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Many rural areas still lack efficient broadband access

Reader’s Report: Information from readers indicates there are still holes in coverage.

February 15, 2020

3 Min Read
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REACH RURAL RESIDENTS? The country is a great place to work and raise a family. But can you get the fast broadband service you need to operate a farm efficiently today?

Extending fast broadband into rural areas is a work in progress. Recent coverage of that progress brought comments from readers. Here are observations from the country.

Send your own comments to [email protected].

Dear editor:

I was looking though the February edition of the Indiana Prairie Farmer, and the title of your article “Don’t bet on where ‘last mile’ of broadband falls” caught my attention (Page 8 and at link above). I’ve seen the term “last mile” used many times over the years regarding internet access. It always makes me chuckle and not in a good way!

I know I should be happy that we do have internet access at our rural home, but as the internet evolves and bandwidth requirements increase, I feel our connection is not much more than dialup service compared to what is available in other locations not far from us. Our speed is 3/0.5 Mbps down/up.

Our service is DSL, through phone lines, and my home is 19,111 feet from the “multiplexer” equipment, which has an 18,000-foot limit. On the flip side, I will say that my service is very reliable.

What is also a concern to me is how our state Legislature offers grant money for expanding internet access, only to see that the money used to increase bandwidth in areas that are already served. I understand that infrastructure costs are expensive to maintain, as well as to add new, and I try to keep that side of the coin in mind.

I would be interested in knowing what Indiana’s requirements are for receiving grant money, like what was made available in 2019, as well as what the minimum bandwidth must be for a connection to be considered “broadband.” I know that on a cellphone app that I use to test bandwidth it, says that the FCC benchmark is 25/3 Mbps down/up. Hopefully in the next few years things will get better and there will be more options for rural folks to choose from! 

Thanks for your informative article.

Jeff Teel,
Brookston, Ind.

Editor’s note: After communicating with Teel, he added this follow-up concerning where companies say service is available versus reality:

The “area served” topic is one that I can vouch for, too. It seems there are gray areas in the broadband topic that need some structure added so that everyone is on the same page. I remember seeing a commercial on our local TV station offering internet service for a really low price. The commercial sounded like anyone could get service from Comcast.

The reason it caught my attention was, we have a Comcast fiber cable running past our house. I pretty much knew what I was going to hear when I called to inquire about service, but I thought it would be interesting.

I was told by the people installing the fiber that it would be transmitting raw data, so adding customers to that fiber line isn’t possible. The Comcast support folks had to search around some to even find that they had a raw data link along the road where I live, but after some searching, they did confirm it. They also confirmed that it was a raw link and could not supply service to me. Technology — you can’t live with it and you can’t live without it! — Jeff Teel

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