Rural Internet

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Last updated: 06/30/2020
Rural Internet

Why is rural internet hard to find?

Building the infrastructure for internet (cables, towers etc.) is a very expensive process, and given the size of the USA and the vast areas where few people live, it isn’t cost-effective for companies to focus on certain regions. However, there have been government subsidies to encourage companies to expand rural internet offerings, meaning that the situation is improving.

How to Get Internet in Rural Areas

There are five main options for getting your internet in rural areas, which vary in availability, speed and price:
  • Fixed Wireless Internet: This uses cellular radio towers to send internet to antennae on your roof.
  • DSL: This uses phone lines to send you internet, but at much faster speeds than dial-up.
  • Satellite Internet: Cable free, this uses satellite signal to connect to your home.
  • Cable Internet: Uses cable to provide fast internet but is rare in rural areas.
  • Mobile Wireless Internet: If you have connection to mobile internet, such as 4G LTE, you can purchase a mobile hotspot, allowing you to connect via WiFi.

What are the best rural internet options?

What the best internet option is for you depends on where you live and its availability.  If it is available where you live, Cable Internet offers fast and reliable connection, with download speeds between 15-250Mbps depending on your package and the quality of your connection.  However, its availability is not great in rural areas.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines) is a reasonably widely available choice, being available in 36 states, which offers download speeds of between 20-100Mbps.  It also tends to be provided at fairly low prices and offers high usage limits.  CenturyLink for example, offers 1TB (1000GB) a month for downloads.

Fixed Wireless is expanding across the USA and offers speeds of up to 50Mbps.  Although it doesn’t go as fast as DSL at the top end of broadband speeds, it is still plenty fast and tends to be more reliable than DSL.  Many providers have data caps however, such as AT&T’s 250GB a month limit, and they will charge you if you go over it.

There is also the option of Mobile Wireless Internet, where you purchase a hotspot which allows you to connect to WiFi, or you can use your smartphone to hotspot connections to other devices.  However, data plans tend to be pretty expensive, and data limits can often be quite low.  This is a good choice if you are someone who tends to be on the move quite a lot and don’t use the internet much for intensive purposes such as streaming or gaming.

Satellite Internet

If you find that when you compare internet providers that your options are pretty garbage, then consider switching to satellite internet.  This does not require any infrastructure on the ground, and as its name suggests, uses satellite signal to provide internet connection.

This means that it is available pretty much anywhere, and its speeds can vary from between 12-100Mbps, depending on what plan you choose, so you can find the deal that suits your internet needs (unless you are a heavy online gamer).

However, satellite internet usually has quite low data caps.  If you use up your data allowance in a month, although you won’t be charged extra, your internet speeds will usually be slowed down to between 1-3Mbps for the rest of the month.  Sadly, even the unlimited plans do also include caps.

Because the internet is provided from space, it does also mean that your connection will be affected by the weather.  If you live somewhere which usually has clear skies, then all good for you, however if cloud and rain are the norm for you (ahem, Pacific Northwest), then you most likely will not have the advertised speeds on a daily basis.
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