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  • Writer's pictureSamiksha Jain

Rural Internet Providers: Who Offers the Best Service?

Updated: Dec 21, 2023


best rural internet providers 2024

Welcome to a journey through the often-overlooked world of rural internet options! It's a common misconception that high-speed, reliable internet is a luxury reserved only for city life. However, the reality is quite different and full of potential. Did you know that as of recent studies, nearly 24% of rural Americans lack access to broadband internet, compared to just 1.5% in urban areas? This gap highlights the importance of finding the right internet provider for those in more remote locations.


In this blog, we'll navigate the rural internet landscape, exploring the options available to you, whether you're nestled in the rolling hills or surrounded by open fields. From satellite connections that reach the furthest farmhouses to emerging fixed wireless technologies, the choices are growing each day. We'll delve into each option, examining their strengths and how they can serve your unique needs, whether it's for running a home business, distance learning, or streaming your favorite shows.


Understanding the Rural Internet Landscape

Navigating the internet landscape in rural areas can be a unique challenge. Unlike urban settings, where high-speed fiber-optic and cable connections are common, rural regions often lack these infrastructures.


The reasons range from geographical hurdles, like mountains and forests, to economic factors, such as lower population density making it less profitable for companies to invest in extensive networks. As a result, rural internet users frequently have to rely on alternative options.


Types of Rural Internet Services

types of internet service

Satellite Internet: Offers wide coverage, suitable for remote areas. Speeds vary but can be slower with higher latency. Weather can affect connectivity.


DSL (Digital Subscriber Line): Utilizes existing phone lines. More stable than satellite, but speeds decrease with distance from the provider's hub.


Fixed Wireless Internet: Uses antennas to receive signals from nearby towers. Offers better speeds than satellites and is less affected by weather.


4G LTE Home Internet: Relies on cellular networks. Provides moderate speeds, good for areas with strong mobile signals.


Fiber-Optic Internet: Rare in rural areas but expanding. Offers high speeds and reliability, ideal for heavy internet usage.


Each type has its advantages and limitations, and availability varies by location.

For more detailed information on each type of internet service, you can refer to this blog.


Detailed Overview of Leading Rural Internet Providers in 2023


hughesnet

HughesNet


  • Technology: Satellite.

  • Speeds Offered: Up to 50 Mbps download speed.

  • Data Caps: Plans come with data caps, but offer additional data during off-peak hours.

  • Coverage: Nationwide availability, ideal for extremely remote areas.

  • Special Features: Built-in features to help save data, like video data compression.

  • Pricing: Generally affordable, but prices vary based on the plan and data cap.




Viasat

Viasat

  • Technology: Satellite.

  • Speeds Offered: Ranging from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps, depending on the area and plan.

  • Data Caps: Higher data caps compared to HughesNet, but with higher prices.

  • Coverage: Extensive coverage, including most rural areas in the U.S.

  • Special Features: Offers unlimited data plans with varying speeds based on current network traffic.

  • Pricing: More expensive than HughesNet, but offers faster speeds and larger data plans.



top rural internet provider

Speed Net

  • Technology: Fixed Wireless

  • Speeds Offered: SpeedNet's fixed wireless options usually range from 50 Mbps up to 200 Mbps.

  • Data Caps: Vary by plan, with options for both capped and unlimited data.

  • Coverage: While SpeedNet primarily focuses on rural and underserved areas, its exact coverage can vary based on the region. It's known for expanding into areas traditionally underserved by larger providers.

  • Special Features: Customer-focused service, 15-day trial, no long-term contract

  • Pricing: SpeedNet's pricing is competitive, especially considering the no-data cap feature. They often offer various plans to cater to different budgets and usage requirements.


rise broadband

Rise Broadband

  • Technology: Fixed Wireless.

  • Speeds Offered: Up to 50 Mbps, suitable for streaming and online gaming.

  • Data Caps: Vary by plan, with options for both capped and unlimited data.

  • Coverage: Available in 16 states across the U.S., primarily in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.

  • Special Features: No long-term contract is required and provides a 30-day money-back guarantee.

  • Pricing: Competitive pricing with flexibility in plans.



AT&T

AT&T Fixed Wireless

  • Technology: Fixed Wireless.

  • Speeds Offered: Between 10 and 25 Mbps.

  • Data Caps: 350 GB per month, with additional data available for purchase.

  • Coverage: Primarily in underserved rural areas across 21 states.

  • Special Features: Comes with the AT&T Wi-Fi Gateway for wireless home networking.

Pricing: Mid-range pricing with a one-time installation fee.



frontier

Frontier Communications

  • Technology: DSL and Fiber (in limited areas).

  • Speeds Offered: Varies widely; DSL speeds are generally lower, while fiber offers faster options.

  • Data Caps: No data caps on most plans.

  • Coverage: Available in 29 states, with a focus on rural and underserved areas.

  • Special Features: No-contract plans and offers a two-year price lock guarantee.

  • Pricing: Affordable options, especially for DSL service.



STARLINK

Starlink (SpaceX)

  • Technology: Low Earth Orbit Satellite.

  • Speeds Offered: Average speeds from 50 Mbps to 150 Mbps, potentially higher as the network grows.

  • Data Caps: Currently, no data caps.

  • Coverage: Global coverage in the making, with services being rolled out progressively.

  • Special Features: Promises lower latency compared to traditional satellite internet.

Pricing: Higher initial setup cost due to the purchase of a Starlink Kit, with competitive monthly fees.



Verizon LTE Home Internet

Verizon
  • Technology: 4G LTE.

  • Speeds Offered: Typically around 25-50 Mbps.

  • Data Caps: No official data cap but may experience reduced speeds after certain usage.

  • Coverage: Depends on Verizon’s 4G LTE network coverage.

  • Special Features: Easy setup with a router and no professional installation required.

  • Pricing: Competitive monthly pricing with no additional fees for equipment.



century link

CenturyLink

  • Technology: Primarily DSL, with expanding fiber-optic services.

  • Speeds Offered: DSL speeds vary, typically ranging from 3 Mbps to 100 Mbps, while fiber-optic can offer up to 940 Mbps in certain areas.

  • Data Caps: Some plans have data caps, while others offer unlimited data usage.

  • Coverage: Available in 36 states, with a significant presence in rural and suburban areas.

  • Special Features: Price for Life guarantee on certain plans, which locks in your rate for as long as you keep the plan.

  • Pricing: Competitive pricing for DSL; fiber-optic plans are higher-priced but offer significantly faster speeds.



Each of these providers offers a unique set of services, technology, and pricing, making them suitable for different needs and preferences in rural internet connectivity. As technology continues to advance, these providers are likely to expand and enhance their offerings further.


Comparative Analysis of Rural Internet Providers

When choosing the right internet provider in rural areas, it’s essential to compare what each service offers. Here’s a simplified breakdown:


Provider

Technology

Speed Range

Data Caps

Price Range

Equipment cost

HughesNet

Satellite

15-50 mbps


15-200 GB

$50-$150

$15 monthly or $450 purchase fee

Viasat

Satellite

12-50 mbps

40-150GB

$65-$250

$12

Rise Broadband

Fixed Wireless

Up to 50 Mbps

250GB or unlimited

$25 - $65

$10 modem rental, $5-$15 router rental (optional)

Frontier

DSL, Fiber

3 Mbps - 940 Mbps

No (Some)

$27.99 - $74.99

No added fee

Speed Net

Fixed Wireless

50-200 mbps

100-250 GB, Unlimited

$64.99-$109.99

$6.99 monthly

Starlink

Satellite

25 and 220 Mbps

No

$120

599purchase fee

Verizon LTE

4G LTE

25 - 50 Mbps

No but speed throttles after certain usage

$40 - $60

-

CenturyLink

DSL, Fiber

20-940Mbps

No

$40-$75

15-200 GB

AT&T Fixed

Fixed Wireless

10 - 25 Mbps

350 GB

$60

$10


Key Takeaways:


Speed Variability: Satellite providers like HughesNet and Viasat offer consistent speeds nationwide, while DSL and fiber services like Frontier and CenturyLink provide variable speeds based on location.


Data Caps: Satellite services usually have data caps, which can be a limitation for heavy users. Fixed wireless options like Rise Broadband offer plans with varied data caps, and some, like SpeedNet, often have no data caps.


Technology: While satellite technology (HughesNet, Viasat, Starlink) provides widespread coverage, its latency issues can affect real-time online activities. DSL and fiber (Frontier, CenturyLink) offer more stability but are limited by infrastructure. Fixed wireless (Rise Broadband, AT&T Fixed, SpeedNet) strikes a balance between coverage and speed.


Pricing: Satellite and fixed wireless services offer competitive pricing, but additional costs may apply for higher speeds or unlimited data. Fiber-optic services tend to be pricier but offer higher speeds.


Each provider has strengths suited to different needs, whether it’s budget constraints, speed requirements, or data usage. This comparison should help you weigh your options and choose the provider that best fits your rural internet needs.


Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Rural Internet Provider


Selecting the right internet provider in a rural area is crucial for a satisfactory online experience. Here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Speed: The internet speed you need depends on your usage. If you’re mostly browsing and checking emails, speeds of 10-25 Mbps might suffice. However, for streaming, gaming, or multiple users, look for speeds of 25 Mbps or higher. Remember, advertised speeds might vary from actual speeds, so check customer reviews for real-world insights.

  2. Data Caps: Many rural internet providers have data caps, meaning you can only use a certain amount of data per month. If you stream a lot of videos or download large files, look for plans with higher data limits or no caps. Exceeding these caps can result in extra charges or slowed speeds.

  3. Reliability: In rural areas, internet reliability can be affected by factors like weather (for satellite internet) or distance from service towers (for fixed wireless). Check customer feedback to gauge how often users experience outages or service disruptions.

  4. Customer Service: Good customer support is vital, especially when technical issues arise. Providers with responsive, helpful customer service can make a big difference. Look for companies with multiple support channels (phone, email, chat) and positive service reviews.

  5. Cost and Contracts: Compare the costs of installation, equipment, and monthly fees. Some providers require long-term contracts, while others offer month-to-month plans. Consider if there are any early termination fees if you decide to switch providers.

  6. Installation Process: Installation can vary from a simple self-setup to needing a professional. Understand the process for each provider and whether there are any associated costs.

  7. Additional Features: Some providers offer extra features like built-in Wi-Fi, bundled services (like phone or TV), or special technology to optimize signal strength. Consider if these features are important to you and worth any additional cost.

  8. Local Availability: Lastly, check which providers actually serve your area. Just because a provider offers great service, it doesn’t mean they’re available everywhere.

By carefully considering these factors, you can find a rural internet provider that best matches your needs, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable online experience.


The Bottom Line

In wrapping up our journey through rural internet options, the key is to balance your specific needs with the best available services. Whether it's satellite for wide coverage, DSL for stability, fiber for speed, or fixed wireless for flexibility, each has its unique advantages. Consider factors like data limits, speed requirements, and reliability, especially in extreme weather.


Your choice should not only fit your current lifestyle but also adapt to future technological advancements. Ultimately, your decision will empower you not only with connectivity but also with the freedom to work, learn, and relax in your rural haven.


FAQs


Q1. What's the best internet for rural areas?

The best internet for rural areas depends on availability. Satellite internet offers wide coverage but can have latency issues. Fixed wireless provides better speeds if within range of a tower. DSL is another option where available, using telephone lines. Choose based on speed needs, reliability, and budget.


Q2. How do I get superfast broadband in rural areas?

To get superfast broadband in rural areas, check for the availability of fixed wireless providers, and DSL services. Contact local internet providers to explore the fastest plans they offer in your area.


Q3. How do I determine which internet service type is best for my rural location?

Consider factors like your proximity to service towers (for fixed wireless), clear sky visibility (for satellite), and existing phone line infrastructure (for DSL). Your usage needs and data requirements are also important factors.


Q4. Are satellite internet services reliable in rural areas?

Satellite internet, provided by companies like HughesNet and Viasat, is widely available and reliable in most rural areas. However, it can be affected by weather conditions and usually has higher latency.


Q5. What should I know about data caps when choosing an internet provider?

Data caps limit the amount of data you can use each month. If you stream a lot of video or download large files, look for plans with higher data caps or unlimited data.


Q6. Can I get high-speed internet in a rural area?

Yes, many providers now offer higher-speed internet in rural areas, especially through technologies like fixed wireless and satellite. Speeds can vary, so check with individual providers for availability.


Q7. How does the cost of rural internet compare to urban internet services?

Rural internet can sometimes be more expensive due to the technology required to reach remote areas. However, prices vary widely between providers and plans.

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