It seems like nowadays you can’t do anything without the internet—work, leisure, and even social circles rely on some sort of internet connection—so it makes sense that one of our most asked questions is “Who is the fastest internet provider near me?” This is a straightforward question with a less-than-straightforward answer.
Internet speeds differ based on where you live. Plus, your speed requirements are also affected by how you use the internet. But if you’re like us and you use the internet for just about everything, then these are the top providers to consider.
How we picked the fastest providers
To find the fastest ISPs, we used the latest Measuring Broadband Report from the FCC. The 15,000+ word report “provides a performance benchmark” for ISPs,1 and we paid particular attention to any data relating to download and upload speeds.
The FCC explains 80/80 speed as the “speed that at least 80% of subscribers experience at least 80% of the time over peak periods (7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m local time).”
The FCC explains 80/80 speed as the “speed that at least 80% of subscribers experience at least 80% of the time over peak periods.”
The 80/80 speed metric is the most relevant data for this article because it covers the majority of users, and it’s measured at a time when you’re most likely to use the internet—when you’re at home in the evening getting some R&R.
To figure out which ISPs made the top five, we found the highest percentages for 80/80 speed vs. advertised speed. Because download speed is a bigger pain point for users, we gave more weight to download speed than upload speed in our rankings. The fastest ISPs are ordered by highest download speeds (80/80 vs. advertised), and we made sure each of the five had upload speeds (again, 80/80 vs. advertised) near 100%.
The fastest internet service providers
Using our criteria, Optimum, Spectrum (previously Charter and now owner of Time Warner Cable), Verizon Fios, and Comcast XFINITY are the fastest ISPs in the United States. For those without access to fiber, cable, or DSL internet, HughesNet’s satellite internet is the fastest option.
Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon Fios, and Comcast all have a 100% or higher actual download speed vs. advertised (pay for 10 Mbps, get 10 Mbps or more). To compare, AT&T’s DSL service delivers the lowest ratio of actual to advertised speeds at 35% (pay for 10 Mbps, get 3.5 Mbps).
The fastest internet in your area
After finding the five fastest ISPs, we wanted to make it easier to find where they’re available. In this map, you can see which states the top five ISPs serve. Even if an ISP operates in your state, the only way to know for sure if you can get service is to check your ZIP code on the ISP’s website.
What to know about fast internet
Which ISPs are fast, affordable, and available?
Out of the top five fastest ISPs, Optimum is the most affordable. Its basic plan, Optimum 10, offers 10 Mbps for $24.95 a month with no contract. (Some of us at Reviews.org pay almost twice as much for less than 10 Mbps, and we’re still stuck with a contract.) However, if you live outside the tri-state area, there’s no chance of getting Optimum—it is fast and affordable, but it’s not widely available.
The most widely available ISP that’s still fast and affordable is XFINITY. (Yes, really.) It’s available in 40 states, whereas Optimum is only available in four. XFINITY is also fast—the 80/80 download speed is 100%—and it’s just as or more affordable than other ISPs. XFINITY’s basic plan, Performance Starter, starts at $29.99 a month—the same as Charter’s basic plan and $5 less per month than Time Warner Cable’s basic plan.
XFINITY deservedly gets a bad rap for its customer service (see our review), but it’s more than likely XFINITY is the fastest and most affordable ISP that’s available where you live.
Fastest ISPs for remote or rural areas
Because all of the top five fastest ISPs use either cable or fiber internet, they’re not available in remote or rural areas. If you have access to only satellite internet, we found HughesNet to be the fastest satellite internet provider (see “The Best Satellite Internet of 2017” for more info).
If you can get DSL service, we recommend it over satellite internet because it typically has higher data caps and faster speeds. However, if it’s a choice between dial-up and satellite, we’d go with satellite internet.
If you’re still not sure what internet provider in your area is fastest, just ask us in the comments section. We’ll help you find it.
The fastest type of internet connection
It’s no coincidence the fastest ISPs use either fiber or cable. In its annual report, the FCC reported that fiber-based internet consistently has the highest speeds, while cable internet is “driving growth in new high speed service tiers.”2
Fiber-based internet consistently has the highest speeds, while cable internet is “driving growth in new high speed service tiers.”
DSL internet has the potential to be just as fast as cable, but the FCC noted a growing disparity between the two internet types for reasons such as the need to update DSL infrastructure and a lack of investment in the technology. Whatever the reasons may be, DSL just isn’t performing as well as fiber or cable, and the FCC noticed no significant speed-enhancing improvements in DSL technology over the past five years.
The internet speeds you need
If you’re not sure what internet speed you want (or need), you can use the recommended minimum download speeds from the FCC.
- Casual web browsing: 1 Mbps
- Streaming video: 4 Mbps
- Video conferencing: 4 Mbps
- Online gaming: 5 Mbps
Keep in mind these numbers apply to individual users. For example, if you’re a household of two and you both want to watch streaming video (Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, etc.), you’ll want to double the recommended speed so you can watch your shows and movies simultaneously without interruption.
What did we miss?
Is there something you wish we covered that we didn’t? Do you agree or disagree with our picks? What’s the fastest ISP in your experience? Let us hear what you think in the comments below, and if you have a great question, we’ll include it in our FAQ.
FAQ about the fastest internet speeds
What is high-speed internet?
Internet service with 4 Mbps download speed used to qualify as “high-speed” according to the FCC. In 2015, the FCC changed the standard to 25 Mbps. However, just because something is advertised as “high-speed internet” doesn’t mean it adheres to the FCC’s standards.
What is broadband internet?
Broadband internet is used interchangeably with “high-speed internet.” It typically refers to internet technology, such as fiber, cable, or DSL.
What about Google Fiber? I don’t see it mentioned in this article.
At this time, Google Fiber is not expanding its service. Google Fiber already has an extremely limited footprint, and now that it’s no longer part of Google’s future plans, we decided not to cover it in this article.