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Have you ever felt like living in the country means you’re stuck with slow internet from traditional internet providers?
Think again – rural internet has changed dramatically with new options beyond sluggish DSL or satellite from traditional providers.
If you’re looking for rural internet options that can support your streaming apps or even working from home, this guide is for you. We break down various aspects of rural internet, including the different internet connection types available, the top rural internet providers, features to look out for, and what the future holds for rural internet as a whole.
What’s In This Guide
- Top Rural Internet Providers
- Rural Internet Connection Types
- HughesNet: Best Satellite Service
- Frontier: Best DSL Service
- Earthlink: Best Fixed Wireless Service
- Features to Look Out For
- Future of Rural Internet
- Rural Internet FAQs
Top Rural Internet Providers
Put dial-up out to pasture with these fast rural internet providers offering high-speed plans that won’t break the bank. Below we list top providers and their best deals to help you gauge what’s out there.
|Rural Provider||Starting Price*||Max Download*||Data Cap|
|HughesNet||$64.99||Up to 115 Mbps||Unlimited|
|Viasat||$49.99||Up to 25 Mbps||Unlimited|
|Starlink||$110.00||Up to 200 Mbps||Unlimited|
|Max Download*||Up to 115 Mbps|
|Max Download*||Up to 25 Mbps|
|Max Download*||Up to 200 Mbps|
Rural Internet Connection Types
In rural areas, you probably have more options than you think. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), over 99% of people in the US have access to at least two providers in their area. The most common rural connections include satellite, DSL, and fixed-wireless.
Below, we compare the different types of rural internet services to help you decide which one is best for you.
Satellite internet is a great option for rural and remote areas because it’s available virtually anywhere. Satellite plans came with data caps, high latency (delay), and high price tags in the past. However, providers like HughesNet, Viasat, and most recently Starlink now offer competitive rates and unlimited data to meet users’ needs. Today, satellite internet speeds can range from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps, but that’s anticipated to increase with the introduction of low-Earth orbit satellites.
Similar to fiber and cable internet, DSL internet uses pre-existing phone cable to deliver internet service to homes. If you have landline phone service in your home, you most likely have access to DSL internet service. DSL is preferred over fixed wireless internet in rural areas because of its faster speeds and protection against harsh weather. A handful of nationwide DSL providers offer affordable and fast plans, including Frontier, AT&T, and CenturyLink.
- Most widely-available ground-based internet
- More affordable than other types of internet
- Ideal for up to two users at a time
- Speeds top out at 100 Mbps
- High latency is common
- Speeds are affected by the distance from provider’s hub
Like satellite internet, fixed wireless uses a dish or antenna to receive internet. It broadcasts a signal from a fixed cell tower to surrounding areas and can deliver speeds up to 1000 Mbps in certain areas. It’s less common than other wireless connections, but those that can access it benefit from lower latency and decent data rates, making gaming possible in rural areas. Fixed wireless internet providers are usually local ISPs, which means you can support a small business within your community.
- Fast and reliable internet connection
- Easy installation
- Wide availability
- Requires a clear line of sight
- Even though it is wireless, service is fixed to your home address
- Slightly more expensive than other types
Depending on where you live, some mobile hotspots can be used as an alternative to home internet – albeit for an added fee. Check with your cellphone provider to see what services they offer near you. Verizon and AT&T are just a few ISPs that provide mobile hotspots. If you don’t connect to the internet too often, this could be the perfect solution.
- Available anywhere your cellular data service is available
- Convenient if your carrier allows for hotspot service from your smartphone
- Ideal for quick access or while in motion
- Hardware and service costs can be expensive
- Slower than average speeds
- Not the most reliable multiple users on a shared connection
HughesNet: Best Satellite Service
Max Download Speed
While satellite is available almost anywhere, it’s usually the last resort for rural households. Satellite tends to be slower than DSL and fixed wireless and more expensive in the long run. However, HughesNet is a reliable satellite provider worth exploring if your options are limited. It has no hard data caps and offers promotional pricing for the first three months of service for instant savings.
- 50 GB/mo. bonus data for off-peak hours (2 am-8 am)
- Automatic optimization for web content
- Unlimited data
- Low upload speeds
- Difficult connection for gamers
Frontier: Best DSL Service
DSL internet uses home phone lines to deliver internet service to customers. While typically much slower than fiber and cable connections, DSL is preferred over satellite and fixed wireless internet in rural areas for its internet speeds and protection against inclement weather. Frontier in particular offers some of the fastest DSL plans with download speeds of up to 115 Mbps and unlimited data.
- Free equipment rentals
- No contracts required
- Unlimited data
- Limited DSL availability
- $85 installation fee
EarthLink: Best Fixed Wireless Service
EarthLink offers fixed-wireless internet plans with enough bandwidth to support several connections. Fixed wireless from EarthLink, branded Wireless Home Internet, relies on cellular data networks for connectivity. If you have 5G in your area, Earthlink may be an ideal solution for your internet needs.
Features to Look Out For
Along with your personal needs, you’ll want to keep these key features in mind when making your final decision and sifting through providers.
It’s tempting to want the best plan your internet provider offers, but more times than not, you may need less than you think. The FCC recommends speeds between 1 Mbps and 8 Mbps (per person in the household) for common internet activities like web browsing, streaming video, teleconferencing, and online gaming. Most rural internet providers offer at least 25 Mbps download speeds, which should support most of these everyday tasks. However, you’re better off if you can get a plan with at least 100 Mbps.
The last thing you want is to receive a bill in the mail that you weren’t expecting. When it comes to ISPs, you want to read the fine print to avoid any surprises. Often, they’ll sucker you in with a sweet promotional deal, only to hike the price up a few months or a year later.
Data limits can quickly kill the mood when they’re not enough. Before signing up for an internet plan, make sure they offer enough bandwidth to support your personal usage habits. Otherwise, you may find yourself unhappy with your provider at the onset. Most rural internet providers these days either include unlimited data in their plans or give customers the option to upgrade for an added fee.
An internet provider might have low introductory rates on internet plans, but that usually doesn’t include upfront costs like installation, activation fees, and equipment rentals. Be sure to look for the extra fees associated with your plan before signing on the dotted line.
With the rise of mobile gaming and play to earn apps, understanding how different rural internet options affect games like Cosmic Rewards is important. Here’s a brief look at these connections and tips for a better gaming experience:
- Watch for Data Limits: Ensure your plan has enough data for your gaming needs.
- Test Internet Speed: Check your speed and latency to make sure they fit the game’s requirements.
- Use Wi-Fi When Possible: A Wi-Fi connection is usually better than cellular data for gaming.
- Update Games in Off-Peak Hours: If your internet is slower at certain times, download game updates during less busy hours.
Rural Internet FAQs
Can I get high-speed internet in the country?
Yes. Satellite, DSL, and fixed wireless internet are the most common connections types found in rural areas. Satellite internet is typically the go-to choice for rural households, as it’s available nearly everywhere in the United States. DSL is another great option if you’re looking for fast internet with higher monthly data allowances.
How can I save money on rural internet?
There are multiple government programs available for rural residents in need of affordable internet service. For example, the Lifeline program helps low-income households get communications services including internet and phone. The Affordable Connectivity Program is another program that helps households that meet the criteria to pay for internet costs.
How can I improve my rural internet speed?
The first option most people consider is changing their rural internet provider. However, there are a handful of tricks to improve your internet speed that we recommend trying before you might resolve to switch internet providers.
If you find that your slow internet speed is, in fact, related to your connection type, then it’s probably time to consider all your options. DSL and dial-up internet service tend to be the slowest connections, so switching to a fixed wireless or satellite internet provider may offer faster speeds.
Is satellite internet better than fixed wireless internet?
Both satellite and fixed wireless internet are good options for rural homes. Satellite internet is generally better than fixed wireless because it offers more availability and faster speeds. However, fixed wireless service tends to produce lower latency than satellite due to the shorter distance signal has to travel, and can be less expensive.
Why is rural internet so slow?
It mostly comes down to cost and time. Rural internet tends to be slower than urban internet because providers choose to focus their attention and resources on areas with dense populations. It’s more profitable to service a smaller area with more people, which means rural areas often get shorted on the latest technology.
In addition, it takes substantial time and money to build out networks in rural areas where the terrain is often harsher and less developed than in the city. Grounded internet connections like fiber, cable, and DSL face geographical barriers that satellites can overcome easier.
How many satellite internet providers are there?
There are currently two major satellite internet providers: Viasat and HughesNet. However, many new companies are attempting to compete in the market. The main one among them is Starlink who’s developing a new satellite constellation that flies at low orbit to deliver faster speeds. EarthLink is another satellite internet service provider that offers connectivity in all U.S. states, except Hawaii and Alaska.
Rural Internet Speed Test
If you are dissatisfied with your current internet service, it’s best to have an idea of the internet speeds you’re currently receiving. Perform an internet speed test at different times throughout the day to get an idea of what your top speed is. That way when you start shopping for a new internet provider, you have something to compare against the speeds they advertise. See our resource on internet speed tests for clarity on your results. Remember, advertised speeds are based on a wired connection to your router or modem, which is always faster than a wireless connection.
Save Money With The Affordable Connectivity Program
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is an initiative by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support internet accessibility for low-income families. It can help households in rural areas afford high-speed internet service, contributing to bridging the digital divide. Eligible households can receive a discount of up to $30/mo. for broadband internet service, while those on qualifying Tribal lands can receive up to $75/mo. The ACP assists rural residents in engaging with digital opportunities, such as remote education, telemedicine, work from home, and social connectivity.
Future of Rural Internet
The current state of the internet still leaves a lot to be desired, but there is much to look forward to in the coming years – especially as it relates to rural internet. Rural internet is where some of the most exciting developments in internet technology are happening.
From mobile broadcast towers to low-Earth orbit satellites, new advancements are being made every day. And, common internet myths are being debunked along with them.
For example, one myth many people believe is that “satellite is on its last leg.” The reality is actually quite the opposite. Companies like SpaceX and Amazon are investing billions of dollars into low-Earth satellite systems to bring faster and cheaper rural internet options to millions of Americans.
In early 2021, the Starlink Beta program powered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture began testing phases throughout the US. This new satellite technology has the potential to deliver speeds of up to 1000 Mbps and latency as low as 20 ms. Not to mention, with satellite internet available virtually everywhere, this has the potential to significantly reduce the digital divide.
In addition, the continuing rollout of 5G could lead to better fixed wireless connections in rural areas, improving download speeds and increasing data limits for internet customers.
So don’t give up on your home internet experience just yet. If you’re still looking for better service where you live, know that the future is bright for rural internet options.
Find the best internet service in your area.
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