Rural Internet Access in the U.S.

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DecisionData Team
September 03, 2020

That old dial-up connection may seem like a thing of the past for most of us, but for some Americans 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 their 2020 Broadband report, the digital divide in broadband service is continuing to close. The report found that since 2017, Americans living in rural areas with access to broadband service increased by 85%.

That being said, finding an internet service provider remains more difficult 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:

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.

Compare Rural Internet Providers

As 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:

HughesNetSatellite50 statesCheck Availability
ViasatSatellite50 statesCheck Availability
Rise BroadbandFixed wireless16 statesCheck Availability
CenturyLinkFixed wireless36 statesCheck Availability
AT&TDSL21 statesCheck Availability
VerizonCellular50 statesCheck Availability

Best Rural Internet Provider Details


HughesNet internet

Starting at $59.99 /mo for 24 months

Plans Include

  • Download speeds up to 25 Mbps
  • No 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.


Viasat internet

Starting at $50 /mo for 24 months

Plans Include

  • Download speeds up to 100 Mbps
  • 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.

Rise Broadband

Rise broadband internet

Starting at $29.95 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Download speeds up to 50 Mbps
  • Data caps starting at 250 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.


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.


AT&T internet

Starting at $49.99 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Speeds up to 100 Mbps
  • Data caps starting at 250 GB/mo.
  • 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.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon internet

Starting at $39.99 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Unlimited 4G service
  • Monthly data allowances of 10 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.

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 — and Loon — Google’s project deploying balloons — aim 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.