Rural Connectivity

Reader Contribution by Spencer Blohm
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There’s been no greater benefit to the global world in recent years than the growing popularity of the Internet. Connectivity has allowed a huge rise in exchange of information, for every outlet from news and politics to informational sources like GRIT to discuss the best advice for living in rural America. Where once rural residents were isolated from those outside their immediate surroundings, they now have access to any knowledge they desire. Just as GRIT has examined the benefits of and given some tips for installing solar panels and weatherproofing, understanding and setting up your own system to receive satellite Internet can provide you with all the benefits of high speed Internet access while preserving your autonomy and requiring only a minimal investment of time and money.

Photo: Weber

For many rural dwellers, it’s not easy finding a connection to the web at all, and high speed Internet has been nearly impossible to access in many areas. Cable companies often won’t have lines running far enough from urban locations to provide Internet for users more than a few miles away, and the cost of having cable lines run from the closest service area to your location can run in the thousands. Unlike cable, satellite Internet can reach any home in the world that has a clear view of the sky, and can provide many rural residents with a great alternative to settling for the only other option of slower, dial-up based Internet that uses telephone lines.

Photo: witthaya/Fotolia

If opting for satellite Internet, it’s important to be selective. Look for providers like StarBand, ViaSat or Satellite Star Internet that will walk you through various plan options, and work with compatible Windows and Mac systems. No matter the plan, you’ll need to double check that your computer is capable of connecting -this means a Windows 2000 PE or higher, or a Mac OS 10.1 or higher, as well as network capability. Newer computers generally come with these prerequisites, but double checking never hurts. Ideally, your provider should also supply an installer in order to ensure the dish is mounted according to FCC regulations.

If opting out of an installer, or located where an installer is unable to reach, your dish must be placed at least 4 feet off the ground and orientated to the south. The best satellite provider in the world won’t do much good if the dish is out of the satellite’s line of site. It’s best to stay away from trees, as satellites signals do NOT go through them. Look for a spot that is unlikely to be disturbed by overgrown foliage or animals that might knock the dish over. You’ll likely need a screwdriver, electric drill with multiple sizes of drill bits, and pliers to complete a full assembly of both the dish and its stand.The dish should arrive with a meter that notes exactly when a connection is found during the final steps of installation.

Most installers won’t provide custom work for free – meaning you might need to put in extra effort to hide cables with moldings. The easiest route is to take a quick staple gun to the wall, running the cable around the edge of a room and behind furniture. Some companies will also refuse to mount the dish to a roof surface exceeding one story in height, so expect to install the equipment on your own if a two-story roof is your sole option for dish location. Finally, home networks and wireless routers aren’t generally supported by satellite installers, you’ll either want to set up additional equipment up earlier or inquire prior to the technician’s arrival if the installers will set up routers as well. Otherwise, the technicians will be unable to check your Internet is working fully.

Once your dish and router are fully functional, begin to enjoy the many benefits of high-speed Internet, including increased business opportunities and more easily maintained connections with family and friends!

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