How’s that rural broadband thing coming along?

Let’s clear up a few things first.  What is broadband?  According to

What is Broadband?

The term broadband commonly refers to high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access.

How is broadband different from dial-up service?

  • Broadband service provides higher-speed of data transmission. It allows more content to be carried through the transmission “pipeline.”
  • Broadband provides access to the highest quality Internet services—streaming media, VoIP (Internet phone), gaming, and interactive services. Many of these current and newly-developing services require the transfer of large amounts of data that may not be technically feasible with dial-up service. Therefore, broadband service may be increasingly necessary to access the full range of services and opportunities that the Internet can offer.
  • Broadband is always on. It does not block phone lines and there is no need to reconnect to network after logging off.
  • Less delay in transmission of content when using broadband.

Now – how is the growth of broadband in ag areas coming along? 

Depends on who you ask.

Many farmers use smart phones.  They check the markets, tweet their news, update facebook – all while driving a tractor.  (Don’t worry, during harvest season lots of combines are on autopilot until you get to the end of the row.)  Satellites have made it possible to receive information faster than ever before.  We’ve got cell phone towers all over the place.  Having said that – there are still many ‘dead’ areas where phones won’t work.  At all.  Mostly it’s a grove of trees causing the problem, or low lying fields.  Sometimes it’s because you’re too far away from a tower.

I drive to Mason City at least once a week, and I know all three spots along the way where I can’t be on the phone – because I’ll get dropped.  But everyone knows those spots – and you just don’t call people!  We adapt.

There are many people that live in the country that are use providers like Wild Blue.  They are available almost anywhere. ( I could not get them at my family’s farm – because the farm was at the bottom of a hill and they said I would not get service.  Yeah, I don’t get it either.)  They don’t work with VOIP and live interactive gaming – says “latency will have a noticeable effect on performance over the WildBlue network, as it would on any satellite delivered service.”   They also have a fair access policy; if you exceed it they slow you down to a crawl.

Then there’s HughesNet.  They have download allowances ranging between 250 mb and 450 mb.  From their website: To ensure fair Internet access for all HughesNet® subscribers, Hughes maintains a Fair Access Policy. This policy establishes an equitable balance in Internet access for all HughesNet subscribers. Hughes assigns a download threshold to each service plan that limits the amount of data that may be continuously downloaded within specified time periods. Subscribers who exceed this limit will experience a temporary reduction of speed.

I used them at the farm, because that is all that was available.  It meant no live streaming (ack! No 140 character conferences), no watching Hulu or any tv online – it meant paying very close attention to what I was doing online.  My friend Deb Keller uses them (because she has to) and it’s very frustrating.  “When the kids are home, we can’t all be on our computers.  Because we go over the limit and HughesNet slows us down to slower than dial up.”  That’s right – they intentionally slow your service to a crawl.

Living in town, small or large urban area, you don’t even consider internet speed.  It’s a given.  Sure, sometimes Mediacom has problems – but it’s usually not a big deal.  I’m with Qwest (they have a new name – Century Link) and have no complaints whatsoever.  However, neither of these companies service rural farm areas.  We are told it’s too costly to provide the necessary equipment to get there.

So, yes, we can get higher speed of data transmission.  Most people in rural areas are limited to the quantity of this data transmission because of ‘fair access policies’.  Forget streaming media, VOIP, live gaming and interactive services – those run you out of allowed downloads.  If you live too far away from cell phone towers, you are SOL too.

It’s better … but we aren’t anywhere near equal yet. 




  1. Shellie Couch on November 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I’m hearing you Deb. As someone who lived in a small city her entire life and just recently moved a mere 20 minutes away from that town, I am so frustrated with my internet service. I have ‘rural broadband’ – Pixius, here in Inman, KS. Just watching a youtube video can take 20 minutes of waiting for buffering. To download or upload anything requires setting it up to happen after I am sure I won’t be needing the internet for anything else. (Usually when I go to bed) When I finally got in on Google’s Music Beta, it took five DAYS to get my music onto the site. I sure wish I had the same access that I had just 20 minutes away, back in the small city!! But I am VERY thankful to have service!

  2. Sara Broers on November 11, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Where I live, I’m in the same boat~ So, the answer to your question- How’s that rural broadband coming along? I have to say, “It’s NOT!”

  3. Deb on November 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Shellie – boy do I hear your frustration! I lived 6 miles from town – and it sucked for broadband. Sarah – the next question is “was dial up better?”. Hmmm – I wonder…

  4. Deb K on November 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Now there’s an idea……..we are actually considering going back to dialup!

  5. Deb on November 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Deb K – I know how you feel — I often wondered why I was spending good money on a service that was limited. If I needed to do some major research, I’d go into town to my mom and dad’s house.

  6. Katy F. on November 14, 2011 at 1:25 am

    How’s your cell reception at your house? Have you considered Verizon’s MBB? I know others in your area are using it!!

  7. Deb on November 14, 2011 at 3:48 am

    My cell reception is great — but I’m in town! Be curious to know how Deb Keller’s reception is…