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I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought the only rural internet option is satellite internet. Satellite and DSL internet used to be the best options for internet in rural areas. But in recent years, providers have expanded their technology and availability. Fixed wireless internet and mobile hotspots are also available. If these options are new to you, don’t worry. We’ll explain each rural internet option’s pros and cons and discuss which providers are the best for each option. As of now, the best rural internet providers are:
While you may have a few different options for ISPs, what matters most is the type of internet connection. Each type of internet connection offers different speeds and for a range of prices. If you’re looking for the fastest rural internet option, fixed wireless and mobile wireless internet are your best options. But if you’re more concerned about availability, you’ll want a DSL or satellite provider.
DSL broadband is a traditional form of internet supplied through copper wire telephone lines. Since it uses telephone lines, DSL is often readily available and easy to set up in many rural areas. While not as fast as fixed wireless, DSL is usually less expensive.
Reliability and latency can be an issue with DSL internet. Usually, the farther you are from your ISP’s central hub, the less reliable your connection will be from day to day or even hour to hour. If you’re a gamer or streamer, DSL may not be the best choice for you. DSL internet typically has high latency because of the older type of lines through which your data travels.
Fixed wireless internet offers some of the lowest-prices, highest data caps, and fastest speeds for rural internet. It’s a great choice for streamers as well since it’s latency is low. Unfortunately, fixed wireless internet is not as available as DSL or satellite, making it harder to find for some.
With the widespread availability and high speeds, satellite internet is a solid option in many rural areas. However, I wouldn’t recommend satellite as a first choice due to its low data caps and high prices. Fellow cord cutters will want an internet connection with lower latency to avoid buffering issues.
Rather than using a traditional ISP, many people in rural areas tether their mobile devices to laptops, computers, and tablets to create a mobile WiFi connection. Mobile providers also offer dedicated home internet plans, which are less expensive and offer more data than mobile hotspot plans. Wireless providers average speeds around 30-45 Mbps, but they may vary depending on where you live.
CenturyLink DSL internet is available in 37 states, with coverage that reaches nearly 50 million people. In most regions, CenturyLink offers two DSL plan speeds: 20 Mbps and 40 Mbps. While neither of these plans is lightning-fast, they do offer enough bandwidth to stream content and even play online video games. That said, your distance from CenturyLink’s nearest office could decrease your speeds and increase latency.
In any case, plans start at just $49 per month, plus $15 per month for the modem rental fee (or a one-time payment of $200). You can avoid the latter expense by acquiring your own modem. Unlike many other large ISPs, CenturyLink will not charge you anything for a professional installation. Nonetheless, you still have the option to self-install if you wish to do so.
One of the biggest drawbacks of CenturyLink’s DSL plans is the data cap. Whether you go with up to 20 or 40 Mbps, you’ll have a data cap of approximately 1 TB. While this is enough for most people, it could cause issues for households that use multiple devices simultaneously.
Rise Broadband internet is available to approximately 25 million people across 19 states. The service is widely available in rural parts of Idaho, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Iowa, and Illinois. Rise Broadband has two plan speeds: 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps.
Though there are only two speeds to choose from through Rise Broadband, three different plans are available across most of its network. The first two plans both offer up to 25 Mbps in download speeds. The basic plan has a one-year promotional rate of $29.95 per month, a modem rental fee of $10.99 a month, and a 250 GB data cap. Or you can choose the more robust 25 Mbps plan with no data caps, no modem rental fee, and a standard monthly premium of $59.99.
Rise Broadband’s up to 50 Mbps plan is their best. It has a two-year promotional rate of $49.95 per month and a monthly modem fee of $10.99. All three Rise Broadband plans require a one-time installation fee of $75.00.
Viasat offers internet speeds ranging from up to 12-100 Mbps with 12-100 GB of data a month. It’s hard to tell what speeds you can expect since Viasat’s plans vary by location, but you should expect to pay anywhere from $50-150 a month no matter where you live. All of Viasat’s internet plans have a monthly modem rental fee of $12.99 and require a minimum 2-year contract.
While Viasat advertises no official data caps, it does throttle download speeds once you go over your data cap. Your speeds can slow down to less than 3 Mbps until your next billing cycle.
It’s important to note that Viasat is not the only option for Satellite internet. HughesNet is another popular satellite internet provider, though it’s speeds are slower than Viasat.
Verizon Wireless offers the fastest wireless internet speeds. Verizon’s LTE Home Internet offers speeds around 25 Mbps — speeds vary by location. If you don’t have a Verizon Wireless plan, Verizon LTE Home internet will cost $60 a month. Current Verizon Wireless customers can get Verizon LTE Home Internet for $40. As for equipment, you can buy the Verizon LTE Home router for $240 or pay $10 a month for 24 months. (Technically, you won’t have to pay for the router if you stay with Verizon for two years; you’ll receive a $10 bill credit for the router each month.)
If Verizon isn’t available near you, T-Mobile Home Internet is a good alternative. T-Mobile’s speeds are steadily increasing, and their availability recently expanded since they’ve merged with Sprint.
Satellite internet is the best option for RV internet service by far. DSL and Fixed Wireless must be installed at a fixed location. As a result, they simply do not function with a mobile vehicle. Even if the provider has nationwide hotspots, you would have to travel to specific areas to use your internet plan.
Home internet from mobile providers is connected to your address. But you can use a mobile hotspot if your current provider offers one — most mobile providers include 15-30 GB of 5G/LTE data with their cell phone plans. The only issue with a mobile hotspot is that the connection can frequently drop whenever you travel through “dead zones.”
When it comes to gaming, latency is far more important than speed. Most games require a latency of less than 150 ms. DSL, fixed wireless, and wireless internet are the best internet options for gaming in rural areas since their average latency ranges from 2-70 ms. They also have higher, if not unlimited, data caps, which is extremely important if you play online often or download games from an online store. If you plan on gaming in rural areas, I recommend buying physical copies of your games. Some games can use anywhere from 30-100 GB just to download.