Broadband connectivity is a huge factor when it comes to economic, educational, health and cultural opportunities in your life. Unfortunately, not everyone lives in an area that has access to high speed internet. States governments and local organizations are working together to close the broadband gap that exists between urban and rural areas. This will help businesses will develop faster, improve healthcare options and increase access to social services. Rural internet access is essential for economic growth and to improve the quality of life for all citizens. Click on your state below to find a rural broadband service in your area and get connected today!

Types of Rural Internet Available

Whether you live in the middle of farm country, in the woods or in the mountains, your access to the web is limited. Traditional broadband through cable or fiber optics will not be available because the cost to run the wires is too expensive for service providers. This means that you will have to get creative to find a way to get connected. There are five ways to obtain internet service in rural areas:

WISP is a wireless internet service provider that uses wireless network technology. It is most commonly used in areas where cable or digital service is not available. WISP works by creating a network of access points, often on the top of grain towers, water towers or tall buildings, and then connecting the access points to a single Point of Presence. They will then mount a small receiver dish or antenna to the side of your house that will point in the direction of the nearest access point.  WISP has speeds comparable to broadband, has reasonable pricing, does not require expensive equipment and is reliable. This is one of the best options for high speed rural internet.

WiMax, also known as Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is one of the newest internet technologies on the market today. It is fast at 30 to 40 mbps data rates. It is similar to WISP and works like a WiFi Hotspot on steroids. WiMax typically uses cell phone towers combined with microwave links to boost bandwidth production to create a hotspot. Consumers can connect to the hotspot using PC Cards and hardware purchased from the WiMax service provider. They will also need to pay a monthly access fee and some providers may include a monthly data cap.

WiFi is a popular way to connect to the internet from public areas such as coffee shops and bookstores but did you know that it is available for your home? Verizion, AT&T, T-Mobile and other cell phone companies have residential WiFi plans available. WiFi or wireless fidelity uses 3G or 4G data networks to connect your home to high speed internet. The cell phone company will provide you with a small box that can be hooked up to your computer and will allow you to access the network. Residential WiFi is often too expensive for most families. It costs almost twice as much as typical broadband, has data caps and can be unreliable if you live in an area with spotty cell phone reception.

Satellite was the first high speed option available to rural homes. Even today, this is the only option for high speed internet in many homes. The service works by using a satellite dish to send and collect data to and from satellites floating around in outer space. The upload and download speeds are very quick and are comparable to broadband but the service can be spotty, especially in bad weather. Another issue with satellite internet is cost. Homeowners are required to purchase and pay for the installation of expensive equipment and then they have to stay within a monthly data cap. The data cap is often small and can run out quickly. Any data used above the cap will cost the homeowner even more money. The three main satellite internet companies are Hughes Net, Wild Blue and Exceed.

Dial-up was one of the first types of residential internet available to rural areas. In fact, it was the only type of internet available to residential homes in the early 90’s. These days, it is slow and outdated. It relies on a telephone line to dial into the network. Newer country homes will not have telephone lines connected as they rely mainly on cell phone service. For those who are connected to telephone service, dial-up can be very slow and frustrating. The only positive thing about dial-up is that it is the cheapest option available and can be free in some areas. It works fine for checking email or very light browsing but should not be relied on for watching video, downloading files or playing games.

What are data caps?

One problem many rural residents run into when searching for internet service is data caps. WiFi and satellite internet companies will often put a cap on the amount of data you may use each month. The more data you want to use, the more you will have to pay. If you go over your data cap, you will have to pay an overage charge which is often assessed per gigabyte. The average overage charge you can expect to pay is within the range of $5-15 per gigabyte over the data cap. For example, if you have a 10GB data limit for $30 per month with a $10/GB overage charge and you use 15GB in a month, you would end up paying $80 for that month. As you can see, it can get expensive quickly. The problem with data caps is that they are often too low for most families. Streaming videos or playing online games will eat through a data plan in days. If you find an affordable internet plan, read the fine print and make sure you know the data cap limit if there is one.

How fast is rural broadband?

For most rural broadband, you can expect to experience speeds comparable to traditional cable broadband in the 5-10 mbps range. Dial-up will be considerably slower and satellite may experience periods of slowness throughout the day depend on the weather and how many people are online at the same time.

How much does it cost?

Rural internet service is considerably more expensive than options found in urban areas. If you can find a WISP or WiMax provider, you’ll be able to get service for a more reasonable price, often without data caps or pesky 2-year contracts. Expect to pay between $30-80 a month for these options. WiFi and satellite service are the most expensive rural internet options and can cost upwards of $120 a month or more along with installation fees, data caps and equipment charges.