The best rural internet provider is Viasat because it consistently delivers on speed and availability, which is a big deal in the rural internet community. Viasat is available nationwide and offers speeds up to 100 Mbps for some rural Americans. It’s definitely not the cheapest rural internet option, but it delivers faster speeds than HughesNet, CenturyLink DSL, and most fixed-wireless internet options. It’s also the only rural internet provider that’s available in all 50 states, no matter how far off the grid you live.
Best Rural Internet Providers of 2022
Data as of 12/21/20. *Promotional price is for the first 3 months. Regular internet rate applies after 3 months.
**Paperless billing or prepay required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Get the fastest internet speed available at your location (max speed is up to 100 Mbps).
*** Price is with paperless billing and auto pay discount applied. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Our pick: Which rural internet provider is best?
The 5 best rural internet providers
|Nationwide||$30.00–$169.99/mo.†||Up to 100 Mbps||Up to 300 GB||View Plans|
|36 states||$50.00/mo.*||Up to 100 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|48 states||$40.00–$60.00/mo.**||25–50 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|50 states||$129.00–$149.00/mo||2–150 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|16 states||$35.00–$65.00/mo.||25–50 Mbps||250 GB–Unlimited||View Plans|
Data as of 12/21/2021. 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.
What should you look for in a rural internet provider?
But let’s keep it real. If you’re a rural resident, we don’t need to tell you that rural internet options are disappointing compared to what you can get in more crowded areas, so it’s important to start your search with the right expectations. With rural internet, just know upfront that you’ll be paying more each month for less speed and less data than you would in the city.
That said, it truly is amazing just how far rural internet coverage can go—especially with nationwide providers like Viasat and HughesNet. And finding the best rural internet provider for you can make your life possible, whether you want to work remotely from your farm in Montana or travel the country in your RV for the summer.
Once you know which rural providers are available, the next step is finding a plan that’s the right balance of speed, data, and price. You don’t want to pay for more speed or data than you need to if monthly cost is an important factor for you.
Best overall: Viasat
Data as of 12/21/20. *Promotional price is for the first 3 months. Regular internet rate applies after 3 months. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.
We recommend Viasat because it has faster speeds and higher data caps than HughesNet—but both HughesNet and Viasat limit your data usage based on the plan you pay for. It’s an unfortunate fact of “unlimited” satellite internet that after you use up all your full-speed data, your speeds slow to 1 to 3 Mbps.
So, yeah, the data situation isn’t ideal. But Viasat’s biggest advantage is availability. It’s often the only available internet connection (along with HughesNet) in many rural communities where cable and phone lines haven’t reached yet.
Viasat internet chugs along at a minimum of 12 Mbps, with some Viasat plans reaching up to 100 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.
As long as you have a plan with enough data for your needs, Viasat internet speeds are fast enough to work well for most online activities (barring fast-paced multiplayer gaming). One drawback to be aware of is that you may experience low performance during storms, as weather can interfere with the satellite connection.
The only satellite internet provider with totally unlimited data without slowdowns is Starlink, which is in a public beta phase, so availability is highly limited. Starlink currently offers speeds of 100–200 Mbps. Once Starlink’s satellite constellation is fully built out, Starlink speeds could continue to increase. Starlink also has lower latency (or delay) than Viasat and HughesNet, with some locations experiencing latency as low as 20 ms.
In the next few years, HughesNet and Viasat will also be launching new satellite systems that will deliver increased internet speeds and reduced latency to their customers, making them possibly even better alternatives than Starlink despite Elon Musk’s best efforts.
Best rural DSL internet: CenturyLink
CenturyLink is your best bet for DSL internet in a rural area, 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 lack of data caps means you can skip out on overage charges at the end of the month—regardless of how much data you use. This is good news for streamers and online gamers.
DSL is an older internet technology that relies on telephone lines. So, if you live in a remote rural area where there’s no infrastructure, CenturyLink is likely not on the table for you. DSL usually tops out at 100 Mbps, which is the fastest speed you can expect from a CenturyLink DSL plan. This is enough speed for one person to do most things they want to do online easily, but things could get sluggish if multiple people are sharing the connection—especially if you experience a slowdown, which is common with DSL.
That said, for how much speed and data you get for $50 per month, CenturyLink is much cheaper than Viasat and other rural internet providers. If you live in a rural area and CenturyLink is available, we recommend you go with that over Viasat to get the most for your money.
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 fiber-based speeds. Bummer, we know. Still, it’s always worth checking.
Best 4G LTE internet
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. For folks who live away from cable and fiber infrastructure but within cell phone coverage areas, 4G LTE internet from Verizon is an excellent option. It gives you average download speeds of 25 to 50 Mbps and that blessed unlimited data.
But where things really start to get good is if you already have Verizon cell service. If you add Verizon 4G LTE Home Internet to a qualifying mobile phone plan, it’s just $40 per month (with paperless billing, autopay, and not including taxes and fees). If you get Verizon Home Internet without bundling it with a cell phone plan, it’s $60 per month. 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.
Best for RV internet: Nomad Internet
Nomad Internet is another LTE internet option that you can take with you on trips in RVs. Nomad Internet is available nationwide, so you’ll get coverage all the way from Florida to California. However, your speeds will increase or decrease depending on your proximity to the nearest cell tower.
Nomad Internet operates on AT&T and T-Mobile towers. MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) LTE home internet plans cost more than getting a home internet plan directly from T-Mobile or Verizon. But the benefit of providers like Nomad is that 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.
Nomad Internet also offers two different types of equipment: there’s a stationary router that requires being plugged into your power supply and there’s a portable router that has a 4–5 hour battery life. So you’re covered with internet service whether you want to stick around the RV or venture out to blog from the beach.
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, which adds up fast.
Best fixed wireless rural internet: Rise Broadband
*Speeds and prices may vary and are subject to change. Prices are with a 12-mo. agreement, plus taxes & equip fees
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.
Fixed wireless internet service is slowly replacing DSL in rural America, which is a good thing. It’s more widely available, doesn’t require a phone line, and offers faster speeds than DSL in many cases.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about fixed wireless, you should know that it functions differently than a hotspot or satellite internet. But it’s still just as viable of an option for rural America. 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 home Wi-Fi network. It’s a cheaper way to bring faster internet speeds to rural areas rather than waiting on big ISPs to install expensive and labor-intensive underground cabling.
One downside to Rise Broadband and fixed wireless in general is that some plans have data caps, depending on your plan and how much you’re willing to pay. Most fixed wireless data caps are not as low or limiting as satellite internet’s data caps that start at 10 GB per month, but several fixed wireless providers do charge you extra if you hit your max, rather than just slowing you down like satellite internet does.
Our verdict: Go with Viasat unless CenturyLink is available.
We recommend Viasat as the best internet option for the most rural residents. Its nationwide availability combined with its above-average speeds (which will only continue to improve with the launch of its new satellite ViaSat-3) make it a great solution for anyone living in a rural community, from the local bar owner to a remote worker trying out cabin life.
That said, satellite internet is inherently expensive and offers less data for the price. So if you’re someone who needs data more than speed and doesn’t want to fork out more than $50 a month for internet service, go with CenturyLink DSL. It’s often the only landline internet option available for rural residents—if it’s available at all. Your best bet is to check all your internet options where you live first and then make your final decision from there.
FAQ about rural internet providers
Why aren’t there more rural internet options?
There aren’t many rural internet options because internet infrastructure is expensive to build in rural areas. The best internet options are usually based on fiber or cable, and it takes a significant investment from internet companies to lay down the necessary infrastructure for these internet types. Usually that investment is worthwhile only if the new infrastructure can reach a lot of people in a small area, which is difficult to achieve in rural areas.
That said, 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.
What is the best internet service for rural areas?
The best internet service for rural areas is satellite internet from Viasat or HughesNet, but we’d recommend Viasat because it offers faster speeds and more data. Other good rural internet options include 4G LTE home internet, DSL, and fixed wireless. Although satellite internet is often the best option, we recommend checking all your options first before signing up just in case a landline provider like CenturyLink or Xfinity happens to be available in your area.
Should I get fixed wireless internet service?
You should get fixed wireless internet service if it’s available in your area and if you want a cheaper alternative to satellite internet. 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.
Do Viasat or HughesNet offer unlimited satellite internet?
Yes, technically Viasat and HughesNet do offer unlimited satellite internet plans, but your speeds will be significantly slowed once you hit your data allotment. So far, Starlink is the only satellite provider promising truly unlimited data, but availability is still highly limited.
Can I use my cell phone as a hotspot for my home internet?
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.
- 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
- Hyden, KY (4.2 Mbps)
- White Hall, AR (5.4 Mbps)
- Yale, MI (5.9 Mbps)
- Farmington, ME (6.4 Mbps)
- Stevensville, MT (6.6 Mbps)
- Stowe, VT (7.3 Mbps)
- Blue Hill, ME (7.3 Mbps)
- Fairfax, VT (7.5 Mbps)
- Caldwell, TX (7.7 Mbps)
- Mountain View, AR (7.7 Mbps)
- Winnemucca, NV (8.3 Mbps)
- Bellville, OH (8.3 Mbps)
- Mariposa, CA (8.6 Mbps)
- Kingston, WA (9.2 Mbps)
- Merrill, WI (10.3 Mbps)
- Linden, TN (10.9 Mbps)
- Sylva, NC (11 Mbps)
- Pecos, TX (11.1 Mbps)
- Spring Hill, KS (11.2 Mbps)
- 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
- Boardman, OR (103.8 Mbps)
- Madisonville, LA (101.7 Mbps)
- Rifle, CO (96.7 Mbps)
- Pulaski, VA (96.6 Mbps)
- Seaford, DE (96.4 Mbps)
- Ware, MA (92.0 Mbps)
- Barnegat, NJ (90.1 Mbps)
- Lock Haven, PA (89.5 Mbps)
- Cotati, CA (89.0 Mbps)
- Valley, AL (86.6 Mbps)
- Winchester, CA (85.9 Mbps)
- Avon, CO (83.2 Mbps)
- El Cerrito (82.8 Mbps)
- Inwood, WV (82.4 Mbps)
- Reedsburg, WI (81.3 Mbps)
- Mahopac, NY (79.8 Mbps)
- Scottsville, KY (79.7 Mbps)
- Erwin, TN (78.8 Mbps)
- Ruckersville, VA (78.7 Mbps)
- 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.
- Haag, Matthew, New York Times, "Manhattan Vacancy Rate Climbs, and Rents Drop 10%," August 18, 2020. Accessed September 8, 2020.
- Parker, Will, New York Times, "Once Booming San Francisco Apartment Market Goes in Reverse," June 2020, Accessed September 8, 2020.
- Wong, May, Stanford News, “Stanford Research Provides a Snapshot of a New Working-from-Home Economy,” June 2020. Accessed September 15, 2020
- Federal Communications Commission, “Broadband Speed Guide,” February 2020. Accessed September 15, 2020.
- Federal Communications Commission, “2020 Broadband Deployment Report,” April 2020. Accessed September 15, 2020.
- National Education Administration, “COVID-19 Exposes Homework Gap and Digital Divide,” April 2020. Accessed September 10, 2020.
- USDA, “Rural Education at a Glance,” April 2017. Accessed September 11, 2020.