Why is it hard for rural areas to get home internet even if they have good phone service?



Edit: *good cellphone data service*

What’s the difference between watching Netflix on mobile vs home internet? Why can’t a similar technology of radiowaves or satellite be used?

In: Technology

You need different wires for high speed internet, and getting a company to invest the money in getting those wires to your home in a rural area is hard, because it’s very expensive to dig and install those wires, and if there’s not many people around that area, the company isn’t likely to make their money back by doing this.

Yes, a similar thing happened decades ago with installing phone lines to rural areas, but that was overall cheaper to do comparatively.

Good phone service just needs cellular towers, which is a few connections to service a large area. Good internet, cable or fiberoptic, regulars direct connection from the residence to the provider. So they’d need to run cabling to each house, along all those rural roads, to provide good internet, which is an expensive upfront cost for a small benefit (a few customers).

Primarily because of infrastructure. It expensive too install the fibre cables needed for high speed internet and if there’s only a handful of homes in a rural area then there’s little incentive for the provider to do so.

Broadband speed is also reliant on the distance it has to travel so in a rural area where houses are likely to be spread far apart and located a fair way away from the cabinets and telephone exchanges it is delivered from, it will typically be considerably slower than in urban areas.

I have a home that is very very rural. My closest neighbor is 12 miles away. The closest paved road with power is 2 miles.
My phone line runs from that road to the house (2 miles!!!), so by the time it reaches the house the signal is very slow. I am so remote I am lucky to get any cell service at all….so as an ELI5 answer..distance. Some people are just too too far from a good source.

I live in a very rural area and the internet company couldn’t install internet at our house because it was too far from the nearest cable in the main road. They would have had to do a huge build to get the cable physically to our house. Not worth the money.

So we just get phone plans with unlimited hotspot data and use our phones as wifi hotspots.

Something a lot of the other answers leave out is the bandwidth difference. Phone quality audio is measured in Kilobytes per second, the FCC minimum definition for “broadband” is 250 times larger at 25 Mbps. So a telco can drop in lines to service 2000 telephones but the same infrastructure would struggle trying to provide minimum broadband to more than 10 homes.

because the definition of good is massively different for voice and data, as well as capacity and bandwidth, both up and down for what your doing on the internet.

The average VOIP call (digital) requires approximately 100Kbps
a “basic website” (no video) needs at least 900Kbps to load effectively
basic online games need at least 3 Mbps down and 1 MBps up

Those are really big differences and does not take into account quality of the signal/response.

As someone that lives in rural Mississippi and recently got gigabit fiber, the better question seems to be why doesn’t any house with electrical wires get gigabit fiber, because that’s what happened here. Our state passed a bill in 2019 authorizing the electric utilities to do it, and it’s happened. I get 200 mbps for $50 and can upgrade to gigabit.

One of the biggest blockers for broadband rollout are the local ISPs blocking it at the local, state, and national levels. Chattanooga, TN got an electric utility fiber rollout years ago, but the other ISPs lobbied the state to block it from expanding, which is why it stopped.

As for satellite and cellular broadcasts, they’re limited in part by a number of connections per connection point, similar to how a Wi-Fi router might only sustain 10 devices at once.

Spectrum rep told me one day when I called to ask why I couldn’t get more than 3MBPS speed in the country – “It will cost a couple thousand dollars to lay the new line down”.

There are specialized providers that give you internet via anntenna instead of phone cable.

Home phone “copper” cable is very bad for data, the further you are from the fiber hub the more data you lose. So rural areas will be served with antennas in the future. It is unpractical to bring the fiber close enough.

Because the phone service provider would need to build out infrastructure to provide internet over the usual copper wiring to those homes; typically called DSL. Some phone providers just don’t do that. There are other technologies to use, including the now operational Starlink that use low orbit satellites launched by SpaceX and Elon Musk. This is high speed and coverage will worldwide. It covers much of the US now for beta testers numbering 60,000+.