4-Part Video Series: Rural Internet

Hello, Crafty Creators! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying the creative process in your projects and video content. I’m still dealing with the move from Texas to Kentucky where we’re really having issues remodeling the house. It’s getting better, as we are now able to stay in the house this past month rather than continuing the extremely expensive hotel life.

4-Part Video Series: Rural Internet in Kentucky - Issues & Information

In the spirit of part of my struggle since the move, I wanted to share some information regarding the internet options in my rural Kentucky area, plus the general challenges anyone may face when living outside the fiber internet sphere.

Part 1- Providers, Options and Speed (aired 4/24/19 at 9:00 AM ET)

Kentucky has apparently joined the bandwagon with New York against fiber internet giant Spectrum, which is now a combination of the merged Charter Cable and Time Warner Cable. Although the combined state arguments are similar against the company, Kentucky has focused on more of the high-speed internet needs of their schools and government agencies in rural parts of the state. As a result of this, Kentucky Wired was created to offer an open-access broadband network for the state’s government agencies, some groups and organizations. This program will not, however, provide completed line access to individual homeowners or businesses.

Just outside of Lexington in my area of Madison County, there are 2 main broadband providers available- HughesNet and ViaSat. Spectrum fiber internet is available at the main road in many areas around town, however, most rural communities and farms are not eligible for evaluation due to the lack of head-end plants, plus the necessary permits and costs. AT&T fiber internet options, as of this blog post, are only available in 6.3% (up from 4%) of the USA. This limits most people to AT&T internet via cellular, fixed wireless or DSL.

When comparing the 2 broadband providers, HughesNet had a better download speed of 25 Mbps vs. ViaSat’s 12 Mbps (not all areas in the nation can get their 100 Mbps) and both had upload speeds from 1-3 Mbps here in Madison County. Spectrum fiber internet can yield 60-940 Mbps download/ 10-35 Mbps upload speeds. AT&T fiber has speed tiers from 5- 940 Mbps download/ 5-1000 Mbps upload.

Part 2- Data Calculations and Caps (aired 5/1/19 at 9:00 AM ET)

A real eye-opener for me during this whole disheartening journey into my internet research was in the fact that my cellular data caps would now play a key factor in what I can do for my online entertainment, but more importantly how I handle my future eCommerce business and YouTube content creation.

Previously, my AT&T cellular data plan was a mere 2 GB tier which was on a grandfathered data share option with my husband. We barely used 1 GB of that data each month, as most of our online life was via Spectrum fiber cable viewing and internet options like Netflix, Amazon Prime plus basic online viewing and occasional downloads.

Now that my options no longer include fiber internet which is truly an unlimited data cap scenario, the new reality of an “unlimited data plan” for my satellite and cell options are still tied to a data cap and slowed internet viewing speeds. For instance, I originally only had 10 GB data through HughesNet’s 1st tier, even though it plainly states every plan offers unlimited hard data. All this means, however, is that once you use up your 10 GB plan (or whichever GB tier you’re in), you are drastically slowed down from the 25 Mbps/ 3 Mbps speeds to next to nothing and will buffer a lot. If you wish to avoid buffering, you may wish to upgrade plans or purchase GB tokens at what can be an exorbitant cost.

Part 3- HughesNet vs. AT&T (aired 5/8/19 at 9:00 AM ET)

After choosing HughesNet as my satellite broadband internet provider for my Wi-Fi needs, I quickly came to realize the need to upgrade my AT&T wireless cellular data plan since the need for a hotspot was evident and the meager 2 GB plan would not be enough. In doing so, I discovered they too offer an “unlimited data plan”, however in reality it does have a 22 GB data cap on each phone in our shared plan, plus an additional 15 GB data cap on each additional device where we need to tether it to our phone as the hotspot.

What does all that mess mean? It means I get higher data caps on my shared cellular plan. This allows me the ability to turn my cell phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot if I need that for my Kindle tablet or my desktop, should my HughesNet satellite service be down (did I mention it rains 105+ days a year here in Madison County?) or should I be travelling where I need that option on-the-go. Where it isn’t truly unlimited is the fact that my speed “may be reduced” down to 128 Kbps during congested times and that would cause buffering or lost connections just like my satellite provider. (Note: HughesNet does not disclose the potential reduction of speed which I find discouraging and can already tell you it is next to nothing, even before you totally run out of your data tier and have to buy tokens or upgrade).

Part 4- Data Usage Tips for Fellow YouTube Creators (airs 5/22/19 at 9:00 AM ET)

There are several different suggestions I have for anyone in my predicament with rural internet issues while trying to create content and build up their YouTube channel.

Since filming this series, I’ve also since discovered that by upgrading my AT&T data plan to their Unlimited & More Premium and signing up for their complimentary WatchTV service with free HBO…my data isn’t reduced when watching via that app. It shows on my data usage meter as “sponsored data” when I login to my account, but doesn’t affect my cell phone or hotspot data caps. So, that’s a definite plus. WatchTV is their cell customer’s free access to DirectTV Now (owned by AT&T). This is important because now when we want to see Game of Thrones last season on HBO, we have access to it via WatchTV and it’s not docking our data cap while on the app.

And finally, still yet another discovery I’ve since made after filming is that I can connect my iPhone XS Max directly to the big screen TV via an Lightning to HDMI cable. Once I start the show I’m watching, and hit maximize screen on the phone display, it shows in full screen on my tv. I maintain controls via my cell phone rather than the tv remote, so I recommend getting at least a 25 foot HDMI cable for most viewing locations. This has saved our data, our minds and our pocket books. So, thanks AT&T WatchTV and Apple, for allowing this technical marvel.

This is, of course, a temporary alternative until fiber internet comes our way or fixed wireless amps up their speeds/ data- if ever. Until then, we can save our data for uploading/ downloading necessary files and viewing internet that we can’t see via WatchTV. We are still vexed as to viewing Netflix and Amazon Prime, as AT&T/ DirectTV no longer allows that feature on their DVR’s for satellite customers or in the apps for WatchTV or DirectTVNow. That will be a data cap suck for us, as we’re big on binge-watching our fav shows on both Netflix and Amazon Prime services.

I hope this blog post and video series at Crafty Creators YouTube channel has been helpful to my fellow Kentuckians or anyone faced with rural internet issues. If you like the videos, please remember to give them a thumb’s up at the channel, leave a comment to let me know what you liked best and share to others you think may find value in the information I provided. Have a craftacular day, y’all!

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