costs between $39.99 and $149.99 per month.
 
Wildblue Summary
Technology: Satellite
Coverage areas: National
Plans: $39.99 (10 GB) to $149.99 (30 GB) per month
Hardware cost: $10.00 per month to lease equipment
Cancellation fee: Up to $345.00 (depending on the remaining length of contract)
Disclosure customer needs to pay attention to: Activation fee of $149.00

Pros: Fastest satellite on the market
Cons: Pricey

 
 

Mobile Broadband

 

AT&T (EVDO)

Communications giant AT&T provides mobile broadband to users in the United States and Puerto Rico through its 4G LTE, 4G, 3G, and 2G networks (sold as home internet through U-Verse). Combined, AT&T’s networks cover 99% of Americans. AT&T’s 4G LTE network, its fastest, is available to 93% of Americans [1].

Depending on the devices connected to an account, AT&T services come without a contract, with a two-year contract, or with a prepay. To use AT&T through EVDO you must have an air card in your device and a router in your home.

According to an oft-cited RootMetrics study, AT&T boasts the fastest 4G LTE speeds of any mobile Internet provider – it downloads data at an average of 18.6 Mbps. The same study found, however, that AT&T’s 4G LTE was a little unreliable – one in five attempts to connect to the LTE in areas that were supposedly covered failed.

Mobile broadband through AT&T costs between $20.00 (for 300 MB) and $375.00 (for 50 GB) per month. Alternatively, AT&T offers home internet through U-Verse for $35.00 to $55.00 per month when bundled with phone and television services.

AT&T Summary
Technology: Mobile broadband
Coverage areas: National
Plans:From $20.00 (for 300 MB) to $375.00 (for 50 GB) per month
Hardware cost: Free for mobile devices/$7.00 per month to lease home equipment through U-Verse
Cancellation fee: Up to $325.00 (depending on the remaining length of contract)
Disclosure customer needs to pay attention to: Beware the $150 unreturned equipment fee with U-Verse.

Pros: Fast mobile broadband speeds
Cons:U-Verse home internet must be bundled with other services

 
 

DigitalPath

DigitalPath provides broadband internet access to users in Northern California. Like mobile providers, DigitalPath uses radio waves to transmit online data through local towers.

DigitalPath’s users sign a 12-month contract. After a 30-day grace period, DigitalPath applies an early termination fee (ETF) of an undisclosed amount. Installation and warranty for the equipment (owned and maintained by DigitalPath) costs $249.00. If the equipment is damaged as a result of the user, he or she is liable to pay a $200.00 fee [1].

DigitalPath offers five residential Internet plans, which range from a $62.95 per month plan with download speeds of up to 6 Mbps to a $102.95 plan with download speeds of up to 20 Mbps [2]. DigitalPath has a liberal heavy use policy which defines heavy use as five times the user average. This means DigitalPath does not throttle residential users until they use more than 300 GB per month.

DigitalPath offers nine business Internet plans, which range from a $99.95 per month plan with download speeds of up to 6 Mbps to a $799.95 plan with download speeds of up to 10 Mbps [3]. DigitalPath claims that its “Dedicated Business Plans” are as reliable as T1.

DigitalPath Summary
Technology: Mobile broadband
Coverage areas: National
Plans:From $62.95 per month (downlink of 6 Mbps) to $102.95 plan (downlink of 20 Mbps)
Hardware cost: Installation and warranty for the equipment (owned and maintained by DigitalPath) costs $249.00.
Cancellation fee: Undisclosed
Disclosure customer needs to pay attention to: Beware the $200 unreturned/damaged equipment fee.

Pros: Fast mobile broadband speeds
Cons:U-Verse home internet must be bundled with other services

 
 

Rise Broadband™

Rise Broadband (which operated regionally as Digis, Prairie-iNet, Skybeam, T6 and Rhino Communications until the company rebranded in 2015) provides mobile broadband to 200,000 homes and businesses in 16 states in the rural and suburban Midwest, the Mountain States, and the American Southwest.

Like mobile providers, Rise Broadband uses radio waves to transmit online data through local towers. Unlike mobile providers, Rise Broadbandis focused solely on Internet access for homes and businesses (fixed mobile broadband).

New customers must accept a service agreement of at least one year. If the customer terminates service, Rise Broadband charges an early termination fee (ETF) of $250 or the remaining portion of the contract. If the customer fails to return the equipment within 30 days, a minimum unreturned equipment fee (UEF) of at least $300

(1) The monthly costs of Rise Broadband’s plans correspond with the graduated speeds the plans deliver and the monthly data allowance. The provider’s download speeds vary from 2 Mbps to 15 Mbps

Rise Broadband’s fastest speeds (15 Mbps downlink) are comparable to today’s 4G LTE.

[1].The monthly costs of Rise Broadband’s plans correspond with the graduated speeds the plans deliver and the monthly data allowance. The provider’s download speeds vary from 2 Mbps to 15 Mbps [2].
Rise Broadband’s fastest speeds (15 Mbps downlink) are comparable to today’s 4G LTE.Rise Broadband costs between $40 and $60 per month for residential customers [3] and between $59.95 and $109.95 per month for small businesses [4].
 

Rise Broadband Summary
Technology: Mobile broadband
Coverage areas: Sixteen states in the rural and suburban Midwest, the Mountain States, and the American Southwest
Plans:Between $40 and $60 per month for residential customers and between $59.95 and $109.95 per month for small businesses
Hardware cost: Installation and warranty for the equipment (owned and maintained by DigitalPath) costs $249.00.
Cancellation fee:$250 or the remaining portion of the contract
Disclosure customer needs to pay attention to: Beware the minimum unreturned equipment fee (UEF) of $300.

Pros: Local focus, business plans
Cons:Limited to particular states

 
 

Sprint (EVDO)

Sprint provides mobile broadband to users in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islandsthrough its 4G LTE, 4G, 3G, and 2G networks. Compared to Verizon and AT&T, Sprint’s rural coverage is lacking. The mountain states and the west coast, in particular, lack ideal coverage [1]. Sprint’s 4G LTE network, its fastest, is available to 80% of Americans [2].

Depending on the devices connected to an account, Sprint’s services come without a contract, with a two-year contract, or with a prepay. To use Sprint through EVDO requires a skycard and a router.

According to a RootMetrics study, at an average speed of 10.3 Mbps Sprint’s 4G LTEis significantly faster than its relatively slow 4G, 3G, and 2G networks [3]. Sprint’s prices are alsomore affordable than any other national carrier. This means that, for users in a location that does have access to Sprint’s 4G LTE, the service can be an excellent value.

Mobile broadband through Sprint costs between $10.00 (for 100 MB) and $110.00 (for 30 GB) per month [4].

Sprint Summary
Technology: Mobile broadband
Coverage areas: National
Plans:Between $10.00 (for 100 MB) and $110.00 (for 30 GB) per month
Hardware cost: Customer supplies aircard/router
Cancellation fee:Up to $350 per line
Disclosure customer needs to pay attention to: Sprint lacks a solidified home internet plan with particular legal stipulations, so beware ambiguity.

Pros: One of the more affordable mobile broadband options
Cons:Sprint no longer markets home internet as a product, although third-party vendors still advertise it through their businesses.

 
 

Verizon (EVDO)

Verizon provides mobile broadband to users in the United States and Puerto Rico through its 4G LTE, 3G, and 2G networks. Combined, Verizon’s networks cover 99% of Americans. Verizon’s 4G LTE network, its fastest, is available to 98% of Americans [1].

Verizon 4G LTE Internet comes with a two-year contract and a graduated early termination fee (ETF) of up to $350.00. To use Verizon through EVDO requires an air card and a router, which Verizon provides for free.

Verizon finished at the top of a series of tests done by RootMetrics at the end of 2014. Of the four national carriers, Verizon is best in overall performance, best in network reliability, best in overall networks speed, and best in data and call performance [2]. Coverage is crucial for rural users and, as RootMetrics proves, Verizon has the strongest 4G LTE network in the United States.

Mobile broadband through Verizon costs between $60.00 (for 10 GB) and $120.00 (for 30 GB) per month [3].

Verizon Summary
Technology: Mobile broadband
Coverage areas: National, Puerto Rico
Plans: Between $60.00 (for 10 GB) and $120.00 (for 30 GB) per month
Hardware cost: Free
Cancellation fee:Up to $350 (depending on the remaining length of contract)
Disclosure customer needs to pay attention to: Overage fees of $10.00 – $15.00 per GB

Pros: Reliable service in most areas
Cons:Verizon coverage can get pricey

 
 

Rural ISPs

Internet Provider HughesNet Finishes Testing Its Next-Generation Satellite

The fifth generation of satellite internet will, according to HughesNet™, provide much faster data throughputs and a 50% greater capacity.

HughesNet™ looking to deliver faster data throughput with 50% more capacity

In December 2016, the internet provider successfully launched its EchoStar XIX satellite into geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above Earth. This February, HughesNet announced that it had completed a successful round of in-orbit tests on the four-ton EchoStar 19 and that the satellite was ready for use.

The EchoStar XIX, built by the satellite and spacecraft manufacturer Space Systems Loral, is a Ka-band high-throughput satellite. It features what HughesNet calls “the world’s most advanced”very small aperture terminal (VSAT) platform. The award-winning data-processing platform, developed by HughesNet, gives customers the highest possible capacity and efficiency of today’s satellite internet options. HughesNet calls the new internet service “Gen5.”

Like the EchoStar XVII before it, the EchoStar XIXwill use 138 beams to provide service to the continental United States, Alaska, Mexico, and parts of Canada and Central America.

5G™

Echostar XIX to use 138 beams for services in the USA

With HughesNet Gen4 service, these areascurrently see download speeds of up to 15 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 1 Mbps. Gen5 will increase these numbers, although HughesNet can’t say by how much just yet.

Although it will likely be faster, HughesNet’s Gen5 service will not overcome satellite internet’s biggest stumbling block: high latency or lag time. Geostationary satellites orbit the earth at 22,236 miles above sea level, meaning that online data has to travel at least 44,472 miles round trip. This distance has long been a stumbling block for satellite internet, since it takes upwards of 700 milliseconds (ms) for a satellite signal to travel between earth and space.

A HughesNet™ competitor, Tesla Motor’s SpaceX, has begun a project that, if successful, could overcome satellite’s stumbling block.

Elon Musk, the new darling pf space technology stands next to one of his products

Instead of sending satellites into high, stationary orbit like other providers, SpaceX unveiled plans last year to build a constellation of coordinated, moving satellites would orbit at 715 to 823 miles above earth.

Bringing satellites closer to earth solves the most pertinent problem with satellite internet – high latency. The company estimates that it will reduce the latency of satellite internet to 25 to 35 ms.Today’s satellite internet has a latency that is 7 to 25 times higher than mobile broadband and 50 to 150 times higher than cable. If successful, SpaceX’s satellite constellation will have a latency just 2 times higher than cable.

Rural Americans will be the first to benefit from SpaceX’s new project when it comes to fruition. Musk has appealed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – the government agency that, along with the Department of Agriculture (USDA), has invested over $260 billion in mobile broadband expansion in the last seven years – to oversee the launch of 800 preliminary satellites.

5G™

Space X satellite constellation is a game changer for the future

SpaceX’s satellite constellation has the potential to make today’s geostationary satellite internet technology obsolete. Even if it doesn’t, it will likely increase the competition between providers. More competition could lower prices and encourage other providers to innovate.

Thanks to HughesNet and SpaceX, exciting things are happening in an industry that is, typically, immune from the fast-paced innovation of other technologies. Stay tuned for more information about Gen5 and satellite innovation this year.

If you need another reason to get pumped about HughesNet’s Gen5, be sure to watch the launch of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 – the vehicle that carried EchoStar XIX into space – from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Dec. 18, 2016.

Please feel free to share the article or add to the discussions.

Rural ISPs

AgTech Advancements Use Mobile Broadband to Grow Crops

Despite the pastoral vision of farmers many city people hold, agriculture has always been a dynamic, innovative industry.

Altering the genome of a crop worked thousands of years ago

Altering the genome of a crop worked thousands of years ago

Luddites work with age-old agricultural techniques – like, for example, altering the genome of a crop gradually by taking seeds from only the best specimens for replanting – that constantly push the field of agriculture forward.

While many see AgTech – electronic, often internet-connected technology aimed at increasing the productivity of farming – as a “disruption” (and there is certainly room for a discussion about the ethical implications of new technology on farming), it’s actually the next logical step in a long history of agricultural innovation [1].

That’s not to say, of course, that AgTech hasn’t taken innovation to a new level. Interest in agriculture from tech companies and venture capitalists is high. Last year, for example, AgTech innovators raised $4.6 billion in funds for a wide range of projects, many involving internet connected technology [2]. High profile investors, including Google Ventures, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, see a profitable future in agricultural technology.

In May of this year, the Third Annual Silicon Valley AgTech Conference (goo.gl/tbpqRq) brought together twenty

AgTech startups, all working on the cutting edge of agricultural technology and all competing for the same funding. The ideas – which ranged from surface imaging technology that builds underground maps for farmers to new solar powered greenhouses that draw energy from above are new, but the industry is at least five years old and counting.

Much of AgTech, from the funding to the product development, is top-down (i.e. paid for by high-rolling venture capitalists and built by engineers who may or may not have farming experience). This has led some to voice concern over the practicality of AgTech inventions. In a July Fortune piece, Jennifer Alsever writes:

“Small farmers seem flummoxed by many of the new products and services, which are often tied to complicated contracts; don’t work with existing equipment, software, or growing practices; and promise solutions to problems that growers don’t necessarily have” [3].

Connected  technology in rural areas

Connected technology in rural areas

Instead of predicting doom, Alsever’s piece, hyperbolically titled “Is There an AgTech Bubble?”, ends on a high note. After a series of failed product tests, many early AgTech innovators are returning to the drawing board with a more realistic idea about the challenges of implementing connected technology in rugged, isolated places.

As of now, a lot of AgTech is still on the drawing board in Silicon Valley and other places. Farmers can, however, already purchase reliable soil, gas, weather, and fuel sensors. These sensors transmit data over 3G or 4G LTE mobile broadband networks to software programs that collect massive amounts of data on fertilizing, spraying, irrigation, and yield.


Soil sensors, like the Sentek EnviroScan probe, continuously transmit information about soil moisture and salinity. Farmers can use this information to determine the behavior of other water movement systems and to schedule irrigation. The Setek EnviroScan system analyzes multiple depths of soil, up to 130 feet deep [4]. Other soil sensors measure soil chemistry, so that farmers can determine the ideal make up and schedule for fertilizer.

Smart sensors are particularly evolved in the controlled growing environments of the hydroponic and greenhouse

Sensaphone Sentinel web-based monitoring device

Sensaphone Sentinel web-based monitoring device

industries. The manufacturer Sensaphone, among others, markets comprehensive detection systems that monitor for temperature, humidity, power failure, and water leaks. Their systems vary in scale from the Sensaphone 1800, for small greenhouses, to the Sensaphone Sentinel, for up to twelve greenhouses [5].

Rural ISPs

AT&T’s Newest Project Could Bring Mobile Broadband to Isolated Rural Internet Users

Like dial-up, AT&T’s new project – AirGig – transmits internet over phone lines, but that’s about where the similarities between dial-up

Project AirGig will transmit broadband signal along existing telephone lines for rural customers

Project AirGig will transmit broadband signal along existing telephone lines for rural customers

and AirGig stop. AirGig is a new, experimental technology that transmits short range mobile broadband signals from telephone pole to telephone pole. It’s wireless and much faster than dial-up, which is why AT&T has high hopes for its new project in isolated rural markets.



AirGig transmits short wave mobile broadband signals between small access points installed on telephone poles. Each individual access point doesn’t send the cellular signal far, just to the access point on the next telephone pole. That access point then transmits the signal to the next telephone pole and so on. Through a network of short range wireless access points, AirGig can regenerate mobile broadband signals over long distances.

Like other mobile broadband products, AirGig transmits online data at multi-gigabit speeds. In fact, earlier this

Gigabit Interface Converter with fiber cable

Gigabit Interface Converter with fiber cable

year, a German system beat a world record in wireless transmission by reaching download speeds of 6 Gbps with similar technology. AT&T has not yet tested AirGig outside the laboratory, but the company predicts that, in field tests, it will be able to approximate the speed of today’s 4G LTE (as transmitted by tower).

This means the technology will likely:

  • Have a download speed of 5-12 Mbps
  • Have an upload speed of 2-5 Mbps
  • Have a latency/lag time/ping of 75-100 ms

While AirGig will likely replicate the speed of today’s mobile broadband towers,

4G high speed mobile broadband

4G high speed mobile broadband

it is much less expensive to build a network of AirGig access points than to build a tower. AirGig uses inexpensive hard materials (including plastic) and existing infrastructure (phone or power lines) to expand coverage. Unlike a tower, AirGig’s hardware is cheap to manufacture and easy to install by hand.

Mobile broadband providers often don’t cover rural communities because it isn’t economically viable for them to build an expensive tower for a limited number of customers. With AirGig, AT&T will be able to deploy mobile broadband networks to rural areas without incurring huge costs. This could mean better service for rural users with poor coverage and, finally, access for the 22% of Americans without any 4G LTE coverage.

AirGig also has the potential to reduce deployment and maintenance costs for providers, leading to less expensive service for its customers. A mobile broadband subscription currently costs between $50 and $60/10GB/month in the United States. When it is deployed, AirGig (as the economical option) should cost that or less.

In a press release, AT&T said its AirGig technology was “deep in the experimentation phase.” Initial tests, in AT&T’s outdoor laboratories, yielded positive results, but the provider won’t conduct a field trial until 2017. AT&T hinted that the first trials will take place outside the United States, announcing that it is currently “looking at the right global location to trial this new technology next year.”

Encroaching branches and powerlines

Encroaching branches and powerlines

AT&T also underscored how phone and power companies could use AirGig modules to monitor phone and power lines for things like encroaching branches. The project will require cooperation between wireline and wireless sectors, so establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between the technologies will set the stage for faster adoption.

Please share this article with friends and neighbors.

Rural ISPs

3G & 4G LTE: The Perfect Broadband Solution for Machine-to-Machine Transactions

Businesses increasingly process transactions, including sales, with computers instead of with old-fashioned pen, paper, and cash.

ATM is an example of a machine-machine connection

ATM is an example of a machine-machine connection

These machine-to-machine transactions and executions include mobile point of sales, Oil rig monitoring, smart vending machines, smart safe, digital signage, fail-over, portable kiosk and automatic teller machines, including online sales and mobile wallets do improve business efficiency.

Unfortunately, machine-to-machine transactions depend on a reliable internet connection to function.

In rural areas, where many internet connections are not available or not reliable, businesses often struggle to make sales online or, especially, to accept payment from mobile wallets. If machine-to-machine transactions malfunction because the internet connection is too weak, new technologies can actually seem less efficient than old-fashioned solutions.

Internet technology is penetrating a wide range of markets – from portable kiosks to vending machines to oil rig monitoring – which makes many rural businesses excited to adopt machine-to-machine transactions in their own establishments.

One popular form of transaction, digital wallet, makes sales between a business and a customer faster and easier. The term “digital wallet” includes payment technologies that allow individuals to make Payments without using a credit/debit card or traditional money transfer.

With digital wallet, consumer can make a payment without a credit/debit card

With digital wallet, consumer can make a payment without a credit/debit card

Many money services offer digital wallets including big players PayPal (Wallet), MasterCard (MasterPass), Visa (V.me), QIWI Wallet, and Allied Wallet.

Digital wallets basically allow users to pre-register credit, debit, gift, and loyalty cards so that they can efficiently make payments from a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. Digital wallets combine the convenience of paying with cash with the ease and security of paying with a card (no messy change to sort out, no chance of losing paper money or having it stolen).

So far, consumers don’t expect to be able to pay with a mobile wallet. Studies, for example, link credit cards to increased spending on impulse buys and tips [1], but there are no comprehensive studies linking mobile wallets to increased in-store spending.

If your business is involved in e-commerce, however, it absolutely makes sense to accept mobile wallets.

Research shows accepting PayPal increases sales

Research shows accepting PayPal increases sales

According to the company’s own research, accepting PayPal increases sales. Displaying the PayPal logo on various pages of your website increases the number of conversions by almost 3.5% [2].

If, as a rural business, you want to offer your customers the option to pay by digital wallet or, alternatively, want to expand your business into e-commerce, establishing a reliable mobile broadband connection at your business takes the headache out of these new technologies.

With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) which will heavily enable devices in industries such as agriculture and livestock, medicine, sports, entertainment, big data, engineering, oil exploration and robotics to strive exceedingly well.

Mobile broadband connections are fast and, where there is reliable coverage. The next generation of wireless broadband (5G) which promises to connect billions of devices simultaneously worldwide will likely go live in the year 2020.

Check the mobile broadband coverage in your area using the National Broadband Map [3]. The two networks available today are:

3G Mobile Broadband (available from carriers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint)
Download speed: 1-4 Mbps
Upload speed: 1 Mbps
Latency: 75-100 ms
Cost: $50-$60/10GB/month

4G LTE Mobile Broadband (usually only the Verizon 4G LTE network covers rural areas)
Download speed: 
5-12 Mbps
Upload speed: 2-5 Mbps
Latency: 75-100 ms
Cost: $50-$60/10GB/month

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Source:
[1] Cash Isn’t Always King: Accepting Credit Cards Can Increase Your Business. Available at: http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/07/accepting-credit-cards-increase-business.html
[2] 5 steps that can boost conversions by over 3%. Available at: https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/business-updates/checkout-optimisation
[3] National Broadband Map. Available at: http://www.broadbandmap.gov/

Rural ISPs

Google Fiber Confronts the Slow, Costly Realities of Wireline Technology

Sometimes, it seems like emerging technology can make (virtually) anything out of (virtually) nothing.

Google fiber network router for end-users

Google fiber network router for end-users

In the last two decades, internet giants like Google have built their empires from the ground up, pioneering products in industries that were nonexistent in the mid-nineties. Despite the seeming limitlessness of emerging technology, there are always physical limits on the ingenuity of companies like Google.

Earlier this month, Market Watch reported that Alphabet Inc.’s cable television and internet provider, Google Fiber, was on the brink of an existential crisis [1]. The crisis – brought on by the physical and economic difficulties of installing fiber cable networks – is prompting Google Fiber to reexamine its use of wireline technology to provide television and internet connections to its 120,000 subscribers.

Industry insiders have long been skeptical of Google’s foray into cable. Google originally described Google Fiber, which began as a small-scale cable service in Kansas City, as an experimental project. The project was, however, a success and, in 2012, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt told a conference that: “It’s actually not an experiment, we’re actually running it as a business” [2].

With the backing of Google and, beginning in 2015, Alphabet, Inc., Google Fiber expanded beyond Kansas City into Austin, Provo, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Nashville, Salt Lake City, and San Antonio. The company still has plans to continue expanding its service to at least a dozen other cities, including urban hubs like Los Angles, Chicago, and Dallas.

According to Market Watch, these plans may be put on hold as Google Fiber reevaluates its provider strategy.

Market Watch reports expansion plans may be on hold

Market Watch reports expansion plans may be on hold

Laying wires is hard, dirty work. Although Alphabet, Inc. has other hardware projects – it works with manufacturers like Acer, Inc. and Samsung to produce Chromebook, for example –

Google Fiber is one of its least sexy ventures. Laying wires is more about persistence and sales than about ingenuity and innovation (Google’s best attributes).
After becoming a viable Google subsidiary in 2012, Google Fiber found installing cable more time-consuming and more expensive than it initially anticipated. Jonathan Reichental, chief technology officer for the City of Palo Alto, told Market Watch that: “If you’re in the telecommunications industry for 150 years, there are no surprises here, but if you’re a software company getting into the business for the first time, this is a completely new world” [1].

Google Fiber has suspended projects in San Jose, and Portland, Oregon, as it looks into alternative ways to deliver high speed internet to subscribers, including wireless options like mobile broadband. Market Watch reports that: “Google Fiber is hoping to use wireless technology to connect homes rather than underground fiber-optic cables, according to a person familiar with the matter” [1].

Wireless technology is definitely cheaper and easier to deploy

Wireless technology is definitely cheaper and easier to deploy

Although wireless technology is, arguably, easier to deploy, the current mobile broadband networks fall far short of the 1,000 Mbps speeds Google Fiber currently promises subscribers. Google is, apparently, also reaching out to cities and power companies to gain access to the cable networks they’ve already built.

Leasing cable is, perhaps, a more realistic approach for the fledgling cable provider.

What are your thoughts on this story? Care to share?

Rural ISPs

How Rural Networks Can Support the Internet of Things

The internet of things (IoT) – i.e. the high volume network of internet connected devices that users can monitor and control remotely via a smartphone or computer – has the potential to revolutionize the

High volume network of internet connected device that user can monitor and control

High volume network of internet connected device that user can monitor and control

technology of farming industries like agriculture, meat, and dairy. Internet connected technology makes it easier to manage large produce farms and to monitor the health of livestock from miles away.

Symphony Link Outdoor Gateway

Symphony Link Outdoor Gateway

For the agricultural industry, remote soil sensors like Symphony Link eliminate much of the labor required in testing the soil manually. Instead, farmers can determine the moister and chemistry of their soil remotely, any time they want. Soil monitoring systems can also automate the process of soil analysis and, therefore, bring problems to the farmers’ attention immediately.

For the dairy and meat industries, the Moocall Calving Sensor, for example, prevent calf loses. The device measures the contractions of a cow in labor,

The Moocall Calving Sensor prevents calf loss

The Moocall Calving Sensor prevents calf loss

alerting the farmer via phone approximately one hour before the cow gives birth. The noninvasive device attaches to the tail of a pregnant cow and lasts 30 days on a single charge. It, and other devices like simple surveillance cameras, can protect the health of livestock.

The IoT is, unfortunately, a high volume network that requires a strong Wi-Fi or mobile data signal to support the many connected devices – from calving sensors to surveillance cameras to soil monitors – with a farming application. Because mobile broadband is spotty in most rural areas, most farms will have to install a reliable Wi-Fi network before they can reap the benefits of the AgTech IoT.

Farms with the capital to do so may install reliable

A T-1 line will provide reliable wifi for farmers

A T-1 line will provide reliable wifi for farmers

(but expensive) T1 line networks. These wireline networks put farmers out a pretty penny, but provide reliable Wi-Fi to residences, barns, greenhouses, and outdoor spaces. With a wireline connection, the bandwidth is not limited as it is with wireless satellite internet or mobile broadband connections. It is, therefore, a more practical network to support a high volume of devices.

TI LINE

Download speed: 1.544 Mbps
Upload speed: 1.544 Mbps
Latency/lag time: 3-5 ms
Service cost: $300 to $4,700/month
Installation cost: $1,000 to $45,000, depending on the length of the line

If you don’t have the means to install a T1 line, you can still utilize the benefits of the IoT by using a combination of satellite internet,

Broadband aggregation for satellite, DSL and 4G LTE

Broadband aggregation for satellite, DSL and 4G LTE

dry DSL and mobile 3g and 4G broadband through a bonded appliance/software (for bandwidth aggregation) to achieve your required bandwidth. Remember, if you are lucky enough to be one of the few rural internet users with cable or DSL, you can also use these high-bandwidth connections to support your IoT.

To conserve bandwidth, purchase equipment that uses minimal bandwidth, such as low-definition surveillance cameras. The Homeboy security camera, for example, streams low quality 640×480 VGA video. Although these streams are not as pretty to look at as the high definition alternatives, they are a hundred times more practical in any rural area with a limited bandwidth internet connection. I guess the real trick here is being practical in being able to realize your end game of video surveillance.

Whatever your device, adjust the settings to (1) low definition picture, (2) low definition sound, and (3) less frequent updates to preserve your bandwidth and prevent losing the connection altogether. While it is, currently, difficult to set up IoT networks in rural areas, it is not impossible to benefit from IoT technology like remote surveillance cameras.

As rural networks become faster and more reliable, the IoT will transform the way farmers interact with their land. The benefits of this transformation include increased efficiency,

 Intersection of technology and farming – inspecting cultivation

Intersection of technology and farming – inspecting cultivation

increased production, and a decreased need for labor. The IoT may be the answer to a growing demand for food on a planet with limited resources.

For farmers who enjoy the physical work involved in growing food and raising the technology may, however, have a minimizing effect on the relationship between farmers and the land. The expansion of the AgTech IoT definitely raises philosophical questions for farmers
inclined to that type of thought. The IoT will likely breathe new life into a debate about technology and farming that dates back to before the Luddites.

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Rural ISPs

Cable Internet Alternatives: Mobile Broadband, Satellite, T1 Lines, or Dial-Up for Rural Properties

Today, far too many rural properties are too far from the local hub to support a cable or DSL connection. While rural broadband initiatives are working to lay fiber lines that support fast, cheap cable

Most rural properties are too far from a local hub to support cable or DSL Internet

Most rural properties are too far from a local hub to support cable or DSL Internet

connections, these initiatives are, unfortunately, sporadic and slow to implement. In the meantime, those who live off the cable internet grid are left to blaze their own trail.

If cable internet providers like Time Warner Cable, Charter, or Earthlink don’t cover your rural property, there are other internet options for the resourceful to discover. This quick reference sheet

A Mobile 4G LTE represents one of the four options

A Mobile 4G LTE represents one of the four options

outlines the effectiveness and costliness of four cable alternatives: mobile broadband, satellite, T1 lines, and dial-up. It contains the fast facts you need to make an informed, empowered decision about your rural internet coverage.

First on our list is mobile broadband, the internet you get with your cellphone carrier’s data plan. The wireless mobile broadband network sends radio waves between cell towers and the modems in your phone, tablet, e-reader, or laptop. It can also be installed on an external modem to provide Wi-Fi to an entire property, just like cable internet.

Mobile broadband is, usually, the fastest user experience available to rural properties. Unfortunately, 3G or 4G LTE mobile broadband networks do not adequately cover all rural areas (particularly those in mountainous terrain). Poor coverage makes mobile broadband less reliable than satellite, T1 lines, or dial-up in some areas. Check the Rhoonet website https://www.rhoonet.com/search-rural-isps/
to identify all mobile broadband providers operating in your area.

Mobile Internet Router

Mobile Internet Router

MOBILE BROADBAND

Download speed: 5-12 Mbps (LTE), 1-4 Mbps (3G)
Upload speed: 2-5 Mbps (LTE), 1 Mbps (3G)
Latency/lag time: 75-100 ms
Service cost: Typically $50-$60/10GB/month
Installation cost: Around $75

Satellite Internet is literally Available Anywhere

The second most popular internet alternative for rural areas is satellite internet. The wireless satellite network sends radio signals between satellite dishes on earth and satellite dishes in geostationary orbit 24,000 miles above earth. It’s not the most efficient system, but it allows satellite providers to beam internet virtually anywhere (including onto boats, mountains, and motor homes).

Technically, satellite internet is faster than mobile broadband, but the signal latency as radio waves travel in and out of space creates significant lags that slow down the user experience.

Satellite internet communication dish sends and receives signals

Satellite internet communication dish sends and receives signals

SATELLITE INTERNET

Download speed: 5-15 Mbps
Upload speed: 1-2 Mbps
Latency/lag time: 500-1500 ms
Service cost: $50-$90/month
Installation cost: Around $500

T-1 Internet provides VoIP and Business Internet

Each T1 line has 24 symmetrical channels operating at the same download and upload speeds, making it an incredibly predictable and reliable technology. The wireline connection transmits signals along the dedicated fiber optic or copper lines with virtually no latency.

In the eighties, T1 lines were absolutely revolutionary. Now, however, they have been outstripped by faster and more economical options like internet over Copper and cable. For those with the budget, T1 is still the most reliable option for rural businesses that cannot install a cable or DSL connection.

With T-1, you have a guaranteed connection for broadband and VoIP services under a service level agreement(SLA).

A T-1 Circuit

A T-1 Circuit

T-1 Internet

Download speed: 1.544 Mbps
Upload speed: 1.544 Mbps
Latency/lag time: 3-5 ms
Service cost: $300 to $1200/month
Installation cost: $1,000 to $45,000, depending on the distance of location to the central office. Keep in mind, you can negotiate some of these fees. Be sure to do your research in terms of actual cost.

If your property is within wireless range of one or two other properties, you can add an 802.11ac wireless router to share the service with your close neighbors and split the monthly billing or even the built up cost.

Dial-up Internet is Alive and Well in Rural America

Amazingly, millions of Americans still connect to the internet using dial-up technology. Dial-up internet is a wireline connection that

These modems (14.4 Kbps) sold for about $49.00 at CompUSA in 1990

These modems (14.4 Kbps) sold for about $49.00 at CompUSA in 1990

sends signals over the public switched telephone network. The connection is not strong enough to support multiple devices at once, so the phone line is connected to a modem that connects directly to the computer via telephone cable.

Dial-up doesn’t require any additional infrastructure, excepting a phone line connected to the public switched telephone network. It is, then, an incredibly accessible and affordable technology. Cheap, however, comes at a price; dial-up connections are painfully slow, particularly when processing today’s high definition online content.

DIAL-UP Internet

Download speed: 56 Kbps
Upload speed: 34 Kbps
Latency/lag time: 150-200 ms
Service cost: $5-$10/month
Installation cost: Usually free

Coming Soon: Rural Broadband Bonding Series

For businesses and work at home professionals who do not find a complete fit in the options discussed, I will be doing a series in late August on Rural Bonding broadband appliances such as Peplink, Mushroom Network and Multapplied.

Please feel free to tweet this to anyone that might be interested. Thanks!

Rural ISPs

Call for Applications: Minnesota to Award $35 Million in Rural Broadband Expansion Grants

The Minnesota Office of Broadband Expansion has renewed and expanded its efforts to increase internet access in rural areas with $35 million in new grants for the state’s current internet providers (small, medium, and large).

$35 million grant available for rural ISP in Minnesota

$35 million grant available for rural ISP in Minnesota

The state hopes these grants will encourage Minnesota’s providers to expand their service to low-income andrural Minnesotans.

Minnesota, one of a handful of states proactively pursuing mobile broadband expansion through legislation, ran the same grant program in 2014 and 2015. Although the program has never before had $35 million dollars to give out, past grants of between $100,000 and $5 million have, nevertheless, sponsored numerous successful projects that brought wireless and wire line service to thousands of households.

Within the $35 million fund, the legislature has earmarked a $500,000 fund for projects that includes low-income areas and another $5 million for projects in underserved areas. These earmarks reflect the goals of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s federal broadband expansion project, which aims to expand affordable internet access to low-income urban areas, alongside unserved rural areas.

Minnesota’s legislation on rural broadband expansion also includes an ambitious “state goal” to, by 2022,

Rural America is lacking sufficient broadband access

Rural America is lacking sufficient broadband access

provide every Minnesota resident with access to an internet connection that downloads data at a minimum speed of 25 Mbps and uploads at a minimum speed of 3 Mbps download. This would put the state in line with the FCC’s 2015 broadband internet standards.

Currently, most rural Americans do not have access to an internet connection even half of what the FCC calls broadband internet. In areas of rural Minnesota, many residents must choose between mobile broadband, satellite internet, and dial-up – all of which are often woefully slow. By the FCC’s count, 87% of rural Americans lack access to a mobile broadband connection with a download speed of 10 Mbps and an upload speed of 1 Mbps.

Although the grant fund appears to sponsor mobile broadband projects as well, the past recipients have been fiber cooperatives and cable companies. Wire line connections – like cable – are much faster and, after the initial costs of line laying, cheaper for consumers.

According to the legislation, the state’s long-term mobile broadband goals include ensuring every resident has access to a connection with 100 Mbps download speeds and 20 Mbps upload speeds by 2026.

The state has the ambitious goal of delivering 100 Mbps to all residents

The state has the ambitious goal of delivering 100 Mbps to all residents

It also sets high goals for the state to be one of the top five states for universal access to broadband and to be on par with one of the top fifteen countries for broadband penetration worldwide.

Although $35 million is, unfortunately, just a drop in the bucket for a country that has already invested over $260 billion in mobile broadband expansion in the last seven years, the grant fund represents an exciting opportunity for Minnesota’s internet providers to improve their coverage in the state.

The state will cover up to50% of the development costs up to $5 Million.

The state will cover up to50% of the development costs up to $5 Million.

Awardees, which the Office of Broadband Expansion will choose late this year,stand to have up to 50% of their project development costs covered by the state, up to $5 million. The office begins accepting applications on July 22, 2016 and will stop accepting applications on October 3, 2016. To apply, visit https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/grant-program/.

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Rural ISPs

U.S. Senators Call for Renewed Federal Commitment to Rural Broadband Expansion

On July 11, twenty-eight senators, including Senator Angus King of Maine, urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

Senator Angus King - Image from theMainewire.com

Senator Angus King – Image from theMainewire.com

to renew its commitment to rural broadband expansion with new funding. The group submitted a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler emphasizing the positive connection between reliable rural broadband and growth in the rural agriculture industry.

“Mobility is essential for new precision agriculture technologies to deliver productivity gains and environmental sustainability,” the letter states, referring specifically to mobile internet connectivity. “These technologies are transforming U.S. agriculture as American farmers and ranchers seek to feed, fuel, and clothe an ever-increasing global population using limited land, water, and other resources” [1].

The senators expressed concern that inadequate internet coverage in rural areas would stunt agricultural projects, since rural farmers are not able to take advantage of internet connected agricultural

Moocall monitors your pregnant cow and sends a SMS alert to the farmer when it is time

Moocall monitors your pregnant cow and sends a SMS alert to the farmer when it is time

equipment without reliable internet service. This equipment includes innovations like calving sensors and weather sensors for predictive analytics that maximize farm productivity.

In 2015, agricultural technology innovators raised $4.6 billion in funds for a wide range of projects, many involving internet connected technology [2]. High profile investors, including Google Ventures, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, see a profitable future in agricultural technology.

In their letter, however, senators pointed out that, by the FCC’s own measure, 87% of rural Americans lack access to a mobile broadband connection with a download speed of at least 10 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 1 Mbps. That’s 52.2 million people, many of whom work in the agricultural industry, that do not have a fast, reliable internet connection.

The letter does not even touch on the FCC’s own definition of “broadband” – a connection with a download speed of at least 25 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 3 Mbps – which effectively zero people in rural areas have access to.

Although there are several viable rural internet options – mobile broadband, satellite internet, and dial-up – senators urged action on mobile broadband expansion exclusively. Mobile broadband has the

Senators argued mobile broadband is the ultimate solution for teenager and goat

Senators argued mobile broadband is the ultimate solution for teenager and goat

greatest potential speeds of any rural internet option, so investing in strengthening and expanding 4G LTE and 3G networks in rural areas is the most effective way to expand rural internet access.

Mobile broadband is, even now, the fastest rural internet option by user experience. America’s 3G networks have a download speed of between 1 and 4 Mbps and an upload speed of about 1 Mbps. America’s 4G LTE networks have a download speed of between 5 and 12 Mbps and an upload speed of between 2 and 5 Mbps.

The second fastest option, satellite internet, is technically faster, but has a slower user experience due to very high lag time (up to thirty times higher than mobile broadband).

   Satellite broadband comes with a high lag-time

Satellite broadband comes with a high lag-time

Satellite networks have download speeds of between 5 and 15 Mbps and upload speed of between 1 and 2 Mbps.

In their letter, senators specifically asked Wheeler to rework Phase II of the USF’s Mobility Fund to include funding for rural broadband projects. While the FCC and the USDA have already invested over $260 billion in mobile broadband expansion in the last seven years, the senators’ pleas show we still have a long way to go towards universal coverage [3].


[1] King Calls on FCC to Close Rural Broadband Gap. Available at: http://www.king.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/-king-calls-on-fcc-to-close-rural-broadband-gap
[2] AgTech Investing Report – 2015. Available at: https://agfunder.com/research/agtech-investing-report-2015
[3] USDA Announces Funding for Rural Broadband Projects. Available at:
http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdamediafb?contentid=2015/07/0212.xml&printable=true&contentidonly=true

Rural ISPs

5 Ways Internet Access Makes Rural Living Better

While many young urbanites are glued to their smartphones day and night, 15% of Americans still do not use the internet, ever.
Limited and affordable internet options leads to low internet usage

Limited and affordable internet options leads to low internet usage

In rural Limited areas, where internet options are already limited, the number is even higher; nearly one in four rural Americans do not use the internet.

According to a 2015 Pew study, demographics have a lot to do with whether or not a person uses the internet. Americans who are 65 and older, make less than $30,000 per year, or have less than a high school education are significantly less likely than others to use the internet.

Other factors, including a perception that the internet is irrelevant to their lives or that an internet connection is too expensive (yes, in rural areas it can be), also prevents people from going online.

5

Online Learning opportunity

As the number of services accessible by internet expands – from calling services to banking services to online learning to e-commerce and so on – so does, unfortunately, the number of services non-internet users are missing out on.

Here are the top five reasons to try the internet, even if living in a rural area makes finding a reliable internet connection more difficult:

1. Social Network | Stay in contact with family and friends.

Small, close communities are one of the benefits of country living, but many rural dwellers also have family and friends scattered towns and states apart. Keep up with your children and grandchildren’s lives on social media or call long distance for cheaper using voice-over-internet-protocol services like Skype.

2. Online Research | Discover a wealth of knowledge.

Locating information – about anything from crops to weather to Shakespeare – can be difficult in rural areas where the nearest library or bookstore is miles away. The internet brings shelves of knowledge directly to your fingertips, so that you can know more than ever before.

3. Online Gaming |There are fun things online.

5

Young boy playing War of Warcraft

At first, using the internet may be frustrating. If, however, a competent person helps you get set up, the internet can be incredibly entertaining. A basic internet connection (satellite, or even dial-up) lets you play simple multiplayer games like cards. Better connections (mobile broadband, sometimes satellite) let you stream the music, television shows, or movies you want to see (even the oldies and classics), whenever you want.

4. Tablets and Smartphones | Using the internet is easy.

Nearly a third of non-internet users say the internet is too difficult for them to use. As many as 8% of these people say they are too old to learn how to use it. If the last time you tried to use the internet was in the ‘90s, it’s easier now. Engineers have been perfecting user interface for more than thirty years now. Devices like tablets and smartphones are more intuitive than older computers.

5. Mobile broadband | There are options for rural dwellers

5

Urban dweller using a tablet

not as many as for urban dweller, but still. The three most viable options for rural, residential internet use are mobile broadband, satellite, and dial-up. Mobile broadband is great because it comes pre-installed on smartphones. Satellite is great because it works anywhere. Dial-up is great because it’s inexpensive (think around $10 per month). If you’re feeling ambivalent about the internet in general, dial-up is a great first option. Although it has passed the torch to faster connections in the last decade, over two million Americans still use AOL dial-up [2].

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