The Best Options for Rural Internet Access

rural internet accessI love answering reader questions. Gail dropped me a line this week wondering about the best options for rural internet access. If you have a question feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to answer. There’s always a chance that your question ends up as a fancy blog post too.

So here is Reader Gail’s question: I live in a zip code area  where virtually nothing “outside the box” is available for internet service providers. Any suggestions? I pay $40.00 for internet service barely above the dial-up speeds. I don’t need service for videos nor Netflix, just basic fast service for internet browsing and email, etc.

Here’s my response:

Thanks so much for your question. Here’s the deal on rural internet service.

Unfortunately as internet technology has expanded around the nation the one group of Americans that have been left out of the developments are those who live in rural areas. The cities and the suburbs have seen all of the technological development and therefore the increase in choice. Although the choices we have in the cities are still subpar compared to those of other countries due to our lack of robust competition.  But I digress.

There is unfortunately only one real choice for high speed internet in the rural parts of our nation, and it’s not a great one – satellite. Satellite internet can be spotty but the choices have actually gotten much better over the last few years. A few of the big players are Exede, HughesNet, Dish Network, and WildBlue. I would check out all four of them but their plans are actually pretty similar. Exede and HughesNet have sub $50 options, which is nice. They are all sticklers for data usage and you’ll pay more for extra GB of internet usage. 10GB is the standard amount on the cheapest plans. Some of these guys will make you pay more for not bundling services so watch out for the tiny print. The equipment can also be expensive and some providers will make you lease the equipment which can end up costing you major dough too. Be on the lookout for special offers that help cover equipment costs.

Because you don’t stream video the cheapest plans should be plenty for your needs. 10GB is definitely enough to handle the e-mail and web surfing you’ll be doing. For folks that do want to watch a lot of video they’ll have to spend around $80-$130 a month to ensure they have enough GB per month and that their download speeds can handle video content.

There are amazing things about living in rural America. Land and housing are cheaper. The views of our magnificent country can be amazing when you leave the city lights behind. One of the unfortunate downsides is access to technology. But, big changes are in store over the next ten years. I’m sure access to fast and reliable internet will become more affordable. It might even come in the form of a hot air balloon.

[photo courtesy of Michael]

6 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    July 31, 2013

    One source you might want to check with on providing Internet services… your electric company! They may be experimenting with delivering Internet connectivity over the unused bandwidth inside power lines.

    If you’re also a business or entrepreneur, you could also be in position to help major top-tier carriers expand their networks. Level 3, for example, is looking for “last mile” partners to help expand Internet connectivity into rural areas. For more info, see


  2. Avatar
    August 01, 2013

    I was in Morocco a few years ago and it was amazing to me how many people had satellite dishes in the middle of nowhere. Although it might not be the cheapest internet solution, it will get the job done when you are in rural areas, that is for sure.


    • Avatar
      August 01, 2013

      Morocco? That’s awesome dude. How was that? Travel is one of my favorite things in the world.

      And it’s a bummer that there aren’t more solutions for folks that live in rural places. I’m convinced that will change in the next 10 years.


  3. Avatar
    August 28, 2013

    We use Excede, they are great! It’s a great choice for people who travel in RV’s too.


    • Avatar
      August 30, 2013

      Great to have another good satellite internet option to recommend. Thanks Scott!


  4. Avatar
    May 16, 2016

    I have used mobile broadband, or mifi. It’s really a device that functions like a cell phone than can either broadcast wireless or plug into a usb port.

    You can also always use a cell phone as a mobile hotspot or tether it. Tethering is pretty quick, but my provider is sprint and the guy at the sprint store told me that if you continually tether your phone sprint may hit you up with an outrageous bill for data usage.

    (I have found the hard way that sprint, though it advertises itself as cheaper than verizon, will always find a way to bleed you dry)

    Here is how I turn on mobile hotspot: SETTINGS, MORE, WI-FI hotspot. This is good if you have a device such as a tablet or laptop that can use wifi.

    Here is how I turn on usb tethering: FIrst plug the phone into your pc. SETTINGS, MORE, USB tethering.

    As it is, they charge me 100.00 a month just for 40 gb of data per month.


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