What’s the Best Rural Internet Provider?
Whether you are a remote worker or an individual user looking for internet options in rural areas, we have identified four internet providers that may meet your needs. Rural areas often lack variety when it comes to internet plans, and some places don’t have any internet options at all. Satellite internet is a popular option for web surfing in rural and underpopulated areas, but it’s not the only option. Other internet services like DSL, fixed wireless, cable internet, and even fiber internet have become more widely available in rural areas in recent years.
With this in mind, we investigated Rise Broadband, Mediacom, Kinetic by Windstream, and Viasat to see which provider is the best for rural customers. The following information provides details about the best high-speed internet options in rural areas, including who each provider is best for, customer ratings and reviews, and more.
Who this is for
Rise Broadband offers 5 to 50Mbps for $35 to 70/month. Their entry-level 5Mbps internet plan is ideal for students and individual users, and it covers web surfing, checking email, and social media. The 50Mbps plan is better equipped to support more online activity, though it may not be enough for streaming or gaming.
Mediacom offers 60 to 1000Mbps for $20 to 80/month, and its data caps range from 200 to 6,000GB. The lowest speed internet plan is ideal for small families or individual users that want to play video games online, stream TV, and attend Zoom meetings. But, if you’re a devoted gamer or remote worker who needs high upload and download speeds, or you backup everything to the cloud, you’ll likely want to opt for the 1000Mbps plan.
Windstream offers high-speed fiber internet options for rural areas that range from 25 to 1000Mbps for $37 to $67/month. Fiber internet is ideal for streaming and online gaming and for remote workers that have Zoom meetings all day long or send large files all the time. Any fiber plan from Kinetic by Windstream will make this possible, and you can connect up to 12 devices at one time. If you don’t have fiber plans available in your area, you may still have access to DSL plans that offer broadband-level speeds, with up to 100Mbps. Windstream serves 18 states.
Viasat offers 12 to 100Mbps for $50 to 150/month and data caps range from 40 to 150GB. It’s not the fastest internet on the market, but you can find it in all 50 states. Their entry-level internet plan is for students that take online courses and like video streaming and web browsing. The 100Mbps plan is enough to play games, watch TV online, and attend Zoom meetings. Plus, you can connect up to 4 devices.*
Rise Broadband charges a standard installation fee of $150. Mediacom and Viasat have an installation fee of $99.99, and Kinetic by Windstream charges a one-time fee of $35 for professional installation.
Rise Broadband charges an equipment rental fee of $11.99/month. The Mediacom modem fee is $15/month. Kinetic rents modems for $5.99/month, or you can opt to buy your own modem to save some money. Viasat has an equipment lease fee of $10/month.*
What others are saying
While opinions about the best rural internet providers will vary depending on which are available in a particular region, here’s what some reviewers had to say about these service providers.
The J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study measures overall customer satisfaction based on the quality and speed of their internet connection, price, billing and payment, communications and promotions, customer service, and how the customer perceives the value of that connection. Mediacom scored below the industry average in the South region, which is 727/1000 score, with a 723 score out of 1,000, followed by Kinetic with a 682 score.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index study tracks customer satisfaction metrics. In this study, Kinetic scored 61/100 and Mediacom scored 60/100 in customer satisfaction. Both internet providers scored below the industry average, a 65/100 score.
Viasat has excellent customer satisfaction according to the Better Business Bureau. Despite Viasat’s customers filing over 1,800 complaints with the Better Business Bureau about service issues and unexpected fees in the last three years, they earned a great rating due to good complaint handling. Around 800 Viasat complaints were closed in the last 12 months, which helped them earn the highest customer satisfaction rating of A+ from the BBB.
Rise Broadband has also had a steady A+ rating since 2015. This company also scored high due to good complaint handling, and it has fewer complaints than Viasat. Its customers filed around 70 complaints over the last 12 months.
Rural internet provider FAQs
Which is the best internet service for rural areas?
Viasat offers satellite internet plans that are available anywhere in the U.S.
Rise Broadband offers affordable fixed wireless internet plans in rural areas with several speed tiers. It’s available throughout rural and suburban regions of the Midwest and Southwest as well as the Rocky Mountains region.
Mediacom offers Gigabit cable internet plans that allow you to connect up to 12 devices at once, and it serves 22 states, including Iowa, Illinois, and Georgia.
Fiber internet plans are the best high-speed internet options for rural areas. Windstream currently provides fiber-optic internet services and serves 18 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Kentucky.
What additional fees do these providers charge?
Rise Broadband has fees for equipment rentals, early termination, late payments, paper statements, and more. Plus, they charge you a $149 installation fee and an overage fee if you go over your data limit.
Mediacom has a modem rental for its Xtream Wi-Fi 360 to extend your Wi-Fi based on the size of your home, and also has additional fees like data overage, and activation.
Kinetic by Windstream offers fiber plans that don’t require you to sign a contract, so you don’t have an early termination fee, and you won’t face overage fees.
Viasat offers some plans that you have to sign a two-year contract. So, you have an early termination fee for these plans. It offers unlimited data, so you won’t have data overage fees. Also, it has additional fees like modem rental, installation, service calls, and dish relocation.
Why aren’t there more rural internet options?
Extending internet services like fiber internet to rural areas is expensive; the cost of installing fiber lines is high. Other internet services like satellite, fixed wireless, and DSL internet are cheaper to bring to your home.
What are the main differences between these internet providers?
Rise Broadband is the best fixed wireless internet option available in rural areas, thanks to their affordable plan options. Mediacom is the best rural cable internet provider, offering good speeds at an affordable price. Kinetic is the best fiber internet provider for rural areas where other providers are unavailable. Viasat is the best satellite provider available anywhere in the United States.
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*Pricing varies by location and availability. Speeds may vary. All prices subject to change; for current pricing and availability visit our internet service page. Prices as of 2/10/22.
Disclosure | Updater articles are based on our own data and research, independent from partner relationships. We are not compensated by partners for information and opinions presented here. Our Editorial Terms of Service can be found here.