Best Rural Internet Providers 2021

Popular Internet Service Providers

In most urban and densely populated areas of the U.S., broadband internet access is readily available. That’s due in part to existing wiring and infrastructure, as well as new construction in expanding cities. But when it comes to Rural America, missing infrastructure can be an Achilles heel, leaving fewer options for households that need fast internet access for school, work, and other activities.

In an increasingly connected world, reliable internet is important for all. However, data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau found 81% of households in rural areas are connected to broadband internet. To help those in less populous areas find the best internet service, we’ve used our rating for the Best Internet Service Providers of 2021 to create the Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas of 2021 rating. Satellite companies HughesNet and Viasat made our list because they’re available almost anywhere with a clear view of the sky, but keep reading to see what other options you may have.

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Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas of 2021

Spectrum Internet  »

Spectrum Internet877-260-0656

Best ISP for Rural Areas

Monthly Cost
$49.99 and Up
Connection Type
Hybrid-Fiber Coax
Download Speed
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Bundles
Internet, TV, or Phone

Spectrum: Spectrum places No. 1 in our rating of the Best Rural Internet Providers of 2021. It’s available throughout most of the U.S. and is known for offering plans with unlimited data. It offers three hybrid fiber-coaxial plans, with prices starting at $49.99. However, if you opt for one of Spectrum’s bundles that include TV, mobile, or home phone, it may lower your monthly bill. Download speeds range from 200 megabits per second (Mbps) to 940 Mbps, with upload speeds from 10 to 35 Mbps. Spectrum is available in 41 states across the U.S. and its plans are contract-free.

HughesNet: Hughes Network Systems (HughesNet) offers satellite internet plans nationwide and around the world. It places No. 1 in our Best Satellite Internet Service Providers rating and No. 2 in the Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas. The company has more than one million subscribers. There are five plans available, with monthly prices ranging from $59.99 to $149.99. Most plans require a two-year contract. HughesNet’s advantages include good reliability and low packet loss, which means there is not a large loss of data that can cause games or videos to freeze. HughesNet is available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Frontier: Frontier Internet is tied for second place with HughesNet and CenturyLink in our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas of 2021. Frontier serves 25 states and stands out as our No. 1 pick for Best Internet Service Providers for Gaming. It offers hybrid fiber-coaxial, fiber, cable, and DSL plans starting at $34.99 up to $79.99 for its 1 Gig plan. Frontier’s fiber download and upload speeds are nearly equal with a range of 50 to 940 Mbps and 50 to 880 Mbps, respectively. It no longer lists speeds for its DSL service.

CenturyLink: CenturyLink is in a three-way tie for the No. 2 spot in Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas. It has two plans available that start at $49 for DSL and $65 for fiber. The company covers 36 states with DSL service, while its fiber plans are currently only available in 19 cities. The ISP offers an internet plan called Price for Life, which comes with a locked-in monthly fee that never changes. It also offers a prepaid internet option. CenturyLink doesn’t require a contract when you sign up for service.

Viasat: Viasat ranks No. 5 on our list of the Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas and No. 2 on our list of the Best Satellite Internet Service Providers of 2021. It provides access to all of the U.S. and has five unlimited data internet plans that range from $39.99 per month to $149.99 per month. Download speeds range from 12 to 100 Mbps. A two-year contract is required.

If you live in a rural area, you may have limited access to internet service providers. Which one is right for you depends on your location, your budget, and the type of internet activities you engage in. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Which internet service providers offer service in your area?
  2. Which internet options are available? Rural areas may not have every option, but satellite and DSL are typical.
  3. How many devices and appliances will you connect to the service?
  4. Which activities do you plan to engage in? Streaming high-definition videos, downloading large files, and gaming all tend to require higher bandwidth than browsing the internet, checking email, and videoconferencing.
  5. How much money can you allocate for monthly internet access? If you need help paying for high-speed internet, check here to see if you qualify for assistance.
  6. How reliable is the internet service provider?
  7. Does the company provide 24/7 support, an online help center, and/or a chatbot for troubleshooting connection problems?

Once you have the answers, compare plans to see which costs and speeds most align with your needs.

A rural internet provider (ISP) makes its service available to people who live in rural communities. These providers differ from others in that they may specialize in a specific geographical location or type of internet service to meet the needs of people in a rural area.

Our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas of 2021 includes companies that offer fiber, hybrid-fiber, satellite, cable, and DSL. In some cases, the provider may only offer one type of service, like satellite internet providers HughesNet and Viasat. Other companies like Spectrum and CenturyLink offer cable, DSL, and/or fiber. Frontier offers hybrid-fiber internet service.

Satellite

Satellite internet uses orbiting satellites to transmit data over the internet. Unlike other types of internet connections, satellite does not require any wires to be run to your home. That makes it a good choice for rural areas. You need a modem and a satellite dish installed on your property to transmit and receive the signal. The dish sends your internet request into space, where it is picked up by a geostationary communications satellite. That satellite then beams your request back down to a ground station that communicates with the website you want to view. To receive data, the same steps occur in reverse.

DSL

A Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) uses a traditional telephone line to connect you to the internet. Because most homes are wired for a landline telephone, DSL is available to most households. Even though DSL uses your existing phone lines, you can still make calls while accessing the internet. The technology is being phased out due to its slower speeds compared to fiber and cable internet.

Cable

Cable internet service uses coaxial cable. It’s readily available because it’s the same type of cable used for your television. As a result, many cable TV providers offer to bundle TV service with your internet service. Coaxial cable consists of layers of copper, steel, aluminum, and plastic. You can still watch TV while you use your cable to connect to the internet.

Fiber

Fiber refers to fiber-optic cable, which is made from thin strands of glass and can upload and download data at about 70% the speed of light. There are two types of fiber-optic cable: Single mode, which transmits data over long distances, and multimode, which transmits data over short distances. Fiber optic cables may run straight to your home or stop anywhere between the door and the internet provider’s building, in which case the remaining distance will have to be bridged by another type of internet service like coaxial cable (see hybrid fiber-coaxial below). Fiber is second to cable in popularity but is not yet available in all U.S. cities, and that’s why it may be difficult to find in rural areas.

Hybrid fiber-coaxial

Sometimes internet companies use a combination of fiber and cable wiring to connect households to the internet. In most cases, the connection begins as fiber, and then the internet company uses cable to connect the last mile or so up to the residence.

Xfinity Internet »
Download Speed (Mbps) 50 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps
Upload Speed (Mbps) 5 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps
Data Cap Starting at 1.2 TB
Verizon Internet »
Download Speed (Mbps) 200 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Upload Speed (Mbps) 200 Mbps – 880 Mbps
Data Cap No Cap
AT&T Internet »
Download Speed (Mbps) 0.8 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Upload Speed (Mbps) 0.4 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Data Cap No Cap
Spectrum Internet »
Download Speed (Mbps) 100 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Upload Speed (Mbps) 10 Mbps – 35 Mbps
Data Cap No Cap
RCN Internet »
Download Speed (Mbps) 50 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Upload Speed (Mbps) N/A
Data Cap N/A
Xfinity Internet » Company
50 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
5 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
Starting at 1.2 TB Data Cap
Verizon Internet » Company
200 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
200 Mbps – 880 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
No Cap Data Cap
AT&T Internet » Company
0.8 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
0.4 Mbps – 940 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
No Cap Data Cap
Spectrum Internet » Company
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
10 Mbps – 35 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
No Cap Data Cap
RCN Internet » Company
50 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
N/A Upload Speed (Mbps)
N/A Data Cap
Cox Internet » Company
25 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
3 Mbps – 35 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
Starting at 1 TB Data Cap
Mediacom Internet » Company
60 Mbps – 1000 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
5 Mbps – 50 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
Starting at 200GB Data Cap
Frontier Internet » Company
Up to 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
Up to 880 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
No Cap Data Cap
CenturyLink Internet » Company
10 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
10 Mbps – 940 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
Starting at 1 TB Data Cap
Viasat Internet » Company
12 Mbps – 100 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
Up to 3 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
No Cap Data Cap
Suddenlink Internet » Company
20 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
2Mbps – 50 Mbps Upload Speed (Mbps)
Varies Data Cap

What you need to get set up for internet service will depend on which type of service you choose. However, you will have to lease or purchase and install some type of equipment regardless. Some ISP websites offer information on how to perform your own installation to get you up and running quickly and for less cost.

There are pros and cons to buying or renting equipment.

Buying Equipment Is Best For:

  • Saving money in the long run

  • Tech-savvy people who can perform a DIY installation

Renting Equipment Is Best For:

  • People who don’t want to pay a large lump sum upfront

  • Those that don’t feel comfortable setting up the equipment themselves

  • Those who want tech support for the equipment

When choosing between renting and buying (if your internet service provider allows you to do so), the most cost-efficient option is normally to pay for the equipment upfront. However, a lump-sum payment can be expensive or possibly unaffordable if you’ve not budgeted for the cost. If you decide to get your own equipment, remember that DIY installation comes along with the decision. So if you’re not sure how to install technical equipment or you’re not great with instructions, you may want to lease equipment that your ISP will install.

If your equipment malfunctions or needs an upgrade, your internet service provider will most likely provide technical support for rented equipment. That means you can schedule a technician to come to your home and help you troubleshoot and resolve the problem. If it’s your own modem you bought and installed, you’re on your own.

The cost of internet in a rural area ranges from $34.99 to $149.99 based on plans from providers that made our list. However, the cost you pay for service will depend on which company and which plan you choose. With the great need for families and households to have access to broadband internet, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The plan provides qualifying low-income families with a discount on internet service. Hundreds of providers across the U.S. have partnered with the FCC to bring lower-cost broadband to households that need it.

The ISPs available in your area may depend on the type of technology you’re interested in using for your connection. For example, satellite internet is available almost everywhere, whereas fiber connections are limited. Cable and DSL are not as widespread as satellite but are good options in rural areas, as they work on infrastructure used for TV and phone. However, beware that DSL service can be very slow if your location is far away from the internet service provider’s hub.

The National Governor’s Association reported on several governors’ initiatives and requests for funding to help increase access to broadband internet in rural areas within their respective states. Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, addressed the issue saying her budget included $100 million to be used to help bridge the internet divide between urban and rural areas. As more funding is provided it could open the door for more internet service providers in remote areas.

To check the companies that made our Best ISPs for Rural Areas rating, visit their websites and enter your address or call a customer service representative to learn about availability in your area.

Other Internet Service Providers

Other Guides from 360 Reviews

Other Products to Consider

In addition to the companies in our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers, here are some others to consider:

We explain what matters when it comes to internet service by sourcing experts and professional reviewers. Then we provide an unbiased evaluation of internet service providers. Our goal is to empower consumers with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions. More information about our 360 Reviews methodology for evaluating internet service providers is here.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.

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