Rural areas are notoriously slow for Internet speeds. New technology can help farmers leave these slow downloads behind.

Enhanced dial-up

Dial-up Internet is the slow boat when it comes to access speeds. Standard high-speed dial-up carries a maximum of 56 kilobits per second of data, about 1/100 of the speed of a mid-range DSL (digital subscriber line) system. Some Internet service providers use advanced data compression schemes that can boost effective speeds. Check to see if your provider offers “accelerated” dial-up.

Faster satellite

Satellite providers such as Hughes Net (www.hughesnet.com) and Wild Blue (www.wildblue.com) have increased maximum download speeds to 1 to 2 megabits per second (Mbps) for premium packages. Satellite Internet is available anywhere except where the southern sky is blocked.

Speedy fixed wireless

Some fixed wireless Internet providers, which use fixed-position radios to carry signals to and from customers, have upgraded speed offerings to 2 Mbps, quadruple the speed offered a few years ago. If your community has a fixed wireless provider, check to see if it has upgraded its services.

Extended DSL

Historically, DSL Internet services, which use telephone wires for transmission, could operate at distances of 3 to 4 miles from central telephone switches. More rural telephone companies are extending DSL boundaries by using repeaters and signal boosters. 

3G cellular

3G (third-generation) cellular communication systems are available in much of the U.S. from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and other providers. They promise maximum data speeds of about 1.5 Mbps. Mobile wireless (often called MiFi) routers can be used to share access with multiple devices.

4G cellular

The new kid on the cellular communications block, 4G (fourth-generation) systems are available in major metropolitan areas and, increasingly, along interstate highways as major providers build out their systems. For those lucky enough to be in 4G country, Internet speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps are a reality.

Fiber optics

Internet providers delivering services via fiber optic cable are rare. But some rural telephone cooperatives are replacing copper telephone lines with fiber optic cable direct to the farm. Premium packages offer speeds of 50 Mbps and more.