The USA has hundreds of internet providers and researching all of them takes a very long time. Another problem with looking for a fast internet service is that not all providers are available all over the country and each service has different maximum speeds in different parts of the country.
The fastest internet service in the USA is a special package presented by Xfinity, which is called Gigabit Pro. It can deliver speeds of up to 2 Gigabits per second (Gbps).
The Gigabit Pro deal is way ahead of all competition. However, it isn’t available everywhere, so we have extended our search for the fastest high-speed services in the country. Here is our list of the ten fastest internet providers in the USA:
- Xfinity – 2 Gbps
- AT&T – 1 Gbps
- Verizon Fios – 1 Gbps
- TDS – 1 Gbps
- Charter Spectrum – 1 Gbps
- WOW! – 1 Gbps
- CenturyLink – 1 Gbps
- Rise Broadband – 50 Mbps
- Viasat – 100 Mbps
- HughesNet – 25 Mbps
There are many different types of connections that deliver high-speed internet. Each has its limitations and strengths and each has a maximum speed that it can deliver to customers. Let’s take a look at the speeds offered by the providers of different internet types.
Fastest fiber internet providers
Fiber-optic cable is the fastest internet delivery system available to residential users in the USA. So, if this roundup ranked all of the services by speed alone it would mostly contain fiber internet providers. Unfortunately, fiber internet isn’t available everywhere.
A fiber-optic internet system transmits data as a pulsing beam of light. Each cable is a pack of very thin glass strands and each carries a light beam channel. The glass strands are coated for strength, so they don’t shatter. They are even able to bend around corners.
The strand retains the light beam so that it will stay on the path where there are bends in the cable. The light doesn’t cross over from one strand to another.
Here are the three fastest fiber internet providers:
- AT&T Fiber
- Verizon Fios
The fiber services of AT&T and Verizon Fios are not available all over the country. They are not only the fastest fiber providers in the USA, but they also have the biggest networks. So, you stand a better chance of the service being available in your area with these two providers.
Fastest cable internet providers
Cable TV networks provide the second-fastest channel for delivering internet services. This is because large parts of the network of each cable TV system are actually carried over fiber optic cable. This is a great advantage and means for some lucky customers, the cables to their door are almost all fiber-optic.
Cable providers use coaxial cable to connect each house to the local junction, so the closer a house is to that junction, the less coaxial cable will be included in the link. This is how some cable operators can match the speeds of fiber-optic networks. In one case, the Xfinity Gigabit Pro plan, cable can exceed the speeds offered by fiber internet providers.
The fastest cable internet providers are:
- Charter Spectrum
A big advantage of opting for cable internet is that their networks are more likely to be available than pure fiber-optic systems. In many areas of the country, each household only has access to one cable TV provider and therefore only has one cable internet option. In some places, however, several providers compete for customers in the same locale. This situation usually only occurs in major urban centers in the USA.
Fastest DSL internet providers
DSL, which is usually implemented as ADSL is the most widely available form of internet in the United States. It is carried over the telephone network and most US homes are either connected to the telephone network or are close enough that a connection can be made by the company free of charge. Only very remote properties in rural areas don’t have the option of getting DSL internet.
DSL refers to what is traditionally understood as “broadband.” The technology reserves a signal frequency band for data transmissions and sends it along the telephone line at the same time as voice transmissions. Therefore, making a telephone call doesn’t block off the internet service to the home and filters on the telephone points in the home mean that callers don’t hear the squeaks and beeps of data transmission while they talk.
ADSL reserves a wider signal bandwidth for data traveling to the customer (download) than data traveling from the customer (upload). This system enables internet service providers to squeeze more value out of telephone lines because residential internet users receive a great deal more data than they send out.
The fastest DSL internet providers are:
- AT&T DSL
Using tried and tested technology, ADSL is probably the most reliable and affordable type of internet system available in the USA. The majority of customers with ADSL services get download speeds of around 25 Mbps. In some urban areas, DSL companies offer up to 100 Mbps. Those providers that have even faster plans are able to do that by passing the prospective customer over to their fiber-optic divisions.
Fastest fixed wireless internet providers
Fixed wireless is a specialist service that uses wireless systems for the last stretch of a link that runs from a local junction to the customer’s home. This is a directional beam rather than a radiating footprint and so it is stronger than a regular Wi-Fi router’s signal.
As a specialist service that can’t give speeds as high as cabled internet systems, there aren’t many fixed wireless internet operators. The fastest fixed wireless internet providers in the USA are:
- Rise Broadband
- AT&T Wireless
Usually, fixed wireless internet will be slower than other systems that carry the internet over cables or wires. People usually only consider fixed wireless as an internet option for a remote property that isn’t connected to the telephone network and isn’t served by a cable TV company. However, the technology is improving and fixed wireless will become a better, faster service in the years to come.
Fastest satellite internet providers
There aren’t many satellite internet providers in the USA. The technology is expensive and provides much lower transfer speeds than all the other internet delivery types. There are only two providers of satellite internet that have national coverage in the USA. These are:
There are some properties that are even too remote for fixed wireless internet providers. A satellite link would only be considered by those who have no other options to get internet to their homes. It is also the most viable option for internet on boats and planes.
High-speed internet providers in detail
You can read more about each of our recommended internet providers below.
Xfinity is officially the fastest high-speed internet supplier for residential customers. However, its Gigabit service isn’t available everywhere and even where Gigabit is available, its top speed of 2 Gbps isn’t always possible.
The Gigabit Pro internet plan is only for the busiest of residential customers because it costs a whacking $299.95 per month. Compare that price to the Xfinity Performance Starter, which is a no-contract offer with a speed of 25 Mbps at $49.95 per month. The Xfinity Performance Pro deal, which also doesn’t require a contract is currently being offered at just $49.99 per month for the first 12 months and that gives a speed of 200 Mbps.
The Xfinity Gigabit Pro deal is the top of the line and the company throws in a few tasty freebies to please its high-rolling customers. Included with the plan is a Flex 4K streaming device and a voice-activated smart speaker to control home gadgets.
Customers have to be really sure they need 2 Gbps before signing on the dotted line. If they could notch down to just 1 Gbps, they save a great deal of money. The Gigabit plan costs only $79.99 per month for the first 36 months on a contract. Without a contract, the service is charged at $104.95. Gigabit customers also get a Flex 4K streaming device and a voice-activated smart speaker included for free.
Customers who shy away from the expensive Gigabit Pro plan and settle for the 1 Gbps service would still be experiencing the fastest speeds available from any other provider.
It seems strange that Xfinity, as a cable TV service is able to provide faster speeds than the dedicated fiber networks. However, the majority of the Xfinity network is actually fiber-optic cable. Those customers who sign up for the super-fast Gigabit Pro service get the coaxial cable of the “last mile” link from the local exchange to their homes replaced by fiber-optics. So, with this one plan, Xfinity is operating as a fiber internet provider.
Although the Gigabit plan provides half the download speed of the Gigabit Pro, there is a big difference between the upload speeds of the two plans. Gigabit has an upload speed of 25 Mbps and the Gigabit Pro plan has an upload speed that is as fast as its download speed: 2 Gbps. What’s even more amazing is that the company claims that the customer can have an unlimited number of devices connected and all of them will still get the 2 Gbps speeds.
If you opt for a cheaper plan, be aware that all of Xfinity’s sub-Giga plans have data caps of 1 TB per month. However, that is more data than any residential user could ever need. The two Gigabit plans do not have data caps.
AT&T is a giant in the US telecommunication industry and it has a place on our lists of the fastest provider in three internet categories: fiber, DSL, and fixed wireless.
The history of AT&T is a complicated story of takeovers and demergers. It is one of the few surviving descendants of the first telephone company in the world. That was the Bell Telephone Company, which was set up in 1877 by the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell.
AT&T fiber internet
AT&T gained and maintained its position as the market leader in the fiber internet sector through heavy investment in its network.
All fiber internet providers advertise a top speed of 1 Gbps. Crowning AT&T as the fastest high-speed fiber internet provider is a little misleading because all of its competitors do just as well. However, all providers hedge their promises with small print and backpedal on their top speed claims with the caveat that they might not be that fast in all areas and at all times of the day. In fact, the real top speed of the Fiber Internet 1000 service is within the range of 500 to 940 Mbps for download and the same for upload.
AT&T has two other fiber internet plans, which nominally offer maximum speeds of 100 Mbps and 300 Mbps. Both of these plans have a data cap of 1 TB per month, but there is no data cap on the Fiber internet 1000 plan.
AT&T’s large investment in its fiber-optic network makes it the largest network in that category in terms of the number of states served and also the one most likely to achieve the top speed.
AT&T DSL internet
The main business of AT&T is its telephone network. Although this network, being composed of copper wires seems a little old-hat today, telephone networks are still the main delivery method for the internet in the USA. For many homes in rural areas, the prospect of getting fiber internet is a far-off pipedream. DSL internet over telephone wires is a much more realistic proposition.
The top speed offered by AT&T over its telephone network is with the Internet 100 plan. Although you would expect this to give you a download speed of 100 Mbps, the company is careful with its promises and only commits to a speed of 80 to 100 Mbps depending on the customer’s location and the time of day.
Peak hours for internet usage are usually when the kids first get home from school and immediately hit the internet. This surge in demand means the network is temporarily overwhelmed and the data of each customer gets queued for access to the trunk line that goes to the company’s internet access point.
The Internet 100 plan promises upload speeds of 12 to 20 Mbps. As with the download speeds, the likelihood of getting the top speed available from the company depends on where the customer is and how many other people are using the network at each moment.
The Internet 100 plan costs $50 per month for the first year and then the price rises to $60 per month. Curiously, AT&T charges the same price for all of its DSL plans. The slowest of these is the Internet Basic 5 plan, which gives customers download speeds of 3 to 5 Mbps and upload speeds of just 0.6 to 1 Mbps. Households in rural areas that are connected to the telephone system are likely to only have the Internet Basic 5 plan available to them.
All of the AT&T DSL internet plans have the same data cap, which is 1 Terabyte (1 TB) per month.
The AT&T solution for remote homes is its fixed wireless service. This offers download speeds of 10 Mbps and download speeds of 1 Mbps. These are not the fastest speeds available in the fixed wireless internet sector, but for homes that only have the Internet Basic 5 DSL plans as an alternative, the AT&T fixed wireless plan looks very attractive. One problem with the AT&T fixed wireless plan is that it imposes a data cap of 215 GB per month.
The AT&T Wireless plan is only slightly more expensive than the company’s DSL services. It is charged at $60 per month for the first 12 months and then it goes up to $70 per month. The setup costs for the wireless service are about the same as those for the DSL plans. However, fixed wireless customers don’t have to pay for equipment rental – which is $10 per month for all of the DSL and fiber internet plans from AT&T.
3. Verizon Fios
Verizon has prioritized the expansion of its fiber-optic network in recent years. As a result, the company can be considered to be the main rival to AT&T in the fiber internet sector.
Like AT&T, Verizon has a history that stretches back to the original telephone service, the Bell Telephone Company. Bell was split up into separate companies. Two of those, Bell Atlantic and NYNEX eventually merged to form Verizon.
Verizon Fios is only available in ten states. However, they are densely populated states and that makes the company the largest fiber internet provider in terms of potential customers. The Fios name stands for “fiber-optic service.”
The top speed offered by Verizon Fios is its Better Everything plan which gives 940 Mbps for download and 880 Mbps for upload. The 940 speed is effectively the same as 1 Gigabit. The company has two other fiber plans, one of which offers 100 Mbps for download and the same for upload, the other offers a 300 Mbps for download and 300 Mbps for upload. None of the Verizon Fios plans carry data caps.
TDS is a telephone company that offers DSL internet services over its lines. The network covers 22 states and it deploys ADSL technology for its Broadband service. The quality and speed of the TDS service vary greatly from location to location. The company is particularly active in rural areas, but customers in those locations don’t get the service’s top speeds that are advertised on the TDS website. Those top services are delivered entirely over fiber-optics. So, although the main internet business of TDS is its DSL service, it makes our list for its fiber-optics division.
TDS is improving its network by installing fiber-optic trunk routes and is also laying fiber-optics right to the door. This will greatly improve the internet speeds available to residential customers. However, the upgrade project will be very expensive and take a long time. The current upgrade plan has a 10-year time horizon. The network has already been upgraded in densely-populated urban areas, but more remote locations won’t get that fiber boost until the end of the cable replacement project.
The top three plans of TDS are the Extreme 300, the Extreme 600, and the 1 Gig plans. The top speeds offered by each of these is included in the names of the plans: 300 Mbps, 600 Mbps, and 1 Gbps. However, be aware that these are the top speeds available with each plan and they might not be delivered in all the networks all the time.
TDS is only able to offer those top three plans where its fiber-optic network is already in place. Residents of rural areas who type their addresses into the TDS sales website won’t even be shown these plans.
A great feature of the TDS tariff menu is that none of its plans require contracts, the company does not impose installation or setup fees and there are no data caps. However, looking through the Terms and Conditions of the service, the company reserves the right to throttle the service of households whose data throughput exceeds “reasonable use” and despite not having a “setup fee,” the company does charge an “account activation fee” of $50. These are two examples of how internet service providers can get inventive with their language in order to attract new customers.
The monthly subscription rates of the TDS fiber internet plans are very reasonable. Extreme 300 costs $40 per month for the first 24 months and then rises to $55.95. The 1 Gig plan is charged at $75 per month, rising to $85 per month after 24 months. As the company doesn’t impose contracts, it is difficult to work out how it manages to shift its customers onto the regular price at the end of the 2-year promotional period. It is probable that with the threat of terminating the service and re-applying for it, customers could get that price rise waived.
5. Charter Spectrum
Charter Spectrum is one of the top cable TV providers in the USA. It achieved its size by taking over other TV networks, particularly the very large Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. The company’s efforts to standardize pricing across its newly merged network has upset a lot of the customers it gained with its takeovers. This is one of the main reasons that you will see quite a lot of bad reviews of the service on the internet.
Apart from the public relations disaster that standardization has caused, Charter Spectrum offers a very good service. Its top internet-only deal is the Internet Gig plan. This provides speeds of 1 Gigabit per second, which, as with other providers, actually works out at 940 Mbps. Also, like other providers, Charter Spectrum doesn’t promise to hit that speed at all times, it can’t deliver the maximum speed to all areas where it offers the plan, and it doesn’t offer the plan in all of the locations where it operates.
The Charter Spectrum Giga service is one of the priciest in the industry at $124.99 per month. It softens the cost of its best plan for new customers with an introductory offer of $104.99 per month for the first year.
The network configuration of Charter Spectrum is typical of cable TV systems across the USA. It uses a “hybrid fiber-coaxial” (HFC) network. That means that the cable that tuns to the door of each customer from the local junction is coaxial cable but the link from the junction to the ISPs internet access point at its regional offices is made with fiber-optics.
That fiber-optic link is what’s called a “trunk line.” All of the traffic of neighborhoods travels down the same cable. This can cause a problem at peak usage times because the high demand can overwhelm the capacity of the cable, slowing down the service to everyone. This situation is a particular risk with Charter Spectrum because it doesn’t impose data caps. That might seem like a big bonus, but it threatens your regular internet speeds if you are unfortunate to have a bandwidth guzzler as a neighbor.
Other big plus points with the Charter Spectrum service are that it doesn’t require contracts and so there are no early termination fees and you can get bundle deals that include TV packages and a landline phone as well as internet access.
WOW! has a bright and uplifting sales presentation on its website and its internet services manage to match the upbeat image by making its customers very satisfied. It is a cable TV company and so its internet services fit into the cable internet category. Its top speed is 1 Gbps and the company does not impose any data caps on any of its plans. However, it does require contracts that require a minimum commitment to the service of two years.
Apart from the 1 Gig plan, WOW! offers plans that promise 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps, and 500 Mbps. In all cases, the plan features include the words “up to” in front of the service speeds.
The price of the 1 Gig plan is very interesting. Customers who agree to automatic billing get a discount of $5 per month. This brings the price of the service down to $74.99 per month for the first two years and then $94.99 per month thereafter. However, the lock-in period is just two years, so customers could quite easily cancel and rejoin at the end of the two-year period to get back onto the promotional rate.
Look out for bundle offers that add TV packages and a landline phone service to get even lower prices.
CenturyLink is a telephone service and so it is able to offer DSL internet services over its network. This service is implemented as ADSL, offering better speeds for download than for upload.
CenturyLink was formed by a series of mergers. One of the biggest of these brought the Qwest network into the company. Quest was the renamed Bell Telephone Company remnant, US West.
As a telephone company, the CenturyLink network was predominantly provided over twisted wire. However, with san eye to improving its internet service, the company has been going through a replacement project that puts fiber-optic cable into its network. This changeover not only makes the CenturyLink internet service more attractive but it has also enabled the company to extend its services into entertainment streaming.
CenturyLink also plans to compete in the fixed wireless market. However, the infrastructure for this new division is still being constructed and so its fixed wireless internet service is not yet available.
The DSL internet service of CenturyLink includes plans with download speeds from 6 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Every DSL plan has the same price of $49 per month. The Fiber Gigabit plan is the fastest internet service offered by CenturyLink at $65 per month. The Gigabit plan includes free installation and a free modem. Each customer also gets a 30-day money-back guarantee, giving an option to pull out at no cost. CenturyLink doesn’t require its customers to sign up with contracts and there are no minimum service periods, so no early termination fees.
The company imposes a data cap of 1 TB on all of its plans except for the Gigabit service, which includes unlimited data. As with any internet service, CenturyLink leaves its explanation that headline speeds won’t be available everywhere all the time to its small print section.
8. Rise Broadband
Rise Broadband publicity declares that the company can deliver a 1 Gbps service. However, residential customers go to sign up at the website don’t see that option available. The gigabit offer is only available as a customized service to businesses.
The top speed that Rise Broadband offers is 50 Mbps. That may seem a little slow when compared to the other services reviewed here. However, Rise Broadband operates in a specialist niche: fixed wireless internet. The company’s biggest rival in the sector is AT&T Wireless, which offers its customers download speeds of up to 10 Mbps. This makes Rise Broadband lightning fast in comparison.
The pricing structure of the services is a little tricky and includes a lot of hidden charges. This can make working out the true cost of an internet service plan from Rise Broadband complicated even though the company only has two-speed plans.
Rise Broadband offers a 25 Mbps service and a 50 Mbps service. Customers can choose to have either plan with or without a data cap. The unlimited data option costs $20 more. Customers can also take the service month-to-month or on a 2-year contract. Taking the contract option gets a higher data cap. The throughput limit on the contractless service is 150 GB per month. With a contract, the data cap increases to 250 GB per month. Still, that high limit is still pretty low compared to the typical ISP data cap of 1 TB per month.
These tricky pricing options do have one big benefit, which is that the service is surprisingly cheap. The data-capped 25 Mbps plan cost $29.95 per month on a two-year contract, rising to $39.95 after the first year. The 50 Mbps plan with a data cap on a two-year contract costs $39.95 per month in the first year, rising to $49.95 per month thereafter. These are very low prices for such a technically complicated service.
Secretly, Rise Broadband finds other ways to increase its income: hidden charges. There is an inexplicable Carrier Cost Recovery Fee of $5.44 per month on both plans. Customers aren’t allowed to use their own modem, and so are forced to rent one from Rise Broadband for $10.99 per month. The company charges $5 per month for paper billing and $10 per time for the luxury of paying the bill over the phone.
Viasat offers a satellite internet service that is available in every state of the USA. The only problems with satellite internet are that it is slow and it is expensive. The Viasat customer gets a satellite dish attached on or near to the home. A cable running from the dish takes the service inside. The technical nature of a satellite service means that customers can’t really install the system themselves.
Although, theoretically, anywhere you can see the sky should be able to communicate with the satellite, in practice this is not the case. Despite not being able to see the satellite with the naked eye, the customer’s dish needs to have a “line of sight” to the transceiver up in space. This means that, depending on where the home is, it might be impossible to get that straight line to the satellite. A house that is closely crowded in by a dense and tall forest would need to have a satellite dish on top of a tower that puts it higher than the surrounding trees. A home close to a mountain range would be blocked if the satellite was in the sky beyond those mountains.
ViaSat has eight service plans. The price difference depends on the throughput speed and the data cap chosen by the customer. The cheapest plan costs $70 per month. It has a download speed of 12 Mbps and a data cap of 40 GB per month. The highest plan gives a download speed of 100 Mbps, making it the fastest satellite internet service available. The data cap on that top plan is 150 GB and the service costs $200 per month.
Viasat runs introductory offers that can bring down the price for a short while. These discount periods don’t last as long as those offered by the internet service providers of other connection types. For example, at the time of writing, Viasat offered a three-month introductory offer which brought down the price of the cheapest service from $70 to $50 per month.
The HughesNet service runs into the same “line of sight” problem that Viasat faces. Both services can also get seriously degraded in heavy rains, violent thunderstorms, or extreme heat.
HughesNet offers the same download speed on all of its four plans. That speed is 25 Mbps. The difference between the plans lies in their data caps. The data throughput limit is 10 GB per month on the cheapest plan, which costs $59.99 per month. The most expensive plan costs $149.99 per month and has a data cap of 50 GB per month.
HughesNet cuts its prices to customers who are willing to pre-pay for a year. The annual payment agreement brings the monthly cost of the cheapest plan down to $49.99.
Looking for high-speed internet services
The amount of speed you get greatly depends on where you live and the time of day when you use the internet. All internet service providers are initially very secretive about how much speed they will offer and at what prices until the visitor to the sales website enters an exact address. This means that not only are those high speeds available everywhere, but the company doesn’t want potential customers to know that other buyers elsewhere in the country are paying less for the same service.
The top speeds that you get offered in your locations will reorder the list you read here about the fastest internet services. Also, be careful about those hidden charges, which many internet service providers won’t tell you about until you get to the end of the ordering process.