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Dedicated Internet for Farms
The available suite of options for getting broadband Internet service to farms, ranches, orchards, vineyards and rural businesses.

Agribusiness is now high tech business. GPS systems in tractors keep tabs on exactly how much acreage has been planted and harvested. Livestock is electronically tagged and monitored to know the health of each animal and the costs involved in raising it. Everything from buying seed to monitoring market prices to keeping tabs on the weather is computerized. Yet, getting high speed voice and data connections in rural areas can still be a challenge.

A large part of the problem is that the methods of Internet access most popular for small business and home businesses are based on technologies with limited delivery range. DSL, including low cost consumer ADSL and business grade SDSL, can't be delivered more than a few miles from the nearest telephone company central office. In fact, the speed of a DSL connection goes down rapidly as you get farther from the DSLAM (digital subscriber line access multiplexer) that feeds the broadband Internet signal down the phone line.

Cable Modem Internet service is also limited. Cable companies may run their lines to a few outlying subdivisions and then stop. Their business model is based on dense populations so that they can get a lot of TV and Internet subscribers for every mile of expensive cable buried or strung on poles.

WISPS or Wireless Internet Service Providers are sometimes an option, but they are also limited in range and need a line of sight path from their tower to the antenna they set up on your property. When WiMAX enters service starting later this year and next year, coverage will greatly expand and wireless Internet service to farms, ranches, vineyards and rural residents will become more available.

That really leaves only two good options right now for Internet service on the farm. A very practical and professional grade Internet connection can be provided using T1 line service. T1 is a technology developed by the telephone companies for long haul of telephone and data traffic. As such, T1 is available just about anywhere you can get a telephone line. In fact, T1 is transported on two pair of ordinary copper phone wires with special regenerators spaced every mile or so to maintain signal quality.

That's a big difference between T1 and DSL. T1 was designed with means to keep boosting the signal out to 20 miles or more from the telco office. With T1 you get 1.5 Mbps both upload and download with a service level guarantee to ensure reliable operation. With T1 you have the speed to run multiple computers, VoIP telephone or a hosted PBX system, and even a web server if you wish. If you don't need the power of a full T1 connection, fractional T1 service is available for a lower price. In some areas, Integrated T1 lets you share the line for Internet access plus a small PBX or key telephone system for your business phone calls.

The other service that works in remote areas is satellite Internet. With satellite Internet, all you need is power and a clear view of the southern sky. You can get residential grade satellite Internet for home users, or business grade satellite Internet service for professional use. Satellite access does degrade during really bad weather, much like satellite TV, and doesn't work well for VoIP telephone due to the long distances up to the bird and back down. Otherwise, it is a very practical solution for just about any remote location.

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