If you're living in a rural area, you may have less access to high-speed internet service than those living in urban areas. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to stay connected and access the resources you need. However, there are a few things you can do to improve your situation. In this article, we'll outline some methods for getting high-speed internet in a rural area.
Reasons you may need high-speed internet in rural areas
Not everyone lives in densely-populated areas. For various reasons, people can choose to live in out-of-the-way communities. Like those in the cities, people in rural communities also need an internet connection.
1. Everyday needs in rural areas (entertainment, socializing, etc.)
The internet connects people around the globe seamlessly.
Though they may live separate from most, people in rural areas still need to be connected to the rest of the world. In a world that is increasingly connected, rural communities can feel isolated and left behind.
With internet access, rural residents can work from home, connect with friends and family, stay up-to-date on current events, and even access educational and economic opportunities that they might otherwise be unaware of. In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, it is essential that rural communities have access to the same opportunities as their urban counterparts.
2. Outliers, off-grid people
For many people, the appeal of an off-grid lifestyle is the opportunity to unplug from the hectic pace of modern life. One would often see such people living as far away from civilization.
While some are happy to be completely isolated from the modern world, others want to be separated but keep in touch with current happenings.
For people like this, satellite internet services are almost always the best option.
3. Travelers or RVers
Recreational vehicle (RV) owners don't often have a permanent residence for long and are always on the move. RVs are simply "houses on wheels," and in the current age, every home needs an internet connection.
Since RVs are almost always on the move, having a portable internet provider like a 4G mobile broadband sounds adequate. However, broadband may not always get signal everywhere, so satellite internet is again the best option.
4. Security, communication
With the advances in smart security systems, it's now possible to have a camera that alerts you to activity at your home, even when you're away. But these systems rely on having an internet connection to work correctly.
If there's no internet available, then there's no way to stay connected and stay safe. In addition, rural areas are often cut off from traditional phone and cell service. This can make it challenging to stay in touch with family and friends or to call for help in an emergency. An internet connection ensures you can stay online and connected, even in rural areas.
Ways to get internet access in rural areas
1. Fiber Optic.
Basically, fiber optics technology is a "pipeline for light." Light, carrying data through fine glass or plastic fibers bunched together and secured in a glass/plastic casing called fiber optic cables.
It is a reliable choice, favored by people because of its high speed and efficiency.
There are two types; single-mode fiber, which is used for longer distances, and multimode fiber, used for shorter distances. Single-mode offers slower but more stable signals, while multimode has faster speeds but is more prone to signal loss.
You should confirm if a fiber optic connection is available in your area since they are often expensive, and cable companies don't always provide them for sparsely populated areas.
Pros of fiber optic cables
They offer faster internet speeds.
They are more resistant to electromagnetic interference.
They can be passed underwater.
Fiber optic cables are lighter, more durable than copper cables, and require less maintenance.
Cons of fiber optic cables
Fiber optic networks may not be available in remote areas
They are costly.
Installation is often complex and demanding.
The fibers within the cables are fragile. They can cause a signal loss if broken.
2. 4G mobile broadband
This grants internet connections to your devices using a cellular network. It is a reliable backup to conventional cellular service and works effectively in place of cable/DSL broadband connections.
Mobile broadband uses a small, portable, battery-powered router that can connect to existing 4G or 5G networks via a SIM card. Your devices can then connect to the router via Wi-Fi to access the internet. One issue is that mobile broadband can only support a limited number of devices at a time.
First introduced around 2008, 4G is the fourth generation of mobile network technology. It is a wireless way users can access the internet.
This technology works via antennas/cell towers transmitting over radio frequencies, allowing mobile devices to connect to mobile networks.
As the years passed, this technology has advanced, allowing it to get lower network latency and higher speeds close to 100MBps (depending on your carrier).
Towards the 2020s, the 5G, the successor of the 4G, was released. It promises even lower latency and higher speeds of over 10GBps. It is also claimed to have less interference than 4G. We'd recommend you try 5G if it's available to you.
One drawback with this option, though, is coverage. 4G wavelength has a coverage of about 10 miles, while 5G has a range of about 1000 feet. This means if you are really way out in the sticks, it is unlikely you'd be getting service.
Pros of 4G mobile broadband
It is considerably fast.
The 4G mobile broadband is portable and can provide an internet connection on the go.
It is one of the cheaper options on this list.
It does not require any complicated set up.
Cons of 4G mobile broadband
It consumes a lot of battery power on mobile devices.
4G LTE has privacy and security issues.
One option you may want to consider is the digital subscriber line (DSL). This technology delivers high-speed internet service through telephone lines. And since it uses existing infrastructure, it's often more affordable and easier to set up than other types of internet services – you just need a DSL modem.
It is not the best in terms of speed, but DSL can be modified to be just as fast as cable or fiber connections. However, one downside of DSL is that it does not support too many users at the same time. Its signal strength and speed also drop with distance.
Pros of DSL
It is very cheap.
It is easy to set up.
Cons of DSL
It is not exceptional in terms of speed.
DSL cannot support many users simultaneously.
The farther you are from the source, the worse the internet connection.
4. Satellite internet
Satellite internet works by sending signals from a ground-based antenna to a service provider's satellite in space. The satellite then relays the signal back to the antenna, which provides internet coverage for a specific area.
The good thing about this option is that it does not require any ground-laid infrastructure to work, making it relatively easier to set up than other options. You only need a dish receiver with open access to the sky, a modem, and constant electricity. Once you have everything, you can access the internet in even the most remote areas of the world.
For all its usefulness, satellite internet is significantly slower than fiber optics and cable internet, with speeds usually lower than 20MBps, and their services are generally pricey too. It would typically be considered a last resort, but for the introduction of SpaceX's Starlink.
Pros of regular satellite internet
It is relatively easy to set up since it doesn't require running any wiring underground.
It can be used anywhere.
Cons of regular satellite internet
It has slow internet speeds and high latency.
It is vulnerable to unfriendly weather conditions.
Its services are usually expensive.
Obstruction of the receiver can cause connectivity issues.
5. Starlink (also a satellite internet service)
Starlink is a satellite internet service from billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX company. What sets Starlink apart from most competitors is that it uses thousands of small low-earth-orbit satellites (i.e., closer to the earth), ensuring faster speeds, rather than larger satellites that are farther.
Starlink has been proven to provide speeds of almost 100MBps –blowing its competitors out of the water – and is more suitable for everyday internet use like gaming, video calls, etc. It also has low latency (the amount of time taken between a user's action over the internet and response) – Starlink's network latency is around 45 milliseconds (ms), compared to its major competitor's latency, which is usually over 500 milliseconds.
It is also worth noting that Starlink is a relatively new service with plans to improve its features in the future.
Pros of Starlink
Starlink has the same advantages as regular satellite internet but with a few extra perks.
It is faster and has lower latency than regular satellite internet – almost as good as broadband!
It is cheaper than regular satellite internet.
Cons of Starlink
It shares the same disadvantages with regular satellite internet, but;
- It is just being rolled out, and it is not available everywhere yet.
6. Fixed wireless internet
Fixed wireless is an internet connection that uses radio waves to transmit high-speed data between two fixed points. It is similar to satellite internet, but instead of using a satellite dish, it relies on an antenna mounted on your roof or another high location near you. The antenna receives the signal from a nearby tower and transmits the signal to your modem, which in turn connects you to the internet.
This type of connection is typically used in rural or remote areas where it is impossible to run traditional wired lines. Fixed wireless typically offers speeds of up to 25 Mbps, although some newer technologies are capable of much higher speeds.
A significant advantage of fixed wireless is that it does not require a wired connection to the home or office, which can be helpful in areas where it is difficult to run wiring. Additionally, fixed wireless connections are often more affordable than other types of high-speed internet, making them a good option for budget-conscious consumers.
Another benefit of fixed wireless is that it is relatively easy to set up, which can appeal to those not interested in dealing with the hassle of running cables. While fixed wireless connections have potential disadvantages, such as the possibility of disruptions due to weather conditions, they offer many benefits that make them a popular choice for those in rural or remote areas.
Pros of fixed wireless
They do not require wired connections; hence, they are easier to set up.
Fixed wireless internet services are one of the affordable options.
Although not the best, this option can meet the demands of modern-day internet requirements with high speeds and low latency.
Cons of fixed wireless
It requires an unobstructed line of sight between the antenna and the tower. It might not work well if you're deep in the woods.
It is sometimes vulnerable to weather conditions.
Factors to consider when picking a rural internet provider
Availability is vital when choosing a rural Internet network. Make sure to ask the provider about their service area and availability. They should be able to tell you if they have service in your area.
Then, consider the performance and ratings. How is the network performing in your area? Are there consistent speeds and no dropped connections? What do online reviews say about the network's reliability and availability? Be sure to consider all of these factors when choosing a rural Internet network provider.
To get an idea of what kind of speeds you need, think about how you use the internet. If you just want to browse the web and check your email, you'll need a minimum of 3 Mbps (megabits per second). But if you're regularly streaming video or gaming online, you'll need much more - up to 25 Mbps.
And if you plan on watching 4K video or streaming on multiple devices simultaneously, you'll need even higher speeds.
So before you sign up for service, make sure to ask your provider about their available speeds and whether they can meet your needs.
Data caps limit the amount of data you can transmit over the provider's network each month. If you exceed this limit, you will usually be charged extra fees. While data caps may seem like a way for rural Internet providers to make extra money, they help to keep rural Internet service affordable.
By limiting the amount of data that can be used each month, rural providers can keep their costs down, making their services more affordable for everyone. So, if you live in a rural area, be sure to check with your Internet service provider to see if they have a data cap. And, if they do, try to avoid using services that will use up a lot of data each month.
Internet service provider recommendations
CenturyLink offers DSL internet services for homes and businesses. They offer contract-free plans with unlimited data caps, so you won't have to worry about early termination fees if you switch providers. With prices starting at $50 per month, you can expect speeds topping out at 100 Mbps, which should be more than enough for most people.
CenturyLink also offers fiber internet services which are slightly costlier than their DSL at $70 monthly. Naturally, this option provides faster speeds than the DSL, capable of reaching up to 960MBps, depending on your location.
Despite its being an older technology that most companies are actively phasing out, DSL remains one of the most common ways you can connect to the internet out in the country. Some local providers may offer a DSL connection, and other large providers like CenturyLink are also available in certain areas.
HughesNet is a satellite internet provider used in rural communities where fiber, cable, and DSL phone lines are unavailable. HughesNet has better prices and better speeds than its major competitor, Viasat. Its top package is available at $160 for 75GB per month.
HughesNet's meager 25 Mbps cannot handle Netflix streaming and modern gaming requirements but is good enough for surfing the web, social media, and even streaming video clips.
Compared to other options on this list, HughesNet is on the pricier side of things, making it more of a last resort option.
3. Starlink: new service available in a few areas
Starlink is a satellite internet service that is provided by SpaceX. It is currently in beta testing, but when it becomes fully available to the public, it will be a game changer for rural areas.
Starlink satellites are closer to the earth, allowing them to offer faster speed than their competitors to users. Compared to HughesNet's 25Mbps speed, Starlink's speed is around 100Mbps. What's more, it is significantly cheaper than other satellite internet services.
The major downside of Starlink is that it is not yet fully available globally, but it is accessible in most parts of the US.
4. Best 4G LTE provider
For rural dwellers who have trouble getting consistent internet speeds, Verizon 4G LTE Home Internet is a lifesaver. Not only does it offer unlimited data, but it also has some of the fastest download speeds available.
And if you already have Verizon cell service, you can get it for just $40 per month. That's an incredible deal for anyone who lives in a rural area. So if you're looking for a fast, reliable internet connection, Verizon 4G LTE Home Internet is the way to go.
Useful hacks for boosting your rural internet speed
1. Internet bonding
Also called channel bonding, this process combines multiple internet connections into one stronger one to maximize speed and performance.
There are no restrictions to combinations in bonding. For example, 4G can be bonded with DSL, fiber, cable, and more. You can even bond 4G service from different carriers.
Internet bonding can seem complicated, especially if you are not tech-savvy. Thankfully, there are two methods you can go about it using software.
One is with free software called OpenMPTCPRouter, which takes a while to understand. For the non-techies, there is another alternative called Speedify.
Speedify is a paid software that is accessible via monthly subscription. This software works by automatically bonding all available internet connections to give your computer a faster internet speed.
2. 4G signal booster
The 4G signal booster works precisely as the name says. It receives a weak cell signal, amplifies it, and then rebroadcasts it in a localized area to improve internet speed.
These devices usually come as three components; an outdoor receiver to capture weak signals, an amplifier to enhance the signal strength, and an indoor antenna to broadcast the boosted signal within its vicinity. All of these are connected by a coaxial cable.
3. Set up a separate network
One helpful tip is to set up two separate internet networks, one for high-speed activities like gaming and working from home and one for general use like streaming movies and TV shows.
This way, you can keep a steady internet speed without losing connection entirely if someone else in the house is using the internet for a high-bandwidth activity. Of course, this won't work if everyone in the house is trying to use the internet simultaneously, but it can be a helpful way to manage your internet performance.
4. Buy a new router or place it close to your most used Wi-Fi devices
If you constantly suffer slow internet speeds, consider updating your router or buying a new one.
Upgrading to a newer model, such as a Wi-Fi 6 router, can significantly improve your connection speed.
Another tip is to place your router closer to your most used Wi-Fi devices. This will help to reduce the amount of interference between your devices and the router, resulting in better performance.
Finally, make sure to keep your router updated with the latest firmware. Router manufacturers frequently release updates that can improve performance and address known issues.
5. Try changing your rural Internet provider
One reason you have a poor internet connection in your area could be that your service provider is not very strong there. You may have to ask around to find a provider that offers better service in the area before switching to it.
While getting high-speed internet in rural areas can be frustrating, there are a few solutions available. Satellite internet is a good option, capable of reaching even the most remote of locations. It is just more expensive and has slower speeds than other options.
If you do manage to settle on an option, remember to do the appropriate research to figure out the best internet service provider for your needs.
What has your experience getting internet to your rural area been like? What were your challenges? How did you overcome them? Be sure to share in the comments below!