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5 Best Rural Internet Providers 2021
We’re keeping a pulse on the latest rural broadband news, and we found Viasat, Rise Broadband, and Windstream to be great internet options for anyone out in the country.
Verizon and Amazon plan to work together to improve rural internet. The hope is to use Amazon's satellite internet system to extend Verizon's 4G LTE and 5G networks.5
AT&T made a similar move and partnered with OneWeb, a British satellite internet provider.
Both OneWeb and Amazon are still in the process of launching satellites, but this combination of services could see faster speeds and better coverage in rural areas.
T-Mobile Home Internet recently dropped its monthly price down to $50. That makes it cheaper than competitor Verizon LTE Home Internet (if you don't have a Verizon Wireless plan that costs $30 a month or more).
A lot has changed for rural internet options, so we felt it was time to take another deep look at our recommendations. You'll find some of our picks changed: T-Mobile Home Internet is a new favorite for mobile home internet and Windstream could offer you some of the fastest download speeds.
Living in the country usually means life goes slower, but not everyone is ready for a blast to the past with dial-up internet speeds. If you’re looking for rural internet options that keep your home office and streaming apps connected, you’re in the right spot.
We looked into fixed wireless internet and mobile hotspots, along with DSL, cable, and satellite internet to uncover the pros and cons of these potential rural internet services.
So let’s dig in and figure out what rural internet options you have, go over the differences between each one, and help you pick a rural internet service that’ll keep you connected—even if county road maintenance ends well before your drive.
- : Best rural availability
- : Best value
- : Fastest possible download speeds
- : Best mobile internet
- : Best DSL option
- : Best customer service
- : Satellite internet runner-up
- : Fixed wireless runner-up
- : Mobile internet runner-up
- : DSL runner-up
- : Best cable internet option
- : Cable internet runner-up
The holiday season is the best time to upgrade the aging tech in your home. Have your latest Zoom calls been stuttering? Maybe a new Wi-Fi router is in your future. Or check out deals from top internet service providers around the country and give your home an upgrade this season.
Santa’s sled travels fast, but this year, your internet speeds can be even faster.
- Start 2022 strong and get a $300 Visa® Prepaid Card when you switch to Xfinity Mobile within 30 days of getting Xfinity Internet. Get our latest deals on fast speeds, then save even more when you add Xfinity Mobile.
- Sign up for an Optimum internet package this season and receive a $200 Visa Prepaid Card, HBO Max, and a free WiFi Extender.
- Verizon is offering its internet service bundled with Disney+ and AMC+ for an entire year. Plus, a Verizon gift card for up to $200.
- Nab Suddenlink internet this season and receive a $200 Visa Prepaid Card, HBO Max, and a free WiFi extender.
- This holiday, grab a 50 Mbps Internet Xfinity Internet plan for $19.99/mo. (12-month term), or a 300 Mbps plan for the same price when you add an Xfinity Mobile line.
- Spectrum TV subscribers can grab hold of Peacock Premium for free for 90-days.
|$30–$169.99||12–100 Mbps||12–300 GB||View Plans|
|$35–$65||25–50 Mbps||250 GB–Unlimited||View Plans|
|$27–$85||25–1000 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|$45||75–100 Mbps||1 TB–Unlimited||View Plans|
|$49.95–$99.95||3–1000 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|$59.99–$149.99||25 Mbps||10–50 GB||View Plans|
|$69.99||25 Mbps||350 GB||View Plans|
|$50–$65||100–940 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|$19.99–$94.99||50–1200 Mbps||1–1.2 TB||View Plans|
|$24.99–$74.99||75–940 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
What to look for when buying Wi-Fi and internet for rural areas
If you’re new to rural internet, there are a few things about it that might surprise you. Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Not all internet connections are equal—our first choice is cable, then DSL (VDSL or VDSL2), then satellite, then fixed wireless, then mobile hotspots, and last, dial-up.
- You may not get unlimited data or even 1 TB of data, so watch your data cap.
- Your download and upload speeds may be too slow for streaming Netflix, video calls, or gaming.
- Speaking of gaming, if you go with satellite internet, your latency may be too high to play first-person shooters (FPS) and other action-oriented games.
Your town may be home to a local internet provider that offers a better deal than the rural internet services we list here.
For example, my folks live in a rural part of Northern Georgia and get their internet from a local electric co-op. The price is much lower than satellite internet, and for the most part, the service holds up well.
What are internet options for rural areas?
If you have options, some rural internet providers will work better for different uses than others. In rural areas, the most widely available internet connection types are cable, DSL, and satellite. Cellular hotspot internet and dial-up are also available in rural areas, although it might come at a cost. In general, here’s what we recommend.
Cable internet: Cable is our first choice for the fastest speeds and (usually) the most data at a low price. But it’s not available in a lot of remote areas, and if it is available in your area, you might pay more for it than your city slicker neighbors.
DSL internet: DSL may be older and slower than cable, but it’s still a solid choice thanks to lower prices and potentially higher data caps when compared to satellite internet. DSL also tends to be more widely available in rural areas, but be warned: many providers are phasing out their DSL internet service.
Satellite internet: Although it’s not our first choice thanks to its high prices and low data caps, satellite internet reaches more rural and remote areas than any other type of internet connection. So if satellite is your only option, rest assured it’s still a great internet option for the country.
Fixed wireless: Fixed wireless is a newer technology that’s still ramping up its availability. Even so, its prices tend to be a lot lower than what satellite internet providers charge, and some fixed wireless providers even offer unlimited data.
Not quite. Here are some things you should know about fixed wireless as a rural internet solution, plus how fixed wireless could become an urban internet option too.
Mobile hotspot: If you need a temporary internet connection for a trek into the wild, a mobile hotspot might do the trick. You may even already have hotspot data included with your current cell phone plan, so there’s no need to pay extra. But watch out for small data allowances and sluggish speeds once you use all your data.
Want to learn more about internet for rural areas?
Our resident internet expert, Juan, chats about his challenges using mobile data and rural internet while on a trip to New Mexico. Namely, how upload speeds become even more important when you're living out in the country.
Viasat: Best rural internet coverage
Viasat earned our pick for the top satellite internet provider thanks to its fast maximum download speeds and generous (at least for satellite internet) data caps.
By comparison, your other widely available satellite internet provider, HughesNet, offers 25 Mbps download speeds and only 10–50 GB of data.
|Liberty 12||$30/mo.||12 Mbps||12 GB||View Plan|
|Liberty 25||$50/mo.||12 Mbps||25 GB||View Plans|
|Liberty 50||$75/mo.||12 Mbps||50 GB||View Plans|
|Basic 12||$40/mo.||12 Mbps||15 GB||View Plans|
|Unlimited Bronze 12||$64.99/mo.||12 Mbps||80 GB||View Plan|
|Unlimited Silver 25||$84.99/mo.||25 Mbps||120 GB||View Plan|
|Unlimited Gold 30||$119.99/mo.||30 Mbps||100 GB||View Plan|
|Unlimited Gold 50||$119.99/mo.||50 Mbps||200 GB||View Plan|
|Unlimited Silver 12||$100/mo.||12 Mbps||45 GB||View Plan|
|Unlimited Platinum 100||$169.99/mo.||100 Mbps||300 GB||View Plan|
|Unlimited Gold 12||$150/mo.||12 Mbps||65 GB||View Plan|
Still, Viasat tops the satellite internet charts with 100 Mbps speeds and 300 GB of monthly data in its Unlimited Platinum 100 plan. The biggest drawback? Viasat jacks up your price by $15–$50 after three months. So keep an eye on your bill and get your wallet ready.
Alternative rural satellite internet providers
Aside from Viasat, you’ve got HughesNet and Starlink as other potential satellite internet providers. Even if Viasat offers an internet plan that meets your needs (and respects your budget), it’s still worth checking out these two alternative providers.
Just note that Starlink is still building out its network and may not be available in your area yet.
Rise Broadband: Best value
Rise Broadband is a fixed wireless provider that services 16 states—and if your state is one of these, we think Rise is worth a serious look.
Fixed wireless offers decent internet speeds for a pretty decent price—at least compared to satellite internet. The only catch is that most fixed wireless providers stick you with a pretty low data cap. Even Rise Broadband does this unless you upgrade to one of its unlimited data plans.
Alternative fixed wireless providers
If Rise Broadband isn’t available in your state, there are quite a few other fixed wireless providers scattered across the US. One is AT&T Fixed Wireless, which also offers a 25 Mbps download speeds and a 350 GB data cap.
Windstream: Fastest possible download speeds
Windstream is a fixture in many rural areas—we spotted its buildings all across northern Georgia. And while its slowest speeds cap out at 25 Mbps, you might find yourself lucky enough to get 100, 500, or even 1,000 Mbps.
Two things to note about Windstream prices, though: they change based on where you live, and they go up after your first year. (But that kind of promotional pricing is normal when it comes to internet land.) Here’s a quick peek at some of Windstream’s pricing:
|High Speed Internet 25 Mbps||$27||25 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|High Speed Internet 50-100 Mbps||$37||100 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|High Speed Internet 200 Mbps||$42||200 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|High Speed Internet 300-400 Mbps||$47||400 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|High Speed Internet 500 Mbps||$47||500 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|Kinetic Gig||$57||1000 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
If Windstream’s gig speeds aren’t in your hometown yet, they might be coming soon. The ISP is building out its fiber gigabit service over the next few years.1
Alternative rural internet providers with gig speeds
Windstream isn’t the only ISP working to expand its fiber gigabit network. Altice USA, which owns Optimum and Suddenlink, is also expanding and upgrading its network.2
Suddenlink happens to also serve several rural communities in its 20-state coverage area, so chances are it may offer fast download speeds in your town.
T-Mobile Home Internet: Best mobile home internet
Data effective 10/22/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Price is with auto-pay discount applied.
Wireless providers are getting into the home internet game, with T-Mobile being one to lead the charge. It’s also focused on including rural areas, and the mobile provider says almost 10 million households in the T-Mobile Home Internet coverage area are out in the country.3
One huge perk to T-Mobile Home Internet is that its $50/month price is all-inclusive: you won’t pay extra for the gateway modem-router combo or fork over cash for installation. (Unlike Verizon LTE Home Internet, which charges $10 a month or $240 for the LTE Home Router.)
One thing: Don’t expect those 100 Mbps speeds in truly remote areas.
Verizon LTE Home Internet is your only other major alternative to T-Mobile when it comes to mobile home internet. It’s priced at $60 a month for unlimited data and speeds of 25 to 50 Mbps. (If you already have a Verizon mobile plan that costs $30 or more, you can bump that LTE Home Internet price down to $40 a month.)
Like we mentioned before, the biggest drawback to Verizon LTE Home Internet when compared to T-Mobile Home Internet is that you have to pay for Verizon’s LTE Home Router. That costs either $10 a month for 24 months or $240 up front.
Data effective 10/22/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Auto Pay and paper-free billing req’d. Add’l equipment charges apply. Add’l device payment purchase req’d. Subject to VZW Agmts & credit approval.
AT&T Internet: Best rural DSL option
AT&T doesn’t necessarily call its non-fiber internet service “DSL” anymore, but we’re sticking with this term when it comes to AT&T Internet for simplicity’s sake. (AT&T calls its connection “broadband” or “IPBB,” which includes several types of DSL connections.4)
While the ISP says it no longer offers DSL internet, it does still offer internet in rural areas. If your home is pretty far off the beaten path, you could see speeds as slow as 768 Kbps—that’s less than 1 Mbps.
But for anyone closer to a city, you might get lucky with AT&T’s fiber-DSL hybrid internet connection that offers speeds up to 100 Mbps. (The 100 Mbps plan comes with unlimited data too.)
Alternative rural DSL internet providers
Despite its being an older technology that most companies are actively phasing out, DSL remains one of the most common ways you can connect to the internet out in the country. Some local providers may offer a DSL connection, and other large providers like CenturyLink and Verizon are available in some areas as well.
Don’t expect extremely zippy speeds with older DSL technology though. While newer networks can get speeds close to 100 Mbps, older networks will more closely match Verizon’s DSL speeds.
Recap: How to get internet in rural areas
- Best rural availability: Viasat. Viasat satellite internet is available in almost every part of the US, and it offers the largest data caps and fastest speeds compared to HughesNet.
- Best value: Rise Broadband. Fixed wireless is a new-ish way to get internet in the country, and Rise Broadband offers well-priced speeds and the option of unlimited data.
- Fastest possible download speeds: Windstream. Windstream is actively expanding its fiber network, meaning its competitively priced 1,000 Mbps plan might be available in your area soon.
- Best mobile internet: T-Mobile Home Internet. T-Mobile’s home internet service uses its cellular network. A similar option is available from Verizon, but T-Mobile won’t charge you for any equipment.
- Best rural DSL internet: AT&T Internet. Though it doesn’t call it “DSL,” AT&T still offers speeds between 768 Kbps and 100 Mbps in rural areas.
Your options may be limited when shopping for rural internet, but thankfully those options are growing. You might even be able to get internet through a local electric co-op if these more commonly known rural internet providers don’t extend their networks to your gravel driveway.
Another option may be a mobile hotspot—or if you’re trundling across the country in your RV, there are other portable satellite internet options too. And if worse comes to worse, dial-up internet still exists. (And it’s free.)
If you keep an open mind, there’s likely a way to get connected even if you’re off the beaten path.
To pinpoint the best ways to get internet in the country, we looked at a few different factors:
- Whether the service is available in rural areas
- Price for the speeds and data offered
- Whether the speeds and data are usable for modern online activities
We also tried to cover several different connection types in order to showcase a more expansive list of choices, and also made a point to recommend local providers since those may be more capable of handling local internet needs in rural areas.
One notable omission is Starlink satellite internet. While Starlink is growing its availability as it launches more satellites, it may not be available in all areas. Additionally, the service is still relatively new and so we can’t definitively comment on whether it’s worth the price or not.
Still curious about how to get internet out in the country? We can help.
What’s the best internet service for rural areas?
Our vote is for Viasat, Rise Broadband, Windstream, T-Mobile Home Internet, and AT&T as the best internet service options for rural areas. HughesNet, AT&T Fixed Wireless, Suddenlink, Verizon 4G LTE Home Internet, CenturyLink, and Verizon DSL are also viable options.
But the best internet for anyone living in a rural area really depends on what’s available to you. Likely you’ll have the option of satellite internet—but fixed wireless, DSL, and mobile internet tend to be cheaper and may offer more data and faster speeds.
Why is rural internet so bad?
Rural internet tends to be worse than the internet you’ll find in the city because most internet providers don’t focus on building out or upgrading their networks in rural areas.
It mostly comes down to cost. Because rural areas are home to fewer people, there are fewer households that will purchase internet service. That means there’s less money to offset the cost of building out or upgrading an internet network.
That’s a pretty short answer to something we could chat about for days. We've seen a lot of change in the internet and telecommunications industry that could see more and better rural internet options headed our way. That includes the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (even though it has its drawbacks) and the growth of municipal internet providers across the country.
Which is better, Viasat or HughesNet?
We recommend Viasat over HughesNet because it offers faster speeds (up to 100 Mbps) and larger data caps (up to 300 GB) than HughesNet does. That said, HughesNet may fit your needs better if you don’t use the internet for more than browsing Facebook and emailing family and friends.
Is HughesNet fast enough for Netflix?
Technically, yes, HughesNet’s 25 Mbps download speeds are fast enough even for Netflix in 4K. Though we wouldn’t recommend streaming in 4K on a satellite internet connection because it’ll scarf down your data faster than a hungry puppy.
And keep in mind that while Netflix recommends a max speed of 25 Mbps, that’s a dedicated speed of 25 Mbps. So you likely won’t be able to stream Netflix in 4K while using any other connected devices.
Will 5G ever be available in rural areas?
We expect 5G to eventually spread to rural areas, and you might even say it’s already started to get there with T-Mobile Home Internet. But 5G in the country will look and act a lot differently than 5G in the city.
The type of 5G typically used in big cities (mmWave) has a short range and trouble penetrating objects like—you guessed it—trees, hills, and mountains. Still, rural communities should see low-band 5G technology soon, which still offers an upgrade to older technology like DSL even though it’s not as speedy as mmWave 5G.