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What are the Internet Options in Rural Areas?

Rural Internet is the access to the Internet from rural areas (also referred to as "the country" or "countryside"), which are settled places outside towns and cities. Inhabitants live in villages, hamlets, on farms and in other isolated houses. Mountains and other terrain can impede rural Internet access.

Most rural access to Internet is voiceband by 56k modem but poor phone lines in many rural areas, many of them installed or last upgraded between the 1930s and the 1960s, may limit actual download speeds to 23-26k or less. Since many of these lines serve relatively few customers, phone company maintenance and speed of repair of these lines has actually degraded and their upgrade for modern quality requirements is unlikely. See digital divide.

Methods for broadband Internet access include:

- Mobile Internet (broadband if HSPA or higher)
- Power-line Internet
- Terrestrial Wireless Internet
- Satellite Internet
- ADSL loop extender

In the United States

The United States Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service has provided numerous studies and data on the Internet in rural America. One such article from the Agricultural Outlook magazine, Communications & the Internet in Rural America, summarizes internet uses in rural areas of the United States in 2002. It indicates, "Internet use by rural and urban households has also increased significantly during the 1990s, so significantly that it has one of the fastest rates of adoption for any household service."

Another area for inclusion of the Internet is American farming. One study reviewed data from 2003 and found that "56 percent of farm operators used the Internet while 31 percent of rural workers used it at their place of work." In later years challenges to economical rural telecommunications remain. People in inner city areas are closer together, so the access network to connect them is shorter and cheaper to build and maintain, while rural areas require more equipment per customer. However, even with this challenge the demand for services continues to grow.

In 2011 the Federal Communications Commission proposed to use the Universal Service Fund to subsidize rural broadband Internet services.

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