Best Rural Internet Service Providers in 2020
For the majority of Americans who live in urban or suburban areas, deciding on an internet service provider (ISP) is simple because there are so many options. But for the 14 percent of Americans who live in rural areas in the U.S.1, finding an ISP is a lot more challenging. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 19 million Americans still lack access to broadband2. That said, a handful of ISPs have made significant progress in expanding high-speed internet access to rural counties.
So, where should consumers living in rural areas look when it comes to finding the best ISP? Are big names like Verizon and AT&T the go-tos? Or are there other service providers that give better access to those in more remote areas? Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the top internet providers for rural areas.
Why Is It Hard to Find Internet Providers in Rural Areas?
To reiterate, it’s difficult to find ISPs in rural areas. The main reason goes back to basic economics: supply and demand. Rural areas have smaller populations, which lead to fewer ways for ISPs to profit and deters companies from investing in those areas. According to the FCC, more than 18 million Americans are lacking high-speed internet access3, but our numbers show that it’s more than 40 million Americans who are lacking service.
While those numbers seem high, it makes sense that ISPs would want to invest more money and resources in densely populated areas where more than 200 million people live . In addition to those numbers, 76 percent of adults living in rural areas say they only go online once a day as opposed to 83 percent of adults living in urban or suburban areas4. All that said, the FCC and other organizations are working to increase broadband access to rural areas by investing in more infrastructure5.
What Are My Internet Options?
Before we break down the best rural providers, let’s take a look at the different types of internet options available to those living in rural counties. Because different providers have various connection types, it’s important to confirm what’s available in your area. To do that, just type in your zip code in BroadbandNow’s search window and every internet provider in your area pops up.
It’s important to note that when looking for ISPs, you want ones that provide high broadband and low latency, meaning the speed and response times are both fast. Below are the most common internet connections in rural areas:
- Satellite: Satellite internet provides the most widespread coverage for rural residents. The user places a satellite dish on the roof of their home which receives a signal from a satellite in space.
- DSL: Digital Subscriber Line is available to those who have access to landline phones. DSL usually provides the fastest and cheapest wired internet option for those living in rural areas.
- Dial-up: Dial-up is another wired internet option available to those with a landline phone, but speeds are usually much slower than DSL speeds.
- Cable: Cable is one of the most popular forms of internet access and delivers data through a coaxial cable. This allows cable internet to provide a fast and reliable connection to all consumers—even those living in rural areas.
- Fixed Wireless: Fixed wireless uses radio waves to provide consistent, low latency to rural residents. Low latency means it takes a very short response time for requested items or web pages to appear, which is great because we never want to pay a lot for a service that is consistently showing us a buffer icon. Fixed wireless is similar to satellite internet, but the latter is more accessible in rural communities.
- Mobile Broadband: Like fixed wireless, mobile broadband uses radio waves to deliver internet service. This option is best for those who live in areas with high-quality cell phone reception, as it relies on cell towers. It’s a temporary fix for someone who needs the internet on-the-go or needs an internet connection for a short period of time.
The Best Rural Internet Providers in 2020
Now that we have an idea of the available connection types, let’s take a look at the providers that give the best service for rural areas. Many of the providers on our list offer bundle options as well as unlimited data and high-speed internet. On top of that, all the providers offer speeds of at least 25 Mbps or higher, which is considered high speed internet. That said, the higher the Mbps, the faster the speed is with multiple devices. We recommend looking for provider packages that offer speeds of at least 100 Mbps, so at least three or four users can enjoy reliable broadband.
|Rural Provider||Viasat||AT&T Internet||Suddenlink||Rise Broadband||CenturyLink||Verizon Wireless||HughesNet|
|Connection Type||Satellite||Fixed Wireless||Cable||Fixed Wireless||DSL||Hotspot||Satellite|
|Monthly Price Range||$30-$150||$49.99||$34.99-$74.99||$49.95||$49-$69||$80-$90||$59.99-$150|
|Fastest Speeds||100 Mbps||100 Mbps||Up to 1,000 Mbps||25 Mbps||940 Mbps||50 Mbps||25 Mbps|
|Highest Data Cap||150 GB||250 GB||None||250 GB||1 TB||30 GB||50 GB|
|Services Offered||Internet & Phone||Internet & Phone||Internet, TV, Phone||Internet||Internet & Phone||Internet, Phone & TV||Internet|
Viasat — Best Rural Provider for Satellite Internet
As the second largest satellite internet provider in the U.S., Viasat provides high-speed internet to those living anywhere in the country and is top choice for the best satellite internet provider. Due to the way satellite internet works in conjunction with a dish on the roof, satellite is one of the more efficient ways to receive internet service for those living in rural areas.
Viasit offers speeds up to 100 Mbps, which are some of the fastest we’ve seen for satellite providers — five times faster than the national average. With high speeds, you can download your favorite HD movie in less than two minutes.
When it comes to Viasat’s pricing, the company offers a three-month promotional price before hiking up the prices to anywhere between $30 to $150 per month. On top of the package price, users need to get the satellite dish professionally installed in order for the service to work properly. Professional installation costs $99.95.
- Offers service in 51 states
- Large data caps
- Expensive monthly prices
Suddenlink — Best Rural Provider for Cable Internet
Suddenlink is available to approximately seven million people in the U.S. Cable internet is different from DSL in how they transfer data to the house. With Suddenlink, data is delivered through a cable, which is why it offers faster speeds. In fact, Suddenlink has some of the fastest broadband out of any rural provider, with its most expensive package offering speeds of 1,000 Mbps, which is 50 times faster than the national average. You can download the HD version of Titanic in less than a minute with those speeds!
The Internet 1 Gig plan, which costs $74.99 a month, stays at that fixed rate when you stick with Suddenlink. In other words, if you pay for the most expensive package, you don’t have to worry about any price hikes. However, if you opt for a lower-priced package, you risk paying more the longer you subscribe to their service even though there are no contacts.
- Speeds between 100 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps
- Unlimited data caps
- Price for Life on the most expensive plan
- Price increases on some packages after 1-2 years
Rise Broadband — Best Rural Provider for Fixed Wireless
Rise Broadband is available to an estimated 25.7 million Americans and is one of the most reasonably priced service providers. Because it’s a fixed wireless service, it requires an antenna that has a direct line of sight to the access point, which costs an additional $75. That said, Rise Broadband offers pretty fast speeds and can provide service quickly, without you having to install expensive cables.
- Largest fixed wireless provider in the U.S.
- Affordable monthly price
- Additional charge for installation
Verizon — Best Rural Provider for Wireless Hotspot
Verizon’s hotspot services are a temporary alternative for those looking for internet service in rural areas. It’s worth looking into if you’re on the go and need access to the internet every now and then. You can use your cellular data, or 4G LTE, to connect to a personal hotspot. Once you’re connected, you will be able to use the internet either on your smartphone or on other devices. Because Verizon is the largest mobile carrier in the U.S., there are many rural areas that have Verizon cell towers. As a result, Verizon costs a bit more than its competitors. You know what they say, you get what you pay for!
- Largest cell phone service provider in the U.S.
- Provides temporary internet
- Expensive plans
Summary of the Best Rural Internet Providers in 2020
While there are a handful of ISPs that cater to those living in rural areas, not all providers are accessible. Rural dwellers should double-check that the ISP services where they live. In rural areas, satellite internet is one of the more reliable methods of connecting to the internet, but it’s not the fastest, as speeds cap at 25 Mbps. This speed only supports one or two users at a time. Other providers do have other faster options, but the outage rate may be more frequent and is something to keep in mind when choosing an ISP in rural areas.
What is the best way to get internet in rural areas?
The best way to get internet in rural areas is through satellite, DSL, cable or fixed wireless connections. You also have the option to connect via a mobile hotspot or public Wi-Fi. Keep in mind that when using public Wi-Fi, you’ll experience slower speeds and a less secure connection.
Why is rural internet connection so poor?
Rural internet connection is so poor because there aren’t enough potential customers in sparsely populated areas. Supply and demand is the culprit;because the demand isn’t high enough for ISPs to profit, the supply is low.
Why is satellite internet so expensive?
Satellite internet requires expensive equipment that costs millions of dollars in order to get the necessary hardware in space. As a result, satellite internet tends to be more expensive than other broadband types.
What is the fastest internet in rural areas?
The fastest internet in rural areas is cable internet, as providers offer the fastest service, with broadband speeds up to 2,000 Mbps. Suddenlink is a great choice for cable internet, as speeds reach up to 1,000 Mbps.
- https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2018/05/22/demographic-and-economic-trends-in-urban-suburban-and-rural-communities/ ↩
- https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/reports/broadband-progress-reports/eighth-broadband-progress-report ↩
- https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-20-50A1.pdf ↩
- https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/31/digital-gap-between-rural-and-nonrural-america-persists/ ↩
- https://www.fcc.gov/auction/903 ↩