LINDEN — The spinning circle or frozen progress bar on a webpage can be frustrating. If you live in a more sparsely populated, rural area, slow internet may be due in some part to market and technological constraints.
As the internet plays an increasing role in economy and culture, keeping infrastructure up-to-date has been tough in some rural areas. Online applications require ever-increasing amounts of data, according to Roberto Gallardo, associate extension professor for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Loading times for consumers will gradually worsen if infrastructure doesn't keep up with the internet's capabilities.
"Try browsing the web today using a dial-up connection, and you'll see what I'm talking about," Gallardo said.
To account for advances in digital media technology, the Federal Communications Commission increased its definition of "broadband" from 4 Mbps/1 Mbps download/upload speed to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps in 2015. At the time of the change, 53 percent of rural Americans did not have access to the new benchmark speeds, according to the FCC. Only eight percent of urban residents lacked that same access, the FCC reported. Digital literacy and cost of service can also limit adoption of broadband where it is available.
High up-front costs encourage providers to lay fiber optic cable where the most paying customers exist.
Wintek Corp. has made forays into beefing up internet connectivity in hard-to-reach areas of Tippecanoe County without breaking the bank, according to Oliver Beers, chief operating officer at Wintek. But the company has to deal with the typical economic constraints.
"Loosely speaking, it's probably about $50,000 a mile to bury a fiber cable," Beers said.