Last Updated on December 5, 2017

The Best High Speed Internet Providers

There’s no single best internet provider for everyone. Where you live will determine which providers you have access to — and speeds, available plans, and pricing vary by location. We’ve researched top providers to offer a comprehensive picture of what’s out there so you can make an informed decision.

How We Chose the Best High Speed Internet Providers

Coverage

According to the FCC’s most recent data, only 15 percent of Americans have access to more than two internet service providers (ISPs). To help you compare your options, we looked at the 12 biggest providers nationwide — the ones you’re most likely to encounter while comparison shopping.

Speed

We excluded providers who don’t offer at least 25 Mbps, the FCC’s baseline for broadband internet. To get a better idea of what speeds you’ll have to choose from, we requested quotes in each ISP’s three strongest service areas. We also looked at max speeds, the number of options, and regional availability using data from BroadbandNow. (Note: speeds and available plans can vary by location. Getting a quote from providers you’re interested in is still the best way to find the fastest internet available at your address.)

Customer Service

To see how top ISPs compare, we considered customer satisfaction scores from both JD Power and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). JD Power evaluates ISPs with a nationwide survey to determine which have the highest overall customer satisfaction. If a provider gets 5 out of 5 “Power Circles,” that means it’s among the best options available. Similarly, the ACSI publishes an annual report using interview data from over 70,000 active customers. If a provider gets a satisfaction rating of at least 50 percent, that means half its customers are happy with their service.

Our Top Picks for the Best High Speed Internet Provider

Now that we’ve done the research, we’ve compiled a concise review with things we liked and points to consider for each provider.

Stellar Customer Service
Connection Type
DSL, Fiber-Optic
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 1 second. (Note: you’ll need to be in an area that’s equipped with AT&T’s fiber-optic lines to take advantage of 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 percent 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 percent satisfaction rating from the ACSI and a 5 out of 5 in “overall satisfaction” from JD 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 (which covers 38 percent of the country) than to AT&T Fiber (which covers less than two percent). While speeds reach up to 100 Mbps in some areas, DSL doesn’t offer the same level of speed and performance that fiber does. 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. One terabyte equals 1,000 gigabytes — 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/month.

Unlimited Data
Connection Type
Fiber-Optic
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 as fast as 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 more download speed than upload speed — sometimes drastically more. 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 percent of customers say they’re satisfied. It’s also the only ISP awarded a perfect overall satisfaction score from JD Power (5 out of 5 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).

Price-lock Guarantee
Connection Type
DSL, Fiber-Optic
Pros
  • Availability of fiber-optic service
  • Plans for every budget
  • Price guarantee without a contract
  • Customer Service Rating
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/month data cap. (Business plans and the 1,000 Mbps fiber-optic plan aren’t.) However, 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.

Fastest Top Speed
Connection Type
Cable, Fiber-Optic
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 all the ISPs 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 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, from New York down to Virginia.

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. 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 1-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. However, as a whole, XFINITY’s customer satisfaction is improving. The ASCI’s 2017 report attributes that growth to better technology: “Subscribers like fast internet access, and Comcast has increased internet speed 16 times over the past 14 years.”

Data Caps

Most XFINITY plans are subject to a cap of 1 TB per month. According to Comcast, that’s more data than 99 percent of their 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.

Best For Rural Areas
Connection Type
Satellite
Pros
  • Nationwide Availability
  • Speed Improvements
Cons
  • Plan Structure
  • Reduced Speeds After Cap
  • Upload Speeds

Why We Chose It

Nationwide Availability

Since HughesNet beams broadband down from space via satellite, it has the widest reach of any provider: a whopping 308 million people. That also makes it the largest broadband provider in the nation. Almost anyone can get HughesNet, even in remote communities other companies can’t reach.

Speed Improvements

Max speeds increased significantly with the launch of HughesNet Gen5 in 2016. You can now get faster internet with download speeds of up to 25 Mbps on all plans. That gives HughesNet an edge over other satellite internet providers like Viasat (formerly Exede), whose speeds top out at 12 Mbps in many areas.

Points to Consider

Plan Structure

HughesNet plans look more like cellular data plans than traditional internet plans. Rather than choosing a plan for its max speed, you’ll choose based on how much data you need: 10 GB/month, 20 GB/month, etc. These data limits are lower and plan costs are comparatively higher than those offered by cable, fiber, and DSL providers.

Reduced Speeds After Cap

All HughesNet plans include unlimited data — that is, your connection won’t be turned off if you surpass your data allowance, and you won’t be charged more for additional data usage. However, your speeds will be reduced to 1-3 Mbps until the next billing cycle starts. (You can purchase Data Tokens to get more full-speed data if you don’t want to wait.)

Upload Speeds

While your download speeds will clock in around 25 Mbps, upload speeds are closer to 3 Mbps. That means it may take awhile to share large files. You won’t be able to game or video chat without running into lag — but satellite internet provides enough speed for browsing, sending emails, and streaming standard-def movies.

Great Plan Variety
Connection Type
Cable
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 Wi-Fi is spotty or completely out of range. Cox offers a Wi-Fi extender, called Panoramic Wi-Fi, that eliminates dead zones in your home. Panoramic Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi 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.

No-contract Option
Connection Type
Cable, Fiber-Optic
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. (Fun fact: that’s because Frontier bought Fios infrastructure in Texas, Florida, and California in 2016.) Frontier is also the only one of our top picks that offers fiber-optic service in Oregon and Washington. If Frontier’s fiber-optic service isn’t available in your area, its DSL internet service may be an option.

Free Equipment and Installation With Some Plans

Most providers charge a monthly rental fee for their modem and router (or a combination modem/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. (Plan options with promotional pricing or sign up incentives may require a contract of up to two years.)

Two-year Price Lock

Many internet providers increase plan prices after the first year of service. Frontier guarantees the price you signed up with is the price you’ll pay 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 their acquisition of Fios infrastructure in 2016. The good news is, fiber optics are built to deliver exceptionally fast, reliable service, and Frontier has continued to make network upgrades that boost speed and performance.

Contract Buyout Offer
Connection Type
Cable, Fiber-Optic
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 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 percent improvement between 2016 and 2017 and ranks among the top five internet providers on the ACSI customer satisfaction survey. It also received an average score from JD Power (3 out of 5 Power Circles).

Points to Consider

Fees

Every service provider includes fees beyond their advertised prices, from taxes to service and equipment fees. Spectrum requires professional installation for all new customers, which involves a one-time fee that is reflected on your first bill. Though Spectrum also charges $5 per month for its Wi-Fi router, you can opt to purchase your own to avoid this fee. It’s also good to note that Spectrum doesn’t charge customers for use of its modem.

Convenient Scheduling
Connection Type
Cable
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 percent of the state. Though it may not service as many states as some other providers, it still offers a wide variety of plans that will keep customers happy, 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 1000 GB a 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 can vary based on location. To find out what’s available in your area, it’s best to check your ZIP code. Doing this will also give you insight into available internet speeds, pricing, and promotions, which can also vary by location.

Decide How Much Speed You Need

How much speed you need depends on how the people in your household use the internet. When choosing a plan, consider how many people live in your house and how regularly they use the internet — and what they use it for. If you want to download large files or video chat while your kids are playing games online, you’ll need to go with a faster plan. However, if it’s just you and a roommate and neither of you do much beyond stream the occasional movie on Netflix or browse articles from your phones, chances are you won’t need as much speed.

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 at internet plans, 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.

High Speed Internet FAQs

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. 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 United States. 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 transmites 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 cities and their 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 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 your utilities on one bill.

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. It broadcasts a Wi-Fi connection throughout your home and directs traffic to the right devices. Sometimes modems and routers are merged into one device, which can help free up some space and reduce clutter.

Can I Buy My Own Router?

Yes. Monthly equipment rental fees can add up and, in many cases, buying your own router can help you save 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 this with your provider before purchasing one.

Compare all the Best High Speed Internet Providers

Best For
Connection Type
Download Speeds in Mbps
Wi-Fi Hotspot Access
No Contract option
Data Cap
AT&T Fios CenturyLink XFINITY HughesNet Cox Frontier Spectrum Mediacom
Stellar Customer Service Unlimited Data Price-lock Guarantee Fastest Top Speed Rural Areas Plan Variety No Contract Option Contract Buyout Offer Convenient Scheduling
DSL, Fiber-Optic Fiber-Optic DSL, Fiber-Optic Cable, Fiber-Optic Satellite Cable, Fiber-Optic DSL, Fiber-Optic Cable, Fiber-Optic Cable
DSL: 50 - 100
Fiber: 100 - 1,000
100 - 1,000 DSL: 25 - 140
Fiber: 1,000
Cable: 10 - 350
Fiber: 100 - 1,000
25 Cable: 10 - 300
Fiber: 300 - 1,000
DSL: 24 - 45
Fiber: 500
Cable: 100 - 200
Fiber: 400 - 940
60 - 1000
1 TB - 1 TB 1 TB Varies 1 TB - - Varies
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