What Is Considered High-Speed Internet in 2023?
When it comes to an internet connection, what is high-speed internet? When fiber is now a standard offering in many regions, what is considered high-speed internet in 2023?
Over the past few years, internet service providers (ISPs) have slowly started to offer faster and faster plans — to the point where it’s not uncommon to find speeds faster than 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) in major population centers.
However, you may still be disappointed by your “high-speed” internet plan. The term has a specific definition under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and its use is often more complicated than just “really fast” internet.
Below, we’ll cover what the fastest speeds in the United States (U.S.) look like, how to get them, and what people may really be saying when they offer you “high-speed” internet service.
Learn What’s Considered High-Speed Internet in 2023
According to federal regulators, high-speed internet has a specific definition when it comes to marketing. When a business offers you a high-speed internet plan, they may not be offering you the fastest speeds available, or even speeds that most people would consider fast.
The FCC defines broadband internet as anything above 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. Many providers use the terms “high-speed” and “broadband” interchangeably.
A 25 Mbps connection is enough to handle multiple, simultaneous Netflix streams. High-definition streaming from Netflix needs around 5 Mbps for a satisfactory experience.
However, it’s not enough for a 4K Netflix stream, which needs 30 Mbps.
It’s also not much compared to what most households already have. The average internet speed in the U.S., for example, is over 250 Mbps. Other countries have it even better — in Monaco, the average is closer to 320 Mbps.
Because “high-speed” as currently defined sets such a low bar, just about every current ISP offers plans that meet the FCC definition for high-speed. Only in highly rural areas will you typically struggle to find a plan that counts as “high-speed.”
What Is the Absolute Fastest Internet I Can Get?
Top speeds will vary depending on your address and the part of the country you live in. In general, living in a big city will get you better access to fast internet speeds — especially if you live in a place with a major tech sector, like the Bay Area.
These will be fiber plans, meaning they deliver data over a fiber connection rather than DSL, satellite, or cable.
Speeds for fiber plans typically cap out at around 1 Gbps down. These plans are sometimes called gigabit plans because they offer speeds that are around or beyond 1 gigabit per second.
Upload speeds vary, but they’ll typically be lower — Xfinity’s gigabit plan, for example, is 1 Gbps down and 35 Mbps up.
These speeds are well beyond what the average consumer needs. You should really only consider a gigabit plan if you find that your internet use is too much for a fast-but-not-gigabit plan — like one that offers a more modest 500 Mbps connection.
If you have a large household, for example, or regularly download large files, run multiple high-definition and 4K streams, or rely on cloud computing, you may want to consider the upgrade.
However, you’ll first want to make sure your internet hardware can handle gigabit speeds. When your internet is that fast, the cables you use and the router you buy can become a bottleneck that may limit top speeds.
To take full advantage of gigabit internet, you’ll also need wired connections for your devices, rather than wireless ones like Wi-Fi. Your home Wi-Fi, even if you have a gigabit internet connection, is likely to be sub-gigabit due to the overhead that Wi-Fi needs to work.
If you don’t have access to fiber in your area, a DSL connection will likely be the next best thing. Typically, satellite plans will be the slowest and least reliable. Depending on where you live, however, they may be your only option, or better than the available competition.
Beyond Gigabit Internet
You may be able to go beyond gigabit depending on your location. AT&T, for example, offers a 5-gigabit plan in some areas.
Enterprise plans — intended for big businesses — may offer even higher speeds. Some plans go as high as 10 Gbps. While the price varies by location, plans are often in the range of $400 per month on average. These plans may not even be accessible to individual buyers.
For the most part, you should expect around 1 Gbps from your ISP. These plans will often cost around $70 to $100, depending on the ISPs competing in your area and the kind of internet infrastructure available where you live.
Typically, people in cities will have better access to cheaper, faster internet than those in the suburbs — and especially those living in the country.
Some providers may offer even higher speeds. The top five fastest ISPs in the U.S. provide widespread coverage of over 1 Gbps, while others offer the same speed regionally. While finding anything faster may be challenging, it’s possible.
How to Get the Fastest Internet in 2023
If you want the fastest internet available, a gigabit plan is likely what you’re looking for. While most households probably won’t need speeds this fast, many providers across the country offering gigabit plans.
These plans offer speeds much faster than what the FCC considers to be broadband internet — speeds greater than 25 Mbps.
Before you upgrade, however, you may want to make sure your home internet hardware won’t limit your speeds — in some cases, you may need to upgrade your router or modem to get the full benefits of a faster plan.