BACK IN 2012
Since 2010, US cell carriers have been working on building next-gen, faster data networks.  In the start, Sprint bet on WiMax technology, while Verizon went for LTE.  AT&T and T-Mobile worked on HSPA+ (which is technically super-fast 3G).  Fast forward to 2012, and the "Big Three" have 4G LTE networks, and even regional carriers are getting into the fast lane.  For a large portion of Americans, these networks are at their disposal...but rural customers are still in a waiting game.

I've mentioned before that I live in North-Central Wisconsin and I happen to live within "cell coverage distance" of Highway 29, a main highway connecting Green Bay, Wausau, Eau Claire, and eventually the Twin Cities.  This is a main corridor, and so cell coverage is easy to come by nearby.  By that I mean that Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint have networks along it...T-Mobile has no network at all  built beyond western WI.

Around here, about 90% of people own a phone that runs on Verizon's network, since they have the largest coverage area and they have a monopoly on cell stores for 30 miles around.  Meanwhile, I have a Tracfone which runs on AT&T's network, which has a great network out here that nobody uses.  The other day I was being an educated customer and checking up on their  coverage, seeing if anything new was going on.  And to my suprise, AT&T is building up their HSPA+ network, and I am almost covered!  I find that exciting, as Cellcom (a local carrier) has been working on a 4G LTE network but even they haven't gotten it built here yet.

About a year ago, I started writing this post about 4G cell coverage in my area, but didn't finish it.  Here it is. It was true then that while millions of Americans in large cities had HSPA+ and LTE service, the carriers still had poor rural  roll-outs.  I am glad to say that AT&T has now overlaid their entire 3G network in Wisconsin to 4G HSPA+, which those data speeds are better than nothing.  On the CDMA side, Cellcom's 4G LTE network just covers the fringe of where I live.  Verizon does use this as extended LTE coverage for their customers...but there is still a "dead zone" waiting to be covered.
AT&T: Left; Cellcom: Right
All in all, I'm glad to see that mobile technology can and will still (ambit slowly) advance across the nation.