Aircards are One Option for Rural Internet Access

Is a wireless aircard the best choice for rural internet access?

If you live in the country you may have few options for internet access. I live in a rural area where there are no cable or dsl internet services. Even the dial-up access is slow due to poor telephone lines. I was connecting at a typical speed of 24kbs. Ouch, that's slow! It made uploading pictures or viewing video nearly impossible. Any website with a lot of graphics loaded so slowly it wasn't worth trying. So what options did I have? What alternatives to dial-up can rural internet users rely on for high speed internet access?

There are basically three alternatives including a wireless aircard. You can choose between satellite, long distance wifi (if it's available,) or an aircard.

  • Satellite Internet Access - This works almost anywhere with a view of the southern sky. It is a stable way to connect to the internet at high speeds in a rural location. However, it is more expensive to install than the other options like a wireless aircard. Installation of the satellite reciever is often nearly $700, but sometimes there are deals you can get or the provider may work the installation cost into your monthly service plan. After paying for installation, it usually costs about $60 per month for the basic plan, which is about the same as what it costs for an aircard service plan from a cell phone carrier.
  • Long Distance Wifi - In some rural areas you can have an antenna put on your house that recieves a signal from a long distance wifi tower. This works sort of like the wifi signal you connect with at your local coffee shop, but in this case, it works over long distances. There is an installation fee. The fee in my area of Missouri for this wireless service is about $300 for installation. A monthly service fee also applies and these vary from company to company.
  • Wireless Aircard (also known as a wireless modem) - An aircard is the method I chose. I bought an aircard, or wireless usb modem, from my local Alltel store. The aircard connects to my laptop computer via a usb connection. It allows my computer to connect with cell phone towers and uses their 3G connection to provide high speed internet. It works anywhere I can get cell service. One advantage of an aircard over long distance wifi or satellite is the fact that I can take it anywhere. With the other options I'm limited to my home. With an aircard you can go almost anywhere. I've even used it while riding down the highway. I no longer have to consider whether or not a hotel has wifi service; if I have my aircard I can connect to the internet at high speed through the nearest Alltel cell phone tower. It only cost $25 dollars to get the aircard installed and Alltel gave me the aircard itself for signing a 2 year service agreement. It costs $60 a month for an unlimited internet data plan. Also, if you buy a Cradlepoint too, an aircard can be used to set up a wifi network in your home or wherever you go.
If you know of any other options for rural users to get high speed internet service or would like to know more about how aircards work, let me know in the comments. As far as I'm concerned, the best option for me is an aircard, so if you live in a rural area and you're looking for a high speed option, check with your local cell phone provider and see if a wireless aircard is for you.