Living in the country can be blissful - except when it comes to rural internet options.
You may feel like there's just no simple way to keep up with the rest of the online world. Cable internet is not available in most rural areas, and access to fiber-optic internet is very limited so far, even in large cities.
In fact, we're here to help you find out how to get the internet in rural areas. In this guide, I'll give you an overview of the choices available to you if you live in an area without traditional high-speed internet providers.
You'll find information on the key considerations when searching for rural internet, the rural connection options, what the best internet options are, a sample list of internet rural providers, and more.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you'll feel a little more hopeful with the available internet options.
Table of Contents
There are three main options for high-speed internet in rural areas. Each has its own pros and cons, and not all are available in all locations. Still, it's important to research all the possibilities before making a commitment.
DSL internet (Digital Subscriber Line) is delivered through your phone line, making it a viable option for many rural customers. DSL is capable of connection speeds up to about 50 Mbps, but most providers offer DSL speeds in the 1 - 15 Mbps range. One downside of this broadband connection type is that if you live in a very remote location you may not have access to DSL internet.
What you need to know about DSL:
- DSL suffers from line attenuation. This means the farther you live from a broadband access point, the slower your internet connection will be.
- With DSL you get your own broadband connection, which means you won't have to share bandwidth as you do with cable internet.
- Prices for DSL service average between $30 and $50 per month.
- Data caps vary between providers, from 150 GB per month to unlimited usage.
As far as rural internet options go, DSL is faster and more affordable than ever.
The major advantage of broadband classification. Most satellite internet connection speeds are between 5 and 15 Mbps.
What you need to know about satellite internet service:
- Satellite typically requires a number of fees including installation and the cost of renting your equipment.
- Satellite internet can offer faster speeds in comparison to lower tier high-speed cable internet speeds.
- Satellite isn't the best choice for serious online gamers, as latency (lag time) can cause issues during gameplay.
As consumer demand and streaming technology evolve, satellite internet providers are developing more user-friendly plans with flexibility in terms of data allowance.
Wireless Internet Service Providers, (WISPs), have been serving rural customers since 1992. The term wireless internet providers may automatically bring to mind mobile access like hotspots and cellular service. WISP, however, is a form of home internet service which gives rural residents an alternative to satellite and DSL.
WISPs typically provide wireless broadband service via point-to-multi-point infrastructure. In plain English, this means that the company has a tower or other signal source which uses wireless technology to send the internet to an antenna mounted on your home.
What you need to know about WISP:
- Most WISPs are small to medium locally owned and operated companies.
- Speeds vary from provider to provider, ranging from 1 Mbps to 100 Mbps download. However, even 1 Mbps is a faster speed compared to dial-up speeds.
- Prices differ, with averages falling between $40 and $80 per month, depending upon the package.
- Some WISPs impose a data cap and some don't, so it's important to know the plan terms.
While this type of wireless broadband service is definitely promising as technology advances, there are some kinks that are still being worked out. WISP is susceptible to some of the same issues as satellite, such as outages due to inclement weather. The connection can also be subject to interference caused by obstacles.
Best Rural Internet
Ultimately the best rural internet option comes down to your household's needs, your budget, and your personal preferences. That said, satellite companies are widely considered to be some of the best internet providers in remote areas due to the overall reliability, speed, and affordability of the service.
In addition to the widespread coverage, satellite providers offer, this type of connection also gives you the benefit of combining your services. Bundling often allows you to get the best internet deals (you can learn more about fetching great internet deals here) and simplifies the installation process.
Even though satellite internet providers don't typically offer TV service themselves, companies partner together so that you can order everything at once.
Rural Internet Providers
Some of the rural internet providers you might find when you use our handy ZIP code checker tool include:
- AT&T Internet: DSL is one of the services offered by this provider, with download speeds up to 6 Mbps. You can expect to pay between $20 and $50 per month for AT&T high-speed DSL. You can view more of AT&T's Internet plans here.
- CenturyLink Internet: CenturyLink offers some of the fastest DSL speeds available, at up to 40 Mbps. Plans run between about $20 to $35 depending on the current promotion and plan you choose.
- Dish Internet: Dish offers satellite internet speeds between 5 and 15 Mbps. Prices range from $40 to $80 per month, plus a $10 equipment rental fee. You can get a discount, however, for bundling your Dish Network TV with internet service.
- Exede Internet: Exede is a satellite internet provider that charges a little more than others - between $50 and $100 for their promotional rates. They deliver on speed, however, with top download speeds up to 25 Mbps.
- HughesNet Internet: HughesNet service costs between $30 and $80 for their introductory plans, and delivers speeds between 5 and 15 Mbps.
There are many other rural internet companies, many of whom offer the big name services as authorized agents. For example, you may see WildBlue in your list of options, however, this company sells Exede brand internet.
Rural Provider Search
There are several ways to find the best rural internet access for your needs. The best way is to search for internet providers by ZIP code, which contains our very own efficient search tool.
Other ways to find rural internet providers include:
- Talking to other people in your area to see which company they're using for their internet service
- Looking up smaller local rural internet providers online
- Using the WISPA (Wireless Internet Service Providers Association) website to find WISP providers
Finding reliable rural broadband doesn't have to be a headache. We make the task easier and quicker for you.
In fact, according to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), nearly 40% of rural Americans do not have access to broadband internet. The FCC defines broadband service as download speeds of 25 Mbps (megabits per second) and upload speeds of 3 Mbps or greater. Don't throw in the towel, though.
Fortunately, there are ways for those who live in more sparsely populated areas to get online. By the same token, however, there are some things to take into consideration when evaluating rural and remote internet access options.
- Data Caps: When you're dealing with rural internet service, you're likely to encounter data caps. A data cap is a limit on how much surfing you may do during a billing cycle. Things like video streaming services and large file uploads and downloads can eat up data pretty quickly, so it's important to know how much you're using and how much your rural broadband internet provider allows you each month.
- Contracts: You may be facing a contract if you subscribe to rural high-speed internet. This is especially common with one of the most popular rural internet options, satellite. Contracts are typically one to two years in length. On the plus side, you often enjoy a price guarantee during that time.
- Bundling: Due to the fact that rural internet is often a bit more expensive than it is in a larger city, it can be helpful to take advantage of internet and TV bundles. Combining your services from the same provider can save you a significant amount of money on your monthly bill. You can also find internet and phone bundles, like these impressive bundles, or get all three services together as a triple play package.
These are just a few of the things to keep in mind as you evaluate the internet options for rural areas. Next, I'll delve into more detail about the kinds of connections available as well as how to get the internet in rural areas.
The Future of Rural Internet
Since the advent of cyberspace, consumers in remote areas have dealt with limited internet access options. That reality is gradually shifting as the FCC takes steps to encourage the development of rural broadband. In 2015 the commission allocated 1.5 billion dollars as an incentive for high-speed internet providers to deploy better technology into rural areas.
The plan, which is part of the Connect America Fund, gives providers specific milestones to achieve over the course of a six-year period. The initiative is expected to deliver broadband access to over seven million underserved consumers in areas with no access to these higher speeds.
The Internet as a Utility
The arrangement between the FCC and high-speed internet companies came on the heels of the commission's vote earlier in 2015 to classify the internet as a utility, just like phone service and electricity. The two actions go hand in hand, as they both allow the FCC rule-making power over how the internet is delivered and to whom.
While both moves were considered fairly controversial, in the end, the goal is that people who choose not to live within densely populated urban areas will have access to the same kinds of service as those who do. If you live outside of the city, you know that high-speed internet is a crucial aspect of gaining access to things like:
- Job opportunities
- Educational tools
- Government services
- News and other media content
- Social interaction
The next several years should be an exciting time as choices of the internet for rural areas increase and improve.
The most important thing to remember when shopping for rural internet providers is to make sure you understand all of the terms of service. For instance, some providers give you a set amount of data during peak hours and a set amount of off-peak data. Others give you a certain amount of "priority data" and unlimited data for specific uses such as social media.
You should also pay attention to contract length and price guarantees so that you know exactly how much you'll be paying and when the rate will go up. As time goes on, the forecast for high-speed internet in rural areas is only expected to get brighter.
New technologies are being deployed every year, bringing broadband closer and closer to remote areas. Using our ZIP code checker will help you stay abreast of the latest options available to you.