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Best Rural Internet Providers for 2020


Best rural cable internet



Best rural DSL internet



Best rural satellite internet



Update 3/17/20: Rural internet providers address COVID-19 concerns

In response to COVID-19 (also known as “the coronavirus”) concerns, internet service providers (ISPs) Xfinity, CenturyLink, and Viasat have signed onto the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Keep Americans Connected Pledge.

For 60 days after March 13, according to the FCC’s pledge, ISPs will “not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Additionally, ISPs “will waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the Coronavirus pandemic” and “open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.”

Extra steps being taken by these ISPs:

  • Xfinity is offering unlimited data usage for 60 days to all subscribers, as well as a free 25 Mbps Internet Essentials package to new customers (regularly $9.95/mo. for low-income households).
  • CenturyLink is also lifting its data caps for 60 days.

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

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ProviderStarting priceDownload speedsConnection typeFind out more
Xfinity$24.99/mo. 25 Mbps–300 MbpsCable
CenturyLink$49.00/mo. 10 Mbps–100 Mbps DSL
Viasat$30/mo. 12 Mbps–100 MbpsSatellite

Data as of 08/27/2020. 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.


Best rural cable internet

The specs

  • Pricing: $24.99–$64.99/mo.
  • Download speeds: 25 Mbps–300 Mbps


  • High-speed internet in rural areas
  • Low-ish pricing


  • Limited availability in rural areas
  • Degraded signal over distance

The best rural internet service most communities 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

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PlansPriceDownload speedData allowance
Performance Starter$24.99/mo.25 MbpsUnlimited
Performance Plus$34.99/mo. 100 MbpsUnlimited
Performance Pro$49.99/mo.200 MbpsUnlimited
Blast! Pro$64.99/mo.300 MbpsUnlimited

Best rural DSL internet

CenturyLink Compatible Modem |

The specs

  • Pricing: $49.00/mo.
  • Download speeds: 20 Mbps–100 Mbps

(5 /5)


  • Comparatively low monthly rates
  • No contracts


  • 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:

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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

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PlansPriceDownload speedData allowance
Internet 15$49.99/mo.15 MbpsUnlimited
Internet 20$49.99/mo.20 MbpsUnlimited
Internet 80$49.99/mo.80 MbpsUnlimited
Internet 100$49.99/mo.100 MbpsUnlimited


Best rural satellite internet

The specs

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

(5 /5)


  • Widely available
  • High (for satellite) download speeds


  • 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:

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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

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PlansIntroductory PriceDownload speedData allowance
Liberty 12$30/mo.Up to 12 Mbps12 GB
Liberty 25$50/mo.Up to 12 Mbps25 GB
Liberty 50$75/mo.Up to 12 Mbps75 GB
Unlimited Bronze 12$50/mo.Up to 12 Mbps35 GB
Unlimited Silver 12$100/mo.Up to 12 Mbps45 GB
Unlimited Gold 12$150/mo.Up to 12 Mbps100 GB
Unlimited Silver 25$70/mo.Up to 25 Mbps60 GB
Unlimited Gold 30$100/mo.Up to 30 Mbps100 GB
Unlimited Gold 50$100/mo.Up to 50 Mbps100 GB
Unlimited Platinum 100$150/mo.Up to 100 Mbps150 GB

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 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).

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.

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.

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