Getting internet in the countryside is an often-difficult thing. Mobile wireless internet network is rare, and landline phone services are even more limited. There are many benefits of living in rural areas, but internet availability is not one of them. So, what exactly is rural internet? And how do you get internet to rural areas?
Rural internet is a branch of internet services that are only available in rural areas. It describes internet availability in the countryside, no matter how rare.
What Are Your Rural Internet Options?
According to statistics by Microsoft, over 24 million people in the US don’t have internet access. The reasons vary between slow development, high costs, poor connection, terrain restrictions, and more. Despite all these, though, there are still a couple of companies that provide internet services even to rural areas.
Some of them are:
• Fixed wireless broadband
• DSL internet
• Satellite broadband
• Mobile broadband
All these services have different pros and cons due to how they operate and who operates them. Some are widely available but expensive, some are cheap but slow, while others are rarely available but fast and cheap. For you to choose any service to rely on for your internet connection, you'll need to make some sacrifices. You'll also need to consider what you'll be using the service for, and how much you're willing to pay. ConsCons
Because it’s not just about subscription costs but also infrastructure, rural internet can get very expensive. You may need to buy a dish, fiber optic cables, landline cables, and other possible equipment.
Fixed Wireless Broadband
A fixed wireless internet connection is one of the latest and best options for rural living. The network provider will beam your connection directly to an antenna you’ll need to install on your roof. Because the signals that transmit your data are radio waves, they are not overly affected by weather or terrain conditions. It means that all you need is an antenna, a router, and a subscription to start browsing the internet.
• Low latency
• Quick installation
• Available in 19+ states
• Low data cap
Top Fixed Wireless Service Providers
AT&T offers a one-year subscription for businesses and residents across rural America. Providing download speeds of up to 10Mbps and upload speeds of 1Mbps, it’s one of the fastest countryside internet options. You can extend the 250GB/month data limit at $10/10GB and can incur a fee for early service termination.
also has a 250GB/month data cap to their subscription but is cheaper, faster, and more widely available. Their 50Mbps download speed is quicker, and the installation charge is similarly less expensive than AT&T. Currently, Rise Broadband is the best in fixed wireless services.
Note: Both Rise Broadband and AT&T require you to return their leased equipment within 21 days of your subscription’s expiration. Rise Broadband also offers TV services and expect you're within 10 miles of a broadcast tower for the best signals.
Unlike with fixed broadband and satellite, DSL has a wide variety of operators that are in operation. DSL has limited infrastructural problems because it transmits your connection over already installed landlines. If your countryside home has a phone line, a DSL connection is an option for your internet needs.
• Wide availability
• No or large data caps
• Low-quality rural service
• Inconsistent network
Top DSL Broadband Service Providers
set the bar when it comes to DSL services with a substantial max download speed of up to 100Mbps. However, like most DSL services, rural users are only likely to get 20Mbps+ because of distance. It has a 1TB data cap, which is unusual for DSL services but is significantly cheaper than the next best. Something unique to CenturyLink is that, once you sign up for their service, you pay that same price forever.
AT&T is relatively more expensive than CenturyLink, but it has a similar 1TB data cap. Your internet speed with AT&T may range from 168kbps to 100Mbps.
Note that as with Fixed wireless service, You’ll need to pay for installation for DSL. DSL operators are now combining fiber connection with their regular services. This news means that you can now get speeds of up to 1000Mbps on DSL. However, it's unlikely that the countryside will enjoy this new service.
Although the data cap is limited and speeds can get wonky, satellite internet's most significant advantage is its availability. The only requirement for a satellite internet connection is a satellite dish. You can reach speeds of up to 100Mbps with some operators, and the subscriptions are often unlimited.
• Available everywhere
• Average speeds
• High latency
• Weather interference
Top Satellite Broadband Service Providers
offers up to 100Mbps download speeds and 25Mbps upload speeds at their fastest. They cap their data at between 35GB to 100GB depending on your plan.
download speeds are slower at a maximum of 25Mbps, which is still faster than DSL. Their upload speed is 3Mbps, and the data cap ranges between 10GB to 50GB.
is the best operator of satellite internet for rural areas because they offer higher data caps and faster speeds. However, HughesNet offers more varied data plans, and they are all relatively cheap.
While most satellite internet subscriptions are unlimited, they still have data caps. It means that when you exceed your data limit, you lose priority, and your internet speed slows significantly. Your download speed may reduce to between 1 to 3Mbps. It's possible, though, to extend this cap by paying for an extension.
What Should You Know Before Deciding on Any Option?
Satellite internet is expensive, fixed internet is slightly less costly, and DSL is cheap. Deciding on service and operator requires you to weigh the price of connection with other factors. “if you don’t need it, don’t get it” is the best advice we can offer on rural internet.
Note: Many operators subsidize your first 12 months subscription, so carefully read the fine print before signing.
There’s no point in paying for internet service if you only get network twice a week. So, ensure that the network for your rural internet option is good enough before buying a plan.
• 1Mbps and lower for social media, browsing, and email.
• 4 to 5Mbps for multiplayer gaming (low latency), music streaming, and video streaming (standard definition).
• 6 to 8Mbps for high definition video streaming
• 25Mbps for 4K video streaming and online conferencing (also low latency)
Take into care what you’ll be doing with your connection before deciding. Also note, that the more people are sharing your network over a Wi-Fi, the slower it gets.
Don’t skimp on what you need. If you use a lot of data, you should probably avoid satellite internet services. Factor the data cap the operators are offering into your decision and ensure it’s enough for your needs.
Rural internet services are slowly but surely expanding their reach in the next decade. Mobile internet providers are expanding their receivers, and DSL providers are integrating fiber optics in theirs.
More companies are also getting into the satellite internet gig, with OneWeb and Starlink coming up in a few years. Wherever you are, at least one of the above options will get you access to rural internet.