How to Get High-Speed Internet in Rural Areas

First Financial Bank
In today’s world, everything requires an internet connection – keeping ahead of the weather, connecting state-of-the-art tools for monitoring the health and well-being of flocks, even tracking down supply deliveries – but rural farming areas often don’t have access to the same high-quality services offered in cities.

According to a USDA report, 29% of U.S. farms have no access to the Internet. As more and more poultry farmers recognize the Internet of Things as the next big development in agriculture, access to reliable high-quality internet isn’t only a convenience, but a necessity.

As the landscape of modern farming continues to evolve rapidly, high-speed internet is a critical tool required to maximize efficiency, monitor health of flocks, conserve natural resources, and control costs. Even the U.S. federal government recognizes the importance of bringing high-speed internet to rural areas. In September 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced more than $500 million in loans and grants to telecommunications providers to bring high-speed internet to rural communities across the country.

In order to remain competitive, farmers in rural areas need access to reliable mobile and fixed broadband connectivity to use the latest in precision agricultural equipment. However, poultry farmers can only take advantage of this type of precision agriculture technology with a strong wireless internet connection for data collection. Accessing the internet can happen through a variety of methods, including: fiber, cable, satellites, digital subscriber line (DSL) and the original, dial-up. Not all options are available everywhere. What makes them different? The technical elements needed to– and more importantly, how much data and how quickly it can transmit it for you. See the ISP options below that could help you take advantage of the different technologies that could bring your poultry farm into the 21st century.

Internet Types and Their Capabilities

When transmitting data, speed and volume count. If you are uploading lots of data and doing it often, you’ll want it transmitted quickly. How is it measured? In megabits per second (Mbps). And if you are wondering “How fast do I need my internet to be?” the real answer is: as fast as you can get it in your area. Depending on the type of internet service provider (ISP) available in your area, you can expect the speed to be approximately:

  • Dial-Up: the approach that has been around the longest is also the slowest, providing up to 56kbps (a kilobyte per second is 1/1000th of the speed of 1 Mbps) – and is not considered “high speed internet”. It is using your landline phone lines with a modem and just doesn’t have the capabilities needed to support modern technology systems.
  • Satellite Internet: This option is widely offered in rural areas with speeds from 10 Mbps to 100+ Mbps. It uses a satellite dish to connect you to the internet. Because it is using a dish outside, it can be affected by weather and tends to be the slowest of the “high speed” options.
  • Digital Subscriber Line (DSL): Speeds can vary widely from 3 Mbps to 110+ Mbps. DSL also uses phone lines, but with broadband technology that allows for faster speeds and concurrent use of the phone lines for voice calls.
  • Cable Internet: With speeds from 10 Mbps to 500+ Mbps, this option requires the cable infrastructure – and not all rural areas have access. In addition, some areas where it is offered for “home use” doesn’t support the “business” uses, such as using for your flock management system. This typically happens in places where the cable subscriptions are heavily used and the cable can’t support the additional needs of more or bigger customer needs.
  • Cellular Network Internet: With speeds up to 300 Mbps, it is in the midrange for speed, but can be more readily available – since this is what supports your cell phone (which everyone wants/needs today) and new cell towers are being added regularly across the country. It is also touted as the best alternative to satellite internet in some rural areas, but that depends on a number of factors that are related to your specific area.
  • Fixed Wireless: Also relying on the cellular network but requiring special equipment being installed, this option provides speeds that reach up to 50 Mbps.
  • Fiber Internet: The fastest of all options with up to (or potentially even exceeding) 5,000 Mbps of capacity, this is also the newest and relies on specific fiber option cable to be laid to support it – so not available in as many areas as the other options. If it is in your area, it will also be the most expensive. Depending on your specific needs, it may be worth the investment when they make it available to you, but you’ll want to carefully assess against what it can enable for your business.

In most areas, you’ll find satellite and 4G/5G LTE home internet service are both widely available. There are a variety of satellite options available, depending on where you are in the country, including those from CenturyLink and Starlink. The available services and what kinds of technology (software applications and hardware) work with it or are required to support it can vary.

As telecommunications companies have expanded their service offerings in the past decade, 4G/5G is both faster and more readily available than it once was. For customers who need internet access on an immediate basis and have reliable access to signal, 4G/5G may be the way to go.

On the plus side, 4G/5G options involve purchasing readily available and inexpensive hardware, and plans are almost always less expensive than satellite options. National cellular providers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all have wireless home internet services, though they’re not always offered everywhere that has cell service. For example, even in an area where a phone service provider has a good signal, it might not offer a home or business internet service. Potential customers can use this high-speed internet provider tool to see what internet providers may service their area. You will still need to evaluate what is available in your area – and whether it supports your specific applications and hardware. It pays to do your homework.

Keeping an eye on the possibilities

With the high demand for internet service, options are becoming more widely available. The FCC requires broadband providers to report on their service reach twice a year, which can provide you with some ideas for what providers may now cover your area. This includes the biggest companies moving into fiber (for example, Google Fiber) and slowly rolling out across the country. You may find other provider options from tech magazines such as CNET, which publishes articles on the Best Rural Internet Providers, as well as a variety of other tech insights you may find useful. General business sites like Forbes also run articles on the “best of” that may provide insights and ideas for you. This is in conjunction with keeping up with what’s new and can be automated in poultry farming to improve your yield and reduce flock loss. This is an evolving and growing market, so new options for both technology and the high-speed internet access may become more widely available to you over the next few years.

Want to discuss your plans for growing your business? Let’s chat!

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