How to Get Internet without a Phone Line


You don’t need to pay for landline service—or even have your home wired for a phone—to get rural internet in 2020.

Can I get rural internet without a phone line?

When internet service was first introduced, most people got it through their landline phone lines—even in urban areas. Remember the dial-up service of the early 1990s—the computerized blips and beeps and static noises you heard as the computer took over your phone line and connected to the internet?

Back then, you needed a phone line to get internet. And later, when cable companies repurposed their networks to deliver internet services to city dwellers, many rural internet customers still needed a home phone number because they couldn’t get cable internet.

But modern DSL (which is the type of internet that runs through copper phone lines) doesn’t require an active home phone service anymore. Plus, DSL isn’t your only option—there are several internet options available to rural Americans. Let’s take a look at some of the types of internet you can get in the country.

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Best rural internet services

DSL internetFixed-wireless internetSatellite internet4G LTE internet
ProvidersCenturyLink, Windstream, and moreAT&T Fixed Wireless, Rise Broadband, and moreViasat and HughesNetSpark Services, Wahoo Internet, Ladybug Wireless, and more
Phone wiring required?YesNoNoNo
Current landline phone required?NoNoNoNo
SpeedsUp to 100 MbpsUp to 50 MbpsUp to 100 MbpsUp to 60 Mbps
Price$28.99– $49.00/mo.*$25.00–$150.00/mo.$30.00–$150.00/mo.$94.99–$99.99/mo.
Learn moreDSL internetFixed-wireless internetSatellite internet4G LTE internet

*Data as of 7/28/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

DSL internet

Many suburban and rural Americans have their homes wired for landline phones, and DSL technology makes use of this network. DSL internet travels through copper phone line networks to deliver an internet connection—kind of like old-school dial-up but way faster. Even the slowest DSL internet speeds offer download speeds of about 10–20 Mbps.

Big DSL internet companies like CenturyLink, Windstream, and AT&T can deliver internet plans with speeds up to 100 Mbps, which is plenty fast for video streaming, gaming, and other activities. There are hundreds of DSL internet providers around the US, and many are small, local companies, some of which offer comparable speeds and service to larger providers.

Compared to other rural providers like satellite internet, DSL is a good choice because it is cheaper and offers much more data—it even offers unlimited data on many plans.

If you want a deeper dive into the differences between these types of connections, learn more about satellite internet versus DSL.

Best DSL internet providers

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ProviderDownload speedsData capPriceGet it
CenturyLinkUp to 100 Mbps1 TB/mo.$49.00/mo.View plans
Kinetic by WindstreamUp to 500 Mbps1 TB/mo.$28.99– $49.00/mo.View plans
AT&T InternetUp to 100 Mbps1 TB/mo.$35.00/mo.View plans

*With paperless billing and autopay discount. Data as of 7/28/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. 

Fixed-wireless internet

Many rural communities rely on fixed-wireless internet, which is less expensive than satellite internet. Fixed-wireless internet companies deliver internet to areas that don’t have infrastructure for cable, fiber, or even landline phones. Fixed-wireless internet delivers a connection via radio waves that travel between cell phone towers and antennas mounted to houses.

But, not everybody can get fixed-wireless internet. Internet providers need to install transmission equipment in your area in order for you to get fixed-wireless internet. And, you need to live close enough to those transmission sites to get a signal. Trees, mountains, hills, tall buildings, and other factors can prevent a signal from reaching your home. Even if you have a fixed-wireless provider in your area, you might not be able to get coverage at your place. You’ll need to check with the internet provider to find out if there is a good signal near your home.

To find out if you have fixed-wireless internet available in your area, type your zip code into our internet search tool.

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Best fixed-wireless internet providers

ProviderDownload speedsData capPriceGet it
Rise BroadbandUp to 25 Mbps250 GB/mo. or unlimited (varies by plan)$34.95–$64.95/mo.View plans
AT&T Fixed WirelessUp to 500 Mbps1 TB/mo.$40.94–$60.00/mo.*View plans

*With paperless billing and autopay discount. Data as of 7/28/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. 

Satellite internet providers

Satellite internet is delivered via satellites in space, which means it’s available nearly everywhere. You don’t need to be located near cell phone towers or have cable wiring infrastructure in your area to get satellite internet—you just need a clear view of the southern sky.

But satellite internet presents some challenges with speed and latency. A satellite internet signal must travel thousands of miles to where satellites are located in the Earth’s geostationary orbit. When you send a request to access a website, the signal must travel a long way. So, satellite internet has a longer latency (delay), causing problems with internet activities that need a fast response time, like online gaming.

Currently, there are only two satellite internet providers in the US: HughesNet and Viasat. To learn more about satellite internet service and compare providers, check out Viasat versus HughesNet.

There will soon be a few more satellite internet options available: Starlink (from SpaceX) and Project Kuiper(from Amazon) will begin offering satellite internet over the next few years. These next-generation satellite companies will offer faster speeds and lower latency because they will rely on low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

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Best satellite internet providers

ProviderDownload speedsData capPriceGet it
ViasatUp to 100 Mbps12 GB/mo.–150 GB/mo.$30.00–$150.00/mo.*View plans
HughesNetUp to 25 Mbps10 GB/mo.–50 GB/mo.$59.99–$150.00/mo.*View plans

*With paperless billing and autopay discount. Data as of 7/28/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Mobile wireless internet (4G LTE internet)

For suburban and rural communities within reach of cellular service, mobile wireless internet is an alternative to satellite internet that offers more data at lower rates. Mobile wireless internet is sometimes called 4G LTE internet, even though rural areas often offer 3G or 4G speeds instead of 4G LTE. It functions similarly to a mobile hotspot device, but mobile wireless offers much more data, making it a better choice for home networks.

Mobile wireless internet connects your home to the internet via cell phone towers, using a specialized modem provided by the carrier and utilizing the same mobile networks that operate in your area. That means that you’ll want to pick a mobile wireless internet company that runs on the best network in your area—which might be Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile/Sprint (or an MVNO like Straight Talk, Boost, or Cricket that runs on those networks). To find out which network has the best coverage in your area, check out this cell phone network coverage map.

So, what’s the advantage of getting mobile wireless internet over hotspotting off your phone? The main benefit is that you’ll get a lot more data—you can get 500 GB or more each month with a dedicated mobile wireless home internet connection, which is ample for most households.

Can’t I just use my cell phone for home internet?

Most people can’t get by with hotspotting off their phone for home internet because there is so little data available (even with unlimited plans). Most cell phone plans allow you to use 10–30 GB per month of hotspot data before they slow things way down to dial-up speeds. Data won’t stretch far, especially for households that stream video. Streaming a two-hour movie in HD will eat up 6 GB of data. So, unless you have very limited internet use at home, you’ll need a home internet plan.

Mobile wireless internet is offered by dozens of small carriers across the US. Most plans work anywhere in the US that has cell phone service. In fact, you can take your modem with you if you need a mobile hotspot while traveling or working on the road.

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Best mobile wireless/4G LTE internet providers

ProviderDownload speedsData capPriceGet it
Wahoo InternetUp to 25 Mbps500 GB/mo.$99.99/mo.View plans
Ladybug WirelessUp to 60 Mbps400 GB/mo.$94.99/mo.View plans
Spark ServicesUp to 75 Mbps500 GB/mo.$105.00View plans

Data as of 7/29/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.*Excessive data use (over 50 GB/day) may result in termination of service.

Clip the cord, cut a bill

Many of us pay for things we don’t really need or use. Unless you live in an area without cell phone service, you probably don’t need a landline anymore. Less than 40% of Americans have a landline phone, preferring instead the portable and powerful cell phone.

According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of rural Americans own a cell phone.2 So if you’re looking to consolidate bills, eliminating your home phone service might be at the top of your list. You can definitely get internet service without a home phone. And doing so will save you a bit of money on phone service.

Final take

There are many ways to get Wi-Fi without a landline phone line, so if your internet provider is pushing you to sign up for a home phone plan, just know that it’s a sales gimmick.

In suburban and rural areas, you can get internet access with DSL, fixed-wireless, satellite internet, and mobile wireless (4G LTE) internet. The only one of these types of internet that require your home to be wired for a landline phone is DSL (which runs through copper phone wiring networks), but even with DSL you don’t need to have an active landline number to sign up for DSL internet.

By eliminating landline phone service, you can save $20 or more per month. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and cut the cord!

Check for providers near you

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FAQ about internet without a phone line

How can I get internet without cable or phone lines?

If your home isn’t wired for cable or phone, you can get internet with fixed-wireless, mobile wireless internet (4G LTE), or satellite internet. And if your home is wired for landline phone service, you can also get DSL internet and still choose not to get landline phone service.

How can you get home internet in a rural area?

You can get home internet in rural areas with satellite internet, fixed-wireless, mobile wireless, DSL internet, or dial-up (although this last option is considerably slower than any of the other options). For more information, check out our guide on the best internet options for rural areas.

Do I need a landline phone to get internet in the country?

No, you do not need a landline phone to get internet in rural areas. Years ago, some internet companies required you to have a home phone in order to get internet (such as AT&T and CenturyLink). This is no longer the case other than for dial-up internet (which still requires an active landline phone).

 

  1. Richter, Felix Richter, Statistica, “Landline Phones Are a Dying Breed,” June 2020. Accessed August 20, 2020.
  2. Pew Research Center, “Mobile Fact Sheet,” June 2019. Accessed August 19, 2020.

 

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