Connectivity in Rural Areas
When we bought our house over thirty years ago, the word ‘connectivity’ was not even on our radar screen. We had a telephone- a landline of course, and it was explained to us that the phone is on a different power system than the house power line. If you lose electricity in your home, you always have a way to call for help in case you need it because the landline phone companies provide their own power through their wires.
It is true, in the country you lose your power more often than in the city and not only during a snowstorm. Our power company is, however, on top of outages and tries its best to fix problems, but it can take a day or two.
Unfortunately, we belong to the ‘underserviced regions’ in the nation. Although the cable company is not too far away, it has not reached us yet. When the internet came along and we had a need to read our office mails, we got satellite internet. We tried several providers and found that they all have the same problems. If we have a snow or rain storm, if it is very windy or anything else weather-related, there is a problem. On a calm night with most users asleep, the connection is great. If you use it on a weekday after work, it is very, very slow and often unresponsive. I am looking forward to the day, when cable will come to our house and we have reliable internet and television, but that may still be years away. Although cable is only 2 miles away down our road, it is not cost effective- given the limited number of homes along that stretch, for the cable company to run a new leg. Trust me, we’ve tried, even enlisting the help of local politicians.
The cell carrier I used before provided service in the country, but only if I stood at a particular window on my toes. I always had to call back as the call itself was broken up.
Be careful about being sold on a booster that may not work for you. Make sure you can return it for a refund if it isn’t right for you. There are two basic types. One type acts as an amplifier for any signal from any cell tower it can find. This usually will involve an antenna on a long coaxial cable that you position on/in your house at the highest possible point, connected to a small base station repeater lower down inside your home. The antenna picks up the weak tower signal, amplifies it and re-broadcasts it from the base station creating a mini-bubble of signal inside your home. If- as in our case, the signal from a distant tower is such that you can only connect by standing by one window on your toes, this will give you a signal inside your house. We met with spotty results in our situation.
There is one thing to start with: 'Google' where the nearest store for a cell phone provider is. If your regular carrier is 50 miles away, you know it does not have a footprint in your region- no matter what their coverage maps show! You can tell from the number of stores nearby which company has the best service in your neck of the woods. Go with them!
Another method would be what one of our friends did. He bought a cheap prepaid cell phone from two competitive companies for his region and tried them both everywhere he went for a week. He kept the phone with the best service and returned the other one.
A realtor friend told us that he has learned the hard way how important an issue this has become. Much of his business is second homes for people from the city and he has sold homes to clients that hoped to telecommute and stay connected when in their country homes, only to find it was impossible!