One of the biggest problems when searching for high-speed internet is the fact that choices are usually limited to just one or two internet service providers for each area. Meaning, customers have to make do with what’s available. This is especially true for rural Americans who may not even have high-speed broadband providers in their area and instead have to rely on slower speeds or even dialup internet.
As more and more companies go digital, reliable internet access is becoming a virtual necessity for basic services, and internet providers need to be able to reach rural areas. Internet service is even becoming necessary for work. As of February 2020, 3.4% of Americans were working remotely, and the number has only risen since the recent quarantine.
Rural communities arguably need the internet even more than city communities since they typically have fewer resources than are available in urban areas. Fortunately, efforts are being made to provide internet for rural areas throughout the world. Whether you’ve spent your entire life in rural America or you’re looking to go a little more “off the grid,” here are your best options for high speeds when you need them.
Digital subscriber line (DSL) is often considered one of the better options for rural internet in areas where cable internet isn’t available. DSL uses your phone line to connect you to the internet, and it offers significantly faster speeds than dialup. It also uses different frequencies for the internet than your phone, so you can stay online and keep your phone line open. Download speeds are significantly slower than cable internet or fiber optic, but they should still be good for general browsing and basic video streaming. DSL can even be fine for gaming so long as you have low latency.
The biggest advantages of DSL are its wide availability and the fact that it’s more affordable than cable and fiber. Some plans will even offer you a set price for life as well as better data caps than you would get with a cable package.
Satellite service is one of the best rural internet options since it’s available practically anywhere, even in places without cell reception. It’s also great for people who are always traveling because all you need is a satellite dish on your roof (home or RV), and you can have internet access. For travelers, it’s worth pointing out that an RV setup will usually be more expensive.
Satellite internet offers faster speeds than DSL and should be good for anything you want to do, and you’ll often have a TV package included with your monthly bill. There are two major providers to choose from who offer plans favoring speeds or your budget. The major downsides of satellite internet include potentially higher hardware costs and the fact that weather can affect your signal. Satellite modems also tend to draw a lot of power, so you may wish to unplug them when not in use.
Fixed wireless internet is beginning to replace DSL service for rural internet customers in many areas. This isn’t the same as typical Wi-FI internet, but rather with fixed wireless internet your internet connection is sent from a fixed location to an antenna installed on your roof. The signal then travels from the antenna to your router to provide a Wi-Fi network for your home.
Fixed wireless speeds are comparable to cable, and you aren’t required to bundle any other services. This is likely the best option for rural areas where it’s available, but the major con to fixed wireless is that you generally need to be within 10 miles of the transmitter.