According to a recent report from the FCC, Nearly fifteen million people in rural America don’t have access to high-speed internet. For these people, the ease of access that most of us enjoy—access to things like online shopping, news, weather, and life-enhancing services like distance learning and virtual doctor visits—is all but unavailable. Viasat, a provider of satellite-based, high-speed broadband services, uses its innovative technology to connect rural communities that the big telecommunications companies have forgotten.
Erasing the Line
There’s an invisible line drawn around these communities by big internet providers. A report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that large telecommunications providers have “abandoned” rural America. Providing fiber optic, landline-based internet to the people who live on the other side of that line is something the cable giants just aren’t going to do. Viasat is launching a campaign called “Erasing the Line,” that aims to bring satellite-based connectivity to these underserved communities.
Access to affordable, reliable internet services brings many benefits to people living outside that line. With reliable, high-speed internet comes the opportunity for direct access to things like education and healthcare—which they would otherwise have to travel long distances to obtain. Rural libraries see a resurgence of community involvement and participation with the advent of high-speed internet, which provides access to global information and cultural resources that enrich the lives of the people these libraries serve.
Connectivity also brings economic opportunities. The Farm Bureau, an independent organization representing farmers and ranchers, calls rural access to broadband “essential to modern agriculture.” With reliable internet, farmers gain real-time access to information critical to their success, such as fluctuations in crop prices, weather forecasts, and the opportunity to find better markets for their goods online. With access to affordable internet, “mom and pop” businesses in rural communities can expand their market reach across the country—and even the world. Traditionally urban businesses like graphic design, website design and services, and other creative endeavors can compete on the same level as businesses based in big cities—and can often price their services competitively, giving them an edge over other businesses that have to contend with the higher costs associated with operating in a city environment.
Expanding the Reach of Rural Communities
Viasat is able to provide rural communities with the reach that reliable internet brings, giving them access to email, social media, video communications, and many more things that most of us take for granted. By doing this, the company is empowering people “on the other side of the line” to fully participate in the internet era with the rest of the world. Viasat is committed to bringing these rural communities the tools they need to gain the most benefit from internet access—like their Viasat Browser, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze webpages and decide how to load these pages faster for users of satellite internet.
Critical Educational and Healthcare Services
A recent federal survey found that seventy percent of teachers in America assign homework that needs to be done online—and ninety percent of high school students reported that they have internet-based homework assignments three or four times a month. Nearly half of all students surveyed said that they receive assignments at least a few times a month that would be impossible to complete without the internet.
For students in rural areas without access to reliable, high-speed internet, this means they’re receiving a different standard of education, without the benefit of the technology that most students have access to. For these people and their families, internet-enabled education is a pathway to more opportunities.
And then there’s telemedicine, a new word used to describe a new phenomenon: consulting with a healthcare professional remotely when one is proximally unavailable. Telemedicine began as a way to treat remote communities and the people who lived in them, who were often many miles from a hospital or even a family doctor. Telemedicine is seeing broader adoption today than ever before, but for people in rural America, the initial promise—access to the kind of healthcare that the rest of the US enjoys—is still being developed. Viasat is enabling these kinds of services to people in remote, underserved locations.
Bringing Internet to The River of No Return
The Frank Church Wilderness of Idaho is composed of steep mountains, deep canyons, and whitewater rivers. Also called “The River of No Return,” this region is located in the Salmon River Mountains, home of the Salmon River Canyon, one of the deepest gorges in North America—deeper even than the Grand Canyon.
Communities in the Salmon River region are using Viasat’s technology to access education, healthcare, and all of the services that internet brings with it. The families who live in these rugged mountains are connected to the outside world in ways never before possible. Now, in an area where the only physical access involves an hours-long trip upriver in hazardous waters or a trip with a chartered helicopter, people are able to study, consult with doctors, and have their lives enriched by the same kinds of services the rest of us enjoy.
Viasat: Ongoing Innovation
Viasat continues to develop new and innovative services to bring the internet to people in rural and remote locations. The company is continuing to launch new satellites that will network together—in a configuration commonly called a constellation—to bring better, faster, more reliable and more affordable internet to people who live “outside the line.”
Most of us take access to high-speed internet for granted. The average coffee shop in the U.S. has a faster, more robust internet than people in some of these remote locations have ever seen. Bringing the technology to them will mean more than just access to better education and healthcare. As precious as those things are, Viasat’s reliable, affordable satellite-based internet will allow them to live fuller, more fulfilling lives, and participate in the world around them in new and exciting ways, enriching their experiences and ours.