The Best Internet for Streaming
If buffering went the way of the dinosaurs, no one would be sad, amirite?
Instead of waiting for a metaphorical meteor to destroy it, there’s one thing that might get you closer to being buffer-free: a faster internet plan. But how much speed do you need for streaming?
|Provider||Monthly price||Download speeds||Learn more|
|Xfinity Internet||$29.99–$299.95*||15–2000 Mbps||View Plan|
|AT&T Fiber||$50–$90†||100–1000 Mbps||View Plans|
|Verizon Fios||$39.99–$79.99‡||100–Up to 940 Mbps||View Plans|
|Cox Internet||$29.99–$119.99†||10–1000 Mbps||View Plans|
Whether you’re streaming movies on Netflix, jamming out to the latest hits on Spotify, or broadcasting your own livestream on Twitch, your internet speed matters.
But not all streaming is created equal, so here’s a quick guide to the recommended internet speeds for streaming. Plus, we’ll share our recommendations for internet service providers (ISPs) that should meet your needs.
What internet speed do I need for Netflix and Hulu?
You don’t need a lot of speed for Netflix or Hulu—unless you want to stream in 4K.
If you love to budget but also love to stream The Fellowship of the Ring on Netflix, good news: you don’t need to shell out your life’s savings to keep your streaming smooth.
But you’ll at least need 5 Mbps if you want to watch the fellowship traverse the wilds of New Zealand. Otherwise, your Netflix will be saying, “You cannot wield it. None of us can.”
Here’s what Netflix recommends1 as minimum speeds for streaming your favorite shows.
|Ultra HD/4K||>4,000p||25 Mbps|
Even 25 Mbps for streaming in Ultra HD (a.k.a. 4K) isn’t that fast—and a plan with that speed shouldn’t set you back much.
Hulu’s streaming requirements are pretty much the same as Netflix’s, but are based on whether you watch Hulu On Demand or upgrade to the Hulu with Live TV package.
|Hulu On Demand||480p (SD)–1080p (HD)||3 Mbps|
|Hulu with Live TV||Up to 720p (HD)||8 Mbps|
How fast does my internet need to be to stream 4K?
Want to live that ultra high-definition life? You’ll need at least 25 Mbps.
We mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: if you want to bust a gut watching Chris Rock: Tamborine on Netflix in full 4K glory, you’ll need internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps.
An internet plan with at least 25 Mbps shouldn’t cost you much cash, but keep in mind that if you’re streaming 4K movies on multiple devices, you’ll want more Mbps.
Because no one likes that smug little buffering icon. No one.
|4K Ultra HD||>4,000p||25 Mbps|
What internet speed do I need for livestreaming on Twitch?
Want to become the next streaming sensation? Check your upload speeds.
Looking to become the next Ninja, sodapoppin, or Asmongold? You’ll need some reliable upload speeds before you can start gaining viewers.
If you’re starting out, you should check out Twitch’s recommendations for your setup. Your upload speed will depend on what quality you aim for with your livestream. We mainly looked at resolution and framerate here, but you’ll also want to consider keyframe intervals and more.
|Resolution||Frame rate||Recommended download4||Recommended upload|
|240p–480p||25 fps||Minimum 4 Mbps||0.4–1.2 Mbps|
|720p||30 fps||Minimum 4 Mbps||2.5–4 Mbps|
|1080p||30 fps||Minimum 4 Mbps||3.5–5 Mbps|
|480p||60 fps||Minimum 4 Mbps||1.5–3 Mbps|
|720p||60 fps||Minimum 4 Mbps||3.5–5 Mbps|
|1080p||60 fps||Minimum 4 Mbps||4.5–6 Mbps|
A fiber connection will get you way more upload speed than Twitch recommends. For example, Verizon Fios’s 100 Mbps plan also gets you 100 Mbps of upload speed. And that matching 100 Mbps of download speed will help keep the long lag away every time you take aim, pull a boss, or jump out of the plane.
Yeah, we know the FCC recommends a download speed of only 4 Mbps for online gaming,5 but that’s not going to cut it for most multiplayer games. So, play it safe and assume you’ll need a faster connection—we’ve made some recommendations in our Best ISPs for Gaming review.
What internet speed do I need for streaming music?
To shake it to “Natural” by Imagine Dragons, you’ll need only about 2 Mbps.
For me, the difference between waking up on the right side of the bed versus the wrong side is a list of great tunes. If my Amazon Music stream isn’t working, I’m a zombie in the mornings.
Luckily for those of us who energize with a dope bass drop, you don’t need a lot of speed to stream music.
You’ll be all set to jam out even if your speeds won’t push past 2 Mbps. (Unless you’ve got a Deezer Elite subscription—then you’ll need a bit more.)
|Deezer||5 Mbps for Deezer Elite, 10 Mbps for multiple Elite streams|
|All others (Spotify, Pandora, etc.)||Up to 1 Mbps|
How we picked our recommended ISPs
There’s a method to our madness, we promise.
Here’s how we picked each recommended ISP.
Xfinity may not have the best track record when it comes to customer service, but it does have a history of delivering on the speeds it promises. Netflix ranked it 1st out of the large ISPs in July 2018—a rank it’s held since January 2018.7
We also picked Xfinity as the best ISP for any kind of streaming due to its range of download speeds and wide availability. Here’s a quick look at some of Xfinity’s most popular internet packages.
|Performance Starter||$29.99/mo.†||15 Mbps||View Plan|
|Performance Plus||$39.99/mo.†||60 Mbps||View Plan|
|Performance Pro||$54.99/mo.†||150 Mbps||View Plan|
|Blast! Pro||$69.99/mo.†||250 Mbps||View Plan|
|Gigabit||$70/mo.^||1000 Mbps||View Plan|
|Gigabit Pro||$299.95/mo.°||2000 Mbps||View Plan|
Reasons we picked Xfinity
- It’s available almost everywhere. Can’t get AT&T Fiber? Chances are Xfinity’s in your area—you can check here. You’ll find it in 39 states versus just 16 states for AT&T Fiber or 15 states for Cox—and even smaller cities and more rural areas are included in Xfinity’s coverage.
- It has a wide variety of plans. You can get an Xfinity plan that offers just enough Mbps to stream in 4K on your main TV—or go big with more Mbps to stream Netflix in HD in three different rooms. Compare that to ISPs like AT&T Fiber, which you pay more money for more speed right up front, and you’ll likely start appreciating all those choices.
- It has no-contract options. If you’re still unsure if Xfinity is going to let you stream every episode of Rick and Morty on Hulu without buffering, you can go for a no-contract option. Sure, you’ll pay a little more each month, but that may be worth it for the freedom to say “Bye, Felicia” whenever you want. Better to have the option than be confined to a contract with ISPs like Cox, amirite?
|Internet 100||$50/mo.†||100 Mbps||View Plans|
|Internet 300||$70/mo.†||300 Mbps||View Plans|
|Internet 1000||$90/mo.†||1000 Mbps||View Plans|
Reasons why we picked AT&T Fiber
- AT&T Fiber may be available where Verizon isn’t. One of our gamer friends moved from Virginia to Florida and ended up going with AT&T Fiber since Verizon Fios wasn’t available there. He uses the 1,000 Mbps plan to play World of Warcraft and run a Plex media server—so far, no issues. You can check if AT&T Fiber is available where you are on the AT&T site.
- It’s a well-priced top performer. We think the price for the Internet 100 package is pretty good—well worth it for the speed and reliability of fiber, if you ask us. Not only that, but Netflix bumped up AT&T Fiber’s score from 5th to 4th place in May 2018, and it’s holding steady there.8 So you get what you pay for—if not more.
- Fiber is perfect for families who always be streaming. Keep in mind fiber isn’t just for streaming in 4K. If you have several family members who love to stream in HD, game, and upload large files all at the same time, those zippy fiber speeds will keep everyone happy
Best for streaming Twitch—Verizon Fios
When it comes to livestreaming, there’s no beating fiber. So it comes as no surprise that we recommend Verizon Fios if you plan to broadcast your gaming adventures to the world on Twitch.
|Fios Internet 100/100||$39.99/mo.**||100 Mbps||View Plans|
|Fios Internet 150/150||$74.99/mo.**||150 Mbps||View Plan|
|Fios Internet 300/300||$59.99/mo.††||300 Mbps||View Plans|
|Fios Gigabit Connection||$79.99/mo.‡‡||Up to 940 Mbps||View Plans|
Reasons why we picked Verizon Fios
- You’ll get reliable speeds. Verizon Fios has pretty much held steady in the top five on Netflix’s ISP leaderboard since January 2018.9 Not bad. And those upload speeds leave a lot of room for livestreaming or uploading your own YouTube videos and everything in between. Check here to see if you live in one of the nine lucky states that get Verizon Fios.10
- Verizon Fios prices are perfecto. Verizon Fios also boasts low prices compared to other fiber internet providers. It’s honestly hard to beat a price of less than 50 bucks for 100 Mbps.
- It gets you almost a gig of speed. Compared to Frontier FiOS, which caps out at 500 Mbps, you can get up to 940 Mbps of download speed with Verizon Fios in some areas. Now that’s speedy.
Best for streaming music—Cox
Weirdly enough, it’s hard to find lower-tier internet plans anymore. But Cox still has a 10 Mbps plan, and the price isn’t half bad. Why pay for more speed if all you want to do is ”Go Your Own Way” streaming Fleetwood Mac?
|Cox Internet Starter 10||$29.99/mo.†||10 Mbps||View Plans|
|Cox Internet Essential 30||$39.99/mo.†||30 Mbps||View Plans|
|Cox Internet Preferred 100||$59.99/mo.†||100 Mbps||View Plans|
|Cox Internet Ultimate||$79.99/mo.†||300 Mbps||View Plans|
Why we picked Cox
- Did we mention the variety of plans? Along with that 10 Mbps plan, Cox also offers 30, 100, and 300 Mbps plans. That’s four options, giving you just the right amount of speed without blowing your budget.
- Cox is a top-three performer. If Cox’s recent Netflix scores are anything to go by, you’ll get your money’s worth and the speed to fuel your jam sessions too. The streaming service has consistently ranked it in second or third place since January 2018.11
- It’s pretty widely available. Although it doesn’t quite have the coverage Xfinity does, Cox is available in 15 states coast-to-coast. That’s great if you live in a state with no fiber internet at all. Check to see if you can get Cox here.
Recap—what’s the best internet for streaming?
Pop quiz: what internet speed do you need for streaming? Don’t worry, we’ve got your cheat sheet here.
- Netflix and Hulu: Look for speeds of at least 3–8 Mbps. We recommend an Xfinity plan because it’s widely available and has lots of speeds to choose from.
- Ultra HD/4K: You’ll want at least 25 Mbps. Our choice? AT&T Fiber, because it offers reliably fast speeds.
- Twitch: Upload speeds matter—look for 3.5–5 Mbps upload speeds and download speeds of at least 4 Mbps. We recommend Verizon Fios because it’s got killer download and upload speeds.
- Music: A little goes a long way, so 2 Mbps is likely enough. Cox offers a lower-tier 10 Mbps package at a decent price, so it’s our pick.
Got a question about streaming or an ISP recommendation? Share it with us in the comments below.
Related video: What is a VPN?
1. Netflix, “Internet Connection Speed Recommendations”
2. Hulu, “What Internet Speed Is Recommended to Watch Hulu?”
3. Netflix, “Internet Connection Speed Recommendations”
4. Twitch, “Broadcasting Guidelines”
5. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “Broadband Speed Guide”
6. HighSpeedInternet.com, “How Much Speed Do I Need to Stream Music?”
7. Netflix, “United States ISP Leaderboard
8. Netflix, “United States ISP Leaderboard”
9. Netflix, “United States ISP Leaderboard”
10. Verizon, “Verizon Fios Availability”
11. Netflix, “United States ISP Leaderboard”