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Rural Internet: What Are Your Options?

rural internet: what are your options?

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Published date:

March 19, 2023

Last updated date:

December 05, 2023

By Laura Mueller

Most people need access to reliable, high-speed internet, including those with remote properties. 

In late July 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration announced $401 million in spending toward high-speed internet access in rural areas as part of the larger Infrastructure Law. This is in addition to the more than $1 billion spent through the USDA’s ReConnect Program, an initiative with the specific goal of bringing more and better internet connectivity to unserved rural areas and tribal lands. 

Of course, if the increase in spending toward rural connectivity hasn’t reached you yet – or if you’re simply not satisfied with what’s available – then it’s helpful to know more about what your options for rural internet are. Here’s a quick breakdown of rural internet solutions to get you started. 

Types of Internet for Rural Properties

You don’t have to sacrifice high-speed internet for remote living. Federal spending and corporate innovations have all resulted in an increase in internet options for rural residents, with additional developments on the way. 

There are currently four types of internet for rural residents, and you should have access to at least one of them. 

1. Satellite

Satellite is the most popular type of rural internet service and relies on a home satellite dish rather than in-ground cables to keep you connected. 

The biggest benefit of satellite internet is that it can reach remote places, as well as places that haven’t been serviced yet by other service types. There are some drawbacks though, such as slow page loading times and limited data caps. 

Providers for satellite internet include Viastat, HughesNet, and Starlink, the latter of which is the priciest but also provides the highest speeds and data caps. 

2. DSL 

DSL internet transmits data via telephone lines instead of in-orbit satellites. It tends to run cheaper than other internet services, and, in many cases, meets the requirements to be considered high-speed. 

Providers of DSL internet like CenturyLink and Windstream service large areas of the U.S. And they’re usually able to beat the speeds provided by their satellite competitors. But DSL does have a few disadvantages, including limited plan options and an occasional lack of reliability.

3. Fixed Wireless Internet

Several big-name wireless providers offer fixed wireless internet for rural areas, among them AT&T and Verizon LTE. Service requires an outdoor antenna and indoor router, making it a good workaround if telephone lines don’t reach your property. 

Data caps and speeds tend to be higher with fixed internet versus satellite. However, expect a higher price point for this service, plus possible reliability issues if there’s not a clear line of sight between your antenna and the location where the network is transmitting access from. 

4. 5G Wireless

Rural residents may not be out of luck for taking advantage of 5G advancements. T-Mobile’s 5G wireless plan for example reaches more than 30 million homes, at least a third of which are in rural areas. 

If you go with this option, you’ll get relatively high speeds with no data caps or contracts – a big win considering all your options. And while you do run the risk of occasionally losing 5G connectivity, that usually just means falling back to 4G LTE, rather than losing service entirely.

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