The 10 Small Towns with the Most and Least Improved Rural Internet


Alex Kerai
Aug 18, 2023
bullet5 min read

Rural areas have more options for internet than ever before, with options like satellite internet, 5G home internet, cable, DSL, and mobile hotspots. But can small cities and towns reach internet speeds that compete with high speeds in the cities?

Based on a year’s worth of proprietary speed tests (methodology below), these are the top 10 small towns and rural areas in the U.S. with the fastest and slowest internet speeds.

Considering the digital divide between urban, suburban, and rural areas, we also go over connection types, providers, and the rural areas that have increased (or reduced) speeds over the past 12 months.

In June 2023, President Joe Biden pledged that every U.S. household would have high-speed internet by 2030. The pledge includes more than $40 billion in funding to upgrade or add service across the country. Already, internet speeds have gained momentum, with average download speeds in rural areas reaching an average of 111.87Mbps—a 122% increase from 2022.

bar chart showing fastest and slowest internet speeds in small towns

Between August 2022 and July 2023, SatelliteInternet.com collected data from 313,754 speed tests in small towns and cities (micropolitan areas) to measure download speeds. We assessed more than 512 micropolitan areas from California to New York and Texas to Alaska.

We found that the average download speed in rural U.S. areas is 111.87Mbps, and the median download speed is 45.66Mbps. While both of those are significantly faster than the average and median speeds in 2022, they still lag behind the national average. In the U.S., the average download speed is 145.46Mbps (30% faster than rural areas) and the median download speed is 70.99Mbps (50% faster than rural areas).

Still, some micropolitan areas are outliers and have fast internet speeds, like Stephenville, Texas: It exceeds the national average download speed by 101%! While it’s still difficult for many rural Americans to get online due to the digital divide, our 2023 report shows that progress is being made—and where that progress is happening.

Which small towns and cities have the fastest average internet speeds?

Stephenville, Texas has download speeds nearly two times faster than most other small towns on our list, with mean download speeds of 422Mbps and median speeds of 293Mbps.

A good download speed is about 10Mbps per person, which should handle most of your streaming, email, and social media needs. And plenty of other rural areas now exceed those basic speeds.

Rank
Area name
State
Mean download speed
Median download speed
1StephenvilleTexas421.57292.83
2ParisTennessee272.40217.74
3PlainviewTexas252.89156.88
4Washington Court HouseOhio166.59142.70
5LaurinburgNorth Carolina168.64139.19
6Seneca FallsNew York161.32124.61
7GeorgetownSouth Carolina160.50122.68
8BorgerTexas153.27117.36
9Fort MorganColorado167.33117.05
10GloversvilleNew York161.05115.92
  • None of the fastest small towns and cities from last year ranked in the top ten again this year.
  • Every city and town on this list has speeds that outdo average DSL connections, which range from 25–50Mbps (some DSL plans can reach speeds over 100Mbps though).
  • 2022’s fastest median download speed was 197.16Mbps in Vernon, Texas. This year’s fastest speed—292.83Mbps in Stephenville, Texas—is 49% faster than last year’s fastest speed.
  • All of the top ten speeds this year are at least twice as fast as second place last year.

While some rural places have high-speed internet, plenty of small towns still have download speeds too slow for streaming HD movies or playing online games.

Which small towns and cities have the slowest average rural internet speeds?

Dublin, Georgia, has the slowest speeds on our list, averaging median download speeds as low as 6.26Mbps—and the others aren’t far off. Still, this year’s slowest speed is a huge increase from last year when Hutchinson, Kansas, recorded a median speed of 0.38Mbps.

If you reside in one of the following rural areas, it may be time to look into satellite internet for faster speeds that are available everywhere and can keep up with your online needs. This year's guide can help you choose which rural internet provider is best for you.

Small towns with the slowest average internet speeds

Rank
Area name
State
Mean download speed
Median download speed
1DublinGeorgia47.746.26
2SandpointIdaho34.297.94
3AliceTexas60.197.94
4NorwalkOhio68.268.04
5Mount VernonOhio46.948.86
6WauchulaFlorida39.378.88
7CullowheeNorth Carolina35.418.91
8PalestineTexas34.289.19
9SusanvilleCalifornia40.819.36
10UrbanaOhio54.749.39

These 10 towns have below 10Mbps for median download speeds, which is sluggish at best. And their mean speeds rarely exceed 50Mbps—which should work for streaming video, possibly on one or two devices.

Still, the top 10 list is different this year with mean download speeds increasing by over 1,000% year over year! The median speed increased as well—by nearly 530%.

With speeds this slow, most of these towns are restricted to a few basic online activities. They may need to switch to satellite or 5G home internet service for video calls, streaming services, or gaming.

Use your zip code to find internet providers near you.

Which small towns improved their internet speeds most?

chart showing most and least improved small towns for internet speeds

Our top 10 list includes improved areas that saw at least 217% increases to their median download speeds—and far more in some cases. The most improved internet speeds in small towns were in the West and the South, ranging from Kansas to Texas to Georgia to Alaska and more.

  • Juneau, Alaska, improved its speeds the most. With a 419% increase, Juneau went from median download speeds of 16Mbps in 2021-2022 up to 57.89Mbps in 2022-2023. Stephenville, Texas, was also close behind with a 418% increase in median download speeds, going from 56.52Mbps in 2021-2022 to 292.83Mbps in 2022-2023.
  • This year, improved median speeds ranged from 44Mbps in Raymondville, Texas, (tripling previous speeds) to the fastest internet speed we recorded in Stephenville, Texas, with 292.83Mbps. (Stephenville performed really well, increasing its previous speeds fivefold!)
  • Texas had four towns in the top 10: Sulphur Springs shifted from a decent 21.42Mbps to a great 106.59Mbps; Nacogdoches managed to reach 68.52Mbps in 2023 from 16.65Mbps in 2022. And we already mentioned Raymondville and Stephenville.

Small towns with the most improved internet speeds

Rank
Area name
State
Median Download Speed August 2021–July 2022 (in Mbps)
Median Download Speed, August 2022–July 2023 (in Mbps)
Median Download Speed % Change
1JuneauAlaska11.1657.89418.91%
2StephenvilleTexas56.52292.83418.08%
3Sulphur SpringsTexas21.42106.59397.55%
4Great BendKansas13.6867.06390.34%
5NacogdochesTexas16.6568.52311.62%
6SummervilleGeorgia7.1426.28268.00%
7WillistonNorth Dakota28.87105.99267.20%
8LiberalKansas12.0543.59261.66%
9MayfieldKentucky28.5090.83218.74%
10RaymondvilleTexas8.0225.44217.21%

While most of these speeds aren’t comparable to higher tiers of service in the big cities and tech havens, some of them actually are! Small towns and cities have made large gains in closing the digital divide in recent years, with areas like Stephenville, Texas; Sulphur Springs, Texas; and Williston, North Dakota exceeding speeds of 100Mbps.

The improvement in internet speeds we’ve seen is a good indication that more people have access to better internet service than before.

Which small towns slowed their internet speeds most?

Not everyone was lucky enough to make it to 2023 with faster median download speeds. Alice, Texas, came in with a median download speed of 7.94Mbps, which is a big drop compared to their previous median speed of 79.64Mbps. Ouch.

These cities, for one reason or another, saw severe reductions in their internet speeds in 2023.

Small towns with the most reduced speeds

Rank
Area name
State
Median Download Speed August 2021–July 2022 (in Mbps)
Median Download Speed, August 2022–July 2023 (in Mbps)
Median Download Speed % Change
1AliceTexas79.647.94-90.03%
2PearsallTexas128.7932.13-75.05%
3ParsonsKansas119.0230.24-74.59%
4DublinGeorgia23.566.26-73.43%
5WorthingtonMinnesota68.0718.38-73.00%
6UrbanaOhio33.719.39-72.14%
7LebanonMissouri50.9316.68-67.25%
8Mount VernonIllinois33.8911.13-67.16%
9NorwalkOhio23.168.04-65.27%
10GrenadaMississippi61.2023.09-62.27%
  • Four areas dropped from double-digit speeds down to single digits. But perhaps the most drastic change this year was felt in Alice, Texas where citizens saw their speeds drop 90% from 79.64Mbps to a mere 7.94Mbps.
  • Luckily, the drops this year still leave six micropolitan areas with double-digit speeds and the ability to handle streaming video and calls.

We hope when we revisit these rankings, we’ll see more small towns with consistent speeds above 50Mbps, or at least signs of improvement. In the meantime, if you’re looking for faster speeds in your hometown, check out what options you already have available:

Use your zip code to find internet providers near you.

Methodology

To determine the 10 rural areas with the fastest and slowest speeds, we examined HighSpeedInternet.com speed test results from August 2022 to July 2023. To calculate the rural areas with the most and least improved internet speeds, we compared those results to those from the previous 12-month period.

We filtered out cellular connections as well as multiple tests from the same IP address. We used ZipCodes.com to pull zip codes for micropolitan statistical areas with a population of 100,000 people or less. We calculated the median download speeds for all micropolitan areas with five speed tests or more to determine the fastest slowest and slowest speeds. We used the year-over-year percent change to determine the most and least improved areas.

Alex Kerai
Written by
Alex Kerai
Alex began writing for student newspapers and has managed to turn that into a career. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote about small businesses for Biz2Credit and Business.org. Before that, he spent time in communications for higher education institutions, created marketing materials for nonprofits, and worked for entertainment companies in Los Angeles. Today, he reports on emerging consumer trends and his work can be seen on Business.org, Reviews.org, WhistleOut.com, and CableTV.com. When he's not writing, Alex watches too much TV, plays guitar, reads and writes fiction, and goes on nature walks.