“Do you, or someone you know, live in an area that does not have high-speed Internet available?…”
According to a study in February 2011 by the NYTimes, 40% of US residence in rural America do not have access to a broadband connection. That’s a staggering amount of citizens that are missing out on the largest source of information and education in the history of man.
I speak with these unfortunate souls quite a bit, as our company still sells quite a few dial-up connections. We’ve developed technology to help dial-up download information faster, and it still does a decent job of checking email or browsing a few websites, but in the end it leaves most disappointed. Users want to use the Internet to watch their TV programs, listen to music, download games, connect multiple computers, use tablets, take on-line classes, check out videos about kittens doing something hilarious…things that a slow connection simply can’t handle. Conversations with people stuck in the slow lane often follow the course of “Well, the phone company said we should have DSL available next year.”, or “The local cable company is supposed to be running service through my area in the next few years.” I kind of grit my teeth when hope is mentioned, because I doubt help is on the way: if you don’t have lines laid for high-speed Internet by now, you most likely never will.
Infrastructure is expensive, and the data it carries is cheap. Expensive networks with low profit margins mean a certain population density is needed to make a service worth providing. Since the United States is relatively huge, our population tends to be more spread out. DSL and cable have a certain range, and if you’re beyond that range a new facility is needed to broadcast a signal. In order to make a couple of bucks from a connection, a provider will need a customer density of…I don’t know…let’s say 30 people per mile. Many rural areas may only have 8 people per mile, meaning providers would lose a huge amount of money in expanding to that area. Now, imagine if they had to expand in 50,000 other places, and you’ll quickly understand why a lot of farms and mountain dwellers are never going to be updating Facebook on a wired broadband connection.
What is needed is a way to provide high speeds without expensive infrastructure…and we are actually able to do that. 3G and 4G wireless connections give you fast access without the need for a physical line. You use a small wireless receiver that catches a signal from a cell phone tower, and poof! You’re in business.
Wireless carries so many advantages over wired connections that many view it as the future of Internet connectivity. Cell phone towers are relatively cheap to install, and one tower can cover a large area. Phone companies caught on to this some time ago, focusing on wireless expansion and leaving land-lines by the wayside. Some are even dropping their land-lines all together. Sprint is putting serious cash (that they may not have) into making sure 3/4G service is available in 260 new areas by the end of 2013. Growing pains aside, in one form or another, wireless is most likely the method you’ll be using to get to the Internet in the coming years. Before you get all weepy thinking “Awwww…they did this just for me!”, the main reason for it isn’t to offer service in dead areas. It has to do with trends.
The desktop computer is dead. Other than a few niche groups, nobody likes being chained to a desk using a big, bulky, power-hungry PC anymore. It’s a hold-over from the 1980’s that is at the end of its day. Users want freedom! The explosion of tablets, smartphones, and notebook sales demonstrates that, and the technology is finally available that allows for easy mobility. Most of these devices now have some form of wireless built-in, and all of them need a provider. Customers waiting in line to buy service for their mobile device is why providers are scrambling to cover as much area as possible.
So ye poor dial-up users, fret not, for help is on the way. Although you are not the intended target, you will soon be able to reap the benefits. Investing in scissor manufacturers may be a wise move because there’s about to be a lot of cable cutting going on. You might as well profit from it.