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Living in rural America has its own perks, but a potential snag is lack of internet options. For some rural communities, a wired internet service may not be available at all. The good thing is FCC in partnership with some big names in the U.S. ISP industry is working to bridge the digital divide by extending broadband services to rural areas that have long been underserved. But for now, the two most commonly available rural internet options are satellite and DSL.

So, which is the best for you and your household? Let’s not waste any more words and get straight to the point:

What is Satellite Internet?

Satellite internet facilitates data transfer through a satellite dish installed at your premises. This piece of equipment is responsible for the transmission of signal to and from the orbiting satellite in the space.

This broadband type is the most widely available option and is ideal for anyone living in rural areas unreachable by wired networks—even DSL. However, high prices, long contract terms, and limited data allowance can try your patience in the long run.

Speed, Latency & Data

Satellite internet speeds commonly average out at 25 Mbps—which meets the FCC benchmark for high-speed internet, and is sufficient for standard residential internet usage. Here it is worth mentioning in most cases actual satellite internet speeds turn out to be higher than advertised—for instance, a HughesNet Gen5 connection in Southfield, Michigan has been recorded to deliver over 400 Mbps fast speeds.

Latency is sure a factor that has given satellite internet a bad repute among gamers, but then for all other online activities, even light-weight gaming, the output is not affected to an extent that it’ll cause a noticeable lag. With that said, latency is something inherent to all satellite internet services. Data is required to make a round trip that is about 45,000 miles—all the way from dish at the subscriber’s end to the satellite and back again after a connection is established with the terrestrial broadband network via the provider’s hub on earth.  

Similar to latency another aspect, counted as a downside of satellite internet is metered data—albeit in recent years Viasat has introduced unlimited plan options. In any case, the data limit is more often soft as with HughesNet—meaning you are never offline, even after you exceed your data limit, rather you stay connected at throttled speeds. And, there is no overage fee involved. To help subscribers with data restrictions, HughesNet, for instance, gives 50 GB FREE data every month to use during off peak hours i.e. the Bonus Zone.

 

Pricing

Like other broadband types, satellite internet prices are also driven by data and speed. But, honestly speaking, it is an expensive option given the high cost of setting up and sustaining network infrastructure that stretches from space to earth.

In general, satellite internet prices range from $50.00 to $150.00 per month. Plans that promise higher speeds and unlimited data, if available are priced higher.

Availability

Satellite internet has a big edge over all forms of wired networks—and that is its coast-to-coast availability. Like latency, availability is also linked directly to the type of broadband it is. And this advantage also trickles down to the consumer since no laying of wired is required to make things work—all you need is a satellite dish installed at your premises, and a satellite internet modem—and you are good to go. For this reason, availability of satellite internet in remote areas where even the century-old copper phone line network has not extended, is a godsend. 

 

Reliability

With satellite internet, you maybe forced to contend with low performance if weather conditions are severely unfavorable. For the most part however, things remain stable.

 

Satellite Internet: Pros & Cons

Pros Cons

What is DSL Internet?

DSL is a wired internet connection that transmits data by utilizing the twisted copper phone line network. Since copper lines have long been spread out, DSL networks cover almost 90% of the US—making it quite easy to get the service. Plus, a DSL internet connection only requires 2 pieces of equipment—a DSL filter which plugs into the phone jack, and a DSL modem. So setting it up is simple and inexpensive as well.

Speed, Latency & Data

The thing with DSL internet speed is the farther you are from the provider’s hub, the slower the speed. Largely speaking, traditional DSL internet speeds in rural areas range from 0.5 Mbps to 75 Mbps—depending on where you live. Also, contingent upon the size of the rural community, you may be able to sign up for high-speed DSL up to 100 Mbps fast. 

Compared to satellite, DSL internet has a lower latency level—10-70 ms versus an average of 600 ms. But as for data allowance, plans from various providers can be capped or uncapped.

Putting together the speed, latency and data attributes of a DSL connection, it can be utilized for light to moderate internet consumption in a household—browse the web, share media, download regular sized documents, bank or shop online etc. and even indulge in light-weight streaming of video and music. The downside is you may not be able to connect multiple devices at once.

 

Pricing

DSL internet has remained a pretty affordable choice thus far, but with fiber optic entering the residential market, the per Mbps cost of DSL internet is anticipated to increase—chiefly owing to the cost of the upkeep of DSL networks versus the rise in demand for fiber optic internet which makes that a more profitable venue for ISPs.

With that said when compared to satellite broadband, DSL remains a much cheaper rural internet option. You can find DSL plans in the range of $30 – $50 per month from some of the best ISPs in the US.

 

Availability

No doubt, DSL is a good rural internet option—thanks to its affordable rates when compared to satellite broadband, however it is not as comprehensively available as its rural counterpart.

 

Reliability

DSL offers great coverage via a landline connection over a copper network and is significantly reliable. The greatest benefit you get from a DSL connection is data transmission occurs over a dedicated line. Meaning, others in your neighborhood do not get to eat on your bandwidth, and you can enjoy a consistently performing service.

 

DSL Internet: Pros & Cons

Pros Cons

What is Better: DSL or Satellite Internet?

Well, in most cases DSL is a better option, but in rural areas where speeds max out at just 1 to 5 Mbps, satellite internet is the faster option. A restrictive data allowance, as we mentioned before, is however one of the major drawbacks of satellite internet. It limits you to prudent usage, and may also prevent from activities such as streaming video every day. Whereas when you look at DSL plans, data limits are usually a lot higher—mostly around 1 TB—and at times you can even subscribe to plans with unlimited access.  

With that said, bottom line is what suits your internet consumption pattern better—do you need more speed or a bigger data allowance? Whichever of the two rural internet options fits your needs better, is the one right for you!

DSL and Satellite Rural Internet Providers

Here is a listing of some of the best rural internet providers along with key service features:

Internet Provider Connection Type Service Features

HughesNet

Satellite

AT&T Internet

DSL

CenturyLink

DSL

Windstream

DSL

Frontier

DSL

If you live in a rural region with DSL coverage from providers listed above, we would suggest you opt for one of their DSL packages without second thoughts. And enjoy a reliable service with faster speeds, and quite without breaking the bank.

On the other hand, if you happen to live in an area that does not have access to a wired broadband type, or you are located too far away from a DSL provider’s hub and only able to access speeds slower than 25 Mbps, we’ll recommend you go for HughesNet Gen5 satellite internet which is known to deliver speeds higher than advertised.

There You Are

There is no doubt when it comes to a high-speed broadband connection, rural residents still have limited options. In terms of availability, satellite tech is the only one that is able to extend coverage just about anywhere—but this comes with an expensive price tag. So, if you do not wish to invest heavily in a broadband connection, and would rather do with the traditional slower version of DSL, that is the right choice for you.    

To make your search easy, you can explore your available options by ZIP here. And, if you would rather talk to an expert, call us at 1-855-349-9328 for pro advice.

FAQs

Is satellite internet any good?

Satellite internet is a good choice if you reside in a rural area where no other internet option is available. However, it tends to be pricier than other broadband types.

Is fixed wireless internet better than satellite?

Fixed wireless internet delivers faster speeds than satellite—you can get affordable plans that give you up to 50 Mbps download speed. And, you also get the option of unlimited data. But fixed wireless is not as widely available as satellite internet.