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High Speed Internet for Rural Areas

Freeing yourself from the tyranny of Twitter and other social media can be a relief. But as many experienced during the pandemic, lack of high-speed Internet access. It can make working, studying and video calling in rural areas difficult, if not impossible. Unlimited high speed internet for rural areas is very necessary for villagers.

About 14.5 million Americans live in areas without broadband Internet access. But the rural-urban divide is wide: According to a January 2021 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report. 

For example, 17 percent of rural residents and 21 percent of tribal residents did not have even the slowest definition of high-speed Internet access at the end of 2019. Compared to about 1 percent in urban areas.

Rural residents are also much more likely than suburban or urban residents to say access to high-speed Internet is a problem. More than half, 58 percent, compared to about one-third of urban and suburban residents. According to a June 2021 AARP study, 23 percent of respondents consider it a major problem. It is more than twice as many as other regions.

High Speed Internet

All that could soon change, thanks to new technologies

For decades, federal and local governments have promised to bring broadband Internet access to rural and underserved communities and have made little progress. This is largely due to the cost and limitations of the technology. Laying miles of cable or fiber to a single customer in rural areas is not economically viable.

The same is true for cell towers, and the nationwide rollout of 5G cellular service will not improve the situation. Higher frequency radio waves require an even greater concentration of towers. As 5G radio cannot reach as far as 4G LTE transmissions.

Telephone wires and satellites are slower

As a result, this country relies on legacy digital subscriber lines (DSL), Internet services over phone lines, or satellite services like Germantown, Maryland-based HughesNet. Unfortunately, both are too slow to handle many of today’s modes of information dissemination.

According to the Web site BroadbandNow, the maximum speed of DSL services in urban areas is 100 megabits per second (Mbps). And that speed is a rare burst rather than a constant. For example, the best a DSL landline could achieve in our tests in a rural area was 1.2 Mbps downloading.

According to the AARP study, nearly a quarter of rural residents use their local telephone line to deliver high-speed DSL Internet, twice as often as urban or suburban residents.

Existing satellite Internet services promise up to 25 Mbps but usually fail to perform, especially in rain, snow, or wind. Video streaming service Netflix recommends speeds of at least 3 Mbps to watch a single video in standard quality (480p) (a screen height of 480 pixels with progressive scan, where the image is drawn line by line), 5 Mbps for high definition, and 25 Mbps for ultra high definition or 4K.

In 2015, the FCC raised the official requirements for broadband connections to 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. However, that’s about 40 times slower than the gigabit download speeds offered by providers such as AT&T Fiber, Century Link, Google Fiber, Verizon Fios, and Xfinity in urban areas.

Another type of satellite offers an alternative.

There is a possible solution, already in the testing phase, that uses small satellites in low Earth orbit. The first service of this type is Starlink and launched by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX.

It will eventually use a constellation of thousands of satellites to bring Internet services at speeds of 300 Mbps or more to remote locations worldwide. 

Unlike a HughesNet or DirecTV satellite, these are not geosynchronous or geostationary satellites. Typically at an altitude of about 22,000 miles above the Earth. Instead, the smaller Starlink satellites orbit at an altitude of 340 miles above the Earth, significantly reducing signal delays or latency.

At the end of May, Redmond, Washington-based Starlink, had more than 1,700 satellites in orbit. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets can put 60 satellites into orbit at a time, but full coverage requires thousands of satellites. In addition, SpaceX has received FCC approval to launch and operate up to 12,000 Internet relay satellites.

During beta testing, the service focused on southern Canada and the northern United States. After weeks of hands-on testing during Starlink’s beta program, the technology is already improving over the alternatives, with a maximum download speed of 200 Mbps, hundreds of times faster than DSL.

Hundreds of thousands are eager for the option about High Speed Internet.

In early May, Musk announced that SpaceX had received more than half a million pre-orders for its satellite Internet service, not limited to rural areas.

At our location in rural Vermont, email was downloaded in a split second for the first time, and we could stream movies without seeing a buffering icon every few minutes. We also conducted Facetime, WebEx, and Zoom video conferences and tried countless data-intensive tasks, such as updating a computer operating system and playing online games. All of this worked well but with some limitations.

Speeds ranged from about 28 Mbps to 200 Mbps. However, the satellites in low Earth orbit move, so Starlink’s motorized dish and software must constantly track them, which could be a reason for some discrepancies. Also, the Starlink connection would often drop for no apparent reason, causing a sudden interruption of a previously perfect Skype call.

These are the characteristics of an early beta test, and Starlink confirmed this in a recent newsletter to its subscribers. The company expects reliability to improve as it spends more satellites into the air.

Viasat, a Carlsbad, California-based satellite Internet provider that has offered its service since 2009, has raised objections to a large number of Internet satellites, particularly because SpaceX is now asking the FCC to approve 30,000 more satellites for itself. Among the objections is the risk of space debris or damaged satellites falling to Earth. The FCC has not yet decided on SpaceX’s application.

The initial cost of the equipment is more than $500 for High Speed Internet

The Starlink package costs $499 for the satellite dish and Wi-Fi router. Including shipping and taxes, the initial cost is $581.94, not including the $99 monthly cost for the service. That sounds expensive, but a slower conventional satellite service can cost more.

The Starlink system is relatively easy to set up. Plug the dish’s mast into the included tripod, find a clear patch of sky to aim at, connect the cable to the included Wi-Fi router and turn it on. The dish is motorized and adjusts automatically, and it’s heated to keep it free of snow and ice. However, it might be more difficult for people who live in forested mountainous areas to find a clear spot in the sky where the dish can detect satellite coverage.

HughesNet satellite Internet starts at $59.99, and data is limited to 10 gigabytes (GB) per month at a maximum speed of 25 Mbps. The price increases to $149.99 per month for 50 GB at the highest speed. After that, the download speed is reduced.

That’s not exactly a huge amount of data. For example, if you watch four two-hour Netflix movies in 4K, you’ll exceed the 50 GB limit. On the other hand, streaming ultra-high-definition videos can consume up to 7 GB of data per hour, according to Netflix.

There are no data caps on Starlink. However, HughesNet requires a two-year contract; Starlink does not. And the modem rental with HughesNet is another $14.99 per month, or $449.98 if you buy the device outright.

Astronomers worry about light pollution.

Starlink’s plans have sparked more controversy than those of its competitors. The first complaints came from astronomers and amateur stargazers. Who pointed out that light pollution from the low-orbiting satellites reflecting sunlight would interfere with telescope observations.

SpaceX has tried several solutions, including the VisorSat, which uses a black parasol to reduce light reflection. However, how effective it remains to be seen.

With thousands of satellites expected to orbit in low Earth orbit, Starlink recently reached an agreement with NASA. It is to avoid future collisions with spacecraft such as the International Space Station. As a result, Starlink will automatically maneuver its satellites to avoid collisions. NASA will not move its equipment to cause further problems. Starlink will report all planned launches to NASA.

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