5 Best Rural Internet Providers 2020

From AT&T to Viasat, these rural internet providers are keeping small towns connected.
  • Best Satellite Internet
    4 out of 5 overall
    Fast satellite speeds
    Availability almost anywhere
  • Best DSL Internet
    3 out of 5 overall
    Speeds up to 100 Mbps
    Bundles with DIRECTV
  • Best Cable Internet
    3.25 out of 5 overall
    Top speeds of 1,000 Mbps
    Good rural coverage
  • Best Fixed Wireless
    4 out of 5 overall
    Unlimited data
    Lower prices than satellite internet
  • Best Wireless Hotspot
    4.5 out of 5 overall
    Best coverage in the US
    Up to 30 GB of hotspot data

Though rural internet options are still somewhat limited, we rounded up our top picks for satellite, DSL, and cable internet, plus our picks for fixed wireless and mobile hotspots.

So how do these rural internet providers stack up? Let’s take a look at prices, download speeds, data caps, and more.

Compare rural internet options in your area.

What are internet options for rural areas?

Even though life moves slower out in the country, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to stay connected. Of course, you’ll quickly find that rural internet doesn’t always play by the same rules as city internet.

If you have options, some rural internet providers will work better for different uses than others. In general, here’s what we recommend:

Satellite internet

It’s not our first choice due to high prices and low data caps, but satellite internet covers those hard-to-reach towns where cable or DSL may not exist yet. If satellite is your only internet option, it can be well worth it.

DSL internet

A DSL connection is a solid choice thanks to its lower prices when compared to satellite internet. It may also offer speeds and high data caps that rival cable internet, and DSL tends to be more widely available compared to cable.

Cable internet

You may pay more for cable than your city slicker neighbors, but usually it’s worth it. (And generally, it’s still cheaper than satellite.) That’s thanks to fast speeds and generous data caps.

Fixed wireless

Fixed wireless is still a fairly new technology, but its prices look better than satellite’s prices.

The major downsides are that you’ll need to install an antenna, and most fixed wireless plans don’t offer very fast speeds. Still, if you can get fixed wireless but not DSL or cable internet, it might be a great way to connect to the internet without paying steep satellite internet prices.

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.

Viasat: Best rural satellite internet

Satellite internet is expensive, but Viasat offers the best satellite speeds and data caps.

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.

Thanks to the way it works, satellite internet is able to bring internet connections to locations that are well off the beaten path. But you’ll quickly find that you’ll pay more for this convenience, and your speeds and data won’t come close to what you might get from cable, DSL, or fiber internet.

Still, Viasat tops the satellite internet charts with 100 Mbps speeds and 150 GB of monthly data in its Unlimited Platinum 100 plan. Here are a few of our favorite plans from Viasat—you can view the full list in our Viasat satellite internet review.

Recommended Viasat satellite internet plans
PlanPriceDownload speedData capDetails
Liberty 12$30/mo.*12 Mbps12 GBView Plan
Unlimited Silver 25$70/mo.*25 Mbps60 GBView Plan
Unlimited Gold 50$100/mo.*50 Mbps100 GBView Plan
Unlimited Platinum 100$150/mo.*100 Mbps150 GBView Plan
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 3 months.

What you should know about Viasat

One downside to Viasat satellite internet is that its prices go up after three months. Talk about a short promotional pricing period!

Still, even with the three-month price hike, Viasat’s prices are still a better deal based on the speed you get compared to the competition (HughesNet).

And if you choose satellite internet, you’ll need to get a satellite dish professionally installed. While it may seem like a smart move to save money by installing a receiver on your own, these dishes are pointed to a very specific set of coordinates to get the strongest possible signal. So you’ll need a professional to make sure everything is set up right.

Pros

  • Fastest satellite internet speeds
  • Some generous data caps (for satellite)

Cons

  • Price spikes after three months
  • More expensive plans than other internet options

Alternative rural satellite internet provider

While it offers only 25 Mbps download speeds, HughesNet is another satellite internet provider you might consider. Well, actually, it’s the only other satellite internet provider in the US so far. (We’re still holding out for Starlink!)

HughesNet’s prices can be deceptive: they look low until you glance at the download speed and data you get for the cost. And when you compare Viasat plans with similar speeds and data, Viasat is the cheaper option. (We cover this more in our Viasat versus HughesNet review.)

But it’s still worth checking out HughesNet if only to see if it has better options in your area than Viasat.

HughesNet satellite internet plans
PlanPriceDownload speedData capDetails
10 GB$59.9925 Mbps10 GBView Plan
20 GB$69.9925 Mbps20 GBView Plan
30 GB$99.9925 Mbps30 GBView Plan
50 GB$15025 Mbps50 GBView Plan
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Requires 24 month agreement.

AT&T Internet: Best rural DSL internet

If you have a landline phone, you can probably get DSL internet, and AT&T is a great choice.

DSL internet is a great rural option because it’s fairly widespread and low cost. Because it uses your phone lines, chances are you can get DSL internet if you have landline telephone service.

AT&T’s DSL internet promises to get you as close to 100 Mbps download speeds as possible. And 100 Mbps is nothing to laugh at. That’s enough speed to work from home, game, and stream—even if you have a few people doing all that at the same time.

But the Up to 100 Mbps can be a gamble: if 100 Mbps speeds aren’t available in your area, you may end up with 80, 50, or even 25 Mbps. And those speeds may not support two adults and two kids streaming, gaming, and working from home at the same time.

AT&T Internet overview
PlanPriceDownload speedData capDetails
AT&T Internet up to 100 Mbps$49.99/mo.100 Mbps1 TBView Plan

What you should know about AT&T Internet

You might be able to bundle your AT&T Internet with DIRECTV satellite TV service. That’s a pretty big win: we think DIRECTV is the best satellite TV choice if you love sports. (And it’s great for anyone who loves TV in general too.)

Pros

  • Low price
  • Bundles with DIRECTV

Cons

  • Speeds may not reach 100 Mbps

Alternative rural DSL internet providers

If AT&T Internet isn’t offered in your town or if you just want to compare DSL internet options, check out Windstream and CenturyLink. Here’s a look at a couple of the plans we recommend for both of these ISPs:

CenturyLink vs. Windstream DSL internet plans
PlanPriceDownload speedDetails
Price for Life 100 Mbps$49100 MbpsView Plan
High Speed Internet 200 Mbps$60^200 MbpsView Plan
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Rate requires paperless billing. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Speeds may not be available in your area.
^ For the first 12 months. Price includes $19.00 promotional credit.

Suddenlink: Best rural cable internet

If you’re looking for cable internet in the country, Suddenlink might be your best choice.

Some cable internet providers have made a home in rural areas, and Suddenlink is one of them. You can find Suddenlink in 19 different states, but most of its coverage extends across Texas, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

If you’ve got Suddenlink internet in your area, it’s worth a look. Its top speeds are 1,000 Mbps, and even its slowest plan, with 100 Mbps, is nothing to scoff at. We also like that Suddenlink offers a Price for Life guarantee on its 1,000 Mbps plan—at least if you remain a customer in good standing.

Suddenlink plans, prices, and speeds
PlanPriceDownload speedData capDetails
Internet 100$34.99/mo.°100 MbpsUnlimitedView Plan
Internet 300$44.99/mo°300 MbpsUnlimitedView Plans
Internet 400$54.99/mo**400 MbpsUnlimitedView Plan
Internet 1 Gig$74.99/mo††1000 MbpsUnlimitedView Plan
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
° for 1 yr
** for 2 yrs
†† Plus taxes, fees, and other charges. Price for Life. Customer must remain in good standing and up to date on bill payments to remain on Price For Life.
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What does “good standing” mean?
If you’re a customer in good standing, that means you’ve paid your bills on time, haven’t swapped plans, or requested any service changes.

Most internet providers that offer a Price for Life guarantee require customers to remain in good standing to keep that steady price. If you don’t plan on upgrading, moving, or changing your plan in any way, it’s most likely a good deal.

What you should know about Suddenlink

Suddenlink has a reputation for saying, “No”—but it’s not what you think. The ISP has no data caps or contracts, and both of those are great things in our book.

However, you’ll want to watch out for a price bump after your first year (or after your second year if you grab the 400 Mbps plan). While there are no contracts, Suddenlink jumped on the bandwagon with most other ISPs and will raise the cost of your internet plan after a certain period of time. (Unless you get the 1,000 Mbps plan with Price for Life.)

Pros

  • Fast speeds for rural areas
  • No contracts or data caps
  • Price for Life on 1,000 Mbps plan

Cons

  • Price bump after one or two years for most plans

Alternative cable internet provider

Though it’s not necessarily known for rural service, Xfinity has the largest service area in the US. That makes it a potential option for you even if you live in the country. And if you can get Xfinity in your home, it’s definitely worth a look.

Xfinity cable internet overview
PlanPriceDownload speedDetails
Performance Starter$24.99‡‡25 MbpsView Plan
Performance$55‡‡100 MbpsView Plans
Performance Pro$70‡‡200 MbpsView Plan
Blast! Pro$80‡‡300 MbpsView Plan
Extreme Pro$60‡‡600 MbpsView Plan
Gigabit$84.99‡‡1000 MbpsView Plan
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
‡‡ For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.

Rise Broadband: Best fixed wireless internet

Rise Broadband brings new fixed wireless technology to rural areas in the US at a decent price.

Rise Broadband is a fixed wireless provider that services 19 states—and if your state is one of these, we think Rise is worth a serious look.

Fixed wireless might still be the new kid on the technology block, but it offers decent internet speeds for a pretty decent price. At least compared to satellite internet.

Unfortunately, Rise Broadband offers only one plan with a max speed of 25 Mbps, but that plan comes with unlimited data. That’s a huge deal because many fixed wireless providers offer only low data caps. We’re talking only 250 GB a month.

Rise Broadband plans, prices, and speeds
PlanPriceDownload speedData capDetails
25 Mbps Internet$49.95/mo.25 MbpsUnlimitedView Plan

Data effective 3/27/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

What you should know about Rise Broadband

Rise Broadband’s monthly price comes in at just under $50, but don’t forget you’ll need to pay an extra $75 up front. That covers the installation fee, and installation is definitely an important part of fixed wireless service since your antenna needs to get the best line of sight possible to the tower.

Pros

  • Unlimited data
  • Low price for decent speeds

Cons

  • Clear line of sight requirement for antenna
  • Fairly limited availability

Alternative fixed wireless internet provider

If Rise Broadband isn’t available near you but you’re still interested in checking out fixed wireless, you should take a look at AT&T Fixed Wireless.

AT&T’s fixed wireless service is also available in 19 states and comes with a typical download speed of 25 Mbps. But that’s where the similarities with Rise Broadband end. Instead of unlimited data, AT&T Fixed Wireless offers only 250 GB of data per month.

In addition, you’ll need another “qualifying service” that costs at least $29.99 per month to get AT&T Fixed Wireless. We’re not fond of caveats, and this one seems a little over the top, to say the least.

AT&T Fixed Wireless internet overview
PlanPriceDownload speedData capDetails
AT&T Fixed Wireless$50/mo.*25 Mbps250 GBView Plan

Data effective 3/27/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*12-mo. agmt & other qualifying svc (min $29.99/mo) req’d. Includes 250GB data per mo., overage charges apply. Ltd. avail/areas in U.S.

Verizon Wireless: Best mobile hotspot for rural areas

Verizon’s mobile hotspots get you online in a jiffy . . . but small data caps make it a temporary solution.

Already have a Verizon cell phone plan? Then its generous mobile hotspot perks might be your key to hopping online.

That is, if you don’t need a lot of data or extremely fast download speeds. (If you need lots of data, fast download speeds, or a more permanent internet connection, we recommend our other rural internet picks above.)

And there’s a reason we name Verizon as the best cell phone provider in the US: it’s got the best coverage and the best speeds. Of course, you will pay a bit more for all that, but if you can get cell service to call your Grammy while spending a weekend in your cabin, we say it’s worth it.

If you’re looking for a Verizon plan with the most 4G LTE mobile hotspot data, we recommend the Play More Unlimited or Get More Unlimited plans.

Verizon Wireless Play More Unlimited vs. Get More Unlimited hotspot data
PlanPriceHotspot download speedHotspot data capDetails
Play More Unlimited$80/mo. for 1 line4G LTE15 GBView Plan
Get More Unlimited$90/mo. for 1 line4G LTE30 GBView Plan

Data effective 3/27/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

What you should know about Verizon Wireless

Once you use up your 15 or 30 GB of 4G LTE data, you’ve still got an internet connection, but it’ll chug along at 600 Kbps—by comparison, 4G LTE screams along at up to 15,000 Kbps.

That’s not enough speed for streaming, so the ending to the latest The Bachelor season will have to wait.

Pros

  • Best coverage in the US
  • Good amounts of hotspot data

Cons

  • Most expensive plans versus competition
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Not sure how to use a mobile hotspot?
No worries, our guides on how to use an AT&T hotspot or a Verizon hotspot have you covered.

Alternative mobile hotspot provider

AT&T Wireless may not have the coverage that Verizon does, but it’s a close second. And it might cost you less.

We recommend checking both AT&T’s and Verizon’s coverage in your town to see which has more cell towers in your area. And when in doubt, ask around to see if any friends or family in the area have AT&T or Verizon and what their experience is like.

One thing to note, though, about AT&T’s hotspots: after you use your monthly 4G LTE data, your speed drops to 128 Kbps. That’s painfully slower than Verizon’s 600 Kbps.

AT&T Wireless Unlimited Extra versus Unlimited Elite plans
PlanPriceHotspot download speedHotspot data capDetails
Unlimited Extra$75/mo. for 1 line4G LTE15 GBView Plans
Unlimited Elite$85/mo. for 1 line4G LTE30 GBView Plans

Data effective 3/27/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Recap: The 5 best rural internet providers 2020

The best options for internet past city limits include Viasat, AT&T DSL internet, Suddenlink cable internet, Rise Broadband fixed wireless, and Verizon mobile hotspots. And though options are still fairly limited in the country, we hope rugged determination will see more internet companies servicing rural areas in the future.

  • Viasat: Best satellite internet. If its speed and data you want, Viasat satellite internet offers the fastest internet with the largest data caps. Of course, satellite internet comes at a price, and Viasat is no exception.
  • AT&T Internet: Best DSL internet. If you’ve got phone lines, chances are you’ve got DSL, and AT&T provides some of the best DSL internet at a fair price. We’d like to see more than just one plan offered, though.
  • Suddenlink: Best rural cable internet. Suddenlink brings cable internet to many rural towns in the south, and its speeds are fantastic. It also features no contracts and no data caps, but watch out for price bumps about a year in.
  • Rise Broadband: Best fixed wireless. Fixed wireless is fairly new, but Rise Broadband brings 25 Mbps speeds and unlimited data to rural America. Its price is also better than satellite internet, but you’ll still need a clear line of sight for your antenna.
  • Verizon Wireless: Best mobile hotspot. Verizon gets a thumbs up for its expansive cell coverage, and though its mobile hotspots don’t offer more than 30 GB of data, they do get you connected with 4G LTE speeds. But just know that Verizon is also the priciest of the big four cell companies in the US.