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Rural Internet Options: How to Connect in the Country

Posted by Sarah Asp Olson on October 5, 2017

Looking for high-speed internet in a rural area? Even in the country, there are options. We review four of the best methods to get connected in the country.

The internet has become such an important part of everyday life, the lack of a reliable internet connection can be a real barrier to those looking to move to rural land. Even for country-dwellers seeking a simpler life, high speed Internet is essential for telecommuting to work, running a small business, or making sure kids keep up on schoolwork.

It’s true there is a chasm between urban and rural areas when it comes to internet access: According to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 broadband report, 23.4 million rural-dwelling Americans lack access to high-speed services—that’s 39 percent of rural residents compared to just 10 percent of the population as a whole.

While companies like Microsoft and AT&T are working to make widespread, high-speed a rural reality, you need to log on now. Start by checking out the FCC’s National Broadband Map to determine if you’re in a DSL dead zone. Many rural areas are, but that doesn’t mean your options are nil. Here are the pros and cons to some of the most readily available rural internet options.

1. Satellite

The Upside: It’s readily available. Virtually any homestead can access satellite internet.

The Players: There are two primary dish providers for rural internet access: HughesNet and Excede. While both offer plans starting at about $50 per month as of this writing, HughesNet recently increased the speed of its lowest-tier plan while holding steady on the cost.

The Downside: Satellite can experience high latency (the time it takes a page to load). Data caps can also be an issue, and if you’re not careful with usage you could be charged for going over or experience slower speeds.

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2. Cellular

The Upside: Connecting through your cellphone provider offers decent speeds without as many latency issues as satellite.

The Players: AT&T and Verizon are the big names in rural cellular internet service. Another option if your cellular connection is strong is a rural internet modem from the 4G Antenna Shop, which offers unlimited high-speed service at a variety of price points.

The Downside: Coverage can be limited and expensive. Verizon’s 4G LTE Internet Installed plan begins at about $60 per month for 10 gigabytes of download speed. If you go over, speeds decrease and/or you’re charged per-gigabyte.

BONUS: At Home Hack

Complete with an unlimited AT&T data plan, the ZTE Mobley is just over $20 per month. It’s designed to use in your car, but you can purchase an AC adaptor to plug into the wall and use the Mobley at home. YouTubers like FourALifetime offer reviews and tips for making it work.

3. Fixed Wireless

The Upside: Fixed wireless bypasses phone or cable lines, using radio waves to connect an antenna fixed to the outside of your house to land-based towers. The signal doesn’t have as far to travel as a satellite connection, so speeds can be faster and latency lower. There also typically aren’t the data caps that are common in cellular plans.

The Players: There are approximately 2,000 wireless internet service providers (WISPs) that offer fixed wireless service in the U.S. Broadband Now offers a fairly comprehensive list of the regions they cover.

The Downside: Plans and prices vary by states, as do outages and reliability of service. Line of site can also be an issue, interrupting service if the path between antenna and tower isn’t clear.

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4. Dial-Up

The Upside: Dial-up operates on the same line as your home phone. If you still use a landline, and are looking for cheap, widely available internet, dial-up may be a good option. EarthLink’s dial-up plans, for example, start at just $10 per month.

The Players: Call your local phone company and/or Internet Service Provider to inquire about dial up options in your area.

The Downside: Slow connection speeds are the primary drawback. Don’t expect to stream video or run your business using a dialup connection. For the occasional Web surfer, though, it may be the most economical option.

How do you connect to the internet in the country? Share your tips in the comments below.

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Sarah Asp Olson

Sarah is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Delta Sky, Country's Best Cabins, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and more. Sarah has written about everything from rural cabin life and home decor trends to higher education and the country music scene in Norway. Check out some of her work at http://www.sarahaspolson.com.

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