Every year, we pull data collected from the PCMag Speed Test, and crunch the numbers for download and upload throughput to determine which broadband internet service providers (ISPs) offer the fastest speeds, both national and regional. Here are the top performers for 2021.
WINNERS: The Fastest ISPs in the United States
How We Rate ISP Speeds
You can skip this part if you already have a keen understanding of how we calculate an index to rate speed. But if you don’t, give this a read; the charts below will help illustrate our method.
“Internet speed” is a measure of the throughput from your computer to a web server (upload) and from a web server to your computer (download). A lot of online tools can help you measure speed. For this story, the only one that matters is the personalized PCMag Speed Test, because we want speeds as measured by the PCMag community. Go ahead, try it below. For the most accurate results, we suggest you turn off your VPN and any streaming video happening in the house. If you want to test your true connection, connect your broadband modem directly to your PC via Ethernet to reduce network overhead. (FWIW, no one really does that.)
Whenever you click GO on the PCMag Speed Test, it collects information on your ISP’s download and upload speed, plus a lot of other stuff—such as your IP address, as assigned to you by your ISP, which is used to confirm your location and ISP’s name.
Since this is all about speed, we look hard at the averages for download and upload speeds in megabits per second. We then combine them and spit them back out using a formula that takes 80% of the download number and 20% of the upload. That combined rating is the PCMag Speed Index (PSI). It lets us compare ISPs head to head.
You’ll see the PSI referenced in all the charts below, indicated via the blue bars. They’ll show the top 10 ISPs or the top 10 locations based on the PSI, depending on what we’re trying to convey and how much data we have available.
Almost all the ISPs listed below are fixed-wired providers. That means they run a wire right up to your house, apartment, or office using technology such as fiber optics, coaxial cable, or a copper phone line. (That last one is used for DSL, which is slow; you won’t see any DSL providers in this list unless they also offer something else that offsets the sluggishness.) A few are using what’s called fixed-wireless, and you’ll see one in particular below that stands out.
More and more people are using their mobile wireless provider as an ISP. Both Verizon and T-Mobile are selling in-home internet with their towers as the connector, but they don’t yet have the throughput to compete for the fastest ISP, despite all the promise of 5G. And finally, there are satellite-based ISPs with big reach (the signal can cover the whole country). They tend to be slow, but read on to see what the hot new player in the market may be doing to change that.
Note that for any ISP or location to be included in this story, it has to receive a minimum of 100 tests. We don’t even look at an ISP in a given place or look at a given location unless the count is 100 or more; this keeps comparisons as fair and valid as possible. So your local ISP may be super-fast but still not included in our list of the fastest, and that’s your fault, because you and your neighbors didn’t click on the PCMag Speed Test often enough. (Also, sometimes ISPs overwhelm our test data, which you can read about below.)
This is the eleventh time we’ve run this story with this same methodology (at the bottom), but this part bears repeating: The data we have is about speed only. We don’t get info on pricing. We can’t qualify different tiers of an ISP versus another. In some cases, we can’t even necessarily differentiate between an ISP’s technology offerings—some might have DSL speeds mixed with fiber speeds (that’s on those ISPs to update their information with the GeoIP services out there, such as MaxMind, that power these tests). In the cases where we can determine the distinction, it makes all the difference—that’s why Verizon Fios can come out well ahead of Verizon Internet, for example, instead of generic Verizon getting a mediocre speed index.
The Fastest ISPs for the US for 2021
When it comes to ISPs, there are quite a few major players and a gargantuan number of smaller providers. The CIA World Factbook says the USA alone has over 7,000 ISPs, but that includes every possible permutation; BroadbandNow claims there are, as of this writing, 2,775 offering broadband. That’s still a lot. Yet there’s so little competition to be had. Chances are if you have an ISP that’s a major player—with, say, millions of customers and a multi-state reach—it has already squeezed out the rest, or at least tried. If you’ve got decent broadband from a small ISP, they’re probably filling a much-needed niche in your area. If you get to pick and choose between multiple ISPs, you’re one of the few lucky ones.
When it comes to a major ISP, one choice always stands out in our tests, and that’s Fios by Verizon (aka Verizon Fios). This is the ninth win of the decade for Fios, despite the fact that its PCMag Speed Index has been decreasing since 2019.
Click through the tabs on the interactive chart below to see Fios’s PSI fluctuate. You can also click items in the legend to hide them.
Fios’ speed drop wasn’t enough to kick it out of first place. But like last year, other vendors—in particular, the big cable providers—are making gains as they upgrade equipment (at least in some areas where the competition requires them to keep up). Comcast’s Xfinity service crept up from last year’s PSI of 136.0 to 139.6 to hold onto second place. The biggest jump was likely made by our new third-place winner, Sparklight (formerly Cable One), coming in with a 124.4 PSI, after not even making it into the top 10 last year. Back in 2019, its PSI was only 59.8, so it’s more than doubled its speed in two years. Thanks to that improvement and a slight dip in RCN’s index down to 121.7, RCN slipped to fourth place. Rounding out the top five, Cox Communications earned a 116.7, enough to push down AT&T Fiber.
In general, you probably won’t be too upset with the speeds you receive from any of the above companies. But the bigger the company (and the fewer competitors it has), the less likely it is to keep speed increases coming. (Yet it’ll probably keep those price increases coming!) That’s why we always recommend that you consider smaller ISPs, if you have the option—in particular, those doing fiber-optic installs.
To factor in the smaller ISP companies, many of which are now run by towns and cities or even by local utility companies, we always look at all the ISPs in our data (again, assuming we got 100 tests from them). We’ve given this award in the past to ISPs that serve cities big and small and even some with a niche reach, such as providing fiber only to apartments and condos.
For 2021, the best PCMag Speed Index score goes to a small company doing its best to wire up a large number of small towns: Empire Access in upstate New York, with installs reaching from Batavia, NY, down into Pennsylvania. We didn’t get enough tests to measure any individual town for Empire Access use alone, but cumulatively pulling down a stellar index of 366.2 on average for over a year is no small feat. If you’re in one of the locations where Empire competes (mainly with Spectrum), you’re likely in luck when it comes to the velocity of your broadband.
Not bad for a company that’s never made our Fastest ISPs list before. But it did come in second in our Best Gaming ISPs of 2021 competition earlier this year, which is also based on the PCMag Speed Test.
Google Fiber was once the great hope for many municipalities seeking fiber service, until it slowed expansion plans considerably in 2016. But it’s still in service in 11 major cities, while its WebPass fixed-wireless service used by some multi-dwelling units (apartments and condos) is in seven cities. Google Fiber’s speeds (mixed here with WebPass tests) earn it the second-place spot for the year, though it’s number one in many regions of the country. But Google Fiber hasn’t won a top award since 2016. As of 2020, it’s expanding again, a little, in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Utah, so maybe it’ll bounce back.
Nextlight keeps it consistent. The provider for the city of Longmont, Colorado, has stayed in third or fourth place now for years, but its speeds have dropped. Last year’s fourth-place 340.6 index is now this year’s third-place 289.1.
What of previous winners? Last year’s big winner, Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU), fell from an astronomically high PSI of 1,350.4 to 213.4. It’s hard to say which one is the blip until we see numbers again next year. Hopefully, for the folks in that town in Iowa, 2020 was the issue (too many users at home, perhaps), and the score will rise again. That said, CFU is still in our top 10 this year, in a comfy seventh place. Sonic, the Bay Area provider that was the big winner two years ago at 610.6, has fallen steadily since. This year, its 202.5 score earned it tenth place.
Other services that made our top 10 are familiar, including EPB in Chattanooga, TN (the country’s first “Gigabit City”). But a couple of entries also worth mentioning are MonkeyBrains, which is producing some amazing speeds in the San Francisco Bay Area—enough to come in ninth ahead of direct competitor Sonic. What’s really amazing is that MonkeyBrains is getting that speed using fixed-wireless tech. And in fourth place is Ting, a fiber-to-the-premises provider found in a few select “Ting Towns” in six states. It launched in 2012 as an MVNO and started offering fiber in 2014.
Fastest Satellite ISPs
Before we look at the ISPs by region in the US, let’s look at some uniquely country-wide providers. Satellite technology can essentially reach any state in the union and beyond—as long as no trees are blocking the signal, and it isn’t raining.
In the past, there was no need to mention the word “satellite” when it comes to the fastest ISPs in the land, because the technology of the existing satellite providers has never, ever come close to producing service that anyone would call speedy. But that might be changing.
SpaceX’s Starlink service has caught on as the next big hope for internet connectivity, with a reach better than even the mobile network carriers and speeds that could rival the big broadband providers. But these are early days, so it remains to be seen whether Starlink (and future competitors, like Amazon’s Project Kuiper) will deliver.
Despite Starlink barely being off the ground, enough customers used the PCMag Speed Test this year to allow us to assign it a PCMag Speed Index score. While it’s not going to make any fiber providers quake, it shows promise: Starlink managed a 70.8 PSI. That’s 4.3 times faster than the next satellite internet provider, Viasat. And it’s not far below a major cable company—Spectrum earned a 101.1 nationwide.
It’s unlikely anyone is going to drop an existing fixed-wired ISP for satellite service of any kind. But for the people out there waiting for Starlink to go mainstream, this score is another log to throw on the fire of hope that it could potentially solve digital-divide issues.
Fastest ISPs by Region
Looking at ISPs nationwide doesn’t help much when some ISPs cover multiple states and others barely reach around the corner. To narrow things down, we look at how services compare in six regions of the US where competition has a better chance.
Includes: IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, and WI
Last year, when Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) earned a 1,350.4 PSI, it was unbeatable. This year, in its home region, it got thumped. Google Fiber previously carried the north-central US with a score of 268.4 in 2019, and it’s back on top this year with 297.4, an excellent showing.
Includes: CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, VT, and WV
In 2020, Suddenlink jumped out in front, but the 181.9 it earned back then has fallen to 108.5 in 2021. Even if it had sustained that speed, it would have fallen behind the two leaders this year. Empire Access (see above) has the same score here as it does in our “all ISPs” coverage (a massive 366.2 PSI), since it serves small towns in just two northeastern states. The second-place spot goes to GoNetspeed, a fiber provider in select markets of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, with a 193.9 PSI.
Includes: CO, ID, MT, OR, UT, WA, and WY
For two years in a row, Longmont’s NextLight and Comcast Xfinity ruled the stretch of states in the northwest. For 2021, scores for both dropped. That gave two providers a chance to step up. Google Fiber’s ahead of fourth-place Comcast this time. But at the very top, we welcome Ting. Its scores in Colorado and Idaho alone were enough to put it on top with an index of 300.2. NextLight is close, though, at 289.1.
Includes: AR, LA, MS, OK, and TX
Google Fiber covers only two cities in Texas (Austin and San Antonio), but that’s enough to give it supremacy in the south-central region of the US. The 360.4 PSI it earned is a big leap up from the 277.9 it won the region with last year, and more than double that of the next-best provider, C Spire Fiber, which is headquartered in Mississippi (this is C Spire’s first year in our results).
Includes: AL, FL, GA, NC, SC, and TN
The southeastern states continue to be a Google Fiber (plus WebPass) stronghold. This year, the combo took the lead in the region with a score of 288.5, besting previous winner Hotwire, which earned 248.2 this year—a pretty big drop from last year’s winning PSI of 473.8. Ting also had another good showing here, with a 241.7 third-place score (and look at that upload speed).
Includes: AZ, NM, NV, and CA
The southwest states have become a battleground based entirely in the San Francisco Bay Area, where multiple vendors compete to provide the best speed to the high-tech customers who live there. Two years in a row, Sonic, the incumbent fiber provider, crushed bigger names including Comcast and Suddenlink. But this year, it fell short of beating a newcomer—MonkeyBrains. The fact that a fixed-wireless company can deliver what MonkeyBrains does via dishes mounted on top of buildings isn’t anything new, but it’s cause for hope that maybe fiber-to-the-home isn’t the only solution for true speed.
Hawaii and Alaska
We don’t get a lot of test results from the non-contiguous US states, but we get enough to measure their major providers. In Alaska, that’s GCI. Last year, it had a then-record high PSI of 134.0; this year, it set a new record of 149.0. It might get even better, as the company has committed to bring 10-gigabit internet speed to the state (but will start with 2-gig speeds in 2022 for up to 77% of the population).
Hawaii has a race going between two providers. This year, the winner is Hawaiian Telecom at 97.0, compared with Spectrum’s 87.6. The PSI scores for both ISPs had been dropping since 2018, but now each has exceeded that year’s big numbers with new record highs.
US States With the Fastest Internet
State-to-state rivalry shouldn’t end with college teams—not when we can look at all the states at once and find which are wanting and which are abundant with rapid internet speeds.
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On the map, the darker the shade of blue, the faster the internet speed. You can pass a cursor over any state to see what the commonwealth-wide PCMag Speed Index is, or click the legend below to narrow down a specific range.
Florida is again on top, with Maryland in second place (after last year’s slide to fifth), and Georgia is in third.
Last year, Georgia and Florida topped this list, all because of one ISP: Hotwire. There’s no doubt Hotwire—which mainly provides fiber connectivity to apartments and condos—is fast. But considering that its tests don’t beat any services in our other matchups above, it becomes clear that the overwhelming number of Hotwire tests for those two states are skewing the scores. The number of Hotwire tests in Florida alone is almost double that of every other ISP there in total. Right now, as stands, Florida’s PCMag Speed Index this year is a first-place 178.0, but if we ignore those thousands of tests from Hotwire users, the state drops to 22nd place with a 106.2 PSI. Georgia similarly would slide from third to 14th place.
Sure, it’s possible that any ISP with an egregiously large or small speed index can skew the average for the whole state. What’s more, statewide (and countrywide) tests include every result we’ve got, so that means businesses, college dorms, and so on—some of which may have very fast connections—all get factored in. But usually, it evens out: The number of tests we see is typically reflective of the overall user base. For example, in almost any place where Comcast Xfinity exists, its users provide the most tests—because it has the most users. That is not the case with Florida and Georgia for the last two years. It’s likely that Hotwire has set up the PCMag Speed Test as the default speed test for its customers to use. While we appreciate the company spreading the word, the concentration of tests hasn’t necessarily done the provider any favors.
US Cities With the Fastest Internet
States are easy, but cities are hard. Culling through the data to find cities that have 100 tests sounds straightforward, but remember—there are 34 states in the US with a town named Springfield. After some digging to make sure which Naples we’re talking about, we narrowed down speeds to the following top 10 cities this year.
But let us throw another Hotwire caveat in here. The numbers you see for those top three cities include a preponderance of Hotwire tests. Factor out Hotwire (as we did on the second tab above), and the top three cities don’t make the new top 10. In fact, Stone Mountain, Georgia, doesn’t even get to 100 tests and is excluded.
Again, that’s not to say that the average speed for Stone Mountain doesn’t count any less. We wouldn’t say you shouldn’t look at Austin, Texas, since it has killer Google Fiber service. But in Austin, you have a better chance of living somewhere that Google provides service, whereas Hotwire’s very limited access makes it a lot harder to obtain. The spread favoring Hotwire comes from an overload of tests that looks like ballot stuffing, but we include it because the test itself probably isn’t spoofed.
Cities minus Hotwire in the top 10 start with McAllen, Texas, which is, somewhat surprisingly, a Spectrum town. Malden, Massachusetts, takes the silver—that’s a Fios town. Shannon, Alabama, features Google Fiber. Other ISPs leading the way in the top towns include Comcast Xfinity in Vincentown, New Jersey; Ting in Lone Tree, Colorado; and our big winner, Empire Access, killing it in Big Flats, New York.
Fastest Business ISPs
Measuring business ISPs in our dataset is a tricky business because, obviously, any broadband provider can sell to a business. There’s probably quite a mix of business users testing their connection speed with the PCMag Speed Test, along with consumers using the test at home. We don’t have a way to determine which is which, so we have to go with the data—except in cases where the ISPs were smart enough to register the IP addresses for their business-only connections. This table shows the players we could ID.
Like last year, Hotwire Business Solutions is number one with a bullet, and no caveats—the business side is a lot more likely to be available where you want it. The minor downside is that Hotwire Business’s PCMag Speed Index score has fallen from last year’s 783.3 to a still-incredible 618.8.
Verizon Fios Business is also a separate entity from Fios for the home and manages for the second time to win second place (it was on top in 2019). Level 3 Communications is third, and we leave it listed that way, despite the fact that it’s now part of CenturyLink, which is also now called Lumen Technology. There is no constant but change.
US Internet Speed vs. The World
Perhaps you’re curious where the US lands compared with the rest of the world when it comes to broadband internet speeds. This year, using our usual criteria—100 tests minimum over the course of the year—we did the calculation. Not surprisingly, the US is far from the top of the list. For the past 14 months, the US managed only a 117.2 PCMag Speed Index across every single test run on the PCMag Speed Test. That’s 402,944 tests (because our main audience is in the US). But that score puts the US in 17th place.
Number one in the world, according to our data, is the region of Macau—the “Las Vegas of Asia,” across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong. It has a PSI of 410.7. And Hong Kong—still listed in our data as a separate country from China—got second place with a score of 233.7. China is at 32nd place, at 89.1.
Other countries besting the US include Thailand (209.4), Iceland (189.7), Singapore (173.2), Chile (165.0), and Denmark (160.2). Canada’s in ninth place, at 140.4 (for more, read The Fastest ISPs 2021: Canada). Italy (118.8) and Spain (118.5) are also ahead of us.
We’re beating our pals in the UK (54.2) and Germany (66.5), as well as almost all our southern neighbors, including Mexico (61.4). Our own territories, such as Puerto Rico (60.2) and the US Virgin Islands (83.8), don’t fare much better. Countries with enough PCMag Speed Tests to make the list but with truly terrible index ratings in the single digits include mostly African countries, along with Venezuela and Honduras.
The results in this article were taken from 622,681 individual tests completed by PCMag readers around the world from April 1, 2020, to June 7, 2021, using the PCMag Speed Test (test your ISP now to contribute to Fastest ISPs 2022). The test works on any secure browser, including those on mobile devices. We narrowed results down to 402,944 tests taken in the United States alone.
The PCMag Speed Test collected download and upload speeds for each test, measured in kilobits per second (Kbps). We used those results to calculate the megabits per second (Mbps) by dividing each test result by 1,000. From there, an index score is calculated for a better one-to-one comparison, where downloads count for 80% and uploads 20%. For an ISP or location (or an ISP in a specific location) to be included in results, we required a minimum of 100 tests, except where indicated.
On the back end, the Speed Test performs a “fill the pipe” test. Rather than testing the upload and download speed of a single file, it uses multiple broadband threads (the broadband applications that can be used by a browser) to measure the total capacity of the “pipe.” This leads to numbers higher than some other internet speed tests out there, sometimes even higher than the rate of broadband speed you’re paying for.
Tests for wireless carriers do appear in our results, but for more advanced testing of the nation’s major wireless carriers, we do city-to-city driving tests for the Fastest Mobile Networks.