A girl using internet on a laptop in a village


Your internet options for rural areas are limited because few internet providers build networks in small towns. However, Xfinity, Century Link, and Viasat all offer internet service in rural America.

Out of these three internet providers, we recommend Xfinity. We’ve found it’s the fastest and most reliable in our survey data—plus, it offers plenty of data, so you can use the internet you pay for. More Articles: unlimited 4g internet service for home.

Best rural internet providers

  • Xfinity—best rural cable internet
  • CenturyLink—best rural DSL internet
  • Viasat—best rural satellite internet

We recommend the rural internet providers above in order from top to bottom. Cable internet tends to be faster and more reliable than DSL, and satellite internet is a good backup if your area doesn’t have any grounded internet lines like cable and DSL.

What are internet options for rural areas?

There are a few rural internet solutions to chose from, although some might not be available in your area.

  • Cable internet
  • DSL
  • Satellite internet
  • Cellular hotspot
  • Dial-up

The most commonly available internet connection types in rural areas are cable, DSL, and satellite. Options like cellular hotspot internet (which can be pricey) and dial-up (which still exists) are also available in rural areas, but we’ve concentrated on satellite, DSL, and cable. Fiber internet isn’t included because it’s still a unicorn even in many major cities.

Best rural cable internet: Xfinity

  1. High Speed
  2. Limited availability in rural areas

The best internet service most rural areas can hope for is cable, and Xfinity has the most comprehensive availability of them all. The Comcast-owned company has coaxial lines running through 40 states, with comprehensive coverage of the Rockies.

Unfortunately, cable internet from any brand is a rarity in most rural areas—so if it’s available within your ZIP code, we recommend it, especially if it’s Xfinity. You’ll get nearly all of Xfinity’s internet plans if you’re fortunate enough to have rural Xfinity coverage, and the provider has maximum download speeds of 1.2 Gbps.

A person using internet on laptop in a village

One big “but”: the downside of cable internet from any provider is that the data doesn’t travel long distances well. The farther away from a cable provider’s service point you are, the more degraded the signal that eventually reaches you. So even if you can get cable service, it may be a weaker and slower version than advertised.

  • Comparatively low monthly rates
  • Limited availability in rural areas
  • No contracts
  •  Degraded signal over distance

CenturyLink DSL—Digital Subscriber Line, or internet-delivered through standard telephone lines—is available in 36 states and covers many rural areas in the Northwest and Midwest. Since phone lines are more common outside of urban grids than cable, you’re more likely to find a DSL hookup if you live in a rural area.

We like CenturyLink DSL for its relatively low monthly rate as well as its wide availability. You’ll pay $50 per month and won’t have to worry about contracts or price increases.

But like with most DSL providers, your maximum download speed will be what CenturyLink’s network supports around your address. On CenturyLink’s DSL plan, you might get a download speed of 15 Mbps or 100 Mbps. Although CenturyLink’s speed unpredictability isn’t great, we’d ultimately recommend CenturyLink if it’s available near you because of the provider’s flat-rate pricing.

CenturyLink also does fiber internet, but it’s still rarer outside of cities than Bigfoot sightings and Pottery Barns.

Like cable internet, distance is the enemy of DSL—the signal gets more diluted the more miles it travels from a service point to your modem. It’s a vast improvement over dial-up internet, but it’s still subject to the limitations of decades-old telephone lines.

  • Widely available
  • Relatively expensive plans
  • High (for satellite) download speeds
  •  Spotty performance

The excellent news: satellite internet doesn’t rely on land-wired infrastructures and is readily available to anyone with a clear view of the sky.

The bad news: while great for TV service, satellite dish-delivered internet can only sub-DSL speed and stability. Also, factors like distance from the satellite or inclement weather can knock that speed down or knock it out completely.

Surprisingly, the same type of satellite dish that can beam new, HD-quality TV into your home is capable of conveying only a fraction of that signal in internet service. Cable TV and internet are equal in performance; satellite TV and internet couldn’t be further apart.

Of the two satellite internet providers available (Viasat and HughesNet), we recommend Viasat. It has a wide variety of plans and—at least theoretical—high download speeds. Viasat advertises download speeds up to 100 Mbps (megabytes per second), which is near the fastest rate of DSL and means you can stream shows and movies on multiple devices and surf the internet simultaneously.

At times, satellite internet may be unreliable and slow, but at least it’s wincingly expensive—just keeping it real here. Besides monthly base rates that can run as high as $150, Viasat’s required equipment isn’t cheap, and you’re contracted for two years. There’s also the issue of data overages (Viasat says its plans are “unlimited,” but going over specific data numbers can cost you in throttled speed and actual dollars).

In other words, satellite internet should be your last resort—and Viasat is the better choice of that last resort by a narrow margin.

Other rural internet services

Cellular hotspot

Ever noticed the “Mobile Hotspot” button on your phone and wondered, “What’s that about?” Well, it turns your mobile phone (and data) into a virtual modem/router that connects you to the internet through a cellular network. If you’d instead not tie up your phone, you can also buy a stand-alone MiFi device that does the same thing but still lets you play Fortnite.

Using a cellular mobile hotspot for your internet connection is easy. But it can also be expensive because mobile carriers rarely offer unlimited internet data. If you’re using your 4G internet connection to power. Your rural home’s wireless network, you can quickly hit your carrier’s data limits and rack up overage charges.

Also, the distance from the nearest cell tower will affect performance—if the phone call quality in your area is sketchy. The internet quality won’t be much better.

Dial-up internet

Millions of Americans still use good ole ‘90s-style dial-up internet—knock us over with a floppy disk, it’s true. For rural communities wired with telephone lines but not serviced by DSL providers. Dial-up internet is a cheap and straightforward way to check email and weather reports.

“Cheap” is relative with dial-up internet because—Gen-Xers will remember this, dubiously. You’re charged by the minute, not at a flat monthly rate. Combine that ticking clock with download speeds well under 1 Mbps, and any potential savings are out the window.


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