The 5 Best Rural Internet Services

Getting Online In Rural America: A 2022 Guide to Fast, Reliable Internet Access Off the Beaten Path

hey there! Do you feel stuck with glitchy dial-up internet access out in the countryside? Trust me, I understand the frustration. High-speed broadband feels essential for work, school, healthcare and entertainment these days. Luckily, you now have excellent options to upgrade from sluggish rural connections.

In this guide, I‘ll compare the top 5 modern internet providers extending fast, unlimited access across rural America. You‘ll see exactly how innovative wireless, satellite and cellular networks build on traditional rural options to deliver speeds rivaling suburban cable and fiber.

Why Rural Internet Access Matters

First, let‘s quickly cover why rural broadband lagged behind urban areas historically. Simply put: lower population density equals fewer potential customers. So profit-focused ISPs didn‘t invest in infrastructure for remote regions.

  • Laying physical fiber/cable is hugely expensive per mile
  • That math doesn‘t work in sparse countryside with limited homes
  • Telecoms claimed remote markets weren‘t worth expanding to

This market failure left rural families struggling with obsolete networks like dial-up or capped satellite. 22% of country residents lacked any wired broadband access as recently as 2021!

But the pandemic highlighted why robust rural internet is so vital for remote work, telemedicine, online education and more. Thankfully, next-gen wireless and satellite providers are answering the call…

The Top 5 Rural Internet Services

I evaluated all the current rural internet options on speed, latency, price and availability. Here are the 5 networks extending genuine high-speed access furthest across the American countryside right now:

1. Viasat: Most Available Satellite Internet

Viasat boasts the largest rural availability footprint nationwide, leveraging a fleet of geosynchronous satellites parked 22,000 miles above earth. Their coverage map blankets virtually every rural corner lacking wired internet options.

While Viasat speeds can‘t match terrestrial providers, their satellite tech continues improving:

  • 120-150 Mbps peak speeds per satellite
  • Plans from 12/100 Mbps up to 100/200 Mbps
  • Unlimited off-peak data from 2-8AM

Starting from $50/month including equipment with 12-month contracts, Viasat makes broadband practical for remote DIY installs. Just ensure your home has a clear view southbound to align their dish antenna.

Our Take: Viasat keeps competitive on speed and price point as satellite internet scales across unserved markets. Their network capacity grows as next-gen ViaSat-3 satellites launch over the next 2 years. We expect to see continued expansion "off the grid".

2. T-Mobile 5G Home Internet: Top Rural Cellular-Based Service

You might be surprised to discover blazing fast home internet delivered over…existing cell towers!

T-Mobile‘s 5G home service transmits signals between local towers and a compact, self-installed antenna aimed from your roof or a window. America‘s second largest wireless network combines broad existing infrastructure with leading mid-band spectrum holdings enabling impressive performance:

  • 182 Mbps peak download speeds observed
  • Typical tests show 90 Mbps down, 15 Mbps up
  • 35 millisecond pings allow gaming and video chat
  • All taxes/equipment included at $50 monthly rate

Our Take: We love the potential for rural home internet without laying new cabling. T-Mobile 5G capitalizes on mid-band 5G deployments matching and beating cable speeds. Their network footprint grows daily, so check availability.

3. Starlink: Fastest Rural Satellite Internet Option

Starlink‘s satellites orbit 10x closer than old-school providers, enabling space-age performance:

  • Low earth orbit just ~350 miles high
  • 200 Mbps downloads, 20 Mbps up typically
  • 99% uptime matching leading terrestrial ISPs
  • 45 ms pings don‘t interrupt Zoom calls or gaming
  • RV/marine usage approved across continents

Priced from $110 monthly including hardware/taxes, Starlink‘s premium experience justifies their steeper cost. But potential users should move fast to get in line for initial capacity as their network expands.

Our Take: CEO Elon Musk promises Starlink can serve over half a million concurrent rural users by end of 2022. We‘re extremely bullish on Starlink‘s industry-leading technology, continuous launch schedule, and game-changing user experience for off-grid sites.

4. AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet

Need cheaper, simpler rural internet without installing a dish? Fixed wireless providers like AT&T beam connections from local towers to your roofline antenna.

While lagging newest satellite and 5G fixed speeds, AT&T‘s 4G LTE-based service still comfortably supports Netflix, work apps, and basic smart home equipment.

  • Leverages large national LTE footprint
  • $60 monthly with 50 Mbps minimum speeds
  • 99% uptime matching leading providers
  • Indoor/outdoor antenna options

Our Take: LTE can‘t match next-gen satellite capacity, but we like AT&T‘s reliability and customer support. Their wider coverage, lower hardware costs and contract-free ease of setup suits lower-data users.

5. HughesNet Gen5 Satellite

While earliest satellite internet suffered painfully pokey dial-up-like speeds, HughesNet (now under EchoStar) has invested in continued upgrading their geosynchronous fleet.

Their latest Gen5 satellites push speeds up to 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up when initially introduced. While those rates still pale compared to bleeding edge terrestrial 5G and Starlink, it‘s a workable option for the least connected rural sites:

  • Covering around 2 million rural users
  • Gen5 satellites launched 2021-2022
  • 10-50GB monthly data limits
  • $60/month entry pricing

Our Take: We think HughesGen5 only makes sense if newer LEO satellite and 5G options aren‘t available in your county yet. Their data limits can still frustrate power users. But EchoStar‘s willingness to keep incrementally enhancing tech gives us hope for this satellite ISP segment.

Summing Up The Top 5 Rural Internet Contenders

ProviderSpeeds (Mbps)LatencyData CapStarting PriceOur Take
Viasat12-200 down
2-100 up
600ms40-150GB$50/monthMost available satellite ISP thanks to mature geosynchronous fleet
T-Mobile 5G Home33-182 down
10-23 up
35msNone$50/monthImpressive speeds rivaling cable thanks to mid-band 5G – availability growing daily
Starlink100-200 down
5-20 up
45msNone$110/monthCutting-edge low earth orbit satellite delivers phenomenal speeds and disruption free video calls – our top recommendation despite higher hardware costs
AT&T Fixed Wireless50-100 down
20 up
low1TB$55/monthReliable wireless home internet leveraging their wide 4G LTE footprint – better for lighter data usage
HughesNet Gen525-50 down
3-10 up
750ms10-50GB$60/monthKnown satellite ISP upgraded latest generation of birds but can‘t match next-gen options – only as a last resort

Now you‘ve got the complete landscape of rural internet choices in one spot! My suggestion would be starting your zip code search for availability with Starlink, T-Mobile or Viasat since their next-gen networks deliver the biggest speed boosts and unlimited data.

I know the pain of dealing with sluggish old networks out in the countryside. But as you can see, modern home broadband meeting urban standards is finally extending its reach thanks to non-traditional providers.

Which option looks most appealing for your rural home internet needs? Let me know if you have any other questions!

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