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Best Rural Internet Providers for 2019

Best Rural Internet - Cabletv.com

Xfinity

Best rural cable internet

CenturyLink

Best rural DSL internet

Viasat

Best rural satellite internet

The bottom line

Going rural has its advantages: wide open spaces, fresh air, and fewer people. Unfortunately, it’s also difficult to stay in touch with people left behind because countryside internet infrastructures haven’t upgraded much since the ‘90s (that’s 1990s, not 1890s . . . in most cases).

We’ve researched and reviewed your best options for rural internet providers—there’s bound to be at least one available near your homestead.

Best rural internet providers

Price and features comparison

ProviderStarting priceDownload speedsConnection typeFind out more
Xfinity$29.99/mo. 15 Mbps–250 MbpsCable
CenturyLink$45/mo. 10 Mbps–100 Mbps DSL
Viasat$50/mo. 25 Mbps–100 MbpsSatellite
ProviderXfinity
Starting price$29.99/mo.
Download speeds15 Mbps–250 Mbps
Connection typeCable
Find out more
ProviderCenturyLink
Starting price$45/mo.
Download speeds10 Mbps–100 Mbps
Connection typeDSL
Find out more
ProviderViasat
Starting price$50/mo.
Download speeds25 Mbps–100 Mbps
Connection typeSatellite
Find out more

Data as of 05/10/2019. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

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.

Xfinity

Best rural cable internet

The specs

  • Pricing: $29.99–$69.99/mo.
  • Download speeds: 15 Mbps–250 Mbps

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.

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 rural plans and prices

PlansPriceDownload speedData allowance
Performance Starter$29.99/mo.15 MbpsUnlimited
Performance Plus$39.99/mo. 60 MbpsUnlimited
Performance Pro$54.99/mo.150 MbpsUnlimited
Blast! Pro$69.99/mo.250 MbpsUnlimited
PlansPerformance Starter
Price$29.99/mo.
Download speed15 Mbps
Data allowanceUnlimited
PlansPerformance Plus
Price$39.99/mo.
Download speed60 Mbps
Data allowanceUnlimited
PlansPerformance Pro
Price$54.99/mo.
Download speed150 Mbps
Data allowanceUnlimited
PlansBlast! Pro
Price$69.99/mo.
Download speed250 Mbps
Data allowanceUnlimited

Best rural DSL internet

The specs

  • Pricing: $50–$65/mo.
  • Download speeds: 20 Mbps–100 Mbps

(5 /5)

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 rates and high download speeds, as well as its wide availability. As one of our top-five cheap internet providers, we recommend CenturyLink if it’s available near you.

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:

Please enter a valid zip code.

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

PlansPriceDownload speedData allowance
Internet 20$50/mo.20 MbpsUnlimited
Internet 80$55/mo. 80 MbpsUnlimited
Internet 100$65/mo.100 MbpsUnlimited
PlansInternet 20
Price$50/mo.
Download speed20 Mbps
Data allowanceUnlimited
PlansInternet 80
Price$55/mo.
Download speed80 Mbps
Data allowanceUnlimited
PlansInternet 100
Price$65/mo.
Download speed100 Mbps
Data allowanceUnlimited

Viasat

Best rural satellite internet

The specs

  • Pricing: $50–$150/mo.
  • Download speeds: 25 Mbps–100 Mbps

(5 /5)

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

PlansPriceDownload speedData allowance
Basic 25$50/mo.25 Mbps12 GB
Unlimited Bronze 25$50/mo. ($70/mo. after 3 mos.) 25 Mbps35 GB
Unlimited Silver 25$70/mo.25 Mbps60 GB or 100 GB depending on plan
Unlimited Gold 50$100/mo. ($150/mo. after 3 mos.)50 Mbps100 GB
Unlimited Platinum 100$150/mo. ($200/mo. after 3 mos.)100 Mbps150 GB
PlansBasic 25
Price$50/mo.
Download speed25 Mbps
Data allowance12 GB
PlansUnlimited Bronze 25
Price$50/mo. ($70/mo. after 3 mos.)
Download speed25 Mbps
Data allowance35 GB
PlansUnlimited Silver 25
Price$70/mo.
Download speed25 Mbps
Data allowance60 GB or 100 GB depending on plan
PlansUnlimited Gold 50
Price$100/mo. ($150/mo. after 3 mos.)
Download speed50 Mbps
Data allowance100 GB
PlansUnlimited Platinum 100
Price$150/mo. ($200/mo. after 3 mos.)
Download speed100 Mbps
Data allowance150 GB

Other rural internet options

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 it can also be expensive, depending on your carrier’s data limits and 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

Unfortunately, while urban dwellers are crying in their lattés over the slow rollout of fiber-optic internet, rural citizens are still waiting for any kind of internet connection that simply works (and doesn’t cost a fortune). The imminent arrival of 5G cellular notwithstanding, that wait still looks looonnnggg. Patience.

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

About the Author

Bill Frost has been a journalist and TV reviewer since the 4:3-aspect-ratio ’90s. His pulse-pounding prose has been featured in The Salt Lake Tribune, Pacific Northwest Inlander, Las Vegas Weekly, and many other dead-tree publications. In addition to his CableTV.com work, Bill is currently a senior writer and streaming TV columnist at SLUGMag.com. By night, Bill cranks a Flying V with his band at the bar.

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