Several readers over the last few months have asked about what their options might be for high-speed Internet if they’re living far outside major cities.
“Because of our location (12 miles outside Bertram), the only Internet options we currently have are satellite, or dial up,” a reader named Van wrote. “Our approximately 80 homes endure slow speeds and punishing data caps. It is almost impossible to carry on daily business here that requires any real form of connectivity. I am writing you to see if there are other options available to community like ours and if there are, how do we find them? Like much of Austin, we are experiencing growth and the subdivision has the potential to grow to 400 homes. We live in a stunningly beautiful area and our only downfall is our poor connectivity.”
A reader who lives two miles south of Elgin, Glen, said, “I pay for the fastest speed, which usually tops out at 3 MB/sec for downloading. This is just barely fast enough to stream video, which is how we watch TV most of the time via our Roku box as we cannot get cable and choose not to use satellite due to problems that our neighbors and friends have reported. I'm beginning to feel like the farmers and ranchers must have felt in the days before the Rural Electric Coops were funded. It seems to me that a similar program needs to happen if people like us will have access to technology that requires fast Internet connections.”
First, the bad news: if you are far out of the range of modern cellphone towers and away from the reach of even rural Internet providers using fiber or other wired technology, you are probably left with the options of satellite Internet (good download speeds, slow uploads, though that technology continues to improve to address that) or something through a phone provider such as dial up or, if you’re luckly, DSL Internet.
However, wireless tech has come a long way since the dial-up days and if Sprint, AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile have decent LTE coverage in your area, you could look into a wireless home router or hotspot from one of these providers. It’s likely to be much faster than those other options, though you may be limited to whatever the provider’s idea of an “Unlimited” data plan entails. These days, some utility companies offer Internet service, so ask around in your area. And the new chair of the FCC is apparently bullish on expanding Internet in rural areas, so we may see some improvements in that area in the next few years.
Connected Texas, a website that frequently posts about Internet trends in Texas, has a list of Internet providers listed by county. You can contact Connected Texas on Twitter @connectedtx and on Facebook with more specific questions.
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