Whether you live in the country because you like the privacy or you're running a family farm, you don't want to sacrifice Internet access just because you're located outside the reach of wired data connections. Even if you can get dial-up service, its speeds -- or, more accurately, lack of them -- place drastic restrictions on what you can view or download. As software companies increasingly provide all their updates via downloaded files and video content forms a larger part of your online experience, you need a broadband connection to use the Internet. Look beyond wired services for your connection options.
Choose a satellite broadband connection to eliminate the need for any form of telephone service in providing your Internet access. If you already obtain your TV signal through a satellite provider, you can't simply piggyback broadband on top of your existing mini-dish hardware and service plan. These technologies use completely different satellite dishes and reception systems. You'll also need a clear line-of-site aiming point to target the satellite dish at the "bird." If you live on a property that's bounded by trees or other tall obstructions, you may have difficulty setting up a suitable antenna location. You'll face either a per-day or per-month cap on your downloads, with service-speed throttling if you exceed the former and extra charges if you exceed the latter. Unfortunately, "download" includes all your data usage: website access, video viewing, music and Internet radio, file downloads, email and software updates.
Investigate business-class satellite broadband if you need more than residential service can offer. These providers offer high-speed access that reaches virtually anywhere in North America. Expect to pay more for the service and the equipment than if you opt for a home-level connection, but you can choose a plan that lacks data caps and offers the level of robust hardware that's required for business usage.
Look for a wireless home broadband option in your area through a provider that can deliver cell phone service to your location. Because these services rely on cellular towers to relay their signals to your hardware, their reach falls within rigid geographic boundaries and can miss parts of rural areas altogether. You'll need to check each cellular provider's coverage to determine whether you'll get good -- or even any -- service. Like satellite broadband, cellular broadband service comes with data caps that expose you to per-gigabyte costs if your monthly downloads exceed a ceiling.
Look for the prospect of rural broadband service provided through what's called TV White Space: unused frequencies reclaimed from the bandwidth formerly occupied by analog TV and other technologies. This application may become a viable alternative in the future. As of August 2012, it's still in the talking stages.
- Talk with neighbors who've opted for one of these Internet service connections and find out the pros and cons of their experiences. Visit user-to-user online forums and look for ratings and comments about the specific providers you're considering. Post a question designed to elicit input from people with your needs and coverage concerns.
- Verify the length of your service commitment before you sign up. Some providers may quote rates that require a one- or two-year commitment. Check the fine print for the costs you face when a promotional rate expires.
- If you use a smartphone or tablet and want to tether a computer to it so you can go on the Internet on a device with a larger screen, you won't see the kinds of connection speeds that other alternatives offer.
- Satellite broadband can experience service outages during periods of rain or snow. Likewise, if your aiming point goes through tree branches, you'll see service problems when your greenery leafs out.
- HughesNet: Frequently Asked Questions
- HughesNet: Plans & Pricing
- WildBlue: How It Works
- WildBlue: Satellite Internet Packages and Pricing
- SkyCasters: How It Works
- SkyCasters: Affordable iDirect Satellite Internet Plans
- Purdue University CERIAS: Broadband vs. Dialup Internet Connection
- Laird Technologies: Applications for TV White Space
- Technology Review: Long Range Wi-Fi Edges Nearer With FCC Decision
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