Living in a rural area has some major advantages and has long been the escape for many people in corporate America upon retirement. However, in the past making that move to a secluded house by the lake has also come with some obstacles to overcome, especially for people coming from a technology background.
The reason for this is that a sufficient internet connection was often not available in such rural areas. Granted, in most cases dial-up is usually an option. However, consider someone that has been dependent on a T1 line all their life suddenly being limited to the slow speeds of a dial-up connection. For many people this would almost be unbearable. For several years now satellite internet has been an alternative option for people in this situation, however up until recently there have been some major downfalls to this option as well.
A Satellite Internet Connection Explained
Before explaining exactly what a satellite connection does and how it can impact rural areas it is important to take a look at exactly why DSL and cable companies often do not extend their services to many rural areas. When these ‘terrestrial’ internet providers enter into a new market they undergo enormous fixed startup costs to establish the ground network that is needed to provide the surrounding households with service.When these companies enter more urban areas the houses are relatively close together so the large initial investment can be divided between a large number of people. In more rural areas the houses are much further apart making it much more difficult for the service providers to recoup their costs in a timely manner. Satellite internet providers also have enormous fixed startup costs in setting up their network when providing service to a new area.
However, the difference is these companies get to launch all of their fixed network costs into space and broadcast it over a large area, like an entire state or larger. This allows them to spread their costs out over a much larger geographical area than land-based providers are capable of.
One might ask, “Well, why don’t satellite internet companies put everyone else out of business if they can spread their costs out over more people?” The answer is ‘latency’ and ‘limited data.’ Latency is the amount of time an internet signal has to travel back and forth once it has been sent. It stands to reason that this distance is going to be much further if it has to travel out of the Earth’s atmosphere and back. In the past this has been more of a challenge than it is now. In the past these high latency levels prevented people from using VoIP, video chat software, and other types of internet technologies.
Just in the past year, with new satellite technology, these restrictions have eased up quite a bit. However, playing online video games still seems to remain a challenge. The other major challenge that satellite internet faces is limited data. This is the same challenge that wireless companies face in offering service packages. Satellite providers have to be careful how many people they let on their network in an effort to not overload their satellites. Since satellite providers can’t easily add to their satellite to expand their network they have to charge for the amounts of data people use. DSL and Cable providers do not have to limit their data very much and many even boast unlimited data.
The Effects of Satellite On Rural Areas
In the past, in addition to the above obstacles, satellite internet was not all that fast and was subject to having connection problems in bad weather. However, thanks to new technology introduced in late 2011 satellite connection speeds are well above most DSL speeds and equivalent to many Cable internet speeds.The problems caused by inclement weather have been greatly reduced, and some of the issues caused by latency have been significantly minimized. For the first time people in rural areas can experience a first class high speed internet connection. The ‘only’ challenges that remain are slow response time while playing online games and having more limited data usage. Nevertheless, it seems that a quantum leap has been made in satellite technology in the last year, which is all to the benefit of the rural internet consumer.