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Rural Broadband Options

By Edited Aug 23, 2015 0 0

Living in the country has many advantages and I love it. My only neighbours are cows, rabbits and hares. There is a downside though; there is no fast broadband.

I live in Ireland but the picture is the same in the UK and rural parts of the US. It is not worthwhile cable companies running optical fibre except in towns and cities where people live close to each other.

There are only two alternatives open to people who live in the country; satellite broadband and mobile/3G broadband

Satellite Broadband

This is the preferred option if you can take the long view. There are hefty upfront costs of £500 for installation of a satellite dish and box (You cannot use your TV satellite dish) and even after that the monthly charges are heavy, around £50/€60 for 8Gb a month of data downloaded.

Satellite broadband is unreliable and slow. Even for the €60 a month I pay I only get an 8Mb download speed. If I was paying that much for a cable connection I would be looking at a 50Mb line. The 8Mb really is 8Mb though. The contention ratio is 1:1 and I do not share resources with neighbours.

When there is heavy rain or snow the connection with the satellite is broken and your Internet stops working.  It also goes down for no apparent reason and without warning for three hours at a time every few weeks.

As well as the slow speed of the service it is bandwidth limited. This means that you can only download a set amount of data per month. As a guide, I am online sixteen hours a day seven days a week doing research, checking emails and the like and I use 5Gb a month. Video gobbles up bandwidth and I cannot use Google Hangouts or YouTube from home. I do not even use audio or images more than I have to.

The one time I did use a Hangout from home it worked for five minutes and then my Internet connection stopped working for four hours because I had used too much bandwidth.

Mobile/3G Broadband

This has the advantage that there are no upfront costs.  In my experience there is no service either.

If you live in the country you are unlikely to have any mobile signal let alone a 3G one. If you have one from a network then go for the highest data package you can get, but remember that unlimited does not really mean unlimited; there are “fair use” clauses hidden away in the small print that limit your data even on an unlimited * data package. (Look for the * somewhere at the bottom of the page and you will find details.)

Make sure there is a trial period because sometimes you will find that the network cannot handle 3G traffic at certain times of the day (like between 8am and 11pm in my own case in County Cork). A 3G connection in the middle of the night is not much use except to teenagers.

Rock and a Hard Place

You don’t have a lot of choice really, and the attitude of ISPs is usually, “What do you expect? You chose to live out there.”

Satellite broadband is your only realistic choice. If you are lucky you will have a choice of companies. The minimum you need is an 8Mb seed and 8Gb a month of bandwidth. I test my broadband speed every once in a while and it is usually 7-8Mb. This works for me. You are never going to be able to watch YouTube or streaming TV on a satellite connection unless you are willing to pay £500 a month, so just think of it as one of the downsides of having cows for neighbours.

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