Rural Internet Options

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Sean Jackson
October 12, 2021

About Rural Internet

That old dial-up connection may seem like a thing of the past for most of us, but for some Americans — those who live in rural areas — it is still very much a reality.

However, there is some good news about connecting our rural residents with broadband. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the 2020 Broadband report, the digital divide in broadband service is continuing to close, and since 2017, Americans living in rural areas with access to broadband service increased by 85%.

That being said, finding an internet service provider remains a challenge in certain areas of the country. In fact, census data shows that while 75% of households in urban areas subscribe to an internet service, just 65% of households in mostly rural areas subscribe.

Live in a rural area and want to see what options are available now? Search for availability in your ZIP code:

Top Rural Internet Providers

Access for the internet in rural areas is improving and expanding quickly. That’s good news for families who choose to live away from urban areas. An overview of several of the  providers available and more in-depth information on each provider follows: 

PROVIDERTYPECOVERAGEDOWNLOAD SPEEDSDATA CAPSADDED VALUEAVAILABILITY
Fiber21 states1-10 Mbps1TB/mo.Bundle option with DIRECTVCheck Availability
Fixed wireless36 states3-100 Mbps1TB/mo.Bundled deals with phone and/or cableCheck Availability
Satellite50 states25 Mbps20GB/mo.GEN 5 tech reduces data usage by 30%Check Availability
Fixed wireless16 states5-1,000 Mbps150GB/mo.Earns an A+ rating with the Better Business BureauCheck Availability
Cellular50 states5-12 Mbps8GB/mo.99% nationwide availabilityCheck Availability
Satellite50 states12-100 Mbps25GB/mo.Bundle with home phone serviceCheck Availability

Types of Internet Available for Rural Areas

Luckily, rural America is moving forward and improving conditions for residents and businesses when it comes to internet access. We know that dial-up is an option to get basic internet access, but it’s not the only one available. Let’s look at other types of internet for rural areas:

  • Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)

  • A DSL connection sends data using your existing phone line, but it’s up to 10 times faster than dial-up and it allows you to use your phone while connected to the internet, though connection can be slow and spotty.

  • Satellite

  • Satellite internet is widely available, even in rural areas, but it faces the same major drawback as satellite television – the weather may affect your connection.

  • Wireless internet service providers

  • A wireless internet service provider is a mobile broadband service that transmits internet signals to your home, but it requires equipment installation on your property, with a clear line of sight to the tower. Stormy weather can interfere with a connection.

  • Cellular/4G

  • Cellular 4G networks are widely available in rural areas, however, you must use a smartphone rather than a computer for your internet needs. Coverage can be spotty and the cost per gig of data can be high.

  • Fiber

  • Fiber optic internet is relatively expensive in rural areas, and internet in general an be spotty. However, there are pockets of rural areas around the U.S. with fiber optic internet.

Rural Internet Buying Guide

Which internet type is right for you will depend on several factors such as availability, speed, and pricing. These sections can help you identify the right plan for your needs:

What to expect in rural areas

Internet Availability in Rural Areas

Rural areas won’t have much access or choices when it comes to internet service. Normally, you’ll have access to satellite, DSL or fixed wireless options. Here’s the nationwide availability of each type:

  • DSL: Up to 80% of the population
  • Satellite internet: Up to 100% of the population
  • Fixed wireless: Providers like Verizon have 99% nationwide availability

Internet Speeds Available in Rural Areas

As noted previously, where you live matters a lot because it determines which providers are available. In turn, this also determines the types of internet you’ll have access to. Here are the download speed ranges for each type:

  • DSL: 1-200 Mbps
  • Fixed Wireless: 1-1,000 Mbps
  • Satellite: 12-100 Mbps

Prices Ranges Available in Rural Areas

Along with speed, price is one of the deciding factors when choosing the right type of internet. With this in mind, here’s how much each type could cost you:

  • DSL: $19-$49.99
  • Fixed Wireless: $29.99-$70
  • Satellite: $50-$59.99

Compare Rural Internet Service Providers Plans & Pricing

As access to the internet for rural areas improves and expands, families who choose to live away from urban zones will find more rural internet options. This is a higher level of overview of the providers available, with more in-depth information on each one listed below:

AT&T

AT&T internet

Starting at $49.99 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Speeds up to 100 Mbps
  • Data caps starting at 1 TB/mo. for most plans
  • Connection type: DSL
  • Availability: 22 states
  • Features: In-home WiFi, installation within 10 days of ordering and customer service available seven days a week.
  • Service termination fees: Vary based on agreement, but you can estimate them here.

CenturyLink

CenturyLink internet

Starting at $49.00 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Internet speeds up to 940 Mbps
  • No contract. No rate hikes
  • Speed may not be available in your area
  • Additional taxes, fees and surcharges apply
  • See offer details
  • Connection type: DSL
  • Availability: 36 states
  • Feature: A “Price for Life” plan to avoid rate changes, no cancellation fees and add-on features like backup and security services.

HughesNet

HughesNet internet

Starting at $49.99 /mo for 24 months

Plans Include

  • Download speeds up to 25 Mbps
  • 20 GB data caps
  • Connection type: Satellite
  • Availability: All states
  • Features: Four plan options, data-saving technology and no hard data limits (you can stay connected, but at reduced speeds).
  • Service termination fee: $400 or less (the amount decreases with each successive month of your contract) if you cancel before the 24-month contract ends.

Rise Broadband

Rise broadband internet

Starting at $14.99 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Download speeds up to 50 Mbps
  • Data caps starting at 150 GB
  • Connection type: Fixed wireless
  • Availability: 16 states
  • Features: 24/7 tech support for your internet-connected devices and discounts on installation costs if you sign up for a two-year contract.
  • Term agreements: Month-to-month plans are available.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon internet

Starting at $39.99 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Unlimited 4G service
  • Monthly data allowances of 8 to 40 GB
  • Connection type: Cellular 4G
  • Availability: 99% of the U.S. population
  • Features: Plans allow for WiFi connectivity of up to 20 devices, wired connectivity for four devices and no additional installation or activation fees.
  • Service termination fees: Early termination fees up to $350, which decreases as months progress in your contract.

Viasat

Viasat internet

Starting at $50 /mo for 24 months

Plans Include

  • Download speeds up to 100 Mbps
  • 25 GB data caps for some plans, but they offer plans with unlimited data
  • Connection type: Satellite
  • Availability: All states
  • Features: A price-lock guarantee for the length of your contract, fast and easy installation and no long-term contract service to avoid early cancellation fees for an upfront cost of $300.
  • Service termination fee: 24-month contracts with an early cancellation fee of $15 for each month left on your contract.

Compare Rural Internet Service Providers Plans & Pricing

As the internet for rural areas improves and expands, families who choose to live away from urban zones will find more rural internet options. Here are six of the most popular internet providers for rural households:

Rural Internet: An Improving Industry

Since 2016, high-speed internet has been defined as a utility rather than a luxury. A federal court ruled in a landslide decision that high-speed internet should be treated like any other utility, such as power and phone lines, paving the way for better oversight of broadband providers and more protections for internet users.

Additionally, this ruling required both internet service providers and the FCC to take a more active role in getting affordable internet access to Americans, even in rural areas and low-income households. 

Internet options for rural areas are already improving, and in the upcoming years, we expect this to continue. 5G internet is expected to make huge strides for broadband internet for rural areas across the country. With options such as cable, DSL, fiber, satellite and fixed wireless plans, there is no reason rural households still need to rely on that old dial-up connection. 

Take Minnesota as an example. The state invested $85.2 million to expand utility access — and it’s paying off. In 2015, just 39% of Minnesota households had access to 100/20 Mbps internet. Today, 74% of households can choose this option.

Traditional internet providers aren’t the only ones working to expand internet options for rural areas. Satellite-based internet from Starlink — which leverages SpaceX’s technology — aims to expand connectivity across the globe. All told, high-speed rural internet options are growing.

If you’re ready to get started with exploring your high-speed rural internet options, use our Internet In My Area tool.