Verizon: Fast, wireless Internet coming to rural America

Jacob Turcotte/

Verizon had hopeful news for those parts of America that broadband companies have ignored. An executive for Verizon's mobile-phone division said Wednesday that the company plans to roll out a wireless network that will deliver Web access "throughout the entire country."

Last year, Verizon purchased the airwaves previously used for analog television, the so-called 700 MHz spectrum.

"The licenses we bought in the 700MHz auction cover the whole US," says Tony Melone, a Verizon Wireless V.P., in an interview with CNET at this week's CTIA mobile trade show. "And we plan to roll out LTE [high-speed mobile service] throughout the entire country, including places where we don't offer our [current] cell phone service today."

If these plans succeed, homes stuck with only dial-up service could enjoy both cellular phone and data services. Verizon intends to start introducing this new network in 2010.

While the company offers one of the fastest home Web services in the US, Verizon FiOS, its broadband wing has pretty much neglected rural America – as have most Internet companies. The reason is money. Laying down cables is an expensive endeavor. Dense cities and affluent suburbs justify the expense. But connecting individual towns and distant homes has not been worth the construction costs, companies say.

A Pew study last year found that only 38 percent of rural American homes have access to broadband Internet. Compare that to 57 percent in cities and 60 percent in the suburbs.

However, wireless could change the equation. CNET reports that:

Because the [700 MHz] spectrum is in a lower frequency, it can transmit signals over longer distances and penetrate through obstacles. And because the signals travel longer distances, Verizon can deploy fewer cell towers than if it used spectrum from a higher frequency band, which means it can provide coverage at a lower cost.

"I can't pre-announce any products or services," Melone said. "But I can envision offering devices that are geared toward putting wireless broadband in the home. And then people could use Wi-Fi to share the connection with multiple devices like they do today with router connected to their DSL or cable modem service."

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