The $53,000 Connection: The High Cost of High-Speed Internet

I suspect we had the same problems with the Depression Era 1936 Rural Electrification Act.



We live on a 2-lane road outside of Sequim, WA in a cluster of about 20 houses spaced well away from each other. Our internet service is provided by CenturyLink along with our landline phone service for $98 per month. Download speed is 3 Mbps on a good day. Upload speed < 0.5 Mbps. Frequent interruptions mess up Zoom conversations and Zumba classes.

We are out of the service area of other providers, such as T-Mobile. We could get Starlink but it’s expensive. One of our neighbors who works from home got Starlink.

Does it make sense to provide high-speed internet to remote areas at great expense to the public? You make a valid point by comparing it with the Rural Electrification Act.

There needs to be a cost-benefit analysis since resources aren’t infinite. I think the priority should go to schools, libraries and businesses that rely on high-speed internet instead of individual households.



What if the next Marie Curie or Albert Einstein is growing up in your neighborhood? Besides the danger of putting up an undue barrier between citizens and resources that allow them to master many of the skills needed in the modern era, failure to invest in rural connectivity is a self-fullfilling economic death sentence for the larger economy. Maybe it’s expensive to lay fiber to your neighborhood but that fiber might allow a content creator, writer, etc. to work from home in a rural area instead of living in suburbia and commuting to an office. The net cost of putting in that fiber might be dwarfed by the work from home savings from dozens / hundreds of people that might have otherwise just been more “lemmings packed into shiny little boxes” as Sting once wrote.

Rural areas already suffer from a lack of proper medical facilities, etc. Leaving them hanging on 25 year old DSL connection technologies and unable to use telemedicine, etc. is unconscionable in this age.



That is what my AT&T U-Verse service cost, a year ago, for the same 3Mbps download and land line. As noted elsewhere, Ma Bell has boosted my cost, in several steps, this year. My August bill was $110. I live in the metro Detroit burbs, quite densely populated. Wendy getting the same service in a more rural area qualifies as a bargain, in my eyes.

Some 20 years ago, T was lobbying the government to repurpose the universal service fee to subsidize T building out it’s wireless system.


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The Starlink IPO is in the works. As with everything technological, prices should drop as adoption grows.

The Captain


Better than farms located in rural areas. The local telcos have been laying fiber in rural areas in MN for years–because it pays for itself over time. It allows businesses to locate remotely (i.e. not in a larger city) and yet be able to effectively do business wherever clients/customers may be. Those businesses (home grown or moving to the area) will NOT move to where there is no effective high speed telco.


This is usually the case. But not always. Sometimes the laws of physics can overcome the laws of [tech product] economics. In other words, in a given slice of bandwidth, only a finite amount of data can be transmitted up and down to/from the satellites. When you start, and capacity is much greater than demand, you will see prices slowly go down, but when you approach the limit, prices will go up again.

Ma Bell was taking a different approach in Michigan. If they decided that a resident could, in theory, reach a cell tower by a freeway, their POTS landline would be cut off.


I am deep into the economics of rural internet because of my work on access to higher education for impoverished Mexican kids, most of whom are rural in my area. Doing each house would be insane, but doing a starlink connection into a safe study space within a pueblo makes enormous sense.

The “traditional” USAian model of isolated farmhouses is obsolete, mostly because of large scale corporate farming. But a real renaissance of rural villages makes enormous sense so as to make access to energy, water, information, and mutual sociability far more economical and easy.

david fb


This would definitely be a good use of starlink. One unit, in an out of the way location, with no high speed internet service, with relatively few (say each village, 2 km away from each other, has one unit at the “library” or school or whatever) other starlink devices nearby clogging the bandwidth.

This is much different than an island with 250 homes (and 15 other islands nearby), each with a starlink device in it, and 40% of said homes doing streaming video downloads every evening from 8pm to 11pm.

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Let me see if I can find the costs to run and connect fiber in rural MN. This was published some years ago, so obsolete–but costs were going down at that time.

The most viable way to provide broadband internet service to under-served parts of Pipestone County in Minnesota is with a wireless system, and even that is not feasible without a grant, a new report finds. A lot of good data is provided in this report. To build out to 1,747 homes, an all-fiber system requiring 458 miles of fiber was estimated to cost $12,359,445, a hybrid system $5,327,253, and an all wireless system $1,002,809.
Rough calculation: $7,074 per premise. ([link])

Wireless may be the way to go, not Starlink.


You still need the fiber to the wireless, miles and miles of fiber with all the electronics and the optics.

The Captain

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No, you don’t. Wireless can daisy-chain on towers for a significant distance. Do a search on “daisy chain cell phone towers”.

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There is a cost/benefit analysis. Plus in such media stories a bit of graft. Most of the program monies are intelligently spent.

We had a piping system done in our area. It would have been less expensive to remove the eight homes where the flooding was happening than to redo the pipes.

Until you add up the cost of the homes 20 or 40 years from now while those pipes fully functional stop some flooding. At that point in the future the multi million job was common sense.

The WSJ is self serving. There is nothing innocent in serving up such stories. We do not know if there is a new switching system needed that ups the price to $53k and then if dozens of other properties also can use the switch.

It is the things the urinal does not report that are troublesome.

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Interesting. Thanks!

The Captain

Not to derail the conversation, but as I drive across the country I see many, many farmhouses so it is not clear what you are saying.


Scratch the word corporate. In the day of the horse–pre WWI–you expected a farmhouse on every 160 acres, sometimes 80 acres. Now full time farmers need 2000 acres. Many fewer farm houses survive. And smaller family size. Fewer people. All increase distance.

But individuals farming $30MM farms also need intrrnet to help manage it all.