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In the information age, everyone needs the internet to find local services, to manage money, to pay bills, and much more. Internet access is essential for most people. However, due to a lack of infrastructure, finding the best internet service provider can be difficult if you live in a rural area. Nonetheless, although you may have fewer options depending on your exact location, the best rural internet providers should offer a plan that meets your needs.

In this article, we’ll explore the best internet for rural areas, so you can find an option that allows you to work online, game, stream, and do everything else you like to do on the internet.

Our picks

T-Mobile Home Internet: Best rural internet service

AT&T Internet: Best internet service provider

Optimum: Best for bundling services

Verizon 5G: Best internet speed for rural areas

Charter Spectrum: Best for rural businesses

HughesNet: Best rural availability

T-Mobile Home Internet: Best rural internet service


Star rating: 5 out of 5

Prices: $40 - $60 per month

Speeds: 72 Mbps - 245 Mbps

Availability: Nationwide

Why we picked T-Mobile Home Internet

T-Mobile Home Internet is powered by the nation’s largest 5G and 4G LTE cellular network, which covers about 325 million Americans. The most extensive coverage, combined with affordable high-speed plans make it our top pick.

Who should use T-Mobile Home Internet

The average family will get great value on high-quality internet in a rural area. There are no data caps or contracts, so you’ll enjoy reliable service at a good price.


  • Competitive, guaranteed monthly pricing
  • Coverage supporting more than 90% of Americans
  • High speeds in many rural areas


  • 5G network not available everywhere
  • Internet quality is dependent on local cellular network

AT&T Internet: Best internet service provider


Star rating: 5 out of 5

Prices: $55 - $250 per month

Speeds: 25 Mbps - 5 Gbps

Availability: Nationwide

Why we picked AT&T Internet

The nation’s second-largest 5G provider is also supported by some of the most robust cable and fiber optic infrastructure, AT&T Internet supports the highest-speed internet on this list — 5 Gbps or 5,000 Mbps — where available, and has a more thorough range of plan options that can appeal to all customers.

Who should use AT&T Internet

Existing AT&T mobile network customers may benefit from bundling AT&T internet services. Otherwise, families that use extensive internet resources — from mass multiplayer online gaming to spending all day on video calls — will benefit from AT&T’s faster service options in rural areas.


  • May be the fastest option available in many areas
  • Unlimited data available for wireless service
  • No contract necessary


  • Limited availability
  • You’ll need to bundle other services to get the best prices

Optimum: Best for bundling services


Star rating: 4.8 out of 5

Prices: $45 - $55 per month

Speeds: 300 Mbps - 2 Gbps

Availability: Limited

Why we picked Optimum

Optimum offers steep discounts when you bundle its home internet and mobile plans. At $55 per month, its bundled 2 Gbps home-internet-and-mobile plan is one of the best prices available for such robust internet speeds.

Who should use Optimum

Optimum is a great choice for rural residents who need several services they can’t get from the nation’s biggest providers based on their location. By bundling internet and mobile service, you could spend much less than you would by getting each from separate providers.


  • Bundling could save you a lot of money
  • Some of the fastest rural internet
  • No data caps or contracts


  • You’re locked into a contract
  • Only available in 21 states

Verizon 5G: Best internet speed for rural areas


Star rating: 4.6 out of 5

Prices: $35 - $80 per month

Speeds: 300 Mbps - 1,000 Mbps

Availability: Nationwide

Why we picked Verizon 5G

One of the most affordable 5G Home Internet options, Verizon 5G Home Internet starts at just $35 per month for high-speed internet. Though Verizon 5G is not available in as many rural areas as T-Mobile, it delivers some of the best bang for your buck when it comes to rural internet due to its higher internet speeds (up to 1,000 Mbps versus T-Mobile’s fastest 245 Mbps).

Who should use Verizon 5G

Like AT&T, existing Verizon customers can save money by bundling Verizon 5G wireless home internet. Gamers will find Verizon’s upper tier service suitable for their needs, as will anyone who works from home.


  • No data caps
  • No extra equipment fees
  • Easy DIY installation


  • Price subject to change after three years
  • Limited connectivity in many rural areas
  • Internet speeds impacted by connection quality and cell traffic

Charter Spectrum: Best for rural businesses


Star rating: 4.3 out of 5

Prices: $39.99 - $79.99 per month

Speeds: 300 Mbps - 1,000 Mbps

Availability: Limited

Why we picked Charter Spectrum

Charter Spectrum offers competitive pricing at three home internet tiers, but where it really excels is in business internet. Although it doesn’t offer coverage in every state, where available, Charter Spectrum delivers high-speed business internet at a better price than competitors.

Who should use Charter Spectrum

Rural businesses that need high-speed internet that doesn’t break the bank will like Charter Spectrum’s competitive pricing plans for business internet.


  • Competitive pricing
  • Business internet is even more affordable
  • Multiple high-speed plans to choose from


  • Additional fees for any add-ons
  • Less availability than competitors

HughesNet: Best rural availability


Star rating: 4.2 out of 5

Prices: $64.99 - $159.99 per month, plus a $99 upfront installation charge

Speeds: Up to 50 Mbps, with data caps of 15 - 75 GB

Availability: Nationwide

Why we picked HughesNet

The nation’s largest satellite internet provider has the widest availability of any provider on this list. In some very remote areas, it may be the only provider available.

Who should use HughesNet

HughesNet is expensive and not particularly fast. That said, it is reliable even in very remote areas, making it the best choice for people who are very off the grid but still want an internet connection.


  • Available just about everywhere
  • Can bundle with Voice over Internet Protocol
  • No hard data limits with 50 Mbps plan


  • You’re locked into a contract
  • Very expensive
  • Data caps on many plans

Our picks at a glance

Our score (out of 5)
T-Mobile Home Internet 5.0
AT&T Internet 5.0
Optimum 4.8
Verizon 5G 4.6
Charter Spectrum 4.3
HughesNet 4.2
T-Mobile Home Internet Starting at $50/month
AT&T Internet Starting at $55/month
Optimum Starting at $30/month
Verizon 5G Starting at $60/month
Charter Spectrum Starting at $49.99/month
HughesNet Starting at $64.99/month, plus $99 installation fee
T-Mobile Home Internet 72 Mbps - 245 Mbps
AT&T Internet 25 Mbps - 5 Gig
Optimum 300 Mbps - 2 Gig
Verizon 5G 300 Mbps - 1,000 Mbps
Charter Spectrum 300 Mbps - 1,000 Mbps
HughesNet Up to 50 Mbps, data caps of 15GB - 75GB

What didn’t make the cut

Just missing the cut were Earthlink (4.1/5) and Kinetic by Windstream (4.1/5). Although Earthlink has a fairly large service area, its minimum offering of speeds up to 25 Mbps at $45 monthly is far less affordable than other options on this list. Similarly, although Kinetic by Windstream offers competitive speeds and prices, it’s only available in 18 states and not accessible to many rural customers.

Understanding rural internet

Internet service providers (ISPs) have a greater incentive to provide the best service to urban areas due to population density. As such, rural communities usually have fewer ISP options, often limited to just satellite or DSL service rather than more modern 5G or fiber networks.

That said, ISPs often test innovations in internet technology in rural areas before they go live to a broader customer base. So, there are pros and cons to rural internet service, and a few things to keep in mind when searching for a rural internet service provider.

  • Connection: Usually, rural areas have limited fiber-optic and cable network access, leaving only slower DSL, satellite and cellular network connections. Some, however, may have access to new technologies like low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites and multi-transport wireless connections that are improving internet access in underserved areas.
  • Distance: DSL and cable internet connections must travel through a wire to your router. The further you are from a provider, the slower you can expect your internet to be. While fiber optic cable internet connections offer superior cable service, they’re rare in rural areas. If you’re far from a service center, you may prefer a satellite or cellular network.
  • Speed: In rural areas, you may have to pay more for greater speed. Most families require a minimum of 25 Mbps, while those who work from home or enjoy online gaming will want speeds greater than 50 Mbps.

How to choose the best rural internet service

The best rural internet service for you isn’t necessarily the best for someone else. When choosing a rural internet service provider, consider the following:


Cos is often the most important factor for most of us when considering any monthly commitment. Figure out what’s manageable for your budget before choosing a rural internet service provider.

Distance from provider

Consider how far you are from the actual service lines. Electronic signals have to travel across cables or through space to reach you, which may impact the quality of service the further you are from the origin.


The faster the internet, the more expensive it is likely to be. Still, you don’t want laggy internet interrupting important Zoom calls all the time. Consider how you use the internet, whether you need it to keep up with friends and family and watch the occasional movie or if you’re a hardcore gamer and remote worker who spends all day online. Many providers offer several plans, so you can find one that fits your budget and speed requirements.

Generally speaking, with one to two connected devices on a network, you need up to 25 Mbps speeds. With three to five devices, you’ll need 50 Mbps - 100 Mbps; more than five devices requires 150 Mbps to 200 Mbps or more.

Type of internet

Again, this is likely subject to what’s available nearby. But consider, for instance, that fiber optic tends to be faster than satellite and cable, but may be less reliable than 5G.

Types of rural internet services

Internet service providers likely have fewer internet connection options in rural areas. However, as internet technology advances, rural internet should have more connectivity over time.

One study shows that the market for Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) technology, one of the chief innovation areas for rural internet, is projected to 4x from $23.42 billion in 2023 to $95.88 billion in 2033.

These are the types of rural internet services you may have in your area.


Like cable TV, cable internet uses transmission wires to connect your home to the internet. Cable TV customers frequently bundle their TV and internet service from a single provider to save money. Because it has been around for a long time, cable is available in many areas across the country, but not everywhere.

Cellular and 5G

You may have used cellular internet in the past when activating your smartphone mobile hotspot. This internet type uses cellular telephone networks to access the internet and is available to home users via a router that connects to a cellular signal. 5G internet is some of the fastest available, but you must live within range of a 5G cell tower, making its availability very limited.


Although DSL uses an existing telephone line to carry an internet signal, don’t confuse it with the obsolete dial-up internet. DSL offers much higher bandwidth, faster speeds, and is always connected.


Satellite services like HughesNet are advertised as being available everywhere. More accurately, satellite is available in most places with limited availability of other internet types, like 5G, cable and DSL. It’s easier for signals to be transmitted to and from satellites orbiting the Earth than it is for cables to be built underground to reach rural areas. While satellite offers superior availability, these connections are traditionally slower with higher lag times, although they are improving.

How to improve rural internet speeds

Depending on your location, you may be limited to slow rural internet speeds. Here are a few tips to boost your internet speeds in rural areas.

  • Switch providers or plans: First off, if you’re experiencing slow internet speeds, you may simply have the wrong plan for you. Consider upgrading to a faster plan or switching providers if another is available.
  • Use a wired Ethernet connection: Wireless speeds are often slower in rural areas. One of the easiest ways to boost speeds is by connecting directly to your modem or router via an Ethernet cable. Your laptop may not have an Ethernet port, but stationary devices like a desktop computer, gaming console or Smart TV should.
  • Limit the number of connected devices: Your Wi-Fi network can support only a finite amount of connectivity, so when you have many devices connected, the internet will lag. When you’re doing a data-demanding task like downloading a video game file or streaming in HD, disconnect other Wi-Fi devices to maximize speed.
  • Monitor your data usage: Satellite internet providers like HughesNet have monthly data caps, but you may also have them with some fixed wireless services. When you exceed your data cap, expect significant data throttling to slow your internet speeds and to incur overage charges. If you’re frequently going over your data cap, it’s time to upgrade your plan.

How much does rural internet cost?

The cost of rural internet depends on what’s available in your area. Different rural internet service providers offer different plans and price points. However, don’t expect a markup just because you’re in a rural area; you’ll still have access to the same prices as city people. Like any internet plan, expect to pay upwards of $40 per month for basic home internet.

How fast and reliable is rural internet?

Again, internet speed in rural areas depends on availability. The best rural internet will get you on high-speed 5G networks that are very fast and very reliable. However, 5G isn’t available everywhere.

If you can get on a cable or DSL connection, you can expect your rural internet to be pretty fast and reliable, provided you’re subscribed to the right plan for your internet usage. If you’re relying on satellite internet, however, you should expect slower internet speeds.

The future of rural internet

Although cable and fiber internet networks will continue to expand into rural areas, the future of the internet is in satellite and cellular technology. They’re easier to put into orbit, offer greater accessibility, and it’s less expensive than tunneling underground cable into rural areas and directly to homes.

The best rural internet will go the way of satellites and cellular networks as major providers like T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon build their 5G networks and tech companies work to improve satellite internet service across the globe. The best internet for rural areas will likely remain satellite and cellular for the foreseeable future.


To determine the rankings for internet providers, the CNN Underscored Home editorial team analyzed 22 companies, with each company’s star rating determined by a variety of metrics and subcategories, including:

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)