Wireless Internet is rural towns’ best chance to keep up

It’s fast. It’s cheap. It flies through the air. It’s not Superman, it’s wireless Internet.

According to several local experts in the field, the new technology will offer faster and cheaper Internet service to rural users who might not have access to cables, lines or fiber optics, or who are using the slower dial-up connections.

“It saves money in several ways,” said Laura Bidinger, director of marketing for Prairie iNet, the only wireless Internet service currently available in Marion County. “One big way, is the implementation.”

Prairie iNet was born out of the realization that rural communities were being left behind as high-speed Internet services were finding places in high-population, high-income areas.

Instead of digging and running cables or wires underground, this provider brings Internet services through the use of antennas and radio waves-at speeds up to 50 times what dial-up Internet can offer.

While the whole operation may seem confusing, it operates in a similar way to television.

An antenna is placed on top of the highest point in a community-in Hillsboro’s case, the Cooperative Grain & Supply elevator. The antenna picks up microwave frequencies from the next closest source and beams them into homes and businesses.

A receiver placed on the home or business catches the microwave signal and sends it to the computer via a cable.

“It can be done and in place quickly,” Bidinger said, “as long as the receiver is within four miles of the tower.”

Scott Braden, of Braden’s Computers in Hillsboro, is anxious to see wireless service come to the area.

While he recognizes the service is more costly than dial-up services for homes with only one phone line, Braden said it will save money for those homes carrying an extra phone line to accommodate Internet use.

“The 56K dial-up connection is going to be a thing of the past,” Braden said.

Chris Glanzer, information technology administrator at Tabor College agrees, saying current phone lines in Hillsboro are unable even to handle 56K speeds.

“Wireless is the only viable high-speed Internet option considering the current infrastructure,” Glanzer said, “and will allow updates in an economical and timely fashion.

“It’s new to people,” Bidinger said. “They will be asking questions and learning about this new system.”

But Bidinger said the system is ready for growth as people learn and begin to use the wireless strategy.

“We have built a network around the community,” she said, “and built in expansion abilities. We will be monitoring speeds and use very carefully so we can keep up with increased demands.”

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