You live in a rural area without access to the major high speed Internet providers. You probably don’t have broadband cable or DSL access, so what do you do? Fear not! You have plenty of options.
Satellite is one of the best options for customers in rural areas. Anyone with a clear view of the sky can get broadband from outer space. The two major contenders are WildBlue and DirecTV’s HughesNet.
- HughesNet: Owned by DirecTV, HughesNet involves a satellite dish atop your roof that beams high-speed Internet to your home. They charge a one-time $199 fee for the equipment, which they set up, and monthly plans begin at $39.99. HughesNet offers speeds up to 2 Megabits/second (Mbps).
- WildBlue: WildBlue recently introduced its new Excede Broadband, which boasts blazing speeds of up to 12 Mbps. Customers pay a one-time activation fee of $149, and monthly plans begin at $49.99/month.
Unfortunately, satellite plans offer much lower download caps than the major providers. WildBlue’s top plan caps users at 25 Gigabytes/month, and HughesNet caps users at 450 Megabytes/day on its highest plan, though the limits are lower for the aforementioned basic plans.
Furthermore, satellite service can cut out during rain or snow storms.
The past few years have seen the rise of tethering, a technology that uses your smartphone’s data connection to provide a Wi-Fi network wherever you go. Tethering turns your smartphone into a wireless modem to which you can connect your laptop and other Internet-capable devices. Tethering could be an excellent option if you live somewhere with a solid 3G data network.
A word to the wise: Tethering often involves a maximum download cap (generally 5 gigabytes), and tethering with a standard unlimited data plan can incur some hefty charges. Be sure to ask your provider (AT&T or Verizon), for information on pricing and download limits for your area. As tethering becomes more popular, cell phone service providers have been rolling out new plans that make tethering a more central part of the service; these plans can cost as little as $25/month.
In addition to tethering, many cell phone providers offer devices specifically designed to provide Internet, either via USB or as a stand-alone device that powers a wireless network. Unfortunately, these were designed for cities and don’t work in as many rural areas, though you should look into it.
Long Range Wi-Fi
While most home routers can only broadcast or receive signal for a few dozen yards, long-range directional antennae can capture signals from miles away. Long range Wi-Fi relies upon point-to-point access, which works like the Beacons of Gondor by catching and resending the signal.
The long-range antenna will give you access to a wide swath of networks, like the one at the Starbucks 10 miles away. While the startup costs and labor can be higher, this can be an inexpensive and fun DIY setup.