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Best Rural Internet Providers for 2021

These top three major internet providers span rural America, and we have their plans, speeds, and pricing.

Best rural cable internet

Price: $25.00–$299.95/mo.
Max download speeds: 50–2,000 Mbps
Data caps: 1,200 GB

Best rural DSL internet

Price: $50.00/mo.
Max download speeds: 15–100 Mbps
Data caps: Unlimited

Best rural satellite internet

Price: $49.99–$149.99/mo.
Max download speeds: 12 Mbps–100 Mbps
Data caps: 40–150 GB

Your internet options for rural areas are limited because few internet providers build networks in small towns. However, Xfinity, CenturyLink, and Viasat all offer internet service in rural America.

Out of these three internet providers, we recommend Xfinity. In our survey data, we’ve found it’s the fastest and most reliable—plus, it offers plenty of data, so you can actually use the internet you pay for.

Many rural areas have a few choices for internet providers. You can search for a full list (including lesser known local providers) on HighSpeedInternet.com, or you can enter your zip code below for a list of just the major providers.

Don’t worry—we don’t ever store or share your location info. We use it only to show you all your options.

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Best rural internet providers

We recommend the rural internet providers above in order from top to bottom. Cable internet tends to be faster and more reliable than DSL, and satellite internet is a good backup if your area doesn’t have any grounded internet lines like cable and DSL.

Compare top rural internet providers

Starting price Download speeds Connection type Find out more
$25.00–$50.00/mo. 50–400 Mbps Cable View Xfinity plans
$50.00/mo. 15–100 Mbps DSL View CenturyLink plans
$49.99–$149.99/mo. 12–100 Mbps Satellite View Viasat plans

Data is as of time of post. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

What are internet options for rural areas?

There are a few rural internet solutions to chose from, although some might not be available in your area.

  • Cable internet
  • DSL
  • Satellite internet
  • Cellular hotspot
  • Dial-up

The most commonly available internet connection types in rural areas are cable, DSL, and satellite.

Options like cellular hotspot internet (which can be pricey) and dial-up (which still exists) are also available in rural areas, but we’ve concentrated on satellite, DSL, and cable. Fiber internet isn’t included because it’s still a unicorn even in many major cities.

Price: $25.00–$299.95/mo.
Max download speeds: 50–2,000 Mbps
Data caps: 1,200 GB

Pros

  • High speeds
  • Low-ish pricing

Cons

  • Limited availability in rural areas
  • Degraded signal over distance

The best internet service most rural areas can hope for is cable, and Xfinity has the widest availability of them all. The Comcast-owned company has coaxial lines running through 40 states, with particularly thorough coverage of the Rockies.

Unfortunately, cable internet from any brand is a rarity in most rural areas—so if it’s available within your ZIP code, we recommend it, especially if it’s Xfinity. You’ll get nearly all of Xfinity’s internet plans if you’re fortunate enough to have rural Xfinity coverage, and the provider has maximum download speeds of 1.2 Gbps.

See if Xfinity is in your area:
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One big “but”: the downside of cable internet from any provider is the fact that the data doesn’t travel long distances well. The farther away from a cable provider’s service point you are, the more degraded the signal that eventually reaches you. So even if you can get cable service, it may be weaker and slower version than advertised.

Xfinity cable internet plans

Price* Download speed Data allowance
$25.00/mo. 50 Mbps 1,200 GB View plan
$40.00/mo. 100 Mbps 1,200 GB View plan
$50.00/mo. 200 Mbps 1,200 GB View plan
$50.00/mo. 400 Mbps 1,200 GB View plan

*For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement. Data is as of time of post. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Price: $50.00/mo.
Max download speeds: 15–100 Mbps
Data caps: Unlimited

Pros

  • Comparatively low monthly rates
  • No contracts

Cons

  • Limited availability in rural areas
  • Degraded signal over distance

CenturyLink DSL—Digital Subscriber Line, or internet delivered through standard telephone lines—is available in 36 states and covers many rural areas in the Northwest and Midwest. Since phone lines are more common outside of urban grids than cable, you’re more likely to find a DSL hookup if you live in a rural area.

We like CenturyLink DSL for its relatively low monthly rate as well as its wide availability. You’ll pay $50 per month and won’t have to worry about contracts or price increases.

But like with most DSL providers, your maximum download speed will be what CenturyLink’s network supports around your address. On CenturyLink’s DSL plan, you might get a download speed of 15 Mbps or 100 Mbps. Although CenturyLink’s speed unpredictability isn’t great, we’d ultimately recommend CenturyLink if it’s available near you because of the provider’s flat-rate pricing.

CenturyLink also does fiber internet, but it’s still rarer outside of cities than Bigfoot sightings and Pottery Barns.

See if CenturyLink is in your area:
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Like cable internet, distance is the enemy of DSL—the signal gets more diluted the more miles it travels from a service point to your modem. It’s a vast improvement over dial-up internet, but it’s still subject to the limitations of decades-old telephone lines.

CenturyLink DSL internet plans

Price* Download speed Data allowance
$50.00/mo. 15–100 Mbps Unlimited View plan

Data effective as of publish date. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.
*Paperless billing or prepaid required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Get the fastest Internet speed available at your location (max speed is up to 100 Mbps.)

Best rural satellite internet: Viasat

Price: $49.99–$149.99/mo.
Max download speeds: 12 Mbps–100 Mbps
Data caps: 40–150 GB

Pros

  • Widely available
  • High (for satellite) download speeds

Cons

  • Relatively expensive plans
  • Spotty performance

The good news: satellite internet doesn’t rely on land-wired infrastructures and is readily available to anyone with a clear view of the sky.

See if Viasat is in your area:
Please enter a valid zip code.

The bad news: while great for TV service, satellite dish-delivered internet is capable of only sub-DSL speed and stability. Also, factors like distance from the satellite or inclement weather can knock that speed down or knock it out completely.

Surprisingly, the same type of satellite dish that can beam pristine, HD-quality TV into your home is capable of conveying only a fraction of that signal in internet service. Cable TV and internet are equal in performance; satellite TV and internet couldn’t be further apart.

Of the two satellite internet providers available (Viasat and HughesNet), we recommend Viasat. It has a wide variety of plans and—at least theoretical—high download speeds. Viasat advertises download speeds up to 100 Mbps (megabytes per second), which is near the fastest rate of DSL and means you can stream shows and movies on multiple devices and surf the internet at the same time.

At times, satellite internet may be unreliable and slow, but at least it’s wincingly expensive—just keeping it real here. Besides monthly base rates that can run as high as $150, Viasat’s required equipment isn’t cheap, and you’re contracted for two years. There’s also the issue of data overages (Viasat says its plans are “unlimited,” but going over certain data numbers can cost you in throttled speed and actual dollars).

In other words, satellite internet should be your last resort—and Viasat is the better choice of that last resort by a narrow margin.

Viasat satellite internet plans

Introductory Price Download speed Data allowance
$69.99/mo. ($99.99/mo. after 3 mos.) Up to 25 Mbps 60 GB View plans
$99.99/mo. ($149.99/mo. after 3 mos.) Up to 50 Mbps 100 GB View plans
$149.99/mo. ($199.99/mo. after 3 mos.) Up to 100 Mbps 150 GB View plans

Data is as of time of post. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Other rural internet services

Cellular hotspot

Ever noticed the “Mobile Hotspot” button on your phone and wondered, “What’s that about?” Well, it turns your mobile phone (and data) into a virtual modem/router that connects you to the internet through a cellular network. If you’d rather not tie up your phone, you can also buy a stand-alone MiFi device that does the same thing but still lets you play Fortnite.

Using a cellular mobile hotspot for your internet connection is easy, but because mobile carriers rarely offer unlimited internet data, it can also be expensive. If you’re using your 4G internet connection to power your rural home’s wireless network, you can quickly hit your carrier’s data limits and rack up overage charges.

Also, the distance from the nearest cell tower will affect performance—if the phone call quality in your area is sketchy, the internet quality won’t be much better.

Dial-up internet

Millions of Americans still use good ole ‘90s-style dial-up internet—knock us over with a floppy disk, it’s true. For rural communities wired with telephone lines but not serviced by DSL providers, dial-up internet is a cheap and simple way to check email and weather reports (if little else).

“Cheap” is relative with dial-up internet because—Gen-Xers will remember this, dubiously—you’re charged by the minute, not at a flat monthly rate. Combine that ticking clock with download speeds well under 1 Mbps and any potential savings are out the window.

Our final take

When it comes to rural internet, Xfinity comes with the best internet technology, and it offers the fastest speeds at a reasonable price. CenturyLink is a good backup, but it has less bang for your buck. And while Viasat’s satellite internet isn’t as good as grounded cable and DSL internet, it’s better than no internet at all.

Our rural internet recommendations aren’t necessarily inexpensive, but they will get you connected where your options are limited. Check out our availability map or enter your zipcode below to see which services are available in your area.

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Our methodology

The rural internet providers in this article are some of the most wide-spread rural internet providers in the US. We ranked them by speed, reliability, service type, and scores from our annual “Best Internet Providers in Customer Satisfaction” survey.

You can learn more about our methodologies on our “How We Rank” page.

Rural internet FAQ

Is there a way to get internet without a provider?

To connect to the internet, you need access to a massive network of internet cables or a satellite that transmits to a network operations center. Theoretically, if you had billions of dollars to blow, you could build those and become your own broadband provider.

Or you could just pay an internet service provider (ISP) to connect to the networks it already owns. The monthly fees are a hassle, but it costs a lot less up front.

How do gamers get internet in rural areas?

While satellite internet doesn’t respond fast enough for online play, Xfinity and CenturyLink might provide you a strong enough connection to play PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds while chatting with your friends.

Ask some local friends about the internet service they use to game because that’s the easiest way to find out about an important factor most providers don’t advertise—latency. Read our article “How to Get the Best Internet for Gaming” to learn more.

Will 5G work in rural areas?

Right now, it doesn’t look like 5G will be the home internet solution that rural areas need. The radio waves that 5G uses can broadcast only over short distances—not far enough to support the spaced-out homes of rural communities.

How can I get better Wi-Fi in rural areas?

Your Wi-Fi signal depends on your internet service to provide high-speed internet, but it also needs a good router to transmit the internet as Wi-Fi throughout your home. You can buy a new router to improve your signal, or try some of our other internet troubleshooting suggestions.