While internet access and digital services are steadily improving our quality of living, such advancements are inaccessible to millions of people in the United States. Today, 11% of the American population lives without access to the internet. While it is easy to assume most of these individuals are older, much of the technology gap has more to do with where people are located, as people living in rural areas are often left without internet access. Through cryptocurrency, however, this problem may be addressed.
Cryptocurrency is helping make internet access available in rural areas of the United States, ultimately providing individuals in those areas with access to health services that rely on internet access. Here’s how crypto is helping:
Telehealth is one of the methods developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help people living in rural areas get access to medical services. This technology helps medical professionals communicate with their patients. Everything from monitoring chronic conditions to prevention programs for quitting smoking can be done virtually with telehealth programs.
For those living in rural areas, home-based rehab can make a huge difference. Many people needing those services aren’t able to travel great distances to get health care. Having the smart devices and internet access they need at home makes a huge difference in their ability to receive care.
Outside of home-based rehab therapy, health conferencing services have become available to people in rural areas as well. This helps medical professionals monitor chronic conditions as well as provide preventative care. Best of all, these virtual social work services have been proven to be just as effective as in-person doctor visits.
As previously mentioned, a considerable portion of the U.S. is still living without internet access and would not be able to access these services. This is especially true in rural America, where the services are most needed.
Internet Access in Rural America
Most of us couldn’t imagine living without internet access. In fact, there is an entire generation alive today that has never had to live in a world without it. Consider all of the things you do on the internet on a daily basis: answering emails, checking social media, receiving information about your job, and even checking your most recent banking transactions. Individuals that don’t have access to the World Wide Web find themselves at a disadvantage.
Oftentimes, rural America only has access to satellite and aren’t able to capitalize on the benefits of having wireless internet (Wi-Fi). While some individuals in these areas do choose to live without the internet, many of them would benefit from gaining the ability to have an internet connection within their home.
This is something technology and medical professionals have been attempting to solve. Now, they are getting help from an unlikely source.
Programs like Althea are aiming to help Americans living in rural areas by gathering their resources together to purchase community internet access. This is done through an internet-sharing network. Then web access can be distributed through the community.
“The basic concept here is that our software allows routers to pay each other bandwidth,” stated Jehan Tremback, one of the founders of Althea. “You can set up this equipment with long-range Wi-Fi antennas, and it connects to other similarly enabled equipment and forms a network where you just put cryptocurrency into your router and get internet access, which you pay for as you use it.”
That’s different from the internet access most of us use on a daily basis, but it would be more cost effective and open a world of possibilities for those in the rural U.S. So, where does crypto come in? Payments for Althea are made directly through cryptocurrency.
Althea isn’t the only cryptocurrency program aimed at making internet access more widely available either. Wificoin is the name of a cryptocurrency-based internet access program. The company is working on creating a way to help people get access to nearby hotspots with Bitcoin or Ethereum. When a new user tries to connect, they’ll be paid 100 Wificoin, which they can “cash in” for one megabyte of access to Wi-Fi through the hotspot. Wificoin’s creators still haven’t perfected the technology, but it may become a viable source of internet for people all around the world in the near future.
Helium is yet another company looking to build a “true internet of things.” Similar to Althea, Helium is looking to offer a network using gateways or routers to transfer data. While it isn’t directly providing internet to individuals, it is using similar technology and the same method of payment (cryptocurrency). Honing in on this technology will only make the internet and resources more obtainable to those living in rural America.
How It Works
Similar to “pay-as-you-go” cell phone plans, your router is preloaded with a certain amount of data. Any router that gives its traffic to the community receives a series of small payments to use to gain internet access later on.
Changing the internet in rural America is a fantastic solution to the digital divide that exists in the U.S. at a fraction of the cost. It is estimated that access through Althea costs about $20 each month. It currently serves 25 people in the States. And, compared to Wi-Fi and broadband services in the rural U.S., Althea provides a reliable connection. However, it is debatable as to whether the service will be able to live up to performance expectations once it is distributed to more households. The same is true of Helium and Wificoin.
Despite worries about these programs being able to perform, they do provide a solution to the digital gap in the country. As more companies come forward to solve this problem, the services will become more reliable and people all over the country will have improved internet access. This will open up access to telehealth services, among other internet-based services.