If you live in a rural area, it can be a challenge to get access to a reliable, high-speed internet network. Below, we take a look at a number of rural internet options, to help you consider which one may be right for you.
Depending on the population and location of your community, you may have a number of providers to choose from, or there may only be one or two. Each type of internet listed below uses a different technology to deliver your service. The specific choices available to you will vary.
DSL uses a different frequency of phone lines to deliver "always-on" or broadband internet. Speeds usually range from 768 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps (Megabits per second), but in some areas can be even faster.
The pros of DSL include consistent service, low cost, and decent speeds. The cons include relatively inconsistent speeds and a lack of access in some areas.
Satellite internet uses a satellite link to transmit your internet traffic, and is available in every rural area.
Its benefits include nationwide availability and faster speeds than DSL and dialup. However, it has very high latency (ping) and can be relatively expensive, with low data caps usually imposed on customers.
Fixed wireless, or antenna-based internet, uses a special router that receives mobile internet (3G or 4G) signals, and creates a home wireless network that you can connect your devices to.
Its benefits include a lower cost compared to satellite, plus widespread availability and good overall speeds. However, as with any wireless signal, the connection is not 100% consistent, and it is often more expensive than other rural internet options.
Dial-up is the oldest form of internet technology used today. It uses telephone landlines to deliver internet service.
The top benefit of dial-up is that it is very cheap, and requires no special infrastructure beyond a phone line. However, it’s far slower than any other type of internet, with speeds of about 56 Kbps. In addition, you have to "dial up" or connect to the network every time you use it, and the internet connection blocks access to your phone line while it’s in use. This is only a realistic option if you only want to do simple web browsing and email.
Mobile internet uses a “hotspot” to deliver internet access via a mobile network through a provider like Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T or Sprint.
Mobile internet has benefits like high speeds, relatively consistent connections, and reasonably good coverage. However, it’s usually very expensive and has strict data caps.
Wondering what you should look for in your rural internet provider? Here are a few things to consider as you consider possible options in your rural area.
Is the network reliable and available in your area? You’ll want a consistent, highly available and reliable rural internet network. Check online ratings and reviews to see how each provider in your area stacks up.
Cheaper isn’t always better, especially if it means sacrificing consistent service. Consider the performance of each rural internet provider near you, and pick the one that gives you the best balance of speed, reliability and price.
You’ll need at least 3 Mbps of bandwidth to watch streaming video and browse the internet fast – and up to 25 Mbps to watch 4K video, or watch videos on multiple devices. Get more information about what internet speed you need based on how you use your internet.
A data cap is a limit imposed by a service provider on the amount of data you can transfer over their network monthly. Typically there is a fee charged if you exceed that limit. Try to avoid services that have data caps, if possible. However, if you do settle on internet service that comes with a data cap, see if the service provider allows you to monitor your monthly usage to ensure you don't go over the limit.
As time goes on, more rural Americans are getting access to high-speed internet through fiber-optic networks, fixed wireless and 5G internet. Each year brings improved access in rural communities across the country.
Got questions about rural high-speed internet? We’ve got answers!
This depends on your location. In some areas, DSL may offer the best speeds, while in other areas you may only have access to fixed wireless or satellite internet. Start by searching online for "internet service near me" and doing some research on your available options to compare speed, reliability and price.
Fixed internet (also called antenna-based internet) offers faster speeds and lower latency, compared to satellite internet. It’s also usually cheaper — so if you have access to fixed internet in your area, it’s a better choice than satellite.
Satellite internet can be good for things like uploading and downloading files and streaming video, with speeds of between 12-100 Mbps. But with high latency, it can cause lags, so it’s not ideal for online gaming.
It basically comes down to cost and infrastructure. It’s more efficient for internet companies to install new communication lines in urban areas with a higher population density — most cities have 2,000 people or more per square mile, whereas there may be as few as 10 per square mile in rural areas. More people means more customers to share in the high cost of new installations. For this reason, it takes longer for providers to lay new lines and roll out new networks into those less populated areas.
Purchasing a new router or placing your router closer to your most-used WiFi devices (TV/streaming devices, computers, etc.) can help. You can also try switching your rural internet provider, and see if you get better speeds with a different company.
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