Tech Tuesday

Updated Tech Offers Expanded Broadband

If you're frustrated about getting high-speed Internet to your farm, there's a new approach available out there.

This week at the American Farm Bureau Federation event I connected with the folks at DISH, which is a satellite television provider. Turns out, they're also a broadband Internet service provider too and could reach out to more than 14 million rural homes that just can't get high-speed access any other way.

I talked with Brian McIntyre, vice president, broadband at DISH about the service he's offering and how it differs from satellite-based Web access offered on the farm in the past. The idea of getting the Internet by satellite is far from new, but new birds in the air along with better software promises an improve experience, McIntyre says.

"Old satellite Internet was delivered at 512K per second, which was essentially a dialup speed," he notes. "We're able to deliver at speeds higher than 4G levels." He's talking at least 5 megabytes in and 1 megabyte out of your computer, which is pretty fast and can handle a lot of day-to-day farm computing better than some services.

McIntyre also notes that the satellite service can be more reliable than using a 4G connection over a cellular network as well given that the satellite service is dedicated to high-speed access. "This is instant access, always on," he notes.

Under the program, which is bundled with television service, that first-level high-speed access is available for $39.95 per month. There's faster service for a higher fee that can double that download speed, which may be what you want depending on your broadband needs. The base service also has a 5 gigabyte data limit, which can be doubled. However, if you pass the data limit in a month that doesn't mean you'll be cut off, it just means your service speed might be throttled back until your data cycle resets.

Beyond just broadband

Interestingly, the company is pushing more than high-speed Web access. During the Farm Bureau event, the Web service - which goes by the name dishNET - conducted a survey. High-speed Web access allows for more than streaming videos, it offers an opportunity for economic development in rural areas. It's the reason that USDA has been investing so much money in rural broadband infrastructure.

"About 14.5 million rural people don't have access to high-speed Internet," McIntyre says. "We're bringing new satellite capacity and it's a great opportunity." That survey does more than assess data needs, dishNET is asking farmers about critical issues in the country and what respondents "love most about rural life?"

McIntyre says that early responses were a surprise. "Farmers feel they have a right to broadband access just like anyone in the city," he says. "There's a passion there for this type of service."

We haven't tested dishNET, but if you're in an area where you haven't got solid Web access looking to the sky may be the right approach. The broadband service price is based on a bundle that includes the DISH networks America's Top 120 television service. You can learn more by visiting www.dish.com/dishnet

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