Having access to a reliable internet connection when you live in a rural area is not always easy. Some rural areas still have access to DSL and dial-up, but only because landline telephone lines still offer service. But where land lines and wired broadband service aren’t available, what then? Consumers have to shop for some sort of rural internet package.
These days, DSL and dial-up are no longer feasible even when they can be had. They do not offer enough speeds to accommodate video and music streaming, online gaming, and cloud-based apps. As such, rural customers have three other options to choose from:
- Satellite – Broadband internet access by way of the same satellite technology that powers satellite TV services.
- Cellular – High-speed internet service utilizing the same cellular networks that power our cell phones.
- Fixed Wireless – Wireless internet provided through locally built wireless LANs utilizing directional antennas.
If you are a rural resident looking to get on the broadband highway, it is worth looking into all three options. Here are the top considerations to keep in mind:
1. Technology Model
All three options have their pros and cons from a technology standpoint. For example, choosing satellite internet means not being able to take it with you when you travel. On the other hand, a rural internet provider like Houston-based Blazing Hog provides a wireless cellular router you can take with you in your RV, fifth wheel, etc.
2. Advertised Speeds
All three technologies offer comparable upload and download speeds. However, there may be differences from one service to the next. As you shop, be aware of the phrase ‘up to’. When a company says they offer ‘up to’ 25 Mbps, they are saying that 25 Mbps is the top speed they can achieve on their end. It doesn’t mean you’ll get that speed on your end.
Internet speeds can be affected by everything from traffic volume to distance. When you are working with a rural internet solution, weather and obstructions also play a role. The point is to never assume that advertised speeds are guaranteed. They are not.
3. Data Limits
Blazing Hog offers unlimited 4G rural internet as well as less expensive plans with data limits. Their model is pretty common throughout the rural internet world. Whether you go with cellular, satellite, or fixed wireless, you are bound to see packages with data limits. This is important for one simple reason: coverage charges will apply whenever you exceed the data limit you are paying for.
Exceeding your data limit could get quite expensive. If you are a heavy video streamer, it is worth paying extra for unlimited data. You can get away with a cheaper package if all you do online is check your email and dabble in social media.
4. Equipment Arrangements
Finally, pay close attention to equipment arrangements before you choose a rural internet provider. Some companies require their customers to purchase equipment outright. Others rent the equipment as part of the monthly package. You need to know each provider’s arrangement before you sign on the dotted line.
One model is not necessarily better than the others. If you don’t mind owning equipment you might have no use for should you decide to stop using the service, then buying is no big deal. You may prefer to rent if you don’t like the implications of owning the equipment yourself. It is your call.
The good news in all of this is that rural residents do have options for internet. They can choose from satellite service, 4G cellular or fixed wireless, all of which are worth investigating further.