If you reside in a rural area, getting access to reliable, high-speed internet can present a challenge. We are here to assist you in understanding your options and choosing what’s right for you.
Understanding internet options for rural areas
Depending on the population and location of your community, you may have plenty or limited providers you can choose from. Each type of internet listed below uses a different technology to get you connected. Specific choices available to you will still vary.
DSL uses a different frequency of phone lines to deliver "always-on" or broadband internet. Speeds usually range from 768 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps (Megabits per second), but in some areas speeds can be faster.
The pros of DSL include consistent service, low cost, and decent speeds. The drawbacks may include relatively inconsistent speeds and restricted access in some areas.
Satellite internet uses a satellite link to provide you with internet connectivity, and is available in every rural area.
Its benefits include nationwide availability and considerably faster speeds than DSL and dialup. However, due to its high latency (ping), it can be relatively expensive. In some cases, low data caps are usually imposed on customers.
Fixed wireless, or antenna-based internet, uses a special router that receives mobile internet (3G or 4G) signals, and creates a home wireless network that you can connect your devices to.
Its benefits include a lower cost compared to satellite, plus widespread availability and good overall speeds. However, as with any wireless signal, the connection can sometimes be patchy, and it is often more expensive than other rural internet options.
Dial-up is the oldest form of internet technology used today. It uses telephone landlines to deliver internet service.
The top benefit of dial-up is that it is very cheap, and requires no special infrastructure beyond a phone line. However, it’s far slower than any other type of internet, with speeds of about 56 Kbps. In addition, it’s not an ‘always-on’ service, as you will have to "dial up" or connect to the network every time you want to use it. Each time you connect, access to your phone line is blocked until you disconnect. This is only a realistic option if you only want to do simple web browsing and email.
Mobile internet uses a “hotspot” to deliver internet access via a mobile network through a provider like Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T or Sprint.
Mobile internet has benefits like high speeds, relatively consistent connections, and reasonably good coverage. However, it’s usually very expensive and has strict data caps.
What to look for in a rural internet provider
Here are a few things to consider as you explore possible options in your rural area.
You’ll want a consistent, highly available and reliable rural internet network. Check online ratings and reviews to see how each provider in your area stacks up.
Cheaper isn’t always better, especially if it means sacrificing consistent service. Consider the performance of each rural internet provider near you, and pick the one that gives you the best balance of speed, reliability and price.
You’ll need at least 3 Mbps of bandwidth to watch streaming video and browse the internet fast – and up to 25 Mbps to watch 4K video, or watch videos on multiple devices. Get more information about what internet speed you need based on how you use your internet.
A data cap is a limit imposed by a service provider on the amount of data you can transfer over their network monthly. Typically there is a fee charged on you bill if you exceed that limit. If possible, try to avoid services that have data caps. However, if you do settle on an internet service that comes with a data cap, see if the service provider allows you to monitor your monthly usage to ensure you don't go over the limit.
The future of rural internet
More and more rural Americans are getting access to high-speed internet through fiber-optic networks, fixed wireless and 5G internet. Each year brings improved access in remote communities across the country.
Rural internet FAQs
Got questions about rural high-speed internet? We’ve got answers!
The answer depends on your location. In some areas, DSL may provide faster speeds, while in other areas you may only have access to fixed wireless or satellite internet. Start by searching online for "internet service near me" and doing some research on your available options to compare speed, reliability and price.
Fixed internet (also called antenna-based internet) offers faster speeds and lower latency, compared to satellite internet. It’s also usually cheaper — so if you have access to fixed internet in your area, it’s a better choice than satellite.
Satellite internet can be suitable for uploading and downloading files and streaming video, as it offers speeds between 12-100 Mbps. However, you will experience higher latency, which leads to lags, a fact that makes satellite internet not ideal for online gaming.
The two main factors are cost and infrastructure. Most cities have 2,000 people or more per square mile, whereas there may be as few as 10 per square mile in rural areas. Higher population density means that it’s easier and more efficient to install new communication lines. More people means that the high cost of new installations is shared by more people. For this reason, it takes longer for providers to lay new lines and roll out new networks into those less populated areas.
Purchasing a new router or placing your router closer to your most-used WiFi devices (TV/streaming devices, computers, etc.) can help. You can also try switching your rural internet provider, and see if you get better speeds with a different company.
More Tips to Fix Slow Internet When you purchase a modem, you get a 12-month warranty. This covers repairs or replacement in the case of a faulty modem for one full calendar year from the date of purchase. After the warranty expires, you will be responsible for repair costs or upgrades going forward. A new modem can cost anywhere from $150 up to $200, depending on the model and technology.
Check for Brightspeed high-speed internet in your area
At Brightspeed, we strive to provide high-speed internet in rural areas. Visit our site and enter your address to see if our high-speed internet is available near you!