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Taking internet connectivity to rural locations has been no less than a dilemma for U.S. ISPs. The countless efforts towards bridging the digital divide did result in 63% of rural areas getting internet access in 2019. However, the remaining 37% is still lacking access to a reliable internet connection.

Sometimes, the connectivity ‘deprivation’ stems from economic bottlenecks. While at other times, it’s blamed on physical barriers. But, until the divide is bridged, the best way for rural residents to tackle the situation is awareness—they need to know about all the options available in their vicinity, which promise them affordability and most importantly reliability.

Rural Internet & the Digital Divide

While the dwellers of urban America are at the liberty of enjoying multiple wired options residents of rural regions only have a handful of options, with even fewer they can trust. The chief reason why the digital divide continues to exist in the US.

One aspect of what is termed as the digital divide in the US is the ‘divide’ between urban residents who have better access to internet service and rural residents who don’t due to availability of minimum options and budget constraints. Just when urban and suburban America is getting more ready access to internet speeds up to 1000 Mbps at affordable rates. Rural dwellers are making do with the little they have—around 12 to 25 Mbps at relatively expensive monthly rates.

Fortunately, the FCC initiative to help bridge the digital divide has encouraged leading ISPs in the US to take measures to mend the breach—as far as investing in expansion of their network infrastructure. While they are also running programs which offer subsidized rates so that low-income families can catch up.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything about rural internet—the available options, plans & pricing, and more! And we hope by the time you’re done reading, you’d have a reliable rural ISP in your hand—one that you can trust.

Rural Internet

A Quick Glance at the Landscape

A wired internet connection ensures reliable connectivity. In urban localities, you can easily find the newest type of wired connections, powered by cutting-edge Fiber-Optic technology. Because it is easier to install and extend communication lines even in densely populated areas. As a result, users can get speeds up to 1000 Mbps that make downloading hefty files a matter of a few seconds.

In rural areas, laying new infrastructure for wired connections is a daunting task. While upgrading the existing wired networks is no less arduous. ISPs face quite a few challenges.

Traditional copper wire networks, which are already widely laid out across the U.S., can only transmit data at optimum speeds over a certain distance. The farther you get from the provider’s hub, the slower the speed becomes. Plus Copper wires only allow a certain bandwidth—which does not compare to Cable or Fiber lines. Extending the fiber optic backbone of the network and upgrading via new available tech is an achievable task, but companies invest in the hope of reaping profit. When the demand for high speeds is low, the margin of profit is expected to be low too. And, the rest you can imagine.

Such factors, when compounded, result in rural residents having to pay a higher cost for the few options they have access to.

Types of Internet Connections

What Rural Residents Can Access

 

Digital Subscriber Line Broadband (DSL)

Nationwide Availability: 90%

DSL is the most widely available and the cheapest type of connection in rural America. DSL is a fixed, wired broadband internet connection that transmits data over a copper-based landline. Installing a DSL connection is easier. All you need is a pre-existing phone connection and your ISP would take no time installing it.

Unlike the dial-up connection of yesteryear, DSL causes no interference in the phone line. For small-scale rural businesses and households with light to moderate internet consumption, DSL is the best option. Users can browse the internet, download regular sized files, share media, telecommute, and even video chat without much hassle.

Subscribe to high-speed DSL internet plans from EarthLink, Windstream, CenturyLinkFrontier Communications

Fixed Wireless

Nationwide Availability: 45%

Fixed Wireless works on the “last mile” technology. This type of connection uses radio signals to transmit data wirelessly from the provider’s backhaul connection and the user-end. In rural areas where laying a wired infrastructure can become a hassle, fixed wireless is an ideal solution. Its cost effective to deploy, and like so users can enjoy faster speeds and unlimited data depending on the service provider they choose.

Explore fixed wireless internet plans from Rise Broadband

Satellite Internet

Nationwide Availability: 100%

Satellite internet is another type of connection readily available in rural America. ISPs deliver internet via an orbiting satellite in space, which forms a kind of junction between two points on the earth—the provider’s control center and the subscriber. The signal is both received by and beamed back to earth via the satellite. Satellite internet can offer download speeds up to 100 Mbps. But, latency remains a factor to consider since data travels quite a distance during the back and forth.

More often ISPs that deal in satellite internet, offer capped plans, but also additional monthly data to ease the user. While some like Viasat also give the option of unlimited data plans, albeit at a higher price point. With that said, video streaming, telecommuting, and even light gaming is possible with satellite internet.

Explore high-speed satellite internet plans from HughesNet

Mobile Broadband

Nationwide Availability: 100%

Mobile broadband offers internet connectivity over a cellular network using a mix of technologies. Users access the internet using a cell phone and you can connect everywhere where your service provider’s network coverage is available. This type of connectivity wins at its plug & play feature. Without landlines, physical cables, a power source, and internet equipment, users can do some moderate browsing, streaming, and a bunch of other activities—even use it wirelessly on more than one device via the mobile hotspot feature.

Browse value-packed mobile broadband internet plans from AT&T

Top Rural Internet Service Providers

Searching for a reliable internet provider in your rural vicinity may take some awareness, but it can be made hassle-free. We’ve picked out the best rural internet providers. So you don’t have to waste your time searching for the right one. All that’s left for you to do now is dial 1-855-349-9328, and get all the info regarding which of the following ISPs are serving your neighborhood:

AT&T Internet

 

  • Type of connection: DSL & Mobile Broadband
  • Widely available (DSL in 21 states, mobile broadband across the U.S.)
  • Affordable & without contract

CenturyLink

 

  • Type of connection: DSL
  • Available in 50 states
  • Affordable, no contract & Price for Life Guarantee

 

Frontier

 

  • Type of connection: DSL
  • Available in 25 states
  • Affordable, no data caps, no contract & Price for Life Guarantee on Frontier Internet Basic

Windstream

 

  • Type of connection: DSL
  • Available in 50 states
  • No data caps or contracts, value for money guaranteed

 

Rise Broadband

 

  • Type of connection: Fixed Wireless
  • Available across 22 states
  • Low latency, unlimited and capped data plans & affordable

HughesNet

 

  • Type of connection: Satellite Broadband
  • Available across the U.S.
  • Soft data limits, and Bonus Zone data

 

Getting a Rural Internet Connection

Things to Consider

Now that you’re aware of the types of internet connections and top providers serving rural America, it’s time to tackle one more thing. Shopping for an ISP may not be a hassle if you know what you need and what to look for, but it is still not something to take lightly. There’s a lot that you need to keep in mind. For instance…

Don’t Over Shop

It’s wise to be fully aware of your monthly internet consumption. If your monthly internet usage snuggly fits inside let’s say 10GB of data, then opting for a plan with unlimited data or a bigger data allowance would be a money drainer. Smaller data plans can easily cover light to moderate internet usage—such as your browsing and social networking, occasional streaming or video chatting needs.

Know the Speeds That You Need

Similar to data consumption, if your activities do not require 100 Mbps speed, there is little point in looking for such a fast connection—you can easily do with 25 Mbps if you are a small family with moderate usage of the internet. Most of us undermine the speeds that our ISPs provide us. Rural areas indeed have access to limited internet speeds. But those speeds aren’t insufficient to help you do your daily online chores. Here’s a list of internet speeds recommended by FCC, that you can get in your rural vicinity:

  • Emailing, using social media, and browsing: 1 Mbps
  • Online gaming: 3 to 4 Mbps
  • Standard-Definition (480p) video streaming: 3 to 4 Mbps
  • High-Def (720p) video streaming: 5 to 8 Mbps
  • 4K UHD video streaming: 25 Mbps

It’s All in the Fine Print

ISPs often mention price-hikes in fine-print text. Say, an ISP may reel you in by showing you market-competitive prices. Only for you to find out the total cost of the package is way more than what you can afford, or that the contract entails a price hike following the end of the promo period. A wise move in such situations is to opt for ISPs that offer a Price for Life guarantee, such as CenturyLink, or take your time and go through the fine print which accompanies the pricing before you make a decision.

Availability is the Key

Imagine, investing your time researching a provider that doesn’t even service your address. Be sure to base your research only on providers that are available in your area. Before you start delving into provider details, use your ZIP code to check the availability of your potential provider and go through all the plans that can fit your requirement. Alternatively speak to experts at 1-855-349-9328 and get help with determining provider availability in your ZIP code.

For a more detailed review of what considerations you must keep in perspective read about How to Get Broadband Internet in Rural and Remote Areas

Rural Internet

Should You Worry about Data Caps?

Data caps are imposed by ISPs to control your monthly data usage as a tool to avoid network congestion. And when you cross your data limit, different things can happen depending on the policy in place at your ISP’s end. You may continue to use the connection as normal, but incur and overage fee, you are not disconnected from the internet but the speed is throttled, or your account gets temporarily suspended.

Providers say data caps are essential to Fair Usage Policy. While urban subscribers have always protested against data capping because it takes away their sense of freedom, for rural America data caps aren’t uncommon. The data allowance that’s usually allotted to rural internet plans could be anywhere in GBs (gigabytes) or TBs (terabytes), with only some providers offering the choice of unlimited data at a higher rate.

In case you’re wondering which type of internet service comes with a data limit, we got you. Here are the rural internet options, along with the data cap that usually comes with them:

Type of Connection

 

Data Allowance

DSL Broadband

Data allowance up to 1 TB

& unlimited data
(varies with provider)

Fixed Wireless

Capped & unlimited data
(varies with plan)

Mobile Broadband

Capped & unlimited data
(varies with plan)

Satellite Internet

 

Capped & unlimited data
(varies with provider and plan)

Why Are Rural Areas Still Lacking in Connectivity?

Rural communities have long faced the challenges posed by less reliable internet options. Just when metropolitan areas have come to access gigabits of speed at affordable monthly rates, rural Americans are forced to make do with slower options ranging from dial-ups and traditional DSL to satellite and fixed wireless—and depending on their location more often than not they don’t even have choice.  

It is true the demand for fast speeds and unlimited data in rural regions is not as high as in urban and suburban parts of the US. But, it is equally true the speeds that rural residents get maybe insufficient to cover their growing digital needs as lifestyle changes occur on a wider scale. For instance online education and telecommuting becoming the new norm. Moreover, the hefty price tags for high speeds and more data, where available, is off-putting to say the least.

So, why is a reliable internet connection inaccessible to millions of rural Americans after all? Well among other reasons, it’s not the lack of attention rather the lack of funds paired with the supply vs demand corporate dilemma. As we said, extending the fiber backbone of a wired infrastructure and induction of the latest tech is costly. Moreover, in order to ensure revenue generation from their investment, providers prefer going for densely populated areas, rather than ones sparsely so. And, this results in scarcely populated rural patches remaining deprived of reliable internet connectivity.

Let’s Sum it up…

Having a limited number of internet options is way better than having no options at all. The providers mentioned above are big names in the U.S. ISP industry, and you maybe able to find one or more in your rural vicinity. For an affordable monthly fee, you may be getting less of speed and data. But, if your lifestyle demands can be met with 25 Mbps fast internet—which meets the FCC broadband speed benchmark—you can get a bargain deal with the one of these trusted nationwide ISPs—with an adequate data allowance.

If you’re willing to explore providers and offers for your rural home, all you need to do  is—measure out your needs, put your budget in perspective, enter your ZIP code here—and you’ll have available deals listed out for you. Alternatively, if you’d like to speak to an expert regarding availability of plans and prices in your area, call at 1-855-349-9328. Tell them what you would like your internet connection to do for you, and where you are located, and let them get the best ongoing promotions in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best rural internet options?

The best rural internet options in the US are:

  • AT&T Internet (DSL) and Mobile Broadband
  • CenturyLink Internet (DSL)
  • HughesNet (Satellite)
  • Windstream (DSL)
  • Rise Broadband (Fixed Wireless)
  • Frontier Communications (DSL)
  • EarthLink (DSL)

Which rural internet is best for online gaming?

For light gaming, DSL broadband and Fixed Wireless do the trick. These two types have a lower latency level relative to satellite internet, which means fewer ping spikes. Data allowance however needs to be more than basic. AT&T Internet 25 is a great choice if available. But then again, CenturyLink 40-80 Mbps plan costs you just a little more at $49/mo. and gets you the Price for Life Guarantee. For more details call at 1-855-349-9328.

Does rural internet have data caps?

Yes, rural internet options from AT&T and CenturyLink come with the data caps. But, unlimited options from Windstream and Frontier are also available at affordable rates. While Rise Broadband gives you the option to pick an unlimited or capped plan. It all depends which provider is serving your address. To check availability call at 1-855-349-9328.

Why is rural satellite internet so expensive?

Satellite internet utilizes infrastructure that is expensive. It takes millions of dollars to build and launch satellites into the orbit. This is mainly the reason why among all other types of rural internet, Satellite costs the most.

Is satellite internet good?

For remote areas where laying an infrastructure for a fast wired connection is not possible, satellite internet is a reliable bet. For more information explore rural internet in America.

How does rural Wi-Fi work?

Rural Wi-Fi (Fixed Wireless) works when internet signal is received and transmitted by your router from the main wireless internet tower via a series of towers. To ensure the transmission and reception of signal happens glitch-free, your router must be latest.