Cable television had its start in North America's rural areas. It is also one of the most significant predecessors of unlimited wireless broadband. This new medium allowed television signals to reach locations hundreds of miles from their point of origin.
By the 1960s, tiny cable systems, called community antenna television (CATV) existed across North America. It was especially true in sparsely populated areas. Even large cities lacked the television signal quality these places enjoyed.
So, it's surprising that modern high-speed broadband technologies have been so slow to reach rural areas. Some providers are making their way into this market, though. That's what we'll discuss in this article.
Broadband technologies are used for wide-bandwidth data transmission. Broadband is an encompassing term. It refers to any media technologies with the capacity to transport multiple signals and types of information.
These might be coaxial cable, fiber optics, satellites, or even twisted copper wire. CATV set a precedent for some of these signal delivery technologies existing in rural America. Its founders also established the infrastructure they would inherit.
Today's Internet-starved rural populations complain about being on the wrong side of the digital divide. But several tech-savvy entrepreneurs across the continent have taken the problem on, as the CATV pioneers did.
Let's look at one example.
Shenandoah Telecommunications Company, or Shentel, was founded in 1902. It was then called the Farmers Mutual Telephone System. It was in Virginia's rural Shenandoah Valley. The new company's goal was to extend telephone service from towns to outlying rural areas.
French has dedicated most of his career to Shentel, having served as President and CEO since 1988. He has made strides with both business and residential high-speed Internet in rural Western Virginia.
In 2013, French was honored for his work in rural development by Virginia's Region 2000 Partnership. This initiative is a network of area development organizations. Their vision is to provide regional leadership within the 2,000 square miles surrounding Lynchburg.
There are similar examples of telecommunications corporations trying to bridge the urban-rural divide. They exist in growing pockets throughout Canada, and the U.S. Efforts like these efforts are sorely needed.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2018, 24% of rural Americans said that access to high-speed internet was still a significant problem for them. Another 34% said it was a minor problem.
In Canada, less than 40% of households with Internet service have enough download speed for streaming video. In contrast, 97% of urban Canadians can access at least that speed daily.
These sorts of digital divides should not have to be of concern for either the U.S. or Canada in the 21st Century.
Here, we detail some recent public initiatives in Canada and the U.S. They aim to help the situation of urban vs. rural Internet access inequities.
We must level the playing field as a whole before starting to plan in earnest for unlimited wireless broadband.
In December 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, announced a new initiative. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would offer loans and grants to build the country's rural broadband infrastructure.
The funds were meant to support up to $600 million in funded requests. Applicants include:
The underlying premise, of course, was to support rural economic development initiatives.
In August 2020, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) implemented a related program. Funding comes from contributions by larger Canadian telecommunications service providers.
Source: Government of Canada
A good-sized portion of the funding for broadband Internet improvements target remote northern communities specifically.
Much of rural North America rural areas' Internet service comes from an amalgam of less-than-perfect long-distance transmission technologies.
Urban dwellers and their Internet service providers benefit from economies of scale. Yet those in rural areas have the opposite situation. Their subscribership is dispersed. It makes using fiber-optic or even coaxial cable networks too costly and challenging.
DSL, which uses existing home phone lines for Internet service. It is probably the slowest, though, especially if you have several devices connected to your home's WiFi. We recommend using it only if there are no alternatives.
The issues with satellite Internet are like those with DSL. It is slow and should be used if there are no other options.
You might already have coaxial cable running into your home. People use cable for television, phone, security, etc. If you have cable, you must be in at least a somewhat populated community.
You might not have quite the speed or reliability of a dedicated fiber-optic network. Still, cable does use fiber optics to send its signal and beats most other options. If you have cable access, that is.
A fixed wireless internet signal comes to your home by radio waves from a fiber-fed base station. Related technologies use cable, phone lines, or satellites to deliver Internet service to your home.
Fixed wireless provides better service than DSL (which still relies on old-fashioned phone lines). But it still faces challenges related to speed and current technologies.
Mobile hotspots offer clearer signals in some places. As with most mobile communication, though, Internet access signal quality varies a lot. The point of mobile is that users move from place to place.
And careful. This option can get very expensive with frequent use!
Unlimited wireless broadband is really the domain of wireless phone service providers, especially with the new 5G rollout. Nowadays, historical cable, satellite, and wired telephony companies are melding into this area as well.
This service is gradually making its way into rural North America, so the good news is that you might be seeing it soon where you live. If you don't have it already, stay tuned! This can sometimes be pricing depending on how many carriers are in the area, or how many subscribers are on the network. Wavedirect is taking steps to utlize the new 5G technology as a backup to its main fixed wireless signal as a fail safe for rural internet.
Consider the information we've shared here, and do further research. We encourage you to select your rural Internet service provider judiciously. Get the best you can find in your area.
The efforts or smart and community-minded entrepreneurs have made a difference with rural access. With government support, a positive trend might disrupt the digital divide between urban and rural dwellers.
If only we could resolve the information inequities across socioeconomic boundaries!
Are you looking for rural Internet service, including unlimited wireless broadband? Do you live in Southern Ontario? If so, please let us know. Our capabilities improve continually.