Best Internet for Streaming 2022
Fiber internet is excellent for streaming in 4K and HD—but cable internet is good enough for most binge-watching.
Download speed: 300–940 Mbps
Data cap: Unlimited
Download speeds: 75–3,000 Mbps
Data cap: 1.2 TB–Unlimited
Download speeds: 100–5,000 Mbps
Data cap: 1 TB–Unlimited
Download speed: 12 Mbps–100 Mbps
Data cap: 45–300 GB
What’s the best internet for streaming?
At CableTV.com, we recommend fiber-optic internet for streaming TV online, but cable, DSL, and satellite internet services have their merits. When it comes to speed, we’re firm that at least 25 Mbps (megabytes per second) is best for streaming, even though most services say 5–7 Mbps is adequate. We’ll explain why below.
Availability may be the biggest factor of all—you have to go with what’s available in your neighborhood, and it’s not always going to be the fastest or cheapest internet on the market. We’ve included recommendations here for some of the most widely-available internet providers in the US; there’s bound to be at least one near you.
Recommended speeds for streaming
The usual streaming service recommendation of 5–7 Mbps of download speed isn’t wrong; it just doesn’t consider that more than one device may be connected to the internet at the same time. Think of every gadget in your household that’s streaming something right now—we’d guess there’s more than one.
To avoid buffering and picture pixelation—that blurry, jagged look of a 2005 YouTube video—with multiple devices sharing the internet, 25 Mbps is as low as you want to go. How much more speed you’ll need depends on your consumption habits.
Top internet providers for streaming
Streaming with different types of internet connections
Now that we’ve gone over download speeds and internet providers, let’s dig into how each type of internet service works and how different internet connections affect your streaming experience.
Fiber internet streaming
Fiber-optic internet transmits as pulses of light over hair-thin glass strands, and it can hit blazing download speeds up to and beyond 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps—gigabyte per second). Having fiber connections available directly to homes and businesses is a relatively new service that covers only about 35% of the US currently.
Fiber internet is also capable of equal upload speeds; with other types of internet service, upload numbers are about 10% of download rates. Uploading your hamster-grooming tutorial to YouTube takes only minutes with fiber, as opposed to hours with cable or DSL.
Best fiber internet providers for streaming
|Verizon Fios||$39.99–$89.99/mo.||200–940 Mbps||View Plans|
|AT&T Fiber||$55.00–$180.00/mo.||100–5,000 Mbps||View Plans|
|CenturyLink||$30.00–$70.00/mo.||200–940 Mbps||View Plans|
|Earthlink||$79.95–$99.95/mo.||100–1,000 Mbps||View Plans|
|Google Fiber||$70.00–$100.00/mo.||1,000–2,000 Mbps||View Plans|
Cable internet streaming
Cable internet service was introduced in the ’90s, using existing cable TV coaxial lines to deliver faster internet than DSL and dial-up services could over their copper telephone lines. Thanks to modem upgrades in the 2010s, some cable internet services can achieve fiber-like download speeds up to 500 Mbps (but upload speeds are still a fraction of download).
The biggest selling point of cable internet is that it’s available nearly everywhere, covering close to 90% of the country. The downside of cable internet is that it slows when your neighbors on the service are surfing at the same time, creating a data logjam.
Best cable internet providers for streaming
DSL internet streaming
Digital subscriber line (DSL) delivers internet service over standard telephone lines, which are even more prevalent than cable connections. Even some of the most remote regions of the US have access to DSL internet, if not dial-up (the original, and slowest, internet—like AOL or CompuServe from the ’90s).
In most cases, DSL internet can reach a download speed of 50 Mbps—and that speed drops depending on the distance between you and the central connection point. DSL signals degrade over longer ranges, meaning some rural areas are lucky to get 5 Mbps of service. Ouch.
Best DSL internet providers for streaming
Satellite internet streaming
Satellite internet works mostly the same as satellite TV: the signal comes from a satellite in space, and the data is received by a dish attached to the outside of your home or business.
Unlike satellite TV, which can deliver an HD picture indistinguishable from cable, satellite internet is limited in its signal capabilities. It’s also expensive and comes with low data caps. If you’re in an area that doesn’t even get DSL service, satellite’s an acceptable last resort, but that’s the only instance in which we’d recommend satellite internet. Seriously—keep looking.
Satellite internet providers for streaming
Final take: fiber internet is best for streaming
As far as we’re concerned, fiber-optic internet is king. It’s fast and consistent, and unlike other delivery methods, it was designed for the internet, not retrofitted. It might be a little more expensive, but for seamless streaming we say it’s worth it—if you can get it.
In fiber-free zones, cable internet is a speedy choice, with DSL running a close third. The services are easy to find, and both work well (to varying degrees) for streaming TV.
In a distant last place, satellite internet isn’t going to deliver satisfying streaming. We’d recommend getting an actual satellite TV service over trying to stream shows and movies with satellite internet—it would probably even end up being cheaper.
To find the best ISPs for streaming, we rated providers on factors including cost, unlimited data availability, value, and availability. We also relied on our annual customer satisfaction survey to see how real customers felt about their ISPs. For more information on our methodology, check out our How We Rank page.