Gamers need decent speeds, no questions about it. But even more important, they need fast ping and rock solid reliability. Our first internet service provider (ISP) pick for gaming is AT&T fiber, which offers the fastest available speeds, free equipment, and a nationwide network of hotspots. Verizon FiOS Home Internet, which offers synchronous speeds throughout its fiber network in several states in the Northeast, is our second pick. Our third choice, Xfinity, has an impressive offering of up to 3 Mbps download speeds, even though its cable network isn't fiber-to-the-premises. Our last runner-up, Spectrum, stands apart for offering truly unlimited data at any speed.
Top internet providers for gaming
Disclaimer: Availability and pricing are subject to location. Conditions apply. For offer details, visit the provider's website.
How we chose the best internet service for gaming in 2023
Our mission? To find the best internet service provider for gamers in the US. Our method? First, we asked real gamers what they care about most. Then, we created a bullet-proof ranking system based on value, speed, reliability, equipment, and the overall customer experience. Last, we compared the top 34 contenders head-to-head using research data, verified customer reviews, and real-world experience.
#1: AT&T fiber internet
- Competitive fiber plans
- Solid customer support
- Excellent reliability
- Expensive installation fees
- Higher monthly prices than some competitors
- Few TV bundling options
Great prices, unlimited data, and speeds up to 5 gigs
AT&T is the biggest fiber internet provider out there, and it’s a great option for gamers. It stands out for its widespread availability and straightforward pricing, including no contracts, no data caps, and no equipment fees. It also offers speeds up to 5 Gbps, an industry best in home internet (but far faster than any console can handle). If you have multiple gamers and simultaneous 4K streams, you can't go wrong with an AT&T fiber connection.
We also like AT&T's free internet gateway, which combines modem and wireless router technology. It's included with your monthly bill, it looks nice on a desk, and you can set it all up with a nice smartphone app. There is an installation fee, which is a bummer, but it's not the highest we've seen.
There's also a sweet nationwide network of mobile hotspots, so you don't have to let your team down even when you're on the go.
If you do run into trouble, AT&T has you covered. You can reach the support team on social media, online chat, or by calling in.
#2: Verizon Fios
- Reliable, symmetrical speeds
- No contracts
- Limited availability
- No plan above 1 gig
Disclaimer: Availability and pricing are subject to location. Conditions apply.
Fast fiber internet, low latency, and unmatched reliability
Fiber internet is where it’s at for the best online gaming experience available, and Verizon Fios is a top contender. It’s the second-largest fiber provider in the US and has the fastest actual speeds of any provider, based on figures from the FFC (1), NetForecast (2), and Ookla (3). It also got some of the highest scores on reliability, and customers are pretty happy with its networking equipment, according to a survey from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) (4). It also clocks the least packet loss and lowest latency across studies, meaning smoother gameplay and a lot less lag.
Verizon Fios also plays nice when it comes to price. It offers plans in the sub-gig range for some of the lowest prices out there, and all fiber plans have no data caps and symmetrical upload/download speeds. Verizon is a little pricier than Google Fiber and doesn’t reach Google’s 2-gig speeds. However, its fiber-optic service is available to many more homes—and even the most avid gamers won't need speeds faster than 1 Gbps.
When you combine all that with stellar customer reviews and solid bundling options, Fios is a great choice for internet gaming. If you have availability in your area, we recommend ordering online to avoid $100 in setup fees. We really like the 1 gig plan with the gaming option, which includes an Xbox eGift Card and a MoCA ethernet adapter.
#3: Xfinity internet
- Consistently fast speeds
- Wide availability around the country
- Competitive pricing, especially for budget plans
- Data caps on slower plans (unless you pay more)
- Inconsistent pricing and speed availability
- Reputation for poor customer service
Disclaimer: Availability and pricing are subject to location. Conditions apply. For offer details, visit the provider's website.
Leader of the pack on latency, but watch out for data caps
If fiber speeds aren’t available in your area—or even if they are—Xfinity internet has a nice offering for internet gaming. Its latency scores are on par with its fiber competitors, and it does a lot better than cable competitor Spectrum on average latency. It also does a little better on speed reliability than Spectrum, and its median speeds are even faster than advertised.
You can purchase up to 3 Gbps (3,000 Mbps) of download speed, which is even faster than most of the fiber options out there, but you’ll pay hundreds of dollars a month for the privilege. You can also get speeds as slow as 50 or 100 Mbps. That’s fine for most folks working and schooling from home, but there are downsides for families who do a lot of gaming.
Unless you buy a plan with speeds of at least 1 gig with Xfinity, you’ll be limited to 1.2 terabytes of data each month. That can add up quickly when you consider that even a single Call of Duty: Vanguard' download can cost you more than 110 gigs to download. Then, you’ll use 50–300 megabytes per hour to play. You can remove the cap, but you’ll need to fork over an extra $30 every month. And then there’s cable internet’s true weakness: asymmetrical uploads, which top out at 35 Mbps. That’s still plenty fast for most applications, even gameplay streaming at 720p, but it can’t match fiber.
#4: Spectrum internet
- Simple plan selection
- No contracts
- No data cap
- Pricey gig plan
- Lots of small fees
- Price increase after 12 months
Truly unlimited data and fast cable speeds
Spectrum internet isn’t quite as reliable as Xfinity when it comes to advertised vs. actual speeds, according to the FCC, and that’s a big deal for gamers. That said, it’s faster and more reliable than Cox and offers similar upload speeds to Xfinity (35 Mbps). It wins points for being available to a lot more people than services like Optimum. It also moves way up in the rankings compared to other cable internet providers for its truly unlimited data, no matter which plan you purchase. Both Xfinity and Cox charge for overages, and data caps just aren’t what you want to worry about when you’re trying to relax and connect online.
Average latency speeds are a little slower here than with top competitors. But at 26 ms, they’re well within the range of playability for most games. Reliability scores with Spectrum are a little worse than with the competition, but we’re talking just a few megabits per second. When you account for charges to lift data caps with the other providers, you’re saving in the range of $30 per month with Spectrum.
What we considered when choosing the best internet for gaming
Fast, consistent download speeds are a must for serious gamers, so our experts looked at that first. We also looked into ping and actual speeds (compared to advertised speeds). Along the way, we kept an eye out for major drawbacks to watch for like data caps, equipment fees, and pesky contracts.
You’ll see our overall ranking methodology reflected in our top internet recommendations for gamers. However, you’ll see some variation based on what gamers care about most. We gave a little more weight to speed, reliability, and availability here and a little less weight to bargain plans and ISPs with tiny footprints. We also kept quite a few of the following technical considerations in mind.
Internet speeds and simultaneous streams
If you’re just downloading games to play offline or are the only person in your household using the internet at a time, you can probably get away with the lowest-tier internet offerings, which offer speeds of 50–100 Mbps. If you have multiple gamers in the house or enjoy any kind of virtual reality (VR) chat, however, you’ll probably need speeds closer to 250–500 Mbps. If you have multiple heavy users or your housemates are streaming in 4K while you’re getting your game on, you may need speeds in the range of a gig or more.
Find out how much internet speed you need based on your daily online activities.
If you sign up for slower speeds than you need, you could run into some aggravation. Slow ping can lead to frustrating lag and, to be a little dramatic, even loss of life. Bandwidth that’s too slow could also cause frequent drops—and no one wants to spend 5–10 minutes logging back in during a session. It’s bad for you, it’s bad for your teams, and it can really ruin the immersive experience.
Our research found some of the big cable internet providers like Xfinity and Cox still have a 1.2 terabyte monthly limit unless you pay to have it lifted. Spectrum, our fourth place pick for internet for gaming, is a gleaming exception among cable internet providers with its truly unlimited data.
DSL is even worse, with monthly data caps in the sub-terabyte range. Data caps are so bad on satellite internet, we don’t recommend it for gaming at all. Most providers offer easy ways to see your data usage, and they’ll let you know if you’ve exceeded your caps. They may also throttle your speeds after you exceed data limits, so we recommend keeping an eye on your usage.
For most serious online players, we recommend finding truly unlimited data or paying to have data caps removed.
Symmetrical upload/download speeds
Fast download speeds are great for most of what we do online, but many games these days also require fast upload speeds. You’ll need fast upload speeds if you do any kind of live gameplay on platforms like Twitch. If that’s you and any of the best fiber internet providers we reviewed are available in your area, we highly recommend it. That’s because fiber is the only way to get symmetrical upload and download speeds, meaning you can upload as fast as you download. If you can’t get fiber, you can find upload speeds up to 35 Mbps with the best cable internet providers.
Latency and reliability
If your internet connection is fast enough, that means you probably have an acceptable ping rate on most of your games. Latency, the speed it takes for servers to receive your data and get data back to you, is the most common way to compare providers. That’s because one-way ping can be impacted by not only your ISP and equipment, but also other users’ equipment, the servers on the game you’re playing, and a lot more.
The 2023 FCC study on broadband found that fiber networks have the lowest average latency with two standout cable providers, Xfinity and Mediacom, nipping at their heels. Speed reliability scores across providers were similar. DSL connections had notoriously high latency and were less reliable than most gamers need, and satellite internet was too slow to study.
If you’re a gamer and you can’t get fiber internet, get cable. If you can’t get either, settle for DSL. If you can only get satellite internet, consider moving house or switching to tabletop gaming until local providers step up their game.
At the same time, it’s worth mentioning that satellite internet has been getting better in recent years, especially with the growth of companies like Starlink, which saw median speeds of 67 Mbps in the first quarter of 2023, according to internet speed experts at Ookla. (5) Just be aware satellite internet will probably always have issues with consistency during storms and have much higher latency (and slower ping) than wired connections.
Equipment is a big deal in all facets of gaming, from consoles to rigs. But when it comes to internet for gaming, your home networking equipment is huge. Many of the top internet providers will rent you a modem and router or a combined gateway to help you access the internet for a monthly fee. Some offer free equipment, and that’s usually a good deal. But if you’re serious about gaming or want to play somewhere other than right next to your router, consider an upgrade.
With gig internet plans from either Xfinity or Fios, select the gamer package when you sign up to get a free Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA). This box connects to your router and lets you use existing coaxial cables in your house so you can be hardwired for play in multiple rooms.
Cox internet didn’t make our list of top providers for internet gaming. If it’s all you can get in your area, though, be sure to ask about the Elite Gamer app, which can help you prioritize speeds for your favorite console over, say, your smart fridge. You can also get routers specifically for gaming, and they work in a similar way.
Owning your router would give you more control, but you’d be responsible for replacements every two or three years. For most folks, that ends up being more expensive and finicky than renting equipment from your ISP.
You’ll get the fastest gameplay by connecting your console or rig directly to your router or gateway with an ethernet cable, but there are other options to improve your ping no matter where you are in the house. They’re called mesh networks or Wi-Fi extenders, and they’re essentially multiple routers you can place in different rooms. Many ISPs rent these to subscribers—and they're free with Google Fiber—or you can invest in your own system for a few hundred dollars.
Price and availability
Gaming is an expensive hobby to start with, and paying for lightning-fast internet only drives up the price. Be prepared to pay $100 or more every month for gigabit speeds. If you can live with slower speeds, you’ll save money but may need to limit gaming to one or two players at a time. Fiber is generally cheaper at gaming speeds than cable, but it’s worth your time to shop around.
Choosing the best internet for you
Internet access is a necessity, and gaming has become part of our everyday lives. We use it to relax and unwind, connect with friends far and near, and even meet new people and discover new worlds.
Our top pick, AT&T fiber offers unmatched performance and reliability plus a sweet national network of mobile hotspots. Our first runner-up, Verizon Fios, will let you play to your heart’s content, and the customer experience is a delight. If your neighborhood’s not wired for fiber, we recommend our top cable internet provider, Xfinity. You’ll also be in good hands with Spectrum, which stands out for truly unlimited data on all plans.
Read about all our top internet providers to learn more about what to consider when choosing an internet provider for gaming.
Rebecca Palmer has been writing about tech and consumer finance since 2010. Her work has been featured in the Deseret News, Idaho Business Review, TopTenReviews.com, and more. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and lives in Salt Lake City with her exceptionally delightful pup, Nymeria.
Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.
Endnotes and sources
(1) "Measuring Fixed Broadband," FCC. Accessed 25 January 2023.
(2) "Daily US Internet Latency Update," Netforecast. Accessed 25 January 2023.
(3) "United States Median Country Speeds," Speedtest.net. Accessed 25 January 2023.
(4) "Internet Service Providers," The American Customer Satisfaction Index. Accessed 25 January 2023.
(5) "New Speedtest Data Shows Starlink Users Love Their Provider" Ookla. Accessed 12 May 2023.