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Covid-19 Highlights The Need for Improvement of Rural Internet Connectivity

Internet for rural areas in the middle of nowhere

The COVID outbreak was terribly disruptive for people across the world and highlighted the “digital divide” that has plagued the rural communities for years. The pandemic boosted the unemployment and entrepreneurship rates. The first 4 months of 2020 resulted in only 6,769 new businesses registered with CRO. First 4 months of 2021 are much better, and we can see over 9,000 new businesses registered. However, one of the major hurdles that entrepreneurs had to overcome was the lack of broadband infrastructure. Internet for rural areas is particularly important in Ireland where nearly half of the population still lives in rural areas and National Broadband Plan executed by National Broadband Ireland is so delayed that many rural residents lost their hopes.

With the world’s growing dependence on digital platforms, basic activities of daily life have moved online. The pandemic has created a void in the form of social isolation. People depend more on audio and video calls to stay connected with family, friends, customers, colleagues, and suppliers. Both personal and professional spheres have become easier with internet connectivity. Under such circumstances, no one can afford a slow and unreliable internet connection. A poor internet connection can prevent you from consulting the doctor at the time of emergency. Even a minute of downtime can cause huge losses for a business when its employees are working from home.   

If you are working from your home located in a rural area, you must look for reliable rural satellite broadband providers offering a range of options. Some of the options you should consider:

Rural Wireless Internet

Although Fibre Broadband is something we are used to think as the standard rural areas often require a different strategy. Considering how NBP is delayed, and the costs, it is probably a better idea to start looking at alternatives. Rural Wireless internet is probably what we should consider as there is no infrastrusture that needs to be build on the user side and usually no waiting time.

Obviously, wireless technology comes in different forms. One of the biggest players on the Irish market is Imagine with their fixed wireless connectivity. They offer good speeds (irrespectively of bad press they got in the recent years) and reasonable priced plans.

LTE broadband

LTE is another option for rural wireless Internet, probably the most popular in rural areas. The beauty of this solution is that it’s cheap to deploy and use. Cost-wise it’s comparable with Fibre and ADSL connectivity. All a user needs is a SIM router and connection to the network. The downside is that 4G is not really designed to work well as broadband provision so congestion often prevents users from enjoying their SIM based connectivity.

5G internet

5G broadband is probably the best what technology can offer now. The deployment is comparable with LTE solutions, all you need is a SIM router, but the cost of deployment is higher. For now. Standard 5G routers are several times more expensive than their 4G brothers.

5G is much faster though with speeds comparable with full fibre like Siro. In some areas, for example Dublin, you can now get speeds reaching 500Mbps. 5G is also designed to work with multiple devices so you can easily connect Smart TV, Smart Speaker, Smart Bulbs, Smartphone and anything else that is smart… or just connected to WiFi network.

Satellite internet

For areas where there is no Fibre and no 4G or 5G coverage Satellite Internet can be an option. Providers like Eutelsat’s Konnect offer now speeds of up to 100Mbps and unlimited data usage what makes satellite internet quite a good solution. The beauty of satellite is that there is no need for any infrastructure. Commerically deployed network has all what’s needed so the only thing left is installation.

Importance of Broadband for Rural Areas 

Amid lockdowns and increased smartphone usage, online presence is crucial for any brand to drive its sales and numbers upwards. Entrepreneurs today want to explore online opportunities to promote their brand, which often requires a high-speed broadband connection for several operations.  

However, unfortunately, most internet service providers have primarily focused on densely populated urban areas with more customers in order to maximise their profits. Rural communities have been left behind and businesses there cannot expand their reach to new audiences. Without reliable internet, businesses cannot manage their sales, customer service deteriorates, social media engagement falls, payments do not get through, and a lot more. 

The importance of broadband for rural areas extends further than entrepreneurial escapades. Rural dwellers also suffer from hindrances in access to telemedicine and education, which can also have far-reaching consequences. 

For instance, without access to online consultations, people in rural areas either have to visit healthcare centres with an increased risk of infection or choose to receive no care at all. Moreover, the lack of satellite broadband also widens the “homework gap” as students in remote areas do not receive equal opportunities in terms of education as compared to their urban counterparts. 

3 Areas Most Affected by Poor Internet Connectivity in Rural Areas 

Every sphere of human life has become dependent on the Internet. But there are a few areas, which can suffer badly due to poor connectivity in the rural area, such as: 

Education 

From toddlers to collegegoers, every student needs to rely on online classes for learning. Even pre-schools have arranged online classes for the kids as most parents are unwilling to send their kids to the school until the virus entirely gets flushed out from the world. High schools and colleges are conducting classes and examinations online as the future of the pandemic must not make the future of the students stagnant. But many students from rural areas are unable to attend the classes without any interruption. Slow internet connectivity and frequently lost connection are causing troubles making the students’ future uncertain. 

Medical Consultation 

The pandemic has confined the people to the four walls of the house, but it cannot stop medical emergencies from happening. That’s why most doctors, hospitals, and medical clinics have opted for providing online consultation. If someone needs a doctor’s advice immediately, he or she can consult a doctor online through video or audio calling. Both video and audio calls need a superfast internet connection; a slow connection would keep pausing the calls. 

World of Trade & Commerce 

Worldwide most organizations are running their core operations through work from home mode. Zoom meetings enable businesses to finalize thousands of deals every day. Such important meetings must not face any interruption as it may disappoint both sides, but lack of services from the best rural internet providers can make spoil the meetings by providing poor network coverage. 

Apart from these, other activities associated with daily life, such as submission of tax, any kind of petitions, applications to government organizations have become online and disturbance created by a terrific internet can delay or dismiss the tasks 

Why Rural Satellite Broadband will be Crucial in the “New Normal” 

As we emerge from the crisis, the post-COVID world will be heavily reliant on the internet, more so than before. More public and private services will be provided online, and e-commerce channels will become more popular.  

Many jobs will likely be continued online, and more businesses will adopt a hybrid business model with rotational shifts and remote work. Engaging in e-commerce, arranging travel, medical help, etc., will require high-speed internet access in the coming months. 

Therefore, along with setting up the infrastructure for better and faster broadband for rural areas, awareness drives will need to be conducted to make the most out of this situation. These attempts include consumer and public awareness initiatives, developing digital skills, etc., across users in all age groups. Rural areas will not be able to compete in the modern post-COVID economy without simultaneously developing the infrastructure and their digital skills. 

Are Unlimited Rural Internet Plans the Only Solution? 

 It is true that unlimited internet packages pose fewer challenges; still, it depends on the internet providers. You should always depend on the reputed rural area internet providers. Hence, take your time before choosing an internet provider in rural area. 

Best Rural Internet Providers Need Support from Government 

While high-speed broadband access was critical in the pre-COVID era owing to better income and education opportunities, the ongoing crisis has dramatically highlighted the consequences of the digital divide in rural areas. To fully support rural areas, the government authorities and ISPs need to work in tandem to democratize internet access and improve the situation by rolling out high-speed, low-latency internet in rural and remote areas. Only then can everyone get an equal opportunity to participate in the economy going forward. 

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