Best Rural Internet
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 20% of the country’s population lives in rural areas. That’s about 60 million people who may have trouble accessing the internet due to a lack of reliable infrastructure. Because cable and telecommunications lines don’t always extend into these communities, residents often have to turn to rural internet options like cellular networks, DSL and satellite.
If you’re looking for internet in a rural area, you’ve probably noticed it’s not as simple as if you lived in a big city. We compiled the list of rural internet providers below by considering availability, speed and price. Whether you live on farmlands or tucked away in a mountain range, these rural internet options can help you stay connected.
Best rural internet options
Some of the best rural internet providers include AT&T, CenturyLink, HughesNet and Viasat. With the exception of AT&T’s fixed internet service, these providers offer nationwide coverage. They all offer at least 10 Mbps speeds, with CenturyLink providing up to 100 Mbps in some locations.
AT&T’s fixed internet service is only available in 18 states, but it offers a relatively affordable rate and above-average speeds for rural areas. CenturyLink can provide the fastest speeds in select areas, while HughesNet gives customers a wide range of plans from which to choose. Viasat uses their satellite network to cover the greatest swaths of the country, including the most remote towns and communities.
Best rural internet providers
When considering a rural internet provider, you need to think about availability, speed and cost. While services tend to be more expensive as you leave bigger cities, it’s still possible to find a relatively affordable rural internet option.
Compare the best internet for rural areas
AT&T began participating in a government-chartered program in 2015 with the aim of providing internet access to rural locations throughout the U.S. It does this using fixed wireless internet that’s transmitted through outdoor antennas. While the company currently only offers service in 18 states, it’s the most well-known provider and has plans to continue expanding.
For its fixed wireless internet, AT&T offers two plans: one with just internet and one that’s bundled with DIRECTV programming. In order to purchase AT&T fixed wireless internet, you must also have another eligible service, such as home phone. Considering this, it costs $50 per month to add only internet and $99.99 per month to add internet and TV.
With AT&T fixed wireless internet, expect download speeds of up to 25 Mbps, which is fast enough to download a music album in about 30 seconds or an HD movie in about an hour. Service also includes 250 GB of data per month and a WiFi router to wirelessly connect your devices.
AT&T’s fixed wireless isn’t great for volume downloading, gaming or streaming, but it’s more than sufficient for web browsing. Limited availability is a downside, as is the fact that you must also bundle with another service.
CenturyLink offers internet access in 36 states, including Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, where there are many rural areas. If available, CenturyLink can be an affordable option for quick speeds of up to 100 Mbps. However, research shows that many areas are limited to speeds of 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps.
In one area, CenturyLink only offered one DSL internet package, with speeds up to 10 Mbps for $49 per month. This speed is rather slow, but it is fast enough to browse the web and update social media. While you can download and stream at these speeds, expect buffering and extended downloading times.
CenturyLink’s DSL package includes a Price for Life guarantee: Pay the same monthly rate for as long as you’re a customer. Because internet access uses existing phone lines and no complicated equipment, you can opt for a self-install. If you order DSL service online, self-install is free. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay an installation fee of up to $125.
Of all the providers on this list, HughesNet offers the most flexibility when it comes to internet packages with four options to choose from, so you can choose the one that best works with your needs and budget. All plans provide speeds up to 25 Mbps, but they differ in the amount of full-speed data you’ll receive. No matter which plan you choose, you’ll always have internet access, even if you exceed your data limit. Instead of cutting you off, HughesNet simply reduces your speeds to between 1 Mbps and 3 Mbps. The entry-level plan includes 10 GB of data, while its premier package offers 50 GB. The plans are priced from $59.99 to $149.99 per month.
All HughesNet packages come with Video Data Saver, which adjusts your usage rates to account for streaming. You’ll also receive 50 GB of bonus data if you use the service during the off-peak hours of 2 a.m. through 8 a.m.
Viasat is a satellite communications company that’s been providing service to businesses, consumers and governments for over 30 years. As it offers its internet through satellite signals, it’s a reliable way to access service, even in the most remote areas.
Three options are available. Ranging in price from $100 to $200 per month, the plans offer 35 GB to 65 GB of full-speed data at speeds up to 12 Mbps. As with HughesNet, connection speeds are throttled once you surpass your monthly allotment, so you’ll always have access—albeit at slower speeds.
Due to their slower speeds, Viasat internet packages are not recommended for those who want to “cut the cord.” However, the company does offer a bundle option that can help. For $50 more a month, you can add DIRECTV service. You can also add telephone service for $19.99 per month if you need it.
Viasat’s internet packages are expensive, but its nationwide coverage may make it your only option if you live in a particularly rural area. The fact that it won’t cut you off after exceeding your monthly data allowance is also a perk.
In your area
Call now to learn about the best rural internet service providers. Living in a rural area often comes with a more relaxed pace of life. But it may also come with limited internet options. If you don't have access to cable or fiber-optic internet service, the rural internet providers in this article can help keep you connected. To discover which rural internet options are available in your area, be sure to use our zip code tool. If you need more help, you can always give us a call.