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Best Rural Internet Providers of 2023

Rural internet is improving, but it can still be a challenge to find quality home internet. Here are the providers we'd recommend most.

david-anders
david-anders
David Anders Senior Writer
David Anders is a senior writer for CNET covering broadband providers, smart home devices and security products. Prior to joining CNET, David built his industry expertise writing for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. In his 5 plus years covering broadband, David's work has been referenced by a variety of sources including ArcGIS, DIRECTV and more. David is from and currently resides in the Charlotte area with his wife, son and two cats.
Expertise Broadband providers, Home internet, Security Cameras
David Anders
10 min read
CenturyLink - Best rural internet provider overall
  • Prices from $30 - $70 per month
  • Speeds from 200 - 940Mbps
  • Unlimited data
Or call to order: (855) 292-6560
Kinetic by Windstream - Another solid choice for rural internet
  • Prices from $40 - $70 per month
  • Speeds from 100 - 1,000Mbps
  • Unlimited data
Or call to order: (877) 786-3152
Mediacom - Best for cable internet in rural areas
  • Prices from $20 - $60 per month
  • Speeds from 100 - 1,000Mbps
  • Low introductory rates
Or call to order: (844) 382-5416
Rise Broadband - Best rural fixed wireless ISP
  • Prices from $25 - $65 per month
  • Speeds from 25 - 50Mbps
  • Unlimited data on some plans
Or call to order: (877) 215-6970
Ziply Fiber - Fastest rural internet provider
  • Prices from $20 - $300 per month
  • Speeds from 50 - 10,000Mbps
  • Unlimited data
Or call to order: (877) 242-1290
T-Mobile - Best rural 5G home internet provider
  • Prices from $50 per month
  • Speeds from 33 - 182Mbps
  • Unlimited data
Or call to order: (855) 758-2133
Viasat - Fastest satellite internet provider
  • Prices from $70 - $300 per month
  • Speeds from 12 - 150Mbps
  • No hard data cap
Or call to order: (844) 316-5936
HughesNet - Best satellite internet value
  • Prices from $50 - $150 per month
  • Speeds from 25Mbps
  • Nationwide availability
Or call to order: (833) 217-7369

Living in a rural area has its advantages, but it may also come with a lack of quality broadband options. A wired connection, like the one you get with CenturyLink, our pick for best rural internet provider overall, will often be your best option, if available. Other wired rural ISPs such as Kinetic by Windstream, Mediacom and Ziply Fiber are great choices for a high-speed, low-cost broadband connection as well.

In areas without access to fiber, cable or phone lines, a wireless internet service, such as fixed wireless internet from Rise Broadband or 5G home internet from T-Mobile may be your best options. Then, of course, there's always satellite internet from HughesNet or Viasat if no other more practical broadband services are available in your area.

So which rural internet provider is best for your home? Here are my picks for the best providers that are most likely to be available in rural areas, all of which were chosen based on factors including coverage, speeds, pricing, data caps and customer satisfaction. Other than listing my top two picks for rural internet service providers first, providers are listed in no particular order.

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Best rural internet providers

CenturyLink logo on a phone screen
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CenturyLink

Best rural internet provider overall

Or call to order: (855) 292-6560
Product details
Price range $30 - $70 per month Speed range 200 - 940Mbps Connection Fiber Highlights Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included with gigabit tier

Aside from satellite internet providers and T-Mobile, CenturyLink has arguably the greatest coverage area of any ISP, largely spanning suburban and rural areas across 36 states coast to coast. Most of that coverage comes from its DSL network, which means many rural residents within CenturyLink service areas will likely only be eligible for DSL service.

The good news is that many DSL customers will be able to get broadband speeds or higher -- that's download speeds up to 25Mbps and upload speeds of 3Mbps -- while some may be eligible for max download speeds of 100Mbps or higher. So in short, CenturyLink can meet or beat the internet speeds of satellite internet in most service areas, and service comes with a lower starting price ($50 per month), unlimited data and no contracts.

If CenturyLink's fiber service, Quantum Fiber, is available in your area, consider yourself lucky. Quantum Fiber comes with two plan options: 200Mbps starting at $30 per month or gig service starting at $70 per month. Either plan is a massive upgrade from satellite, DSL or other rural internet connection types, so I'd recommend deciding which speed you need and going with CenturyLink's fiber service if it happens to be available.

Read our CenturyLink review.

Or call to order: (855) 292-6560
Kinetic logo on phone screen
Sarah Tew/CNET

Kinetic by Windstream

Another solid choice for rural internet

Or call to order: (877) 786-3152
Product details
Price range $40 - $70 per month Speed range 100 - 1,000Mbps Connection Fiber Highlights Unlimited data, no contracts

Kinetic by Windstream also received a 6.7/10 in our review, but falls short of CenturyLink in total coverage area. That said, it's an excellent choice for rural internet as the provider has some of the fastest DSL speeds and one of the greatest fiber network percentages of any rural ISP.

Kinetic offers internet service in 18 states total across the Midwest, South and Eastern US. Though available primarily in rural and suburban areas, nearly a third of Windstream's network uses fiber technology. Where fiber service is available, Kinetic customers can get download and upload speeds ranging from 25 up to 1,000Mbps. These speeds make Kinetic ideal for streaming over wireless connections and online gaming, activities that are often a challenge with rural internet service.

Service areas not eligible for fiber will have to settle for DSL, but Kinetic's DSL network is better than most. The majority of serviceable households will have access to broadband speeds or higher, while roughly two-thirds can get download speeds up to or higher than 100Mbps. 

Regardless of the available network, Kinetic is a great choice for unlimited rural internet service, as all plans come with no data caps or contracts.

Read our Kinetic by Windstream review.

Or call to order: (877) 786-3152
Mediacom
Sarah Tew/CNET

Mediacom

Best for cable internet in rural areas

Or call to order: (844) 382-5416
Product details
Price range $20 - $60 per month Speed range 100 - 1,000Mbps Connection Cable Highlights Low introductory rates, up to 6TB monthly data allowance, no contracts

As a cable provider, Mediacom can deliver much faster and more reliable speeds than DSL, satellite or fixed wireless service, but its service reach is more limited. Mediacom is available to just over 2% of US residents with service areas across much of the Midwest and South, as well as parts of California and Delaware.

Still, Mediacom is one of the best cheap internet providers for rural areas with service starting at just $20 a month. Just know that the cheapest Mediacom plan only comes with 200GB of data, and going over the limit can add up to $50 to your bill. More data is available with higher-tiered plans, up to 6 terabytes, but no Mediacom plan offers unlimited rural internet service. 

Pricing goes up on all Mediacom plans after the first year and settles somewhere around the industry average for cable internet providers. Still, starting prices of $20-$80 per month aren't bad, especially for a rural internet connection.

Read our Mediacom review.

Or call to order: (844) 382-5416
Rise Broadband
Sarah Tew/CNET

Rise Broadband

Best rural fixed wireless ISP

Or call to order: (877) 215-6970
Product details
Price range $25 - $65 per month Speed range 25 - 50Mbps Connection Fixed wireless Highlights Unlimited data on some plans, low price increase

Rise Broadband is a leading fixed wireless internet provider with service available to around 6% of US households, many of which are in rural areas. Coverage spans 16 states with Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Texas and Utah having the greatest serviceability.

Similar to satellite internet, fixed wireless service from Rise Broadband requires no direct wires to the home, making it accessible to those in rural areas where cable, fiber-optic and even telephone lines do not reach. Where available, Rise Broadband would be my choice over satellite internet, as the provider offers speeds up to 50Mbps, latency low enough to support online gaming, and truly unlimited data options, all for a relatively low price compared to satellite. 

Rise Broadband is also a great choice for Wi-Fi in rural areas with Premium Wi-Fi and Premium Mesh Wi-Fi service available as add-ons to all internet plans.

Read our Rise Broadband review.

Or call to order: (877) 215-6970
Ziply Fiber logo
Sarah Tew/CNET

Ziply Fiber

Fastest rural internet provider

Or call to order: (877) 242-1290
Product details
Price range $20 - $300 per month Speed range 50 - 10,000Mbps Connection Fiber Highlights Unlimited data, no contracts, fast rural internet connection

You read that speed range correctly: Ziply Fiber offers multigigabit internet speeds with 2Gbps, 5Gbps and now 10Gbps plans available in select -- and rural -- areas throughout the Northwest.

The fastest Ziply plan may be more speed than you need, and more than you want to pay at $300 per month, but other Ziply plans present a bit more affordability without having to sacrifice too much speed. Ziply's entry level plan, for example, starts at just $20 per month for symmetrical upload and download speeds of up to 50Mbps. There's also a 200Mbps speed tier starting at $40 per month. All plans come with unlimited data and no contract requirements.

Ziply has an impressive fiber network, but only about half of Ziply service areas are eligible for fiber service, according to the FCC. All others will rely on a DSL network which, like most DSL services, presents one plan option for the fastest speeds available. In the case of Ziply Internet, the DSL service, that plan starts at $50 per month for speeds up to 115Mbps. Again, that's the fastest possible speed. Many customers may only be eligible for speeds that are much slower.

Read our Ziply Fiber review.

Or call to order: (877) 242-1290
T-Mobile logo on a tablet
Sarah Tew/CNET

T-Mobile

Best rural 5G home internet provider

Or call to order: (855) 758-2133
Product details
Price range $50 per month ($30 for eligible T-Mobile Magenta Max customers) Speed range 33 - 182Mbps Connection Fixed wireless Highlights Unlimited data, equipment included, no contracts, no additional fees

The arrival of 5G is exciting news for your phone, but the technology could also improve home internet connectivity, especially if you're in a rural area. So far, T-Mobile has the greatest 5G availability with coverage reaching 30 million homes across 40 states. Around a third of those homes are in rural areas, according to T-Mobile.

If your address is eligible for T-Mobile 5G home internet, you'll have one plan option: $50 a month for the fastest speeds available. The plan also comes with no data caps or contracts, and equipment is included at no additional cost

Actual speeds will vary by address, but will probably fall between 33-182Mbps. I can't say those speeds are particularly impressive, but they are faster than you can expect from satellite service, without the hassle of data caps and contracts. Another thing of note on speeds, T-Mobile home internet service may occasionally fall back to 4G LTE service, which means speeds can further dip and vary.

Read our T-Mobile 5G home internet review.

Or call to order: (855) 758-2133
Viasat logo on a phone
Sarah Tew/CNET

Viasat

Fastest satellite internet provider

Or call to order: (844) 316-5936
Product details
Price range $70 - $300 per month Speed range 12 - 150Mbps Connection Satellite Highlights No hard data cap, nationwide availability

Slow speed is one of the biggest downsides to satellite internet, but in many areas, Viasat's speeds are higher than those of its main satellite internet rival, HughesNet. While HughesNet download speeds top out at the broadband threshold of 25Mbps, Viasat customers can sign up for 50Mbps or 100Mbps in select areas.

But with great(ish) speed comes (not-so) great pricing. Viasat is the most expensive rural broadband provider you'll find, with service starting at $70 per month for speeds as low as 12Mbps, not to mention an added $13 per month for equipment. If you want the fastest speeds, 100Mbps, it could cost up to $300 or more per month. There's also a price hike after just three months of service that could add $30, $50 or $100 to your bill, depending on the plan.

Viasat is the fastest satellite provider with coverage in all 50 states, but perhaps not for long. Elon Musk's Starlink and Amazon's Project Kuiper have injected a lot of interest into the category, and consumers should keep an eye on names like those in the coming years.

Read our Viasat internet review.

Or call to order: (844) 316-5936
HughesNet
Sarah Tew/CNET

HughesNet

Best satellite internet value

Or call to order: (833) 217-7369
Product details
Price range $50 - $150 per month Speed range 25Mbps Connection Satellite Highlights