The best internet provider for gaming 2021

Table of Contents Best for cheap fiber Best for speeds Best for cheap internet Best for fiber internet Best for price lock Best for cable internet Best for no data caps Best for satellite internet Best for average speeds Best for rural areas Guide to the internet for gamingCheck availabilityThe […]

Although there are numerous internet service providers out there, finding the best internet in your area can be tricky. Some providers won’t be available at your location, and offerings can vary significantly for the ones that are.

To find the best internet providers for gaming, we analyzed the country’s leading internet providers based on criteria like:

  • Internet speeds 
  • Price 
  • Availability 
  • Customer service

Here’s a quick-look comparison of our top picks for 2021’s best internet providers for gaming.

Availability

Bandwidth

ACSI rating

Monthly Prices starting at 

AT&T

Fiber, DSL

0.2Mbps – 940Mbps

68

$39.99

Xfinity

Fiber, Cable

15Mbps – 2000Mbps

66

$24.99

Frontier

Fiber, DSL

6Mbps – 940Mbps

55

$27.99

Verizon

Fiber, DSL  

100Mbps – 940Mbps

73

$39.99

CenturyLink

Fiber, DSL

10Mbps – 940Mbps

63

$45

Spectrum

Cable

100Mbps – 940Mbps

63

$49.99

RCN

Fiber, Cable

10Mbps – 940Mbps

Not rated

$19.99

Viasat

Satellite

12Mbps – 100Mbps

Not rated

$30

Cox

Fiber, Cable

10 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps

61

$29.99

Suddenlink

Fiber, Cable

100 Mbps – 940 Mbps

57

$34.99

*Data as of 10/1/2020.


Best for cheap fiber

AT&T Fiber

AT&T

Among fiber providers, AT&T offers cheaper plans with no data caps and several price levels. Plans range from 10Mbps to 940Mbps to easily accommodate simultaneous streaming for the many devices in your household.

With a great offer for the gamers out there — AT&T brings the speed. Stadia brings the game. Get 6 months of Stadia Pro with your new 5G smartphone or with AT&T Fiber. Claim free games and play on the go.


✓ Best For:

  • Reliable broadband
  • Super-fast fiber speeds
  • Excellent customer service

  ✗ Not For:

  • Minimum 12-month contract required
  • Price increase after the first year 

Features:

  • Fast speeds: Choose from speeds from 10Mbps to 940Mbps with discounted first-year pricing.
  • Reliable network:  Latest reports from the FCC show that AT&T DSL speeds are over 86% accurate with 99% reliability for fiber.
  • Great support: User reviews praise AT&T for their friendly, helpful, and patient representatives.

Further reading:


Best for speeds

xfinity-internet-sign.jpg

Shutterstock

Xfinity is one of the nation’s largest internet providers, offering speeds from 25Mbps all the way to 2000Mbps (2GB) with its cable and fiber internet plans.

Xfinity off “Pro speeds for every gamer” — The reflexes. The hand-eye coordination. The years of practice and refining of skills. Whether you’re a fan or a pro competitor, games need superfast and reliable Internet. So get your squad together and go for the win with Xfinity.


✓ Best For:

  • Reliable and dependable service
  • Broad availability
  • Tons of room to bundle

  ✗ Not For:

  • Have to sign a contract for best prices  
  • Customer service is lacking

Features:

  • A bundle-friendly provider: Xfinity gives you plenty of opportunities to bundle multiple services for extra savings. 
  • Option for unlimited data: You will have to pay extra each month, but you can upgrade your plan to unlimited data. 
  • Available nearly everywhere: Xfinity offers excellent accessibility with service to most U.S. zip codes.

Further Reading:


Best for cheap internet

frontier-communications-internet.jpg

Shutterstock

Frontier gives limited options for fiber but excels in its DSL coverage. Speeds are not as fast as competitors, and you have to rent your equipment, but plans are on the cheaper end, and you have a range of options to choose from.

Frontier offers a fast ping rate for fast-paced gaming. Ping rate measures how fast information is sent from your computer to game servers and back again — a critical part of a smooth gaming experience. Internet speeds are important for online gaming, and ping rates are pivotal to combat latency issues.


✓ Best For:

  •  No contracts
  • No data caps
  • Price-for-Life program

  ✗ Not For:

  • Limited fiber availability
  • Low customer service ratings

Features:

  • Multiple choices: Both DSL and fiber-optic internet is available through Frontier for your home internet service.
  • Extended DSL availability: Although fiber optic internet is limited to just a handful of states, DSL is available to most regions.
  • Price-for-Life: In addition to no contracts and no data overages, Frontier will lock in your pricing for life with its Price-for-Life option.

Further Reading:


Best for fiber internet

verizon-fios.png

Verizon

Verizon is not only a leader in fiber optic technology, but it boasts some of the very best customer services. You also have the ability to customize your plan when you bundle it with a TV. 

Verizon’s secret weapon is their Fios Gigabit Connection — fast, fiber-optic internet that minimizes lag and buffering. Unlike cable internet, where data travels over metallic lines and connectors that are more prone to corrosion from severe weather, fiber-optic networks deliver data by emitting light over hair-thin strands of optically pure glass. For gamers, that means fast, more reliable gaming with less lag and lower latency.

With download speeds of up to 940Mbps, you can download a 100GB game in no time at all. And upload speeds of up to 880Mbps make it ideal for multiplayer, first-person shooter games, where even the slightest slow-down in ping rate can be the difference between life and death.


✓ Best For:

  • Some of the fastest speeds available
  • Superb customer service
  • Verizon Wireless customer discount

  ✗ Not For:

  • Hard to find coverage
  • More expensive than other providers

Features:

  • Lightning-fast speeds: Verizon is known for super-fast speeds, reaching as high as 940 Mbps with its Fios Gigabit Connection plan.
  • Unlimited data: It’s rare to see a big provider with such high speeds offer unlimited data with its plans, but Verizon does.
  • Tons of promotions: Verizon could give you $500 for transferring from another provider, as well as special introductory pricing and promotions. 

Further Reading:


Best for price lock

centurylink-internet.jpg

CenturyLink Internet

CenturyLink gives you reasonable speeds covering a wide variety of needs with no penalties for data limits. Customer service is lacking, but it’s a worthwhile tradeoff to avoid contracts and termination fees for many customers. 


✓ Best For:

  • Locked-in pricing with DSL plans
  • No contracts
  • No termination fees

  ✗ Not For:

  • Limited availability for Gig Fiber
  • Slower speed performance

Features:

  • Price-for-Life: CenturyLink lets you lock in your pricing with its Price-for-Life guarantee, so you don’t have to worry about bill increases.
  • Cheaper pricing: CenturyLink gives you some of the same speeds as other providers but for several dollars less each month.
  • No contracts: Many customers appreciate the lack of contracts, allowing them to avoid cancellation fees if they find a better deal elsewhere.

Further Reading:


Best for cable internet

Charter-Spectrum

Shutterstock

Spectrum is known for its internet, cable TV, and phone service, making it easy to bundle for cheaper billing. It’s available in 43 states with speeds up to 940Mbps for an all-around great pick. 

The thing about Spectrum’s internet plans is that they are well-suited to both the casual and the professional gamer. The provider’s internet plans offer speeds up to 200Mbps, which can be upgraded to 400Mbps if you choose the provider’s Internet Ultra plan. But more importantly, the provider offers unlimited data with all of its internet plans. That means that you can download, play, and even stream games without worrying about data overages. If you live in a coverage area, you may also be able to subscribe to the provider’s Internet Gig plan, reaching speeds of up to 940Mbps


✓ Best For:

  • No contracts
  • Available in most areas
  • Excellent customer service

  ✗ Not For:

  •  Can get pricey
  • Fiber-optic connections

Features:

  • Contract buyout: Spectrum will help you switch over to its services with a $500 credit when you purchase a new internet plan.
  • No data caps: Stream without worries thanks to no data caps on Spectrum internet plans.
  • Reliable speeds: Spectrum delivers faster and more reliable speeds than other providers like AT&T.

Further Reading:


Best for no data caps

rcn.jpg

Shutterstock

RCN may have a limited service area, but its pricing is some of the most competitive among internet service providers. Its fiber network is slowly increasing, but for now, service is mostly limited to larger metropolitan areas.

RCN’s fiber-rich internet delivers Gig-speed internet no matter what high-bandwidth activity you choose. What’s this mean for you is faster internet speeds, drastically reduced bandwidth, and more reliable gameplay — when compared to cable.


✓ Best For:

  • Affordable pricing
  • Fast fiber-optic speeds
  • Unlimited streaming

  ✗ Not For:

  • Minimal service area
  • Limited bundling options

Features:

  • Expanding fiber coverage: RCN fiber internet is not yet available in all service areas, but it’s especially prevalent in NYC, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
  • High customer satisfaction: RCN delivers more personalized customer service and support for your internet plan as a smaller provider. 
  • There are no limits on streaming: RCN does not cap your internet usage, so you can stream all of your favorites without worrying about a higher bill. 


Best for satellite internet

viasat.jpg

Shutterstock

With Viasat, speeds are limited, but service is far more widespread than most other cable or fiber optic internet providers. You have to commit to a contract, but you get unlimited data with some plans, saving you money in the long run.


✓ Best For:

  • Unlimited data with some plans
  • Can bundle with DIRECTV for discounts
  • Expanded satellite networks

  ✗ Not For: 

  • Has slower speeds than most providers
  • Not the cheapest plans

Features:

  • Widespread coverage: Viasat covers 98% of the country, giving coverage to rural and less-populated areas that normally have a hard time finding internet coverage.
  • Unlimited data available with certain plans: Viasat won’t cap your data with some plans. 
  • Free installation: It’s not easy installing a satellite, so Viasat will do it for you and without any cost when you sign a contract.

Further Reading:


Best for average speeds

cox-comm.jpg

Shutterstock

Cox is only available in a small percentage of the country, but its customers speak highly of the service and support that they receive. A wide range of internet plans is available, making it a great choice for both heavy and minimal streaming.

Cox launched Elite Gamer, a service that improves the connection between game servers and players across its internet network by as much as 32%. A perfect service for the passionate gamer.

The service doesn’t actually deliver more internet bandwidth, as measured in megabit-per-second download speeds. Rather, it improves the response time, or latency, which matters more to those who play highly interactive games like online shooters. Cox serves more than 6 million homes in 18 states, and this kind of tech could help it hang onto its hardcore customers who can’t live with subpar internet connections.


✓ Best For:

  • Wide range of plans
  • Budget-friendly plans for lighter usage
  • Excellent customer service

  ✗ Not For:

  • More expensive than other providers
  • Requires a contract

Features:

  • Affordable speeds: Cox doesn’t make you pay for speeds you don’t need, offering cheap internet plans with slower speeds for light users.
  • Happy customers: Cox customers rate the company highly for its customer service and support, which isn’t easy to find in this industry.
  • Panoramic WiFi app: Cox gives you greater control of your internet with its Panoramic WiFi, which mimics mesh wifi for better internet coverage throughout your home.

Further Reading:


Best for rural areas

suddenlink.jpg

Suddenlink

Suddenlink offers speeds of up to 1000Mbps, and its fastest plan will also give you locked-in pricing. Introductory pricing is great — just be prepared for price increases after your first year.

Did you know that on average most gamers spend more than seven hours a week enjoying the online gaming world? Actually, it’s 7.11 hours, but that’s not important to a gamer. What is critical are things like fast performance. If you can’t play a high-paced game in real-time because your internet speed runs at a snail’s pace, why bother. This is exactly why Suddenlink internet plans and internet speeds score big points with gamers.


✓ Best For:

  • Cheap internet
  • Fast internet speeds
  • Price-for-Life on its fastest plan

  ✗ Not For:

  • Has more extra fees than other providers
  • Price increases for some plans after promotional first-year pricing

Features:

  • Available in hard-to-find areas: Suddenlink gives you the option for fast internet in areas that typically do not have tons of choices for internet service.
  • Fast speeds: Even though Suddenlink is based in more rural areas, it still offers speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps.
  • Cheaper plans: Suddenlink gives you internet service that is cheaper than several of its competitors, with plans starting at just $35 a month.

Guide to the internet for gaming

Check availability

Not all companies are available everywhere. While companies like Viasat and AT&T are known for their wide availability, other internet service providers like Suddenlink, Cox, Frontier and Verizon FiOS are harder to find in some areas of the U.S. 

Before you shop for internet plans, research which internet service providers service your home address. 

The best speed for internet gaming

People frequently talk about fast internet speeds, but what does that mean exactly? When you shop for internet plans, you should consider different factors like the appropriate internet speed and download versus upload speeds. Both of these will determine how quickly and smoothly your internet works, just as the type of internet you use will also affect your internet’s performance. You can also increase your internet speed by switching to fiber from cable internet.

To figure out what kind of internet speeds you need, check out our Online’s Gamer’s Bandwidth Calculator to find the right speeds for your home.

Study pricing

The cost for high-speed internet can vary significantly, depending on which plan you choose. Providers can vary significantly in their pricing for similar speeds, and others may specialize in certain types of internet, like cable or fiber optic. Be sure to consider any hidden costs that can impact your overall pricing, especially after any promotional periods end.  

Equipment recommended

When you purchase an internet service plan, there is some additional equipment that you may need for your internet to work properly, including these.

  • Modem: Your modem, typically rented through your internet service provider, will connect your devices to the internet through your cable, fiber or phone line.
  • Router: To power your home with internet access, you can either purchase your own or rent one with your internet plan.
  • Cables: Most of the cables you will need will come with your router so you can connect all of your devices.

Consider bundling

Many internet service providers also offer other services, such as home or wireless phone service or TV packages. When you bundle multiple services, you can enjoy the convenience of a single provider with easier and cheaper billing. The best internet bundles can save you a ton of money on your phone, internet, and TV bills each month. 

Look for flexible contracts

Another point to consider is whether your internet service provider requires a contract. Some providers will require that you commit to a contract in order to benefit from discounted pricing. If you are happy with your provider or don’t have a lot of other options, this could be a way to get cheaper pricing, but typically, there are price increases that come later once the promotional period ends.  

What is Mbps?

Mbps is a unit of measurement that is used to express broadband speeds. It stands for megabits per second and can also be expressed as MB or Mbits p/s.

How many Mbps do I need for online gaming?

If you’re looking for bare minimums, Xfinity recommends 3 Mbps per second, but more is generally better. If you’re looking for optimal performance, our Gaming Speed Calculator considers multiple factors that could affect your experience.

What is latency in gaming?

Latency, also called a ping, is how long it takes for data to go from your gaming device to the server and back. Higher latency means the game is less responsive. It is measured in milliseconds.

Does internet speed affect ping?

The faster your internet speed, the better the ping (or latency) of your gaming. While you want a higher internet speed, you want a lower ping because that means data is reaching your gaming console that much faster.

Is a credit check required for internet services?

It is standard practice for internet service providers to perform a credit check so they can ensure that you will be able to pay your bill each month.

What is the cheapest internet provider for gaming?

Ultimately, the cheapest internet plan for you will depend on where you live and what internet speeds you need for your home. That said, RCN and Xfinity offer some of the cheapest starting prices we’ve seen.

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