Living in the country has its benefits, lower cost per acre, fewer regulations and more freedom. But with those benefits comes a distinct disadvantage, slow or no rural internet options. Finding stable, fast rural internet can be like looking for a unicorn, but for the homesteading commuter, farmer or rural entrepreneur, high speed rural internet access can be a necessity.
The New Age of Rural Internet Options
Research any internet provider before you commit. Choose cable if you can get it. Select DSL second, then cellphone MiFi or hotspot. Satellite and local point to point services are your 3rd option – pick whichever is the better price, speed and value. Remember to check with local power utilities and local government to see if there are unique options.
It is possible you may have other rural high speed internet options. Some communities created co-ops that provide DSL, regional WiFi or even municipal fiber networks. Some folks drive to a local library, fast food restaurant or other public internet access location for temporary high speed access. Avoid satellite if you can, they know they are a provider of last choice – so their service and support is poor even compared to cable and phone DSL services.
When looking for high speed internet for rural internet options, try negotiating a test period for a link. Ask for ALL associated costs, fees, support costs and charges. Try to find someone who is using the service and ask how they like it. If you live in the country you will likely have trouble streaming YouTube, NetFlix or Amazon video and may not be able to make reliable voice/video internet access. Avoid any devices or services that use data (bandwidth) indiscriminately, such as “helpers” like the Echo Dot or internet connected appliances. These can tie up your connection or max out your available download very quickly.
Internet performance for each of the four sources is based on three factors: Speed (Bandwidth), Latency (Lag) and Stability (packet loss). Each factor impacts performance in a different way. Compared to a car driving on a road, speed is the same, latency is the delay between when you press on the gas or turn the steering wheel and the car responds, and stability is if the car responds when you turn the wheel or press on the gas.
Higher numbers are better. Speed affects the amount of time to transfer large files. The technical term is bandwidth, because it is technically a combination of speed and amount of data transferred per second. Speed or bandwidth is measured in Mbps (or megabits per second).
A rough analogy is that Mbps is comparable to miles per hour (mph). Most service providers will list internet speed – they will generally not guarantee the highest speed.