Internet Service Providers Changing Landscape Across the Nation

There was a time when it was difficult to get broadband service in the rural sections of America. Thankfully, those times are changing. The total number of farms in the USA that now enjoy broadband service has expanded greatly over the past few years. We know this because of a recent study done by the NASS, the National Agricultural Statistics Service — part of the USDA.

For years folks in small towns and rural America felt left out of the cyber revolution. Things have changed recently, however. For one thing, many people have chosen to leave the city. This has resulted in the creation of suburbs that have taken unpopulated, unimproved areas, added infrastructure, and created suburban neighborhoods. Secondly, government (Federal, state and local) have provided subsidies to bring broadband to many isolated areas. As a result broadband usage has grown dramatically outside of urban settings.

What types of connections have Internet service providers been developing in these areas? Believe it or not, the most common connection in rural America is DSL! About 38% of the Internet connections in rural communities are made via DSL.

The good news is that dial-up connections are fading fast — only about 12% still use dial-up. In fact, only cable Internet, at 11%, is installed in fewer rural homes than dial-up. The two remaining categories really provide no surprises. About 20% use some type of wireless connection; and satellite Internet is not far behind, at 15%.

What are these technologies? Why are some more popular than others? It may help to take a moment to briefly review what is unique about each type of Internet connection.

DSL uses a regular telephone line to establish a high-speed connection. The advantage of DSL is that you can enjoy an open Internet connection 24 hours a day but can still use your telephone to place and receive voice calls. DSL offers speeds that are much faster than using a dial-up modem. Usually the company offering DSL will provide you with a modem at the time of installation. The limitation of DSL, however, is that when copper telephone wires are used the connection generally weakens as it gets farther away from the central office of the provider. Therefore DSL is usually thought of being offered more frequently in areas that are highly populated.

Fiber Optics is changing that, however. Fiber optics are very thin strands of optically pure glass that can carry digital information over much longer distances than copper wire. More and more telecommunication companies are in the process of replacing their old copper wires with new fiber-optic networks. Fiber Optics boast improved image and sound clarity. Because fiber-optics are expensive to install, the service is not available everywhere. However, government agencies are frequently subsidizing the installation of fiber optics in rural areas. If you do a search for DSL providers by zip code, you will see more and more rural areas being added.

Cable Internet is almost always available to households that have access to cable television. Cable modems connect at your cable box and offer very fast and dependable Internet connections. About the only down side to cable is that the connection may slow during peak hours — especially if there are a lot of users in the area drawing on the same cable. Also, as the above statistics point out, cable is often not available in areas with smaller populations.

Satellite Internet
When fiber optics are not available, or an area is too far away from a phone company office to receive DSL, or there is no cable service available, what can be done to get high speed broadband? Satellite Internet is the answer. Satellite is mostly used mostly in remote areas. Satellite does not require telephone lines or a cable network. Instead, satellite Internet utilizes communication satellites with a satellite dish. Users have the ability to both receive and transmit Internet data. Satellite equipment is generally a little more expensive to set up, but monthly subscription fees have been coming down and are generally now competitive with other forms of Internet access.

Mobile Access & Wireless Internet offers a big opportunity for less populated areas to access wireless high-speed broadband. This form of Internet access basically uses cellular telephone technology. Anything that can currently be done with a wire is quickly becoming a reality via mobile radio signals. Watch for innovations like WiMax technology, which will eventually create one large geographical hotspot.

Dial-up connections are no longer the only choice for individuals and families who live outside of major population centers. If you do a search today for Internet providers by zip code, you will find that many broadband options are available — even in those zip codes that are almost entirely rural. Truly, the cyber revolution has just about reached everyone!

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