Internet Providers
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You don’t have to settle for satellite internet when there are more options out there for rural service. Here are our picks for the best rural internet providers.

In this article:

  • Best rural internet providers
  • Overview
  • Honorable mentions
  • Rural internet FAQs

Homes in rural areas can have a difficult time finding decent internet, especially when service providers forgo a rural internet option. And even when an ISP has a rural option, it’s often not great. However, you might have access to more ISPs in your area than you first thought. Rural internet access has come a long way in the past few years thanks to expansion of fiber and cable networksnew broadband technologies and major efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to close the digital divide. So while your download speeds may drag a bit compared to those enjoyed by city folks, you may still be able to get excellent internet service where you live.

The choices include the two big satellite providers, HughesNet and Viasat, along with other top providers and more preferable connection types. Among them, here are my picks for the best providers that are most likely to be available in rural areas, all of which were chosen based on factors including availability, speeds, pricing, data caps and customer satisfaction. Other than listing my top two picks first, providers are listed in no particular order.

Best rural internet providers

  • Connection type: DSL, fiber-optic
  • Price range: $50-$70 per month
  • Speed range: 1-940Mbps
  • Data cap: None
  • CNET review score: 6.7

Aside from satellite internet providers, CenturyLink has arguably the greatest coverage area of any ISP, largely spanning suburban and rural areas across 36 states coast to coast. Most of that coverage, around 77%, comes from its DSL network, which means many rural residents within CenturyLink service areas will likely only be eligible for DSL service.

The good news is that 66% of DSL customers will be able to get broadband speeds or higher — that’s download speeds up to 25Mbps and upload speeds of 3Mbps — and more than a quarter of customers, around 28%, can get max download speeds of 100Mbps or higher. So in short, CenturyLink can meet or beat the internet speeds of satellite internet in most service areas, and service comes with a lower price tag (starting at $49 per month), unlimited data and no contracts.

If CenturyLink’s fiber service, Quantum Fiber, is available in your area, consider yourself lucky — fiber service from any provider only reaches 25% of rural areas, according to the FCC. Quantum Fiber comes with two plan options: 100Mbps starting at $50 per month or gig service starting at $70 per month. Either plan is a massive upgrade from satellite, DSL or other rural internet connection types, so I’d recommend deciding which speed you need and going with CenturyLink’s fiber service if it happens to be available.

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Read our CenturyLink review.

CenturyLink

  • Connection type: DSL, fiber-optic
  • Price range: $37-$67 per month
  • Speed range: 25-1,000Mbps
  • Data cap: None
  • CNET review score: 6.7

Kinetic by Windstream also received a 6.7/10 in our review, but falls well short of CenturyLink in total coverage area. That said, it’s an excellent choice for rural internet, as the provider has some of the fastest DSL speeds and one of the greatest fiber network percentages of any rural ISP.

Kinetic offers internet service in 18 states total across the Midwest, South and Eastern US. Though available primarily in rural and suburban areas, nearly a third of Windstream’s network uses fiber technology. Where fiber service is available, Kinetic customers can get download and upload speeds ranging from 25 up to 1,000Mbps, which is among the fastest speeds available from any major rural internet provider. These speeds make Kinetic ideal for streaming over wireless connections and online gaming, activities that are often a challenge with rural internet service.

Service areas not eligible for fiber will have to settle for DSL, but Kinetic’s DSL network is better than most. More than 86% of households will have access to broadband speeds or higher, while roughly 65% can get speeds up to or higher than 100Mbps.

Regardless of the available network, Kinetic is a great choice for unlimited rural internet service, as all plans come with no data caps or contracts.

Read our Kinetic by Windstream review.

Kinetic Internet

  • Connection type: Cable
  • Price range: $20-$80 per month
  • Speed range: 60-1,000Mbps
  • Data cap: 200-6,000GB
  • CNET review score: 6.4

As a cable provider, Mediacom can deliver much faster speeds than DSL, satellite or fixed wireless service, but its service reach is more limited. Mediacom is available to just over 2% of US residents with service areas across much of the Midwest and South, as well as parts of California and Delaware.

Still, if it’s available in your area, Mediacom is one of the best cheap internet providers for rural areas, with service starting at just $20 a month. Just know that the cheapest Mediacom plan only comes with 200GB of data, and going over the limit can add up to $50 to your bill. More data is available with higher-tiered plans, up to 6 terabytes, but no Mediacom plan offers unlimited rural internet service.

Pricing goes up on all Mediacom plans after the first year and settles somewhere around the industry average for cable internet providers. Still, starting prices of $20-$80 per month aren’t bad, especially for a rural internet connection.

Read our Mediacom review.

Mediacom Communications

  • Connection type: Fixed wireless
  • Price range: $25-$65 per month
  • Speed range: 5-100Mbps
  • Data cap: 250GB, unlimited data options available
  • CNET review score: 6.2

Rise Broadband is a leading fixed wireless internet provider with service available to around 6% of US households, many of which are in rural areas. Coverage spans 16 states, with Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Texas and Utah having the highest serviceability.

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Similar to satellite internet, fixed wireless service from Rise Broadband requires no direct lines to the home, making it accessible to those in rural areas where cable, fiber-optic and even telephone lines do not reach. Where available, Rise Broadband would be my choice over satellite internet, as the provider offers speeds up to 100Mbps, latency low enough to support online gaming, and truly unlimited data options, all for a relatively low price compared to satellite.

Rise Broadband is also a great choice for wireless internet in rural areas with Premium Wi-Fi and Premium Mesh Wi-Fi service available as add-ons to all internet plans.

Read our Rise Broadband review.

  • Connection type: DSL, fiber-optic
  • Price range: $20-$300 per month
  • Speed range: 50-5,000Mbps
  • Data cap: None
  • CNET review score: 6.9

You read that speed range correctly: Ziply Fiber offers multigigabit internet speeds with 2 and 5Gbps plans available in select — and rural — areas throughout the Northwest. The provider recently rolled out the multigigabit service to 170,000 homes with plans to bring the service to all homes within its expanding fiber network later this year.

The fastest Ziply plan may be more speed than you need, and more than you want to pay at $300 per month, but other Ziply plans present a bit more affordability without having to sacrifice too much speed. Ziply’s entry level plan, for example, starts at just $20 per month for symmetrical upload and download speeds of up to 50Mbps. Other speed tiers include 200Mbps, 1Gbps and 2Gbps, with starting prices ranging from $40 to $120 per month. All plans come with unlimited data and no contract requirements.

Ziply has an impressive fiber network, but only about half of Ziply service areas are eligible for fiber service, according to the FCC. All others will rely on a DSL network which, like most DSL services, presents one plan option for the fastest speeds available. In the case of Ziply Internet, the DSL service, that plan starts at $50 per month for speeds up to 115Mbps. Again, that’s the fastest possible speeds, and many customers may only be eligible for speeds that are much slower.

Read our Ziply Fiber review.

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