By Andy Bowen

The Best High Speed Internet Service Providers

With varying coverage, cost, speed, and connection type, there’s no one best internet provider for everyone. To find the best for you, first figure out which are available where you live — the plans offered by any given provider vary by location. We researched top providers to give a comprehensive picture of the internet service provider landscape and to point out where each excel. Use our ZIP tool and buying guide to make an informed decision and get the speeds you need.

The 8 Best High Speed Internet Service Providers

The Best High Speed Internet Service Providers: Summed Up

  AT&T U-verse Verizon Fios CenturyLink Xfinity Cox Frontier Charter Spectrum Mediacom
Best for Stellar Customer Service Unlimited data Price-lock guarantee Fastest top speed Plan variety No-contract option Contract buyout offer Convenient scheduling
Connection type DSL, Fiber-Optic Fiber-Optic DSL, Fiber-Optic Cable, Fiber-Optic Cable, Fiber-Optic DSL, Fiber-Optic Cable, Fiber-Optic Cable
Download speed up to 1,000 Mbps 1,000 Mbps 1,000 Mbps 1,000 Mbps Cable: 10-300
Fiber: 300-1,000
DSL: 24-45
Fiber: 500
Cable: 100-200
Fiber: 400-940
60-1,000
WiFi hotspot access
No-contract option
Data cap 1 TB N/A 1 TB 1 TB 1 TB N/A N/A Varies
Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans

AT&T - Stellar Customer Service

Stelar
Customer Service

AT&T Internet
Pros
Impressive speed
Broad coverage
Customer service
Cons
Availability of fiber-optic service
DSL performance
Data caps

Why we chose it

Impressive speed

AT&T Fiber delivers blazing fast speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps in major cities. That’s enough speed to download 25 songs in just one second. However, it’s important to note that you need to be in an area equipped with AT&T’s fiber-optic lines to take advantage of those top speeds.

Broad coverage

If AT&T Fiber isn’t available where you live, you may be able to get AT&T Internet, the company’s DSL service. AT&T offers DSL broadband in 38% of the U.S., making it the largest DSL provider in the nation. Between fiber and DSL, over 120 million people count on AT&T to get where they want to go online.

Customer service

AT&T scores among the top two providers nationwide, coming in just behind Verizon. It earned a 70% satisfaction rating from the ACSI and a five out of five in “overall satisfaction” from J.D. Power.

Points to consider

Availability of fiber-optic service

1,000 Mbps is impressive — more than enough speed for multiple users to stream Netflix, play online games, and more, all at once. But if you don’t live in or near a major city in the South, Midwest, or California, AT&T Fiber may not be available in your area.

DSL performance

You’re more likely to have access to AT&T’s DSL service (covering 38% of the country) than to AT&T Fiber (covering less than 2%). While speeds do reach up to 100 Mbps in some areas, DSL doesn’t offer the same level of speed and performance as fiber. Depending on your plan, you may notice a delay when multiple devices are connected or when streaming, gaming online, or uploading large files.

Data caps

While the Internet 1000 plan and some bundles include unlimited data, other plans come with a data cap of 1 TB. 1 TB equals 1,000 GB — and that’s a lot of data, even for households that consume tons of media. (AT&T’s data calculator estimates that streaming 350 hours of HD video would still leave you 125 GB to spare.) If you do go over the cap, you’ll pay an overage charge of $10 per additional 50 GB, up to $100 per month.

Verizon Fios - Unlimited Data


Unlimited Data

Verizon Fios
Pros
Gigabit speed
Faster-than-average uploads
No data caps
Customer service rating
Cons
Availability

Why we chose it

Gigabit speed

In 2017, Fios launched a new Gigabit Connection service that offers download speeds of up to 940 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 880 Mbps. That’s incredibly fast, considering that the average American internet connection clocks in around 19 Mbps.

Faster-than-average uploads

It’s common for internet service providers to offer significantly more download speed than upload speed. Depending on the discrepancy, you might be able to stream at top speed but notice a delay when sharing large files, playing an online game, or video conferencing. In contrast, most Fios plans (excluding the Gigabit Connection tier) offer equally fast upload and download speeds.

No data caps

No need to worry about data caps. All Fios plans include unlimited data, so you can stream, browse, and share to your heart’s content.

Customer service rating

Verizon has the highest ACSI customer satisfaction rating of any provider on our list: 71% of customers say they’re satisfied. It’s also the only ISP awarded a perfect overall satisfaction score from J.D. Power (five out of five Power Circles).

Points to consider

Availability

Though Fios is the largest fiber-optic broadband provider in the country, that’s mostly due to population density. It’s only available in 10 states — all in the Northeast. Verizon High Speed Internet (DSL) plans may be available in areas where Fios isn’t, but we haven’t featured them in our review because their speeds top out below the baseline for broadband internet (25 Mbps).

CenturyLink - Price-Lock Guarantee

Price-Lock
Guarantee

CenturyLink
Pros
Availability of fiber-optic service
Plans for every budget
Price guarantee without a contract
Cons
Data caps

Why we chose it

Availability of fiber-optic service

Want fiber-optic internet but don’t live in the South or Northeast? Good news: CenturyLink is available in many states that AT&T and Fios aren’t. It offers 1,000 Mbps plans in more cities than any other ISP. And in areas where fiber internet isn’t available, CenturyLink DSL may still be an option.

Plans for every budget

There’s significant overlap between CenturyLink’s fiber-optic and DSL coverage areas. That means you’ll likely have plenty of price points and speed tiers to choose from. Fiber-optic plans offer more speed but can be costly; DSL plans are often budget-friendly, with enough speed for moderate streaming and smaller households (up to 40 Mbps, depending on where you live).

Price guarantee without a contract

With CenturyLink’s Price for Life, the monthly price you pay won’t increase as long as you have continuous service and your account is in good standing. That’s an unusual offer among major internet providers — and you don’t have to sign a contract to enjoy the price guarantee. (Please note, this offer is current at time of writing but is subject to change.)

Points to consider

Data Caps

Residential high speed internet plans are subject to a 1 TB per month data cap. (Business plans and the 1,000 Mbps fiber-optic plan aren’t.) This means that if you have a household full of streamers and online gamers, you may be at risk of severely reduced speeds once you reach your cap. That said, per the internet service disclosure, “CenturyLink does not currently charge customers a fee for excessive data usage.” And most households won’t come anywhere close to using 1 TB of data, even with constant streaming, gaming, and multitasking.

Comcast Xfinity - Fastest Top Speed

Fastest
Top Speed

Xfinity
Pros
Consistent, impressive speed
Broad availability
Plans for every budget
Flexible contract terms
Cons
Pricing may vary
Customer service
Data caps

Why we chose it

Consistent, impressive speed

After comparing the max speeds available in 41 different locations, we found that Xfinity had the most consistent speeds from area to area of every ISP we reviewed. Speeds of 25, 75, and 150 Mbps and beyond are available to most Xfinity customers. Its highest speeds are also the most impressive among our top picks, reaching up to 2 Gbps (2,000 Mbps) in some areas.

Broad availability

Xfinity is available almost everywhere. It covers more than 41 states, with the strongest coverage in Maryland, Illinois, and Utah. Fios was a close runner-up in terms of consistency, but its coverage area is narrower.

Plans for every budget

With plans ranging from 10 Mbps to an incredible 2,000 Mbps in some areas, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from with Xfinity. The number of plans and price points available should make it easier to strike the right balance between performance and value.

Flexible contract terms

Unlike many ISPs, Xfinity offers your choice of a one-year or a “no-term” agreement. Staying month-to-month could make sense if you think you might move soon, since it’ll help you avoid an early termination fee. But if you’re willing to sign on for the long term, a contract can reduce your monthly cost and grant access to promotional offers like free installation and a Visa Prepaid Card.

Points to consider

Pricing may vary

Monthly costs for the same plan can vary significantly depending on where you live. Pricing from our other top picks remained more consistent when looking at speeds of 25 Mbps and up.

Customer service

Though Xfinity’s speeds rival those of Fios and AT&T Fiber, its customer service scores are lower than average. Its customer satisfaction is improving, which the ASCI’s 2017 report attributes to better technology. However, it is still a notoriously low performer in terms of customer service, with customers citing long wait times and endless phone trees.

Data caps

Most Xfinity plans are subject to a cap of 1 TB per month. According to Comcast, that’s more data than 99% of its customers use in a month (enough to stream 21 hours of HD video every day). Power users can purchase unlimited data for $50 more per month or pay $10 for each 50 GB used beyond the cap.

Cox Communications Internet - Plan Variety

Pros
Plan variety
Great equipment
Cons
Upload speeds

Why we chose it

Plan variety

Cox offers some speed options that do not qualify as broadband internet (5 and 15 Mbps). We recommend jumping up to 50 Mbps, which is enough for four to eight connected devices. Top speeds reach 500 Mbps in some areas, which is more than enough even for heavy internet users and gamers. Plan prices are pretty competitive across the board, but you definitely get more bang for your buck with the higher speed tiers.

Great equipment

If you have a larger home, there may be rooms where your WiFi is spotty or completely out of range. Cox offers a WiFi extender, called Panoramic WiFi, that eliminates dead zones in your home. Panoramic WiFi is available with any internet package from Cox for an additional $9 per month. It’s also installed by Cox technicians. If you’re not technologically savvy, this is an easy way to address any WiFi issues.

Points to consider

Upload speeds

As with other cable internet providers, the upload speeds you get with Cox will be a fraction of your download speeds. This will have little to no effect on light internet usage like online shopping or checking email, but you may notice a delay when sharing files or doing something that requires significant download and upload speeds, like gaming.

Frontier Communications - No-Contract Option


No-Contract Option

Frontier Communications
Pros
Fiber-optic availability
Free equipment and installation with some plans
No-contract option
Two-year price lock
Cons
Customer reviews

Why we chose it

Fiber-optic availability

Frontier is another fiber-optic broadband provider, with service spread out across seven states — none of which are covered by Fios. Frontier is also the only one of our top picks that offers fiber-optic service in Oregon and Washington.

Free equipment and installation with some plans

Most providers charge a monthly rental fee for their modem and router. With Frontier, a router is included with select bundles at no additional cost. Some plans also include free, professional installation.

No-contract option

Like Xfinity, Frontier offers a no-contract option for some plans, which might be appealing if you’re moving soon or if your monthly income fluctuates.

Two-year price lock

Many internet providers increase plan prices after the first year of service. Frontier guarantees your sign-up price for two years. This is a great deal if you don’t plan on moving anytime soon and want to save some money on your internet bill.

Points to consider

Customer reviews

Frontier received a substantial amount of negative feedback due to service interruptions following its acquisition of Fios infrastructure in 2016. The good news is that fiber optics are built to deliver exceptionally fast, reliable service, and Frontier has continued to make network upgrades that boost speed and performance. Still, if high levels of customer satisfaction give you peace of mind about your internet provider, you may want to look elsewhere.

Charter Spectrum - Contract Buyout Offer


Contract Buyout Offer

Charter Spectrum
Pros
Variety of plans
Contract buyout offer
Customer service rating
Cons
Fees

Why we chose it

Variety of plans

Spectrum offers a wide range of competitively priced plans, starting at 100 Mbps in most locations. Thanks to ongoing network performance improvements, Spectrum now gives customers more speed at a lower price than it offered previously. Spectrum also introduced faster speeds in several areas, adding an Ultra plan with around 400 Mbps and a Gig plan with speeds up to 940 Mbps. In addition to fast speeds, Spectrum doesn’t require a contract and has no data cap.

Contract buyout offer

If you’re looking to switch to Spectrum before your current contract is up, the company will reimburse you up to $500 in early termination fees. These kinds of offers are popular with cell phone carriers, but Spectrum’s offer is unique among internet service providers.

Customer service rating

Spectrum saw a 3% improvement between 2016 and 2017, and it ranks among the top five internet providers on the ACSI customer satisfaction survey. It also received an average score from J.D. Power (three out of five Power Circles).

Points to consider

Fees

Every service provider includes fees beyond its advertised prices, from taxes to service and equipment fees. Spectrum is no different; it requires professional installation for all new customers, which involves a one-time fee that is reflected on your first bill. Spectrum also charges $5 per month for its WiFi router, though you can opt to purchase your own to avoid this fee. It’s also worth noting that Spectrum doesn’t charge customers for use of its modem.

Mediacom - Convenient Scheduling


Convenient Scheduling

Mediacom
Pros
Convenient scheduling
Variety of plans
Cons
Upload speeds
Data caps

Why we chose it

Convenient scheduling

Mediacom has one of the most efficient installation programs out there. To schedule service, you select a 30-minute window whenever it’s convenient for you — including evenings and weekends. Most other providers require you to block out a two-hour window.

Variety of plans

Mediacom services 14 different states, primarily in the Midwest. It’s a dominant force in Iowa, covering almost 70% of the state. Though it may not service as many states as some other providers, it still offers a wide variety of plans, with speeds that range from 60 Mbps to 1 Gbps (or 1,000 Mbps).

Points to consider

Upload speeds

Like all cable internet providers, Mediacom’s upload speeds are slower than its download speeds. If you’re an average internet user — checking email and reading articles more often than you play online games — upload speeds don’t matter too much. However, you might notice some slowdown when sharing large files.

Data caps

All of Mediacom’s plans include data allowances, which can vary depending on which tier you choose. If you purchase the 100 Mbps plan, for example, your data allowance is 1,000 GB per month. That’s plenty for most users, even for those that regularly stream video on several devices. If you do go over that allowance, Mediacom charges $10 for each additional 50 GB of use.

Guide to High Speed Internet

How to choose an internet provider

Check coverage

Internet service providers’ coverage varies based on location. To find out what’s available in your area, check your ZIP code in our ZIP search. Seeing which providers are available to you helps you compare apples to apples when it comes to internet speeds, pricing, and promotions, all of which vary by location.

Decide how much speed you need

Your speed requirement depends on how the people in your household use the internet. When choosing a plan, consider both quality and quantity of use. If you want to download large files or video chat while your kids play online games, you’ll need a pretty fast plan. However, if it’s just you and a roommate and neither of you do more than stream a movie or browse articles on your phones, chances are you won’t need as much.

Explore current offers

Many internet service providers offer limited-time deals to pique customer interest. This could be anything from a money-saving offer on select bundles to a gift card or waived equipment charges. These offers can usually be found on the provider’s website, but it’s a good idea to speak with a sales rep to see if there are other offers not advertised online.

Study pricing

When looking for the best internet deals, remember that the price shown often isn’t the final cost. Taxes, equipment rental fees, and installation fees can increase what you pay monthly. Additionally, promotional pricing often expires after a given term (usually the end of your original contract), so make sure to check what the regular price will be — and whether it fits into your budget.

Consider bundling

Bundling means purchasing multiple services from a single provider. Most internet service providers offer customers the option to pair internet plans with TV, phone, or both for a discounted monthly price. Some bundles even come with promotional offers like service add-ons or waived installation fees. Typically, bundles are a good way to save money and keep all of your utilities on one bill.

High Speed Internet FAQ

What is fiber-optic internet?

Fiber-optic internet utilizes pulses of light to transmit data up to 1,000 times faster, and over longer distances, than the copper wire used for DSL and cable connections. Fiber offers enough speed and bandwidth to do just about anything online, from streaming HD movies to playing massive multiplayer online games. For that reason, fiber optics set current standards for “good” internet speed. However, since building out new fiber-optic lines is expensive, availability is often limited to major cities and their surrounding areas.

What is cable internet?

One of the most common ways to get online, cable internet uses an established infrastructure of copper wires to deliver relatively fast speeds to homes across the country. Cable is a great alternative to fiber and lets you video chat, game, and browse with little to no slowdown. Unlike fiber, however, speeds can vary based on available bandwidth and might slow during peak use periods. Upload speeds for cable internet are also usually lower than download speeds. This could contribute to delays when playing online games or uploading large files.

What is DSL?

Like cable, DSL is a popular type of internet access and is widely available throughout the U.S. It utilizes existing telephone lines to bring internet into homes (but runs on a separate frequency so it doesn’t interrupt phone calls like dial-up does). Since it uses existing infrastructure, DSL is easy to get just about anywhere. Though it may not be as fast as fiber, you can get plenty of speed to stream movies, browse the web, and more.

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet transmits into homes via satellite. This technology allows satellite internet providers to service homes that other providers can’t — and because it’s easily accessible, satellite internet is a great choice for people living outside of cities and suburbs. Satellite internet offers enough speed to browse the web and stream standard-def movies, but it’s not ideal for gamers or people who video chat.

What is the difference between a router and a modem?

A modem is kind of like a bridge between your internet service provider and your home. It connects to your internet connection and then hooks up to your router. The router then serves as a gateway between your devices and the internet, broadcasting a WiFi connection throughout your home and directing traffic to the right devices. Sometimes modems and routers are merged into one device, which frees up space and reduces clutter.

Can I buy my own router?

Yes. Monthly equipment rental fees can add up, and buying your own router often saves money long-term. The upfront cost for a good router can range anywhere between $80 and $200, but it’ll pay for itself in time. Routers are available to purchase from places like Amazon and Best Buy, but you might also be able to purchase one directly from your provider. In some cases, you may even be able to buy your own modem, but it’s good to confirm compatibility with your provider before purchasing one.

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