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Interwebs On the Farm (Or Not)


I've heard that getting internet in rural areas is difficult and, to be honest, I kind of pushed it to the back of my mind when thinking about the farm. I really take internet for granted. It’s pretty much expected to be fast and available everywhere, so I just assume that it is. Obviously, it's really freakin' important for personal and business reasons to have good internet access. We practically live on the web. Farm research, Skype with families, online shopping. THE BLOG. I even use the voice over IP (VOIP) phone in gmail for phone calls in the apartment. So it probably should have been near the top of the list of our considerations on whether the farm would “work” for us or not, but it wasn't really. Don’t get me wrong, it was on my mind a lot, but I just figured we’d find a way to make it work, even if it was dial-up. The power of denial is strong, and typically not something I’m afflicted with (or am I?), but there's always exceptions I suppose.

I went online when we first found the place and typed our zip code into Comcast and other internet service providers’ websites and a few showed us as having coverage. I didn’t really think about the fact that maybe they lie and only have coverage in a portion of the zip code and not the whole thing. Well, that’s the case, and since we’re on the far boundary of the zip code area and out in the middle of nowhere we definitely don’t get service from the normal providers. After I called and spoke with someone at Comcast they were kind enough to inform me that the zip code test online really doesn’t matter at all. No interwebs for you.

After the bad news from Comcast our options were narrowed to the satellite providers (Hughes or WildBlue) or using our phones as wi-fi hotspots (or both). Turns out both options are ridiculously slow and also relatively high cost. Damn! After about an hour of research I was pretty bummed about reverting back to late 90’s internet speed of waiting a half hour for a photo to load. Watch a movie on NetFlix? Not possible! VPN (Virtual Private Network) from home for work, not possible!

Luckily, we were saved. At least I hope we were saved. Literally three weeks ago one of the satellite providers (WildBlue) put up a fancy new satellite that allows ridiculously fast speeds. 12mbps download and 3mbps upload to almost everyone in the U.S. That’s meaningfully faster than we get in the city. My office has 10mbps and 1mbps and we have a slightly slower wireless connection at home. One drawback is the half second delay in loading when the signal goes up to the “bird” in space, but unless you’re an online gamer it’s not that big of a deal. The other drawback is that it’s still expensive. Packages start at $50/mo, but we’ll definitely need one of the more expensive packages, probably $80/month. Not having a cable bill will help. Bandwidth is also limited to 15GB per month at the advertised speed. Who the heck knows how much bandwidth they use? I guess we will. 

Now the question is, will it work? We’ve never used satellite, but we hear that the service is finicky and can be very sensitive to the weather. 


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