Rural internet service providers
It can be difficult to find and compare your internet options in a rural area. At Allconnect, we bring you rural internet options from top satellite, DSL and fixed wireless service providers. Compare the best providers and internet types for rural areas below to find the right internet service for your home.
The state of rural internet access in 2021
David Anders Last updated: April 8, 2021
The FCC acknowledged the digital divide in their most recent broadband progress report, noting that one-fourth of those living in rural areas (around 14.5 million people) lacked reliable access to broadband internet. In reality, that number could be much higher, closer to 42 million, according to a recent study by Microsoft.
In many rural areas, it’s not profitable or even feasible for providers to run cable or fiber optic lines, which often leaves satellite, DSL and potentially fixed wireless internet as the only internet options available. HughesNet and Viasat dominate the satellite internet market (though Starlink could soon be another option), while available DSL and fixed wireless providers can vary widely by location.
To make finding rural internet easier for you, we’ve researched the top providers, prices and speeds available so you can make an informed decision on the best rural internet options in your area.
Recommended rural internet providers
- AT&T Fixed Wireless – Wi-Fi Gateway router included
- CenturyLink – High monthly data allowance
- Frontier – Unlimited data and equipment included
- HughesNet – Consistent pricing and speeds
- Rise Broadband – Fast fixed wireless speeds
- Viasat – Fastest satellite internet speeds
- Verizon Wireless LTE (installed) – High availability
Shop rural internet providers near you
You’ll find a few of the best rural internet providers in your area below. For more accurate results, click ‘Update location’ to compare options for your address.
Unlimited data allowance
AT&T consumer home internet or Fixed Wireless Internet customers can use unlimited internet data through September 30, 2020.
Self-installation is the default installation option when available for customers.
Temporary speed upgrade
Get a temporary speed upgrade to 50 Mbps when you order Cox 10 & 30 Mbps internet plans. Offers valid through June 30, 2020.
Self-installation encouraged. Select your desired installation date, and a Cox representative will call to confirm or reschedule your appointment.
Safety-first Installation: A Frontier technician will perform your installation with appropriate safety protocols including wearing protective equipment and maintaining social distancing. In taking these precautions, it’s recommended that Frontier customers wear a face mask or face covering for the safety of technicians.
New TV plan
Introducing a new “Local 50” video plan to support contactless installation.
Contactless installation: Mediacom will send an installation kit and a technician to set up a single high-speed data connection, phone, or one local TV channel plan with the help of someone in your home.
Self-installation is encouraged. For professional installation, contact-free delivery is available for work done outside of the home. For customers moving more than 7 days from the date the order is placed, professional installation is available.
Free Contactless Delivery: An Xfinity technician will drop-off your equipment with installation instructions, then perform any outside work. Get your installation fees back in a customer credit for a no-charge installation.
Rural internet provider quick comparison
You’ll find some of the top rural internet providers listed below along with service type, starting prices and speed details for each. Not all providers and plans are available in all areas.
|Provider||Connection type||Starting price*||Download speed range||Data caps|
|AT&T Fixed Wireless||Fixed wireless||$50.00/mo.||1 – 10 Mbps||215 GB/mo.|
|CenturyLink||DSL||$49.00/mo.**||3 – 100 Mbps**||1 TB/mo.|
|Frontier||DSL||$37.99/mo.||Varies by location||None|
|HughesNet||Satellite||$59.99/mo.||25 – 25 Mbps||10 GB/mo.|
|Kinetic by Windstream||DSL||$37.00/mo.||1 – 200 Mbps||None|
|Rise Broadband||Fixed wireless||$29.99/mo.||5 – 1,000 Mbps||150 GB/mo.|
|Viasat||Satellite||$50.00/mo.||12 – 100 Mbps||40 GB/mo.|
|Verizon LTE (installed)||Fixed wireless||$70.00/mo.||5 – 12 Mbps||8 GB/mo.|
*Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. Speeds may vary. As of 02/12/21.
**Rate requires paperless billing. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Offer Details. Speed may not be available in your area.
What are the best rural internet providers?
Best for service without data caps: Frontier offers DSL internet plans in rural areas with no monthly data limits.
Best for widespread availability: HughesNet offers satellite service which is available in 100% of locations nationwide.
Best for cheap internet: Frontier offers affordable DSL internet starting at $37.99/mo.* with no added fees for equipment or data.
Best speed range: CenturyLink offers the best speed range with starting speeds of 1 Mbps and max speeds of 100 Mbps. Speeds available vary by location.
Our pick for the best all-around rural internet provider: Frontier
Frontier is one of the more available rural internet providers with coverage spanning rural and suburban areas of 25 states. Frontier internet plans are contract-free, come with unlimited data and equipment costs are included in the monthly price.
Our approach: We determine the best rural internet providers for you
When narrowing down our list of the top internet providers, we sought to highlight providers that are available to many people in different areas. Using the most recent FCC data, we identified the top internet providers available to at least 5% of U.S. residents.
From there, we leveraged our own in-house technology to further accumulate availability, speed and pricing details and for each provider. Specific plan, pricing and service details were sourced directly from the providers, both via our professional relationships with them and their official websites.
We also sought inspiration from Reviews.com, who is owned and operated by an affiliate of Allconnect, Inc. However, Allconnect, Inc. is not involved in or responsible for the production of Reviews.com content, including rankings cited on this page.
Equipped with an accurate, up-to-date portfolio of each provider, we then carefully examined each provider’s attributes to identify a provider’s exclusive advantage over the rest.Learn more about our research
Internet service types in rural areas
Depending on where you live, you could have a few options for internet service in rural areas. Some common internet connection types for rural areas include satellite, DSL and fixed wireless.
Satellite – Available virtually everywhere
Satellite internet is a great option for rural-area residents because it’s available virtually anywhere. All you need is a clear view of the southern sky to be eligible for satellite internet from HughesNet or Viasat. Internet speeds can range from 12 to 100 Mbps.
What we like
- Availability – Satellite internet is available throughout all 50 states.
- Speeds – Satellite internet can get you broadband speeds, ranging from 25 to up to 100 Mbps in select areas.
Things to consider
- Data restrictions – HughesNet and Viasat plans come with monthly data restrictions that could result in slower speeds if you go over them.
Recommended satellite provider – HughesNet
HughesNet offers more consistent speeds and plan pricing throughout the U.S. compared to Viasat. While Viasat is capable of delivering up to 100 Mbps in select areas, many rural residents will only have access to 12 Mbps. HughesNet, on the other hand, offers speeds up to 25 Mbps in all service areas. Additionally, HughesNet introductory pricing is good for six months, whereas Viasat plan pricing increases after three.
DSL – Affordable and high monthly data allowances
Unlike cable or fiber optic internet, DSL internet uses existing phone lines to carry service. If you have telephone lines to your house, you might have access to DSL from providers such as AT&T, CenturyLink or Windstream. Internet speeds can range from 1 to 140 Mbps.
What we like
- Pricing – DSL internet plans are often among the cheapest rural internet services.
- Data limits – DSL providers often give you higher monthly data limits than what you’ll get with satellite internet.
Things to consider
- Speeds – DSL speeds may be as low as 1 Mbps, and the further away you are from your service provider, the slower your connection may be.
Recommended DSL provider – Frontier or CenturyLink
Frontier is a popular choice for DSL service in rural areas thanks to their high availability, unlimited data and simple pricing.
Speeds are limited with Frontier DSL, however, so if you’re looking for a higher-speed DSL connection, consider CenturyLink. While monthly prices are higher than Frontier, CenturyLink offers speeds up to 100 Mbps in select areas, plus a price guarantee on all plans up to 100 Mbps.
Fixed wireless – Lower latency makes online gaming possible
Fixed wireless internet works like satellite internet in that you have a dish or antenna to receive internet signals. You’ll need to live close to a cellular tower to get fixed internet from rural internet providers such as Rise Broadband, AT&T, Verizon or others. Internet speeds can range from 1 to 1,000 Mbps.
What we like
- Availability – Fixed wireless internet is available in all 50 states from various providers.
- Latency – Unlike satellite internet, fixed wireless has lower latency, which makes it a viable option for online gaming.
Things to consider
- Signal interference – Bad weather or obstructions blocking your antenna can disrupt your connection.
Recommended fixed wireless provider: Rise Broadband
Rise Broadband is one of the larger fixed wireless providers, covering many rural areas throughout Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado, as well as parts of Idaho, Texas and Utah. With speeds up to 1,000 Mbps available in select areas, Rise Broadband is among the fastest fixed wireless providers out there. And with comparatively-high data allowances and low pricing, Rise Broadband can be one of the best internet options in rural areas.
Rural internet shopping tips
When choosing a home internet service in a rural area, your options may not be as limited as you’d think. You may have multiple providers to choose from. Even if there are only one or two providers available, you’re likely to have different plan options, so it’s always good to know what to consider when shopping for high speed internet in rural areas.
Availability – Know your rural internet options
Before committing to any one internet service, check to see if other providers and internet types are available in your area. The service types listed below – specifically DSL and fixed wireless – have greater coverage (DSL service is available to 89% of U.S. households), but do not offer broadband speeds in all areas. The percentages below indicate their coverage areas capable of delivering broadband speeds, which are download speeds of 25 Mbps download and upload speeds of 3 Mbps or higher.
Broadband internet availability in the U.S.:
- Satellite – 99% coverage
- DSL – 38% coverage
- Fixed wireless – 29% coverage
Price – Check plan pricing, added fees and data allowances
Rural internet can seem higher priced than other areas due to the operating costs of providing broadband to areas with lower population density.
Another consideration when determining the cost of internet in rural areas is data caps/allowances. With satellite internet, you could have a monthly data allowance of 10 to 100 GB depending on the provider and plan. Going over your data allowance can result in slower speeds. Ask your provider if there’s a data management tool you can utilize for free, or consider DSL or fixed wireless providers if you plan to use the internet for data-consuming activities like streaming.
Price ranges for rural internet:
- Satellite – $50-$150/mo.
- DSL – $37.99-$49/mo.
- Fixed wireless – $29.99-$99.99/mo.
Speeds and latency – Get a connection you can use
Rural internet isn’t known for its blazing-fast speeds, but you still may have access to speeds that are suitable for your desired online activities, including browsing the web and streaming.
For real-time online gaming, latency is more of an issue than speed. Satellite internet’s high latency makes online gaming impractical.
Speed ranges for rural internet:
- Satellite – 12-100 Mbps
- DSL – 1-100 Mbps
- Fixed wireless – 1-1,000 Mbps
Allconnect: Let us compare providers for you
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Alternative options for internet in rural areas
Explored the rural internet options near you and still not finding what you’re looking for? Don’t worry, there’s still a few more tricks up our sleeve. Here’s a few more outside-the-box options for rural broadband.
- White space internet — A new use for an old technology, white space internet uses the vacant radio waves “between” TV broadcast channels to carry internet signals. This is a relatively new internet service type, so not many providers or plans are currently available, but more could emerge in the near future.
- Dial-up — Yes, dial-up is still around, and it’s a decent and cheap internet option for those in rural areas needing the internet for little more than checking email. You’ll need a home telephone line and likely a compatible modem for service from AOL Online, People PC, EarthLink or other dial-up providers. Keep in mind, internet speeds top out at a humble 56 Kbps.
- Mobile hotspots — Some smartphones can be used as a mobile hotspot within your home, for an added fee, of course. Check with your cellphone provider to see what hotspot options are available for you. You can also purchase standalone hotspot devices, such as a Verizon Jetpack or Skyroam Solis. While mobile hotspots are generally intended for temporary internet use, they could serve as a home internet option for users who don’t connect too often.
What to expect from rural internet in the coming years
Satellite internet and fixed wireless connections could see some major improvements in the coming years. It’s unlikely, however, that cable or fiber optic internet providers will aggressively expand into rural areas because operating costs are too high in low population areas.
SpaceX, Boeing and even Amazon are investing in low-flying satellites, which won’t offer the expansive coverage traditional satellites can, but will be able to deliver faster speeds and lower latency. As of early 2021, Starlink (under the SpaceX umbrella) is in its beta testing phase, while Amazon is still preparing the launch of its satellite internet system.
The rollout of 5G could mean faster fixed wireless connections are on the way. As Verizon and AT&T update their networks to support 5G technology, fixed wireless internet customers may have access to faster speeds and higher data limits.
Improved internet connectivity in rural areas may well be worth the wait, but if you want to see what’s available for your home now, give us a call. Our internet experts will inform you of the best rural internet options in your area.
Rural internet FAQs
Yes. Satellite, DSL and fixed wireless connections are popular in rural areas. Satellite internet is one of the best choices for broadband internet in rural areas, while DSL is a great option for higher monthly data allowances.
Both fixed wireless and satellite internet are good choices for internet service in rural areas. Fixed wireless internet has lower latency than satellite internet because the wireless signals travel a shorter distance. Satellite internet, however, is generally better than fixed wireless because it can offer fast speeds and a more reliable connection.
Satellite internet can deliver broadband speeds (up to 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload), making it a great option for rural residents wanting a fast internet connection for streaming, downloading music and more. Satellite internet is not an ideal connection for online gaming, though, due to its high latency.
HughesNet and Viasat both come with “no hard data limits.” While not exactly “unlimited,” neither provider charges overage fees for using more data than your monthly allowance. However, once you’ve gone over your data allowance, you can anticipate heavily reduced speeds until the next billing cycle.
Adjust or reset your router – Wi-Fi router placement can affect the speeds you get on your devices. Place your router in a central location in your home, clear of obstructions that could block Wi-Fi signals. Reset your router if you are suddenly experiencing slower speeds.
Switch rural internet providers – If you have dial-up or DSL internet service, satellite or fixed wireless providers could offer faster speeds. Of the rural internet options, satellite and fixed wireless internet providers are likely to offer the fastest speeds.
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Written by:David Anders
Senior Writer, Broadband Content
David joined the Allconnect team in 2017, specializing in broadband and TV content. His work has been referenced by a variety of sources, including ArcGIS, DIRECTV and more. As a Senior Writer, David is motivate… Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content
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