Which Is the Best High-Speed Internet Provider?
When it comes to the internet, faster is better. Faster means easier streaming, better quality, and quicker downloads — no matter how many people or devices you’ve got trying to connect to the internet in your household.
The right high-speed internet plan, however, can be hard to find. The top available speeds can vary significantly depending on which provider you choose, and some high-speed plans may be substantially more expensive than others.
In some cases, “high-speed” may also have a specific definition — one that doesn’t always mean a faster-than-average connection.
Below, we’ll cover the best high-speed internet providers in the U.S., plus how you can find the right high-speed ISP in your area.
What Counts as High-Speed?
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) defines broadband as any internet plan with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download (“down”). Some internet providers and regulators will use “broadband” and “high-speed internet” interchangeably, meaning “high-speed” sometimes may just mean 25 Mbps down or more.
It’s pretty likely every ISP in your area will offer a plan with 25 Mbps down or more. In many areas, you may not even be able to go lower than 25 Mbps.
This connection is both slower than the average speed in the U.S. — which is around 50 Mbps down — and much, much slower than some of the fastest available plans, like the 1,000 Mbps down “gigabit” internet plans.
However, 25 Mbps is perfectly good for most casual internet users. With 25 Mbps, you can easily run multiple HD Netflix streams, play multiplayer video games, and download large files.
However, you may struggle with activities that require a lot of data — like simultaneous 4K streams.
If you want truly high speeds — speeds that push what the internet infrastructure in the U.S. is capable of — you probably want a gigabit plan.
For most, the absolute highest speed available will be gigabit internet. These are plans that offer download speeds of around 1 gigabit per second or higher.
These plans typically require fiber-optic cable in your area and are going to be expensive. Often, gigabit plans can cost anywhere between $70 and $100, or even more, depending on your location and the provider you choose.
Major, national providers like Xfinity, AT&T, and Spectrum offer gigabit or near-gigabit plans. Smaller regional providers may also be able to offer gigabit internet.
When looking for the “best” high-speed ISP in your area, you may also want to consider customer service and the benefits it offers.
Local or more regional providers can sometimes offer better customer service than national providers. However, this isn’t always the case, and looking up reviews for providers in your area is the best way to know what kind of service you’ll get before you commit to one ISP or another.
How to Test Your Internet Speed
Upgrading your internet service, however, may not guarantee you get the speeds you pay for.
The only way to know if you’re getting your money’s worth is to actually test your speed. Using an online speed testing tool, like Speedtest.net or Netflix’s Fast.com, is the best way to see what download speeds your ISP is really providing.
These internet speed tests will quickly give you an accurate measure of the download speed, upload speed, and latency you currently have.
It’s a good idea to test multiple times, using different devices, and at different times of the day. This will help you know, for example, if your internet is slower than it should be, or if one of your devices is faulty.
If you’re testing your connection over Wi-Fi, you should also try testing the same device in multiple places around your home. It’s not unusual for homes to have Wi-Fi dead zones, or areas where the signal is weaker. These areas can give you the impression that your internet connection is slower and less reliable than it actually is in much of your home.
Ensuring High Speeds
How you connect, and the home internet hardware you use, can have a big impact on your internet speed.
For example, you’ll probably always have slower speeds over Wi-Fi compared to the speeds you get with a wired connection.
Certain routers may also be unable to handle gigabit internet — and will effectively cap your maximum download speed until you upgrade. Many routers that can handle a gigabit connection are advertised as gigabit routers. These routers should be able to handle the 1,000+ Mbps down your ISP offers.
How to Know Which Is the Best High-Speed Internet Provider
Almost every ISP out there can probably offer you high-speed internet or broadband — which the FCC defines as at least 25 Mbps down.
If you want faster internet speeds, like ultra-fast gigabit internet, you’ll probably need to work with a large, national ISP.
When deciding which ISP to choose, you’ll likely want to search for reviews and learn more about the special deals and benefits each can offer. After you commit, it can also be a good idea to test your internet speed, just to make sure you’re getting what you paid for.