• Posted on Dec 21, 2022

Reliable high-speed internet has become a modern-day necessity for homes, schools, and businesses throughout the United States. Affordable internet connectivity or e-connectivity is equally vital across several industries, such as mining, manufacturing, forestry, and agricultural production.

Presently, internet access in rural areas of the United States lags significantly behind more populated areas. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 4% of Americans in urban areas lack internet coverage, compared to 22-39% in rural parts of the United States and tribal lands.

As e-connectivity has become a core component of the US infrastructure, the need to expand rural broadband to underserved communities grows increasingly urgent.

e-Connectivity Is a Quality-of-Life Issue

Most Americans rely heavily on the internet for education and health care information, as well as business and commerce, thus placing rural communities without e-connectivity at a distinct disadvantage. Without access to affordable high-speed internet, future generations in underserved areas will be left behind.

Rural Broadband and Agriculture

Farmers require high-speed internet to manage and run their businesses just as much as companies in US cities and suburban areas. From a marketing perspective, ranchers and farmers need the internet to communicate with customers, expand their visibility on the global front, keep track of commodity markets, and stay abreast of compliance laws.

The Evolution of Precision Agriculture

Precision agriculture refers to technologies that help farmers and ranchers operate more efficiently, economically, and with a reduced carbon footprint. Precision farming relies on internet connectivity to collect and analyze data. For example, agricultural data analysis helps farmers and ranchers accurately determine how much fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides they need to purchase and apply to their fields and the water necessary to sustain their crops and maximize their yields. In that sense, one could argue that rural broadband benefits the environment.

Still, according to a 2017 USDA report, 29% of farms in the US have no access to high-speed broadband.

Financial Resources for Acquiring Rural Broadband

The USDA and the ReConnect Program

The United States Department of Agriculture has been a chief investor in rural telecommunications infrastructure for several years. In 2018, the USDA rolled out the ReConnect Program, so far investing more than $1 billion to expand the footprint of rural broadband.

Universal Service Fund

The FCC created a rural telecommunications initiative in 1997 called the Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF consists of four separate funds, including the following:

  • E-rate Program – Qualifying rural schools and libraries may receive telecommunications services and internet infrastructure.
  • Rural Health Care Program – Qualifying healthcare providers may receive telecommunications services and rural broadband access.
  • Connect America Fund – This dedicated fund supports rural broadband services to areas and communities in need of support.
  • Lifeline Program – Provides support for telecommunications companies to offer discounted telecommunications and internet services to qualifying low-income families.

Harnessing the Power of 5G

On October 27, 2020, the FCC adopted rules to create the 5G Fund for Rural America, which promises to contribute up to $9 billion to the USF fund to bring 5G broadband connectivity to underserved areas of rural America and tribal lands.

5G service represents the latest innovation in wireless broadband technology. 5G mobile technology promises higher speeds, lower latency, better security, and greater bandwidth than previous generations of wireless broadband. 5G broadband runs on radio frequencies ranging from below 1 GHz to ultrahigh frequencies.

The architecture of the 5G network includes three networks that will offer different tiers of radio signals with varying characteristics. The types of 5G networks include the following:

  • High-band 5G – Also called millimeter wave or mmWave spectrum, high-band or high-frequency 5G delivers the most benefits as higher frequencies transmit more data. 5G base stations require more power and dense antenna distribution to accommodate mmWave frequencies.
  • Mid-band 5G – Mid-band 5G has a lower frequency than the mmWave spectrum, balancing speed, penetration, coverage, and capacity. The lower frequency gives 5G the edge on distance coverage. These combined attributes make 5G especially effective for densely populated urban areas where the demand for connectivity and use is constant, especially since 5G penetrates walls.
  • Low-band 5G – Low-frequency signals travel the farthest, while high-frequency mmWave signals transmit more data but cannot go the distance. Low-band spectrum 5G is the best frequency for broad coverage. The FCC is actively working to improve the quality of low-band frequency and maximize its efficiency in sparsely populated areas.

5G and Aviation Safety

The Federal Aviation Administration must assess whether current flight operations can safely coexist with the radio signals emitted by these new telecommunications systems. Since 5G networking utilizes multiple power levels and frequencies near flight operations, the FAA may need to restrict flight operations that rely on some radio equipment in close range of 5G antennas.

FAA safety restrictions may impact operations and flight schedules. The process of safely integrating 5G technology with aviation is ongoing, as would be the case with any innovation involving frequencies that travel through the air. Therefore, it may be some time before 5G can fit seamlessly into our current technological infrastructure.

Subsidized Broadband Is on the Horizon

Last year, the Biden administration created the bipartisan infrastructure law that promised to invest $65 billion in the deployment of broadband infrastructure. As a part of this legislation, twenty internet service providers, including Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, promised to improve the government-subsidized broadband services they offer to underserved or unconnected households throughout the US.

Contact Us for Top-quality Telecommunications Equipment

Expanding rural broadband services to underserved communities in the US benefits all Americans and is a goal we are committed to making a reality. If you want to purchase or upgrade telecommunications equipment for your home or business, contact the sales team at eNetwork Supply.

eNetwork Supply is a Chicago-based global telecommunications equipment supplier with expertise to source, ship, and distribute new and pre-owned broadband and telecommunications equipment worldwide to your specification.

Call eNetwork Supply at (312) 283- 5983 to learn more about our products and services.