Last frontier — Internet access in rural Indiana
Finding an Internet service provider is easy in big cities or most suburban areas. People who live in rural areas aren’t as lucky. Their options are scarce.
Purdue University’s Bernie Engel says 56K dial-up is no longer an option for today’s Web. Many sites would take minutes to load, causing much frustration. Engel also says a satellite connection is probably your best bet if there aren’t cable providers.
• Rural Internet options depend upon what’s offered in area.
• Most common options: satellite, cable, DSL, line-of-sight and 3G.
• Weigh pros and cons of the available choices.
“The only drawback is that your satellite needs a direct view of the southern sky,” says Engel.
Getting a direct view of the southern sky shouldn’t be too hard. However, another important aspect is weather. Harsh conditions, like a thunderstorm, can impede or completely disrupt a satellite Internet connection.
Two common satellite providers in Indiana are HughesNet and WildBlue. If DSL and cable connections aren’t available, satellite may be your best option. In some areas, there’s another option —companies that transmit signals from towers in line-of-sight transmission. The distance a line-of-sight provider can send a signal tends to be increasing.
If you have a cell phone and a strong signal, a 3G data plan may suffice for your needs. In simple terms, 3G is the third generation of the network that cell phones use to connect to the Internet. You can purchase an adapter from your provider that plugs into your computer and will connect to the Internet.
The downside to 3G connections can be slow speeds; they’re only faster than dial-up. They also can’t be used without a data plan from a cell phone provider. Most run about $60 to $70 per month.
There’s also usually a bandwidth limit per month. This refers to how much data you can consume before paying extra fees. The limit, more often than not, will be 5 gigabytes. If you want to do anything besides e-mailing friends, consider another type of connection. You typically must commit to a contract with a provider, too.
Some simple things to consider when narrowing your choice down will be price, speed and location. If you’re a casual user of the Internet and want to save money, try to get DSL. It’s usually around $20 per month for decent speed. Most DSL providers have up to three options of service.
Experts say cable will be fastest. Most cable companies have cheap prices for the first few months. After that, expect to pay around $70 per month.
Satellite has some up-front costs — the satellite and installation fees. Bandwidth is also limited. For example, HughesNet has three package options, and the highest only allows 400 megabytes to be downloaded daily. That could be consumed watching an hour of high-definition YouTube video. WildBlue offers three packages, the most expensive being $80 for 17 gigabytes download and 5 gigabytes upload each month.
Black-Disalvo is a Purdue University ag communications senior and has experience in this field.
This article published in the February, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.