Rural Broadband

By on Jul 5, 2019 in Technology

Rural communities face a notable dilemma. Internet service providers (ISP) claim fast broadband coverage in remote areas but often fail to deliver. As a result, you struggle to offer efficiency to your staff, residents, and prospects. A few hacks can help you improve your broadband offerings until more permanent solutions arrive.

Rural Broadband Setbacks

Nearly 63 percent of rural Americans have purchased broadband internet connection but many struggle with connectivity issues. Towns with slow broadband face economic setbacks. High-speed internet is a foundational principal in modern businesses and institutions. Without it, commerce wanes. Reliable connectivity is needed to reach prospects and provide services for customers.

To address the broadband overage gap, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set aside $4.5 billion in rural grants for broadband infrastructure improvements. The program stalled before it gained momentum. The FCC soon realized that there were major discrepancies between coverage maps issued by ISPs and functional coverage experienced by users. An investigation is underway to determine if carriers have violated rules and submitted incorrect coverage data.

Coverage maps matter. Towns that are dubbed “well connected” are ineligible for FCC improvement grants. Yet businesses and residents of these towns have problems with basic functions like sending emails, streaming webinars, and using navigation around town.

“Our maps simply do not reflect the state of deployment on the ground. That’s a problem,” explains FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “We have a digital divide in this country with millions of Americans who lack broadband where they live. If we want to fix this gap and close this divide, we first need an honest accounting of high-speed service in every community across the country.”

Based on coverage maps submitted by ISPs, about 24 million people lack access to broadband at home. In contrast, an independent study by Microsoft calculates that 162.8 million Americans aren’t using high-speed internet at home. This is the result of availability as well as access.

It isn’t that ISPs are fabricating their coverage maps. The problem rests in what constitutes “well connected.” As long as a carrier reports one building on a census block that has high-speed internet, the area is considered covered. ISP standards are woefully low.

Your Community Can’t Wait on the FCC

According to the American Apartment Owners Association, renters factor internet speeds and reception coverage into their buying decisions. This isn’t just for streaming their favorite shows. Now more than ever, Americans are telecommuting, buying their groceries, and paying their bills online. High-speed internet access has become more essential than in-unit laundry machines.

Broadband availability also affects staff access to mobile-ready property management software. Many renters are keen to complete most of the leads-to-leases process online. Can you live-stream a unit tour for an out-of-state prospect? Can you efficiently process online applications? If not, you’re at a disadvantage.

You don’t have time to wait on the FCC. You’ve got a leasing office to run, prospects to impress, and residents who are quick to leave reviews when their household can’t multitask online. You need solutions now.

We’ve got a few fixes to help improve your internet speeds in units and in your leasing office.

Improving Broadband in Rural Areas

Offer Range Extenders If you already know that slow connectivity is an issue at your site, consider renting out range extenders as part of your move-in or renewal package. Wholesale discounts are available, but even without them range extenders retail for about $50 per unit. They are a reusable investment to promote satisfied and loyal renters.

Include Router Setup in Maintenance Sometimes, the placement of the router within a unit can make a major difference in connectivity. Help residents get the most out of their existing router with optimal placement.

For the strongest signal, have maintenance techs suggest router placements that are centrally-located and free of interferences.  Avoid placing the router within entertainment consoles. Other appliances, like cordless phones and microwaves, can also interfere with transmission.

Maintenance may also offer to mount the router to a wall at a higher elevation, which can improve access throughout the unit.

Consider Filters Two types of filters can help minimize interference. A microfilter connects to your master socket and then splits into two, allowing you to plug in a router and a phone line, for example. Microfilters separate broadband and voice signals to minimize interference.

Filtered faceplates filter the broadband signal directly at the master socket. It’s an alternative to the microfilter.

Put On Your Own Mask First Don’t forget to apply these principals to your leasing office! Also include other spaces that need to be internet ready, such as model units and the maintenance office.