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


Trevor Wheelwright
Researcher & Writer
Read More
March 31, 2022

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

Based on a year’s worth of proprietary speed tests (methodology below), we break down the top 10 small towns and rural areas in the US with the fastest and slowest internet speeds.

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

SI_Fast & Slow Small Towns_Graphic 1_Bar Chart

Some small towns already have average speeds upward of 50 Mbps (some far more). And others improved their speeds by over 600% from 2020 to 2021. Still, others lack sufficient internet speeds or even experienced speed reductions in 2021.

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

Plattsburgh, New York, has download speeds nearly three times faster than any other small town on our list, with mean download speeds of 242 Mbps and median speeds of 216 Mbps.

A good download speed is about 25 Mbps, 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
1PlattsburghNY242.36216.81
2Mount SterlingKY89.7155.01
3AliceTX80.948.35
4SelinsgrovePA69.0937.72
5HeberUT33.8426.5
6ClarksdaleMS16.419.26
7SidneyOH27.2319.24
8GainesvilleTX25.8616.62
9KirksvilleMO33.0314.52
10GreenwoodSC33.8814.46
  • Mount Sterling, Kentucky; Alice, Texas; and Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, all have speeds that outdo average DSL connections, which range from 25–50 Mbps (some DSL plans can reach speeds over 100 Mbps though).
  • Heber, Utah, also ekes out average speeds above the basic 25 Mbps, which can support streaming video on multiple devices.
  • The remaining rural areas still see median speeds below the 25 Mbps threshold but may achieve higher mean download speeds. That’s a good sign that faster speeds will make their way to more people.

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

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

Hutchinson, Kansas, has the slowest speeds on our list, averaging median download speeds as low as 0.38 Mbps—and the others aren’t far off.

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
1HutchinsonKS3.840.38
2Coos BayOR1.650.76
3BrevardNC1.71.41
4LincolnIL9.531.46
5IndianaPA3.251.49
6EllensburgWA1.941.5
7SomersetPA2.411.52
8OntarioOR6.251.63
9PottsvillePA6.071.64
10TahlequahOK2.091.69

These 10 towns have below 2 Mbps for median download speeds, which is sluggish at best. And their mean speeds never exceed 10 Mbps—which could work for streaming video, possibly on one or two devices.

Around 5 Mbps, streaming high-quality video isn’t much of an option. But you can stream music, check emails, and browse the internet.

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.

Which internet providers are popular in rural areas?

Centurylink customers make up 77% of all rural speed tests. Customers from Verizon Internet Services form about 15% and Rise Broadband takes up most of the remaining rural customers.

Most popular rural internet providers

Provider
Mean download speed (Mbps)
Median download speed (Mbps)
Number of users
Percentage of all tests
CenturyLink16.926.755,35877.45%
Rise Broadband12.828.393495.04%
Verizon Internet Services8.351.751,03114.90%
Viasat9.466.361802.60%

Viasat, which is available nationwide, only takes up 2.6% of the rural customers. For folks looking to improve their speeds, the satellite provider offers plans ranging from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Costs start around $30 per month and go up to $170 per month for top-tier plans, so it’s worth comparing to your current plan.

Find all your internet provider options with one search.

Which small towns improved their internet speeds most?

Our top 10 list includes improved areas that saw at least 143% increases to their download speeds—and far more in some cases. The most improved internet speeds in small towns were on the eastern and southern side of the US, ranging from Pennsylvania to Alabama to South Dakota to Texas and more.

  • Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, improved its speeds the most. With a 607% increase, Selingsgrove went from median download speeds of 5.33 Mbps in 2020 up to 37.72 Mbps in 2021.
  • In 2021, improved median speeds ranged from 3.53 Mbps in Vicksburg, Mississippi, (nearly tripling previous speeds) to the respectable 48.35 Mbps in Alice, Texas.
  • North Carolina had two towns in the top 10: Wilson shifted from a slow 4.74 Mbps to a workable 13.18 Mbps; Cullowhee caught up to 6.20 Mbps in 2021 from 2.54 Mbps in 2020.

Small towns with the most improved internet speeds

Rank
Area Name
State
2020 median download speeds (Mbps)
2021 median download speeds (Mbps)
% change median
1SelinsgrovePA5.3337.72607.47%
2AtmoreAL1.787.98348.40%
3SidneyOH5.5319.24248.09%
4AliceTX14.3248.35237.63%
5DyersburgTN3.3911.02225.13%
6VicksburgMS1.213.53192.36%
7WilsonNC4.7413.19178.55%
8HollandMI3.238.96177.66%
9SpearfishSD3.087.66148.84%
10CullowheeNC2.546.2143.97%

Most of these speeds aren’t comparable to higher tiers of service in the big cities and tech havens. But 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 through 2021 with faster median download speeds. Hutchinson, Kansas, came in with median download speeds of 0.38 Mbps, which is a big drop compared to their previous median speeds of 9.61 Mbps. Ouch.

These cities, for one reason or another, saw severe reductions in their internet speeds in 2021.

Small towns with the most reduced speeds

Rank
Area Name
State
2020 median download speeds
2021 median download speeds
% change median
1HutchinsonKS9.610.38-96.03%
2GallupNM44.079.27-78.97%
3OntarioOR7.421.63-78.08%
4LincolnIL6.021.46-75.70%
5FIndlayOH7.241.88-74.10%
6LumbertonNC10.152.91-71.28%
7GreenvilleTN8.862.92-67.08%
8LaramieWY9.793.62-62.99%
9AlmaMI8.733.37-61.37%
10RochelleIL11.294.5-60.14%
  • Perhaps the most drastic changes could be felt by citizens in Gallup, New Mexico, where average speeds dropped from 44 Mbps down to barely over 9 Mbps.
  • Lumberton, North Carolina, went from average speeds that could handle streaming video or other media online down to email- and browsing-only speeds.

We hope when we revisit these rankings, we’ll see more small towns with consistent speeds above 25 Mbps, 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 satellite internet providers near you.

Methodology

To calculate the rural areas with the most improved internet speeds, we examined HighSpeedInternet.com speed test results from 2020–2021. We filtered out cellular connections as well as multiple tests from the same IP address. We used micropolitan statistical area pages on Statistical Atlas to pull zip codes for micropolitan areas with a population of 100,000 people or less.

To find the 10 rural areas with the fastest and slowest speeds, we calculated the median download speed for each micropolitan area in 2021 that had five or more speed tests. To find the 10 rural areas with the most and least improved internet speeds from 2020 to 2021, we calculated the percentage change in median download speed for each micropolitan area with five or more speed tests each year.