Internet options in rural areas within the U.S. can be rather hit or miss, and you can expect some surprises as well. A rural town can have little to no Internet options at all while the next town over has access to exceptional broadband. If you currently live in a rural area, then you probably know which services are available to you, but for those considering a move from the big city to the country, it can help to be aware of what your options may be and where you can look for the service you want.
This is certainly not the ideal option, but many if not most rural areas have some access to a cellular network. You can access the internet from your laptop or tablet through your cell phone. In America, Verizon, Dish Network, and AT&T are notable for offering mobile hotspot service that holds up pretty well in this regard. You do have to be careful, however, since you will almost certainly have data caps to contend with, and you can chew that data up rather quickly if you stream video and play online games.
HughesNet is an ISP that provides Internet access via a satellite network. Satellite has traditionally not been ideal since there are limitations, such as very slow upload speeds. That said, satellite internet has been an option for years to many rural customers who would not have any option at all if not for that. The reputation of satellite Internet may improve greatly once Starlink is widely available.
Fixed wireless is a relatively new technology that has made it into about 20 states as of this writing. The speeds are not great relative to other broadband options, but the service does typically meet the FCC minimum to be classified as broadband, and that is enough to stream movies and the like.
Cable broadband is an obvious choice if it is available. Many people moving to rural areas presume that it is not available, but companies like Charter may surprise you. They have made good—although not ideal—strides over the last decade pushing further into rural areas. Interestingly, when cable broadband is available in rural areas, the service is often better than in nearby cities due to less congestion.
DSL stands for digital subscriber line, and it is a type of internet service that uses older phone lines. In many rural areas, DSL ISPs were far ahead of cable ISPs in extending service to rural areas. The service is generally not as fast as cable, but it usually meets the bare minimum to be considered broadband, and 100 Mbps speeds are not unusual, which is actually quite good if you lack other options.
Rural deployment of fiber-optic internet service can be expensive. Nevertheless, there are many rural areas in the U.S. that have access to fiber-optic because a giant company like Google funded it or because a municipal ISP used taxpayer funds to provide coverage throughout its community. This is a recommended internet service for those who loves watching or streaming TV shows and movies, playing online games, for school and work from home.
Be mindful that rural America is undergoing constant change when it comes to broadband access. Municipal ISPs and municipal-private partnerships are becoming more common and facing less roadblocks. There are also government incentives for ISPs to serve rural areas, and change could happen fast if the infrastructure bill manages to pass. In short, reexplore your options on a monthly basis.