The best rural internet providers are the satellite internet providers, HughesNet and Viasat (formerly Exede). As of now, these are the only two satellite internet options available but SpaceX’s Starlink is expected to be available worldwide sometime in 2021. Once Starlink internet is available, it will likely be the best rural internet provider, as long as SpaceX delivers on its promise of fast, affordable satellite internet. If you’re lucky enough to live in a rural area that has access to cable or DSL internet plans, then those are both better broadband options than satellite internet. Additionally, if you want to forgo a rural internet option, you could get away with using your mobile hotspot to connect your devices as long as you mostly use the internet for low-demand activities, such as web browsing.
In this rural internet guide:
- Best satellite internet providers for remote areas
- Top cable internet provider for rural areas
- Best DSL rural provider
- Use your mobile phone’s hotspot
- Check which rural internet providers are available near you
- Compare the top rural internet plans
Best satellite internet providers for remote areas
Although satellite internet is more expensive and has slower internet speeds than other options, it is still the best rural internet choice for customers living in remote areas because satellite internet reaches virtually everywhere. There are currently only two satellite internet options for those living in rural America—Viasat (formerly Exede) and HughesNet. However, SpaceX’s Starlink, which is currently in beta testing, may be available by 2021 and is bound to rock the satellite internet world.
Viasat rural internet plans
As of now, Viasat, one of the top rural internet providers, has the fastest download speeds and highest data caps satellite can provide. Viasat internet plans can reach internet speeds up to 100Mbps, which is fast enough to stream music and video, download podcast episodes, and browse social media. It’s important to note that every Viasat internet plan has a price lock of just 3 months—after that period, your plan price will increase. A 3-month price lock isn’t very long considering most internet service providers, including HughesNet, have a price lock of at least 1 year, if not longer.
HughesNet rural internet plans
HughesNet is a great alternative to Viasat if you want to save money on your rural broadband service—HughesNet satellite internet plans may not have the highest data caps or fastest download speeds but they are a bit more affordable than Viasat’s. One stipulation, however, is that HughesNet’s installation fees are much higher than Viasat’s, which could be a deterrent for budget-conscious customers who don’t want to pay a huge upfront sum for rural internet. That said, one of the features that makes HughesNet a top rural internet provider, aside from covering hard-to-reach areas, is that it offers its introductory rates for 2 years before increasing your plan price so it may be worth it for that generous price lock.
Starlink rural internet plans
SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet plans aren’t available yet, but the company is currently in beta testing. We won’t know more information about how fast Starlink internet will be until beta testing is complete, but it’s safe to say that Starlink’s internet speeds will likely compete with fiber internet, which is currently the fastest internet connection type out there.
And that’s not all—although Starlink hasn’t officially announced its pricing, we can infer pricing from an interview with the CEO and President of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell. She said, “Is anybody paying less than 80 bucks a month for crappy service? Nope. That’s why we’re gonna be successful.” Based on her interview, we have good reason to believe that Starlink internet plans will cost around $80/month, which is super reasonable no matter the internet connection type. In short, lightning-fast internet speeds and competitive pricing are bound to not only make Starlink a better rural internet provider than other satellite options but a viable option for customers living in cities as well.
Top cable internet provider for rural areas: Xfinity & Spectrum
Although those living in remote areas will definitely have access to satellite internet, it’s smart to check if you are covered by a cable internet service provider first—cable internet service providers tend to offer faster internet speeds and lower latency periods. Having a low latency period is important because you will experience fewer signal delays and a more responsive signal. HughesNet and Viasat have extremely long latency periods, which are bound to result in frustrations while gaming, streaming, and video conferencing.
When it comes to cable internet in sparsely-populated areas, Spectrum and Xfinity are your best bets since Spectrum covers 41 states and Xfinity is available in 40 states, with solid coverage in the Rockies. Spectrum internet plans all include unlimited data, which is great for heavy streaming households—plus, Spectrum will buy out your current contract for up to $500, making it easy to switch to this cable provider. Xfinity internet plans are affordable, starting at just $35/month and there are plenty of no-contract options. That said, there are still many places that Spectrum and Xfinity do not cover, so you’ll want to check with these internet providers first.
One disadvantage of cable internet, regardless of the internet service provider, is that information degrades over long distances, so if you live far away from the cable service provider’s service point, your signal may be rather slower and weaker than advertised by the provider.
Spectrum internet plans
Xfinity internet plans
Best DSL rural provider: CenturyLink
As with cable internet, there’s a strong chance DSL internet isn’t available in various remote areas, but you’ll want to double-check before choosing a satellite internet plan. Your best bet for a DSL rural broadband provider will be CenturyLink since this provider is available in 36 states and in certain rural areas in the Midwest and Northwest. CenturyLink is a great option if it’s available near you—plans start as cheap as $45/month and your plan price is locked in for life. Similar to cable internet, DSL signals degrade over long distances, meaning you may experience a weaker and/or slower signal than expected.
CenturyLink internet plans
Use your mobile phone’s hotspot
If satellite internet is the only option where you live and you don’t want to pay for a rural internet plan that, all things considered, is subpar, there is an alternative—you could use your mobile phone’s hotspot to connect your other devices to WiFi. Of course, you’ll want to check the details of your cell phone plan first before going this route, but if you have an unlimited data plan with hotspot capabilities or a dedicated mobile hotspot allowance, you may want to consider forgoing satellite internet and using your hotspot. But realistically, this is probably only a good option if you and your family don’t do tons of high-demand internet activities, such as binge-watch Netflix shows, play online games, and download huge files.
Keep in mind, however, if you don’t get a great cell phone signal where you live, then you’re not going to get a strong hotspot signal either and you may find yourself frustrated by a slow or unreliable internet connection. Conversely, if you have excellent coverage with unlimited data, you may be able to get away with using your hotspot for your internet needs, especially if you mostly just need the internet for web browsing, social media, and email.
Below you’ll find some of the best mobile hotspot cell phone plans available, from carriers that offer excellent coverage, including Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
Verizon Get More Unlimited Plan
AT&T Unlimited Elite Plan
T-Mobile Magenta Plus Plan
Check which internet providers are available near you
Before committing to a satellite internet plan, you’ll first want to check that you don’t have cable or DSL internet options near you. If you happen to have access to a cable or DSL internet provider, you’ll want to go with that rural internet option since you’ll likely have faster internet speeds at a lower price. Checking the available internet plans in your area is super easy. All you have to do is enter your address into our internet search tool, choose your preferred download speeds, and then click “Search.” Within seconds you’ll see a list of all the internet plans available near you.