Living in a rural area comes with some benefits, but one of the downsides is access to internet services. In some rural areas, broadband options aren’t even available. While there are efforts to improve satellite internet and other rural internet options through services like Elon Musk’s Starlink, the digital divide shouldn’t prevent you from receiving internet access to work or stream your favorite shows.

We’ve researched the best internet providers in the industry to help rural homeowners find options ranging from DSL plans and mobile hotspots to fixed wireless internet plans. This guide will cover some of the top internet service providers (ISPs) for rural areas in terms of cost, speeds, benefits and drawbacks.

Our Top Picks

  • ViaSat
  • AT&T
  • CenturyLink
  • Kinetic
  • SuddenLink
  • Mediacom
  • HughesNet
  • Rise

ViaSat: Best for Rural Areas

  • Monthly cost: $40–$150 (two-year price-lock guarantee)
  • Broadband options: Satellite
  • Speeds: 12 Mbps–100 Mbps (download); 3 Mbps (upload)

ViaSat is one of the best ISPs for those in rural areas. It provides satellite internet and can offer services wherever you live, whether you’re in the countryside of Alabama or in the Alaska wilderness. It provides 100 Mbps download speeds in some areas, though a speed closer to 25 or 30 Mbps is more realistic for those in deep rural areas.

ViaSat is one of the most affordable internet providers available, with plans starting at $40 per month. One downside to the company is that it requires a two-year contract. However, this contract guarantees the same price for your internet plan for two years. If you pair this with ViaSat’s 24/7 customer service via phone and online chat, the company makes for a great option for those planning to reside in a rural area for at least two years.

AT&T: Best TV Bundle

  • Monthly cost: $35–$60 (starting cost for 12 months)
  • Broadband options: DSL, fixed wireless, cable and fiber-optic
  • Speeds: 300 Mbps–1,000 Mbps (equal download and upload)

AT&T is known for providing national coverage through its cell phone service, and the same goes for its internet services. Unlike some other providers on this list, AT&T’s solution to provide strong internet to rural areas is through fixed wireless internet. This plan costs $60 per month and provides a download speed of 25 Mbps and an upload speed of 1 Mbps. It does not require the installation of a satellite dish. Think of this plan as a mobile hotspot that’s permanently installed in your home via an external antenna.

AT&T provides some of the best bundles for TV and streaming services with its cable and fiber-optic internet plans. Its fixed wireless internet plan also includes an excellent TV bundle with DirecTV. This bundle provides the internet service above plus connections for multiple devices, over 160 channels, and three free months of HBO Max, Cinemax, SHOWTIME, STARZ and EPIX.

  • Monthly cost: $50 and up (starting cost for 12 months)
  • Broadband options: DSL, cable and fiber-optic
  • Speeds: 10 Mbps–940 Mbps (download); 940 Mbps (max upload)

CenturyLink provides reputable customer service, which is difficult to come by in the internet service market. The company offers a variety of tools on its user-friendly website, such as a speed test, service appointment manager, online chat, service troubleshooter and outage checker.

Though CenturyLink offers various cable and fiber-optic plans, the company’s primary offering for rural communities is its DSL plan, Simply Unlimited Internet. This plan uses existing phone lines and provides speeds that range from 15 to 100 Mbps. It costs around $50 per month. CenturyLink features its services in 36 states, so we recommend contacting the company to learn about the options available in your ZIP code.

Kinetic: Best Security Add-On

  • Monthly cost: $37 and up
  • Broadband options: DSL, cable and fiber-optic
  • Speeds: 200 Mbps–1,000 Mbps (download); 1 Mbps–1,000 Mbps (upload)

Kinetic offers industry-standard internet plans to difficult-to-reach areas throughout the southern and midwestern United States. Kinetic is a great choice for those who stream videos or work remotely, as the company features unlimited data for all of its plans. Additionally, customers will avoid long-term commitments with Kinetic since the company doesn’t require annual contracts.

Kinetic protects you and your family with its security add-on, Kinetic Secure. For an extra $10 per month, Kinetic provides enhanced internet security via browsing protection, parental controls and safeguards against malware, ransomware and viruses and includes Identity Theft Protection.

  • Monthly cost: $25–$75 (starting cost for first 12 months)
  • Broadband options: DSL, cable and fiber-optic
  • Speeds: 100 Mbps–1,000 Mbps (download); 10 Mbps–100 Mbps (upload)

Suddenlink provides its service to rural areas in the southern and midwestern U.S. The company provides internet through cable connections, so those who have access to Suddenlink will receive better download speeds than if they were to use satellite internet options.

The company offers competitive pricing for its plans. For example, its Internet 100 plan offers download speeds of up to 100 Mbps for $25 per month. Suddenlink also provides its Internet 1 Gig plan for $75. This affordable fiber plan is perfect for those who play online games or those who live in larger households. Suddenlink customers can save money by bundling their internet service with cable TV and home phone services.

Mediacom

  • Monthly cost: $20–$80 (starting cost for first 12 months)
  • Broadband options: Cable and fiber-optic
  • Speeds: 60 Mbps–1,000 Mbps (download); 5 Mbps–50 Mbps (upload)

Mediacom is available in 22 states. If you’re looking for faster and more reliable internet than some of the satellite and fixed wireless options on this list, check to see if Mediacom services your ZIP code. Its Internet 100 plan is a good choice for smaller homes that watch movies on streaming services, play online games and engage in remote work. This plan also provides strong Wi-Fi, supports up to six devices and costs only $50 for 100 Mbps download speeds.

In addition to decent plans and pricing, Mediacom offers data caps based on the plans themselves. For example, its Access Internet 60 plan (60 Mbps) has a data cap of 200 gigabytes (GB), but its Internet 1 GIG plan (1,000 Mbps) features a 6,000 GB data cap. If you go over your data cap, Mediacom bills you an extra $100 for every 50 GB you go over. When compared to other providers on this list, Mediacom offers some of the cheapest pricing for rural internet access with its 60 Mbps plan, which costs only $20 per month. This plan is a good choice for a single person that streams some videos and browses social media.

HughesNet

  • Monthly cost: $60
  • Broadband options: Satellite
  • Speeds: 25 Mbps (download); 5 Mbps (upload)

Satellite internet is often the only option available in rural areas, and if this is the case with your home, you may want to consider HughesNet. The company focuses only on satellite internet and provides some of the strongest satellite speeds with a 25 Mbps download speed. This offering is enough speed to let you stream on platforms like Netflix and Hulu, as well as engage in casual web browsing on multiple devices.

HughesNet offers a 10 GB data cap plan and a 30 GB data cap plan. The 10 GB plan is a better choice for an individual, but the 30 GB plan may be better if you have multiple individuals in your household.

Rise

  • Monthly cost: $25–$40 (starting cost for first 12 months)
  • Broadband options: DSL, cable and fiber-optic
  • Speeds: 25 Mbps–50 Mbps (equal download and upload)

Similar to AT&T, Rise Broadband offers fixed wireless internet plans. Unlike AT&T, Rise offers more affordable plans starting at $25 for 25 Mbps speeds (with a 250 GB data cap). The company doesn’t include any data caps for an additional cost, and its 25 Mbps plan comes out to $50 per month with equipment rental fees and other hidden fees. This is an impressive offer and is $10 cheaper than AT&T’s fixed wireless plan for a similar internet service.

Rise also claims to have a low latency, also known as a delay in data transfer, to support online gaming, and it connects multiple devices using a strong Wi-Fi network. If you have a larger home, Rise offers mesh Wi-Fi options as an add-on. The company provides its service primarily in the Midwest.

Satellite Internet vs. Fixed Wireless Internet

Satellite internet and fixed wireless internet are two solutions offered by internet service providers to those in rural areas. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of each: 

  • Speeds: In general, internet speeds will remain similar across fixed wireless plans and satellite internet plans, and both have around a 25 Mbps download speed. Both connection types may also produce speeds as high as 1,000 Mbps. ViaSat’s satellite plans offer this speed in some locations, and both AT&T and Rise claim the same for their fixed wireless plans.
  • Latency: Latency is a delay in data transfer. This is what causes slow load times on websites and videos and makes it difficult to maintain a strong enough connection for online gaming. Latency is significantly lower for fixed wireless plans than satellite internet plans because there’s less delay due to how close the ground station is to the home. Because of this, fixed wireless is a better choice for online gaming and video streaming.
  • Pricing: Rise’s starting fixed wireless plan is affordable when compared to HughesNet and ViaSat. One thing to keep in mind when comparing the cost of each connection type is that the equipment cost for satellite internet tends to be higher than fixed wireless. Satellite dishes aren’t cheap, and HughesNet’s dish will cost you either $350 up front or $15 per month.
  • Weather: Weather is a concern more so with satellite internet than fixed wireless internet. The antennas used for fixed wireless internet are rather small and less prone to damage from storms and other environmental factors. Satellite dishes are significantly larger than the fixed wireless antennas and may be damaged during storms, which could lead to costly repairs.

Picking the Right Internet Service Provider for You

There are a lot of different options and factors to consider when picking an internet service provider (ISP). Given that many ISPs require you to sign at least a year-long contract, you certainly do not want to make a misstep. To help you choose an internet service provider that’s right for you, we’ve listed some of the major factors to consider before making a final decision:

  • Availability: One of the most significant influences on which ISP you choose will be which ones are available in your area. One ZIP code may have access to Xfinity’s fiber-optic plan, but another ZIP code may not. Determine which service providers are in your area before comparing plan options.
  • Speeds: Once you know which providers are available in your area, determine which company provides the best internet speeds. In general, fiber-optic internet plans will cover gaming, streaming and browsing across multiple devices. You may be able to save money depending on what activities you typically perform online and what speeds are required for them. Here’s a brief breakdown of internet speeds:
    • 0–10 Mbps: This is great for basic tasks on one device, such as checking email, streaming music and using search engines.
    • 11–40 Mbps: With this speed range, you can stream videos on one device, conduct video calls via FaceTime or Google Meet and engage in most online gaming for one player. This is a decent plan for those who work remotely or browse on social media.
    • 41–100 Mbps: This speed range allows you to perform the above actions plus stream HD video on a couple of devices, play multiplayer online games and download large files.
    • 101–500 Mbps: This is perhaps the most popular internet speed range. These speeds allow you to stream HD video on multiple devices, download files faster and play online games for multiple people.
    • 500+ Mbps: This speed will allow you to complete almost any task you desire on multiple devices.
  • Bundles: An effective way to save money is to bundle your internet service with another service offered by the same provider. AT&T offers a variety of bundles with streaming services and TV, while Verizon Fios offers excellent phone bundles that include perks like unlimited data for your phone plan and free devices such as tablets and laptops. Whether you want to bundle TV, streaming or phone services, ask a customer service representative about what bundles or packages the company can provide.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the internet options for rural areas?

    The most common internet options for rural areas are DSL, cable, satellite and fixed wireless connections.

  • What is the best internet option for rural areas?

    Based on our research and in-depth analysis, we find ViaSat to be the best internet service provider in rural areas because of its ability to provide internet anywhere and its fair pricing for decent satellite internet speeds.

  • Why is rural internet connection so poor?

    Internet infrastructure is not effective in rural areas for two major reasons. Points of presence (POPs) are the facilities that act as the connection points between computers and the internet and are typically built near metropolitan cities. Additionally, the insulation surrounding the copper wires that DSL and cable networks use to transmit signals has been poorly maintained in rural areas.

There are ongoing efforts from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other companies to bring broadband speeds and internet access to more rural communities.

Methodology for Rating Internet Service Providers

Our Advisor team has created a detailed methodology that we use when we rank and research internet service providers. We have analyzed ISPs on their cost, speeds, connection types, additional perks, service availability and more.

Here’s a breakdown of the factors we consider when rating companies. Our top picks score well across all these factors.

Factor

Weight

Criteria

Starting Price Cost

15

We considered the monthly starting price, most often set for 12 months, each provider offers. The lower the price, the higher the score.

Broadband Options

12

We reviewed whether the provider is able to offer DSL, satellite, cable and/or fiber-optic connections for the internet. The more connection types a provider is able to supply, the higher the score they receive.

Additional Benefits

10

Based on advertised download speeds, we ranked companies on their ability to supply ample downloads ranging from 100 Mbps to 500+ Mbps. If the company provides speeds lower than these, they receive a significantly lower score.

Customer Service

10

We considered whether the company offers customer support 24/7 or only during business hours, as well as if it offers a separate customer tech support line. We also look at customer satisfaction scores across sites like TrustPilot and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Technological Accessibility

15

We considered the availability of the company through an online customer portal, a mobile app or an online chat. The more options the provider offers, the higher the score.

Service Areas

10

We weighed each provider based on how many states it is available in. If the provider offers its services in more states, then it receives a higher score. A provider may also receive a higher score if it is in less states, but it provides excellent services for those in rural areas.

Reputation

13

We considered the overall reputation a provider has received over time based on BBB scores and the number of years the provider has been in business.