Paul Dyk, who recently left University of Wisconsin Extension for a job in the private sector, wrote a good article in a recent UWEX newsletter titled Higher Speed Internet Options for Fond du Lac County. In the article, he gives some important considerations when choosing Internet service, along with a helpful range of cost per month.

Paul notes that, beyond the options listed below, dial-up Internet does still exist. However, it is virtually useless with today's graphics, movies, and bigger (in electronic size) email attachments.

Also, the key is speed. Speed on the Internet is measured in bits per second (bps), and more commonly listed as Kbps (Kilobits per second; 1 Kbps is 1,000 bps) or Mbps (Megabits per second; 1 Mbps is 1,000 Kbps and 1,000,000 bps). Larger businesses and universities will have speeds in terms of Gbps (Gigabits; 1,000 Mbps or 1 billion bits) and even Tbps (Terabits; 1,000 Gbps or 1 trillion bits).

For farms, we probably only need to worry about the Mbps range, at least until something comes along to use even more bandwidth per web page and email (maybe teleportation of milkers to be on time?). Dyk notes that surfing the web (including watching a YouTube video, downloading a few pictures at a time, and sending email) will take 1 to 3 Mbps. If you want to watch streaming video (like a live cattle sale or sports on ESPN360) you will want greater than 5 Mbps.

Options include -
Cable: $20 to $50 per month, speeds of 1 to 16 Mbps
Telephone companies: $20 to $25 per month, speeds of 3 to 6 Mbps
Cell phone companies wireless: $50 per month, speed of 1.5 Mbps
Satellite: $40 to $75, speeds of 1 to 1.5 Mbps
Wireless (local Fond du Lac County): $40 to $55, 384 Kbps to 3 Mbps
County wide broadband: ???

Don't know what your speed is right now? I found two websites that help measure it. What you're worried about here is the download portion, though the upload is definitely important. We all download a lot more information (every web page and email) than we upload (sending an email or uploading an attachment).

Our Hoard's Dairyman office speed came in at two different answers, listed below: - 1,800 Kbps (1.8 Mbps) download, 778 Kbps upload - 1.74 Mbps download, 1.14 Mbps upload

My results were probably low because I tested it at 8 a.m., when the entire work world is logging onto the internet at the same time . . . yes, much like a party line, we all share broadband internet capabilities with our neighbors.

As far as the countywide broadband, we are aware of some rural Minnesota counties wading into such a project.

You can read more about that at the links below:

One of the biggest issues for countywide internet is whether farmers should pay more (we do live farther away from each other, requiring more cable) or if everyone should pay the same (farmers do, more or less, keep these counties running).

Read Paul Dyk's full article here