PhotoIf you live in rural America you may have found your Internet options are quite limited. Some areas don't even offer DSL because the telecommunications provider servicing the region has never updated its switching stations.

Until an expensive fiber optic network is built these regions are dependent on the new generation of Internet services delivered by satellite. Until recently satellite Internet was a frustrating mess. The satellites were too small to handle all the subscriptions and the ground receivers too slow.

But the new generation of these services – known as Gen 4 – have provided much better results. Now, there are three companies competing in this space – Exede, HughesNet and DishNet. All three companies offer various prices, based on speed and usage.

None offers a truly unlimited plan, as you would get with cable Internet, FIOS or even DSL. Instead, you get a monthly allotment of data for high-speed Internet usage. When you exceed your allowance your speed slows considerably. To get the best results you have to choose the right option for your needs.

Plans from Exede

PhotoExede offers four plans. The Classic 10 plan costs $49.99 a month and gives you 10 GB of data, at speeds of up to 12 mps down and 3 mps up. If you have two or three computers connected to the Internet and watch YouTube videos or listen to streaming music on a daily basis, you will probably exceed the allowance most months with this plan.

The Classic 15 is much the same, except that it offers 15GB of data. It costs $79.99 per month and while you may not exceed your limit most months, you won't be downloading movies every other night.

The Classic 25 offers 25 GB of data each month, giving users more flexibility when it comes to watching movies and video. But it also carries a higher price tag – $129.99.

Exede also offers what it calls the Evolution Plan, billing it as unlimited. However, it is only unlimited as far as viewing web pages and using email is concerned. For all other uses – downloading or streaming movies, for example – you are limited to 5 GB of data.

For all plans, Exede turns off the meter between midnight and 5 a.m., allowing for unlimited data usage for the night owls among its customers.

HughesNet offers four plans

PhotoHughesNet speeds and capacity rise with the price of its four plans. The base Connect plan provides up to 5 mps down and 1 mps up and costs $39.99 for 10 GB of data. The company recommends it for customers connecting only one computer.

The Power plan costs $49.99 and provides up to 10 mps down and 1 mps up, with a monthly allotment of 20 GB of data, making it suitable for handling larger files or for networks with two or three computers.

The Power Pro plan offers speeds up to 10 mps up and 2 mps down and a total of 30 GB of data, at a cost of $79.99. Again, it might provide plenty of capacity for a small business network.

The largest plan, the Power MAX, provides up to 15 mps down and 2 mps up. It offers 40 GB of data each month, the largest allotment of any satellite Internet plan, and costs $129.99.

DishNet's offerings

DishNet has three levels of high speed Internet service. The base package offers a 5 mps download speed and 10 GB of data, at a price of $39.99. It's designed for a single user.

The middle package ups the speed to 10 mps down and provides 20 GB of data at a cost of $49.99 a month. The top shelf package offers 10 mps down and provides 30 GB of data usage each month for $69.99.

While satellite Internet is far from perfect, one of the plans from these three providers may give you an adequate level of service – much more than rural Americans have been offered in the past.

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