The Best Rural Internet Providers of 2021

Put dial-up out to pasture—these high-speed internet options will keep you connected in the country.
Best satellite internet
Viasat
Viasat
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Available in 50 states
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Speeds 12–100 Mbps
Best DSL internet
CenturyLink
CenturyLink
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Good upload speeds
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Available in 36 states
Most data
Verizon
Verizon LTE Home Internet
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Low price and unlimited data
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Available in parts of 48 states
Best for RV
Nomad Internet
Nomad Internet
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Lower latency
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Available in 50 states
Best fixed-wireless
Rise Broadband
Rise Broadband
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Low price and moderate data allowance
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Available in 16 states

Kristin Cooke
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on July 19, 2021

How do I get high-speed internet in rural areas?

Here are the most common rural internet options, in order of best to worst.

  1. Fixed wireless internet (available in many areas with cell phone reception)
  2. Mobile wireless internet (4G LTE home internet)
  3. DSL internet (available in areas with landline phone service)
  4. Satellite internet (available everywhere)
  5. Dial-up (available in areas with landline phone service)

Best high-speed rural internet providers

Provider
Availability
Price
Download speeds
Data cap
Learn more
ViasatAll 50 states (but limited parts of AK)$30.00–$150.00/mo.†Up to 100 Mbps12–300 GB, then reduced speeds
CenturyLink36 states$49.00/mo.*Up to 100 Mbps1 TB
Verizon48 states$40.00–$60.00/mo.**25–50 MbpsUnlimited
Nomad Internet50 states$129.00–$149.00/mo25–50 MbpsUnlimited
Rise Broadband23 states$34.95–$44.95/mo.25–50 Mbps250 GB

Data as of 6/22/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. †Prices listed for Viasat are for the first 3 mos., then prices raise to $50–$200/mo. Data may be slowed after 12–300 GB per month, depending on your plan. *Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply. Speeds may not be available in your area. **Price for Verizon home internet plan is $40/mo. with a mobile phone plan or $60/mo. without other Verizon services.

Best rural internet options

So which is best—satellite, DSL, fixed-wireless, or 4G LTE home internet? The answer depends on what you’re looking for in terms of price and speed—and what’s available where you live.

If a fixed-wireless, DSL, or LTE home internet service is available in your area, we often recommend these over satellite since satellite internet often has high latency (delay) and data restrictions. Data caps get really frustrating. But if you don’t have other internet options in your area, satellite internet is a good option because it’s available everywhere.

Another option is LTE home internet, which provides connection through cell phone towers. If you live in an area with good cell service, a 4G LTE internet service from Verizon, T-Mobile, UbiFi, Nomad Internet, Ladybug Wireless, or a similar provider can give you unlimited data at affordable prices.

Dial-up’s lackluster speeds land it in last place in terms of desirability, and we really don't recommend it except in cases where extreme thriftiness is prioritized over internet experience.

Unlimited rural internet options

Unlimited internet is hard to get in rural areas, so your best option is wireless and 4g lte home internet providers like Verizon or T-Mobile. Fixed-wireless internet providers sometimes offer unlimited full-speed data, and even those that do have a data cap are much less expensive than satellite data. Cable and fiber internet providers often have unlimited data, but often don’t service rural residents.

Unlimited 4G LTE home internet is a new option for a lot of people living in small towns and outer suburbs. If you can get a good cellular signal at your home from Verizon or T-Mobile, there’s a chance you can sign up for an unlimited LTE rural internet plan through one of these providers. The data comes from a cellular tower, so it won’t be zippy fast like fiber speeds in urban areas. But it’ll clip along at 25 Mbps or so (which is fast enough for Netflix and Zoom) and it gives you that elusive unlimited data rural internet plan that’s so hard to find.

Info
Can I use my cell phone as a hotspot for my home internet?

If you’re a very light data user, hotspotting off your mobile phone can be a solution (assuming you can get a cell phone signal at your house). By turning on the hotspot feature on your cell phone, you can share your data plan with another device, like a laptop or Kindle. But mobile phone plans don’t give you much hotspot data. Unlimited mobile plans give you unlimited data on your phone but only 10–20 GB of hotspot data per month that you can share with another device.

If you work from home, make video calls, or stream video we wouldn’t recommend hotspotting off your phone because it won’t give you enough data each month. The average American household uses 344 GB of data per month, so hotspotting off your mobile phone won’t be a good solution for most families.1

 

The key to getting the best internet for the lowest price is to check out your options frequently. Two years ago, you might have only had two providers in your area, but things change. Unlimited internet service in rural areas has become a goal for the FCC and many politicians, who have passed the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and proposed additional measures to expand rural internet options with unlimited data. 

You can get a list of all internet providers in your area by typing your zip code below.

Need internet? See what's available near you.

Best satellite internet

Best overall
Viasat
Viasat
Pro Bullet Prices: $30–$150/mo.
Pro Bullet Speed: 12–100 Mbps
Pro Bullet Data: 12–300 GB/mo.
Pro Bullet Availability: Nationwide in all 50 states (with limited availability in Alaska)
Pro Bullet $9.99/mo. equipment fee

Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.

Budget pricing
HughesNet
HughesNet
Pro Bullet Prices: $50–$150/mo.§
Pro Bullet Speed: 25 Mbps
Pro Bullet Data: 10–50 GB
Pro Bullet Availability: All 50 states, including AK, HI, CA, TX, IN, IL, MI, and GA
Pro Bullet $14.99/mo. equipment fee

§Requires 24 month agreement.

Most data
Starlink
Starlink (public beta test)
Pro Bullet Price: $99/mo.
Pro Bullet Speed: 50–150 Mbps
Pro Bullet Data: unlimited
Pro Bullet Availability: Northern US, parts of the UK, and lower Canada, including MI, WI, IL, ID, MT, OR, and WA
Pro Bullet $499 equipment fee (one-time purchase)

Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.

Satellite internet’s biggest advantage is availability. It doesn’t require any hard wiring through neighborhoods and roads to make it work. You just need a dish mounted on your roof and you’re good. So it’s often the only available connection on farms and in remote areas where cable and phone lines haven’t reached yet.

Satellite internet chugs along at a minimum of 12 Mbps, with some Viasat plans reaching up to 100 Mbps. Viasat is available in all 50 states of the US, although coverage in Alaska is limited to the center of the state, from Anchorage to Kotzube (but not including Nome, Fairbanks, Utqiagvik, Bethel, or the Aleutian Islands).

As long as you have a plan with enough data for your needs, HughesNet and Viasat internet speeds are fast enough to work well for most online activities (barring fast-paced multiplayer gaming).

HughesNet plans are all the same speed—25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, which is fast enough to be considered broadband. HughesNet is available in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. HughesNet has the widest availability of any internet provider and can deliver service to all Americans, whether they live in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, or far out in the Florida Keys. HughesNet is also available in parts of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. 

The main drawback with satellite internet is the data caps. Satellite data is usually metered—yes, even on the unlimited plans—and your speeds will slow way down once you reach the priority data cap. If you reach your data cap before the end of the month, you can keep using data without penalty, but it’s slowed down to 1 to 3 Mbps—still much faster than dial-up, but a big decline from your speeds earlier in the month. Also, you may experience low performance during storms, as weather can interfere with the satellite connection.

The only satellite internet provider with totally unlimited data is Starlink, which is in a public beta phase. Starlink currently offers speeds of 50–140 Mbps. Once Starlink’s satellite constellation is fully built out, Starlink speeds could increase up to 300 Mbps. Starlink is also the best satellite provider for fast paced gaming since it has low latency (or delay). Although the service isn't fully launched, Starlink's public beta is available to some customers living in the northern US, the UK, and lower Canada, including parts of the US states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

Pros
Pro Bullet Wide availability
Pro Bullet Speeds faster than dial-up or DSL
Cons
Con Bullet High latency (except for Starlink)
Con Bullet Occasional performance issues with weather

We recommend Viasat because it has faster speeds and higher data caps—both HughesNet and Viasat limit your data usage based on the plan you pay for. After you use up all your full-speed data, your speeds slow to 1 to 3 Mbps.

But look out for Viasat’s price hikes after the introductory period ends. After three months, Viasat prices go up by 33%. If you prefer a lower price overall, check out HughesNet. HughesNet prices stay the same for 24 months. And after that, maybe Verizon LTE Home Internet or Starlink will be in your area.

New LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellite technology from companies like Starlink and OneWeb are changing the standards of satellite internet. But LEO isn't the only change in satellite internet. In the next few years, HughesNet and Viasat will be also be launching new satellite systems that deliver increased internet speed and reduced latency to their customers.

As these innovations hit the industry over the next few years, we expect to see higher data caps, less lag, and faster speeds across the board. Hooray!

Best DSL internet

Best overall
CenturyLink
Centurylink
Pro Bullet Prices: $49/mo.*
Pro Bullet Speeds: 20–100 Mbps
Pro Bullet Data cap: 1 TB
Pro Bullet Availability: 36 states, including PA, NJ, OH, MI, WA, MO, AL, TX, OR, WY, MT, WI, MN, UT, ID, VA, NC, FL, GA
*Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply. Speeds may not be available in your area.
Budget pricing
ATT
AT&T
Pro Bullet Prices: $45/mo.*
Pro Bullet Speeds: 10–100 Mbps
Pro Bullet Data cap: 1 TB
Pro Bullet Availability: 21 states, including CA, NV, TX, OK, KS, MO, AR, IL, IN, KY, OH, WI, MI, TN, NC, SC, GA, AL, FL, MS, and LA.
for 12 mos, plus taxes & equip. fee. $10/mo equip. fee applies. Incl 1TB data/mo. overage chrgs apply

While there are only a few satellite ISPs, you’ve got a handful of choices when it comes to a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) connection. Two standouts in this area are CenturyLink and AT&T, though EarthLink, Frontier, and Windstream also offer DSL.

We chose CenturyLink as your best bet, mostly due to its contract-free plans and unlimited data caps. You won’t have to pay early termination fees (ETFs) if you choose to switch providers at any point during your subscription.

Plus, its unlimited data plans mean you can skip out on overage charges at the end of the month—regardless of how much data you use.

Compared to other ISPs that tie you into contracts with a plethora of hidden fees, CenturyLink’s approach is a breath of fresh air.

You can get CenturyLink home internet in parts of 36 states: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. CenturyLink isn’t available in California, Oklahoma, the New England states, Hawaii, or Alaska.

AT&T is another great option for rural internet, offering DSL internet speeds up to  100 Mbps in some areas (although your available speed will vary based on your location). Some rural areas are still stuck with much lower speeds, however (10 Mbps or less in some locations). That might not be fast enough for high-speed gaming on multiple devices, but luckily we’re not all Fortnite gaming champions.

AT&T home internet is available in 21 states: California, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida.

Like CenturyLink, AT&T gives you oodles of data—1,000 GB (or 1 TB) per month. Compare that with satellite internet data thresholds of 12–300 GB per month and you can see why people often pick DSL over satellite if it’s available, especially if they like video streaming.

Pros
Pro Bullet Decent speeds
Pro Bullet Plenty of data
Cons
Con Bullet Lower quality service if you’re far from ISP

With either CenturyLink or AT&T Internet, you will have a data cap. But it’s huge—it’ll take you some serious streaming, downloading, and uploading to hit that 1 TB limit.

If you don’t want that data cap hanging over your head, both Frontier and Windstream don’t have one. Free at last!

Heads up
Bullhorn
Some DSL providers offer speeds up to 1,000 Mbps.

If you’re browsing CenturyLink’s site and stumble upon its 940 Mbps plan, don’t be shocked.

By augmenting the DSL line with a fiber connection, many ISPs—CenturyLink included—can offer gigabit speeds. Don’t get your hopes up just yet though. If you live in a rural area, it’s quite likely you won’t get these speeds. Bummer, we know. Still, it’s always worth checking.

Best fixed wireless

Best overall
ATT
AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet
Pro Bullet Prices: $59.99/mo.*
Pro Bullet Speeds: 10 Mbps or faster
Pro Bullet Data cap: 350 GB*
Pro Bullet Availability: 20 states, including CA, NV, KS, OK, TX, MO, AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, NC, FL, KY, IN, OH, IL, MI, and WI

*Price with one-year contract. Data overage charges apply as follows: $10 for each additional 50 GB of data, not to exceed $50/mo.

Most data
Rise Broadband
Rise Broadband
Pro Bullet Prices: $39.95/mo.–$64.95*
Pro Bullet Speeds: 50 Mbps
Pro Bullet Data cap: 250 GB–unlimited
Pro Bullet Availability: 23 states including GA, MN, WI, IL, IN, OH, MI, CA, NV, KS, MI, AR, OK, TX, FL, and more

*Speeds and prices may vary and are subject to change. Prices are with a 12-mo. agreement, plus taxes & equip fees

Fixed wireless is slowly replacing DSL in rural America, and we can’t wait to see its coverage expand more. If this is the first time you’re hearing about fixed wireless, you should know right now that it’s not Wi-Fi nor is it satellite or mobile internet.

In a nutshell, fixed-wireless providers beam your internet connection from a fixed location to an antenna installed on your roof. This signal then goes to your router, which broadcasts a happy home Wi-Fi network that you use to connect your laptop, Xbox, smart TV, and other devices to the internet.

Fixed-wireless internet in rural areas can give you an affordable internet connection at speeds that clip along fast enough to support online schooling and telecommuting. Fixed-wireless internet might not deliver the racing speeds needed for competitive online gaming, but it delivers much more data for the price than other options can give you. We highly recommend it for folks who can get it. Check out our in-depth review of the best fixed-wireless providers if you're interested.

Pros
Pro Bullet Moderate availability
Pro Bullet Lower latency
Cons
Con Bullet Unavailable in some areas
Con Bullet Low data caps

But if you’ve got a clear view from your roof, fixed wireless can be a huge step up from DSL. Rise Broadband offers speeds up to 50 Mbps. That’s not bad, considering we’ve seen DSL speeds of about 2 Mbps while visiting family in rural Wisconsin.

One downside to fixed wireless is that some providers set data caps. Most fixed wireless data caps are not as low or limiting as satellite internet’s standard caps of 10–100 GB per month, but several wireless providers do charge you extra if you hit your max, rather than slowing you down like satellite does.

Currently, Rise Broadband offers you either a less expensive 250 GB limit or a more expensive unlimited plan. Rise Broadband is available in the following states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, California, Nevada, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

AT&T Fixed Wireless gives you 250 GB each month and charges you an additional $10 for every 10 GB of data you use each month, up to a monthly cap of $50 per month. If you’ve got kids who love to stream every single Disney movie, they’ll eat up data fast.

Keep an eye on AT&T’s fixed wireless because the company has big plans to implement 5G technology in the years ahead, which means faster speeds. Currently, AT&T Internet is available in the following states: California, Nevada, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida.

Best 4G LTE home internet

Lowest price
Verizon
Verizon LTE Home Internet
Pro Bullet Prices: $40–$60/mo.
Pro Bullet Typical speed: 25–50 Mbps
Pro Bullet Data: Unlimited
Pro Bullet Availability: 39 states including TX, GA, OH, IA, IL, WA, CO, MI, UT, ID, and more
Best 5G coverage
T Mobile
T-Mobile Home Internet
Pro Bullet Prices: $50/mo.
Pro Bullet Typical speed: 25 Mbps
Pro Bullet Data: Unlimited
Pro Bullet Availability: 48 states including TX, MI, CA, NY, MI, MT, IN, HI, IA, CO, IL, and GA
Best for RV
Nomad Internet
Nomad Internet
Pro Bullet Prices: $129–$149/mo.
Pro Bullet Typical speed: 25 Mbps
Pro Bullet Data: Unlimited
Pro Bullet Availability: 48 states, including CA, TX, MI, NM, AZ, GA, FL, NE, IN, IA, ID, WY, and moreView plans

You’re likely already familiar with the three big contenders for mobile wireless: AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint, and Verizon.

If you’ve ever wished you could get unlimited cell phone data and cancel your expensive satellite internet service then you’re in luck—because dozens of providers now offer LTE home internet service. For folks who live away from cable and fiber infrastructure, but within cell phone coverage areas, 4G LTE internet is an excellent option. It gives you average download speeds of 25 to 50 Mbps and (oh happy day!) unlimited data.

If you Verizon LTE Home Internet to a mobile phone plan, it’s just $40 per month. If you get it alone, it’s $60. Just a heads up, though: you’ll need to buy Verizon’s $240 modem/router up front. Also, even though the service is provided through mobile data, Verizon LTE Home Internet service is tied to your location so it isn’t portable.

Currently, you can get Verizon home internet in parts of 39 states, including Texas, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Utah, Idaho, and many more. Verizon home internet is not currently available in Alaska, several New England states, Kentucky, or California.

If Verizon isn’t available in your area yet, there are a few other LTE home internet providers to try. T-Mobile offers a similar plan called T-Mobile Home Internet for $60 per month (with paperless billing and autopay discounts). It’s not available everywhere with T-Mobile coverage just yet, but coverage areas are growing.

T-Mobile home internet is available in parts of 48 states, including Michigan, California, New York, Missouri, Montana, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Hawaii, Colorado, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and many other states. You can download a list of T-Mobile home internet coverage areas on the T-Mobile website. T-Mobile limits the number of subscribers in each metro area, so if your

Many MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) also offer a home LTE internet service (sometimes advertised as an unlimited mobile hotspot data plan). These providers buy data from one of the big three carriers and resell it as individual home internet plans.

Prices vary based primarily on which data network you’ll be using (Verizon is the most expensive, then AT&T, and the cheapest is T-Mobile). Many LTE home internet plans are portable, like Nomad Internet which you can take with you on trips and in RVs.  Ladybug Wireless and UbiFi offer similar services. Nomad Internet is available in Illinois, Michigan, Texas, California, Washington, Colorado, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Idaho, and many other states.

Pros
Pro Bullet Unlimited data
Pro Bullet Typical download speeds 25–50 Mbps
Cons
Con Bullet Only available in areas with cell phone service
Con Bullet Patchy coverage in rural areas

We chose Verizon as our top pick for home internet from a mobile carrier, mainly due to its high marks for coverage from OpenSignal and RootMetrics. In fact, you won’t find better coverage from any other wireless provider. Verizon and T-Mobile aren't the only companies to offer home internet using cellular data.

Nomad Internet, Ladybug Wireless, and UbiFi operate on AT&T and T-Mobile towers. MVNO LTE home internet plans cost more than getting a home internet plan directly from T-Mobile or Verizon, although they’re available almost everywhere, are fully portable, and you can take them with you anywhere there’s cell service. You can also get one of these plans and use it as an unlimited mobile hotspot.

Pro tip
Info
Save money by signing up for paperless billing and autopay.

Many internet providers offer you monthly discounts if you sign up for paperless billing and autopay. Usually it’s to the tune of $5–10 per month per line, which adds up fast.

What to look for when buying rural internet

Now that you know more options are out there than just dial-up and satellite, it’s time to start shopping.

Along with your personal needs, what should you keep in mind when shopping for rural internet? Here’s our take.

Price

Price is a huge factor for most of us, and sadly, many of your rural internet options don’t come cheap. But there are a few ways you can keep the cost under control:

  1. Don’t buy more data than you need. If you use only 50 GB of data each month, you don't need the top-tier plan with 300 GB of data. Households that don't do video streaming or online gaming can get by with smaller data plans. All the same, don't scrimp too much or you'll be slowed for part of the month or pay extra in data overage fees. Monitor your data usage for a month with your current plan and look for a plan with a data cap to match.
  2. Watch out for price hikes. Read the fine print. Companies like Viasat start with competitive rates, but you’ll end up paying more each month after the first few months. For a price that won’t change, try HughesNet—or grab a CenturyLink Price for Life plan.
  3. Compare equipment costs. How much does it cost to rent or buy the equipment you’ll need? And what about installation? Keep these fees in mind when you compare options, and don’t be afraid to ask for a discount or waiver.

Speeds

Speed can be another tempting reason to throw all your money at your internet connection, but you may need less than you think. Here’s what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends:

  • Social media, email, and browsing the internet: 1 Mbps
  • Streaming video in standard definition (480p): 3–4 Mbps
  • Streaming video in high definition (720p): 5–8 Mbps
  • Streaming video in 4K: 25 Mbps
  • Gaming: 3–4 Mbps

Keep in mind that you’ll want more speed if you have multiple people or devices using your internet connection at the same time.

Data caps

Data caps can be a real killjoy. But if you’re looking for high-speed internet in rural areas, you’ll run into many internet options that have data caps. Verizon LTE Home Internet and T-Mobile Home Internet stand out as being truly unlimited data options in rural areas. The good news is that if you're mainly using the internet to check stock prices, email your mom, and chat with friends on Facebook, you probably won’t hit your data cap.

For those of us who love to stream shows on Netflix, game, or upload lots of files, data usage is something we should keep an eye on. Or you can play it safe by grabbing a plan with a high or unlimited data cap, like HughesNet’s 50 GB plan or Rise Broadband’s 500 GB plans.

Internet data saving tip
Info

The majority of data use in American households is from video streaming. You can save a lot on entertainment (and internet data) by getting satellite TV service from DIRECTV or DISH rather than streaming through your internet connection. And if satellite TV costs too much, try a local TV antenna. You can get local stations for free with a good TV antenna for under $50.

Availability

The lack of internet provider choices in rural areas is a sad reality in our country. In 2020, the FCC reported that 22.3% of rural Americans do not have broadband internet access (which the FCC defines as download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps).

Chances are if you live in a rural area, you know all too well about the lack of affordable internet options. That’s why availability is such a key factor in deciding which ISP to use.

Satellite and DSL are perhaps some of your best options in terms of availability. Satellites can beam down an internet connection to pretty much anywhere, and DSL hooks up to your existing phone lines.

But with the expansion of fixed wireless and mobile wireless networks, you may not have to give up a zippy internet connection just to enjoy some peace and quiet in the country.

Why is it so hard to get fast internet access in rural areas?

It’s hard to get fast internet access in rural America because the government doesn’t treat internet as a basic utility (like landline phone and electricity service). Countries like Taiwan, Sweden, Spain, Finland, the UK, and many others consider broadband internet access to be an essential service and have invested heavily in building out the infrastructure to deliver broadband universal service.

In the past, the United States government has not taken an active approach in building out broadband internet access. Instead, internet providers have funded infrastructure build-outs themselves, with some government subsidies. This approach has caused a patchwork of internet providers to sprout up across the country, and many rural areas have been overlooked because internet companies view infrastructure build-outs in rural and remote areas as too expensive.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolled out the Connect America Fund, which has helped build out infrastructure in some rural areas. But many areas still remain unconnected (or hampered by slow dial-up speeds). Currently, satellite internet providers, DSL, 4G home internet, mobile phones, and fixed-wireless service help keep rural America connected, but it's generally at slower speeds than in metropolitan areas.

The good news is that new technologies for rural communities are emerging. For example, Starlink satellite internet service (coming soon) may deliver the speed and data rural Americans need to access information, work, and learn online at fast speeds that aren't too expensive.

Looking for rural internet? Now you’ve got choices behind doors one, two, three, and four.

Between satellite internet, DSL, fixed wireless, and 4G LTE home internet, you should be able to find a rural internet option in your area. A steady internet connection will enable you to read the news online, watch Netflix, take classes, and video chat with friends and family from the comfort of your own home. 

Hopefully we’ll see even more internet options make their way to rural areas in the future, when LTE home internet providers and Starlink expand further into rural areas. But for now, we’re just glad that options are expanding.

FAQ

What is the best internet service for rural areas?

We’d have to say the best internet service for rural areas is 4G LTE home internet, DSL, or satellite internet, based on price, availability, speeds, and data. Satellite internet is available almost everywhere, but the data caps make it a second-choice option for people who like to stream video. That's why we recommend checking out all your options before you sign up for satellite internet.

Satellite internet has massive availability going for it—you just can’t beat that with any other type of internet. You don't need to live near a cellphone tower, in a neighborhood with cable lines, or even have landline phone service to get satellite internet. As Viasat and HughesNet continue to upgrade, and providers like Starlink, Project Kuiper, and OneWeb enter the industry, we hope it’s only going to get better.

As HughesNet and Viasat continue to upgrade with new satellite systems, and residential internet providers like Starlink (from SpaceX) and Project Kuiper (funded by Amazon) enter the industry in the next few years, we hope satellite internet is going to get better and better.

We recommend that you check available options and find the best one for your needs.

Best rural internet providers:

Should I get fixed-wireless internet service?

If you can get fixed wireless, go for it. Often the prices are quite affordable in comparison to other types of rural internet service, and as long as you don’t need download speeds faster than 50 Mbps, you’re good to go on speed too.

Of course, that data cap could be a huge downer. If you need to use more data than fixed-wireless internet offers, check out 4G LTE home internet, DSL, or satellite internet instead. Verizon’s LTE Home Internet is one of the few unlimited options for rural areas, and if you’ve already got Verizon phone service, adding home internet is just $40 per month.

Is there any unlimited satellite internet?

Technically, Viasat and HughesNet do offer unlimited satellite internet plans, but you'll have a limited amount of full-speed data and then unlimited data at reduced speeds. These providers slow your speed once you’ve met your plan's data threshold, which can mean speeds of 3 Mbps or slower until it resets for the next month.

If you're looking for unlimited internet service in rural areas and you don't have access to cable internet, check out LTE Home Internet from Verizon. T-Mobile also offers unlimited rural internet plans. Fixed-wireless providers near you could also offer a generous amount of data or even an unlimited amount.

You can see if or find out if Starlink is coming to your area soon. During the public Starlink beta, you can get unlimited data for $99 per month. There's no final word on whether the unlimited data perk will stay once Starlink is officially launched (remember, it's still undergoing a public beta), but Starlink's unlimited satellite data is great for now.

What internet speed can I get in rural areas?

You can usually get internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps from satellite internet providers HughesNet or Viasat in rural areas, although 12 Mbps or slower is the fastest available speed in some rural locations. The fastest internet speeds of 1 Gbps and higher are from fiber and cable providers, which aren’t available in rural areas.

How can I find fixed-wireless providers where I live?

You can find fixed wireless providers in your area by typing your zip code on our internet search page. We’ll search through thousands of providers to find all internet companies in your area (including fixed wireless).

Sources

1. Toledo, Rob, “REPORT: The Average Household’s Internet Data Usage Has Jumped 38x in 10 Years,” April 2020. Accessed March 25, 2021.


10 fastest and slowest rural areas for internet

If you’re daydreaming about escaping the city for a farmhouse in New England, you aren’t alone. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many remote workers are selling downtown condos and moving to the country, where social distancing is easier, outdoor recreation opportunities abound, and real estate is more affordable.1,2,3 But not all rural areas have decent internet speeds—and a good internet speed is one thing we know you’ll want wherever you go.  

So, where can you escape the city and still get reliable internet? Let’s look at the data.

Quick stats
Light Bulb

  • Hyden, KY (4.2 Mbps): Rural area with the slowest average internet speed in the US
  • Boardman, OR (103.8 Mbps): Rural area with the fastest average internet speed in the US
  • 45.9 Mbps: National average for all rural speed tests completed
  • 592: Number of rural US cities ranked

According to the FCC’s 2020 Broadband Deployment Report, 22.3% of rural Americans don’t have access to internet download speeds of at least 25 Mbps (which is the recommended speed for working from home and online schooling).4,5 And the numbers are even worse on Tribal lands, where 32.1% of Americans don’t have access to internet speeds of 25 Mbps.5 

Yet in metropolitan areas, only 1.5% of Americans lack access to these same speeds.5 Rural America’s lackluster internet speeds contribute to the homework gap and a lower percentage of college graduates when compared to Americans living in metropolitan areas.6,7

The most common reason for slow rural internet is that it’s expensive for internet providers to expand and update infrastructure, so it’s less financially motivating to expand to rural areas with fewer people. 

To counteract this, the US government is trying to incentivize wider broadband rollouts to underserved areas through programs like the Connect America Fund. Satellite internet providers like Viasat and HughesNet help bring internet access to rural areas, and next-generation satellite provider Starlink (by SpaceX) will benefit rural communities with faster speeds and lower latency in the near future. 

Fastest and slowest internet in America’s rural areas

We combed through data from more than one million internet speed tests and found the rural areas in the US with the fastest and slowest internet. All the fastest areas have average download speeds over 100 Mbps. So if you want to telecommute from a rural area, make sure you avoid the slow spots. And if you’re in one of the slower areas—now is a great time to petition for better broadband.

Rural areas with the slowest internet

  1. Hyden, KY (4.2 Mbps)
  2. White Hall, AR (5.4 Mbps)
  3. Yale, MI (5.9 Mbps)
  4. Farmington, ME (6.4 Mbps)
  5. Stevensville, MT (6.6 Mbps)
  6. Stowe, VT (7.3 Mbps)
  7. Blue Hill, ME (7.3 Mbps)
  8. Fairfax, VT (7.5 Mbps)
  9. Caldwell, TX (7.7 Mbps)
  10. Mountain View, AR (7.7 Mbps)
  11. Winnemucca, NV (8.3 Mbps)
  12. Bellville, OH (8.3 Mbps)
  13. Mariposa, CA (8.6 Mbps)
  14. Kingston, WA (9.2 Mbps)
  15. Merrill, WI (10.3 Mbps)
  16. Linden, TN (10.9 Mbps)
  17. Sylva, NC (11 Mbps)
  18. Pecos, TX (11.1 Mbps)
  19. Spring Hill, KS (11.2 Mbps)
  20. Grayson, KY (11.2 Mbps)

America’s slowest rural cities are all over the map, but there are a few trends. For example, the rural area with the slowest internet speeds is a small town in the Appalachian mountains (Hyden, Kentucky). Several other slow internet areas are located near geographical features as well (including lakes, rivers, and mountains) that make it more expensive to install faster internet infrastructure.

Rural areas with the fastest internet

  1. Boardman, OR (103.8 Mbps)
  2. Madisonville, LA (101.7 Mbps)
  3. Rifle, CO (96.7 Mbps)
  4. Pulaski, VA (96.6 Mbps)
  5. Seaford, DE (96.4 Mbps)
  6. Ware, MA (92.0 Mbps)
  7. Barnegat, NJ (90.1 Mbps)
  8. Lock Haven, PA (89.5 Mbps)
  9. Cotati, CA (89.0 Mbps)
  10. Valley, AL (86.6 Mbps)
  11. Winchester, CA (85.9 Mbps)
  12. Avon, CO (83.2 Mbps)
  13. El Cerrito (82.8 Mbps)
  14. Inwood, WV (82.4 Mbps)
  15. Reedsburg, WI (81.3 Mbps)
  16. Mahopac, NY (79.8 Mbps)
  17. Scottsville, KY (79.7 Mbps)
  18. Erwin, TN (78.8 Mbps)
  19. Ruckersville, VA (78.7 Mbps)
  20. Chilhowie, VA (77.9 Mbps)

Like we’ve seen in past years, most of the fastest rural areas are located on the East Coast. But the Western US is getting faster and this year, cities in Colorado, California, and Oregon boasted a place among the fastest. 

If you’re wondering how 2020 results compare to 2019, check out our 2019 map of the fastest and slowest internet in rural areas.

How we got our results

Our data comes from speed tests taken on HighSpeedInternet.com. We examined results from more than one million US speed tests to find the fastest and slowest average rural internet speeds.

We defined a “rural” city as a community with a population of less than 10,000 people that is geographically removed from an urban city, which we qualified as meaning it’s at least an hour drive away from the nearest major city. We also filtered out locations with fewer than 50 speed test results to ensure accurate representation of the city’s average speed. In all, we ranked and researched nearly 600 rural cities in the US.

Because the rural cities are ranked by average speed, it is entirely possible to find much faster- or slower-than-average internet speeds in any given area. These numbers do not represent actual internet speeds but are a reflection of the average tested internet connection in an area.

  1. Haag, Matthew, New York Times, "Manhattan Vacancy Rate Climbs, and Rents Drop 10%," August 18, 2020. Accessed September 8, 2020.
  2. Parker, Will, New York Times, "Once Booming San Francisco Apartment Market Goes in Reverse," June 2020, Accessed September 8, 2020.
  3. Wong, May, Stanford News, “Stanford Research Provides a Snapshot of a New Working-from-Home Economy,” June 2020. Accessed September 15, 2020
  4. Federal Communications Commission, “Broadband Speed Guide,” February 2020. Accessed September 15, 2020.
  5. Federal Communications Commission, “2020 Broadband Deployment Report,” April 2020. Accessed September 15, 2020.
  6. National Education Administration, “COVID-19 Exposes Homework Gap and Digital Divide,” April 2020. Accessed September 10, 2020.
  7. USDA, “Rural Education at a Glance,” April 2017. Accessed September 11, 2020. 
Kristin Cooke
Written by
Kristin Cooke
After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Utah, Kristin learned to geek speak while working as a technical recruiter, interviewing software developers and tech companies. For over 20 years, she has created award-winning content for technology, health, and finance companies. Kristin is an advocate for affordable internet for all and writes about rural internet solutions, satellite internet news, and tech products at SatelliteInternet.com. Her work has been featured in New York Post, PCMag, Forbes, Business Insider, Telecompetitor, Space.com, and The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.