Why are different types of Internet only available in certain areas?

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In many areas of the country, there are only two or three types of Internet services for residents to choose from. Certain types, like satellite Internet, are available in most areas, while others are very limited.

Why does Internet access change for each home? Here are four types of Internet and the reasons for their varying degrees of availability.

DSL

Digital subscriber line, or DSL Internet is not available in many places throughout the United States, especially rural or remote areas. DSL Internet providers deliver service to homes and businesses through telephone wires.

To receive this service, you must live within a very specific perimeter of the central hub where telephone lines terminate. To be most cost-efficient, these provider locations are typically in urban areas with high concentrations of homes and businesses.

Fiber

Fiber-optic Internet has very limited availability. There are few providers that offer homes and business 100% pure fiber-optic Internet. The locations of these networks are determined by providers, and certain ones have stated that they are not expanding into new cities at this time.

It is extremely costly and labor intensive to build a fiber-optic network. While fiber is more cost effective than copper, it is a high initial investment. Therefore, Internet providers are not building these networks throughout the country.

Cable

While cable Internet is available in most urban areas, it is extremely limited in rural areas of the country. When cable was first being installed, it was a large investment for Internet providers – so many did not build in rural towns.

With highly populated areas, cable Internet providers knew they would make a profit from the investment due to a likely high number of subscribers. Rural areas, on the other hand, would provide very few customers – and therefore, little profit.

Satellite

Satellite Internet, though typically not as fast as these other Internet services, is available almost everywhere in the country. This is a common Internet provider for many people in rural and remote areas because it is oftentimes their only high-speed Internet option.

To access satellite Internet service, a home only needs a clear view of the southern sky. This will allow the satellite to transfer data to and from the home’s satellite dish.

The Bottom Line

It is ultimately the upfront costs of installing a vast network that limits the availability of certain Internet types to certain areas. Because DSL, fiber, and cable Internet all require a line be placed all the way to a customer’s home – a very high initial investment on behalf of the provider – these types of services are limited to densely populated areas. Satellite Internet providers face the high upfront costs of launching a satellite into orbit, but they have the advantage of being the only service option for entire areas.

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This post was written by the Beacon team.

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