What is the best internet provider in Chicago?
AT&T Fiber is the best internet provider for most households in Chicago due to its symmetrical speeds and simple pricing. If AT&T Fiber isn’t available at your address, Rise Broadband, Verizon 5G Home Internet and Xfinity are also solid picks.
We’ve also found the lowest prices and the fastest speeds for Chicagoans. The cheapest internet in the Windy City is Xfinity’s Connect plan, offering a 75-megabits-per-second connection for $20 per month. For those with a need for speed, the fastest available internet speed you’ll find in the area is offered by AT&T Fiber. For $250 monthly, customers can get up to 5,000Mbps of download speed with no data cap or contract needed.
Best internet in Chicago in 2023
Chicago internet providers compared
|Provider||Internet technology||Monthly price range||Speed range||Monthly equipment costs||Data cap||CNET review score|
|Air Wans||Fixed wireless||$50-$100||3-15Mbps downloads and uploads||$9 router (optional)||None||N/A|
|Astound Broadband||Cable||$25-$70||300-1,500Mbps downloads, 15-50Mbps uploads||Free modem; $5 for Whole-home Wi-Fi (optional)||None||7|
|AT&T Internet||DSL||$55||10-100Mbps downloads, 1-20Mbps uploads||None||1.5TB||7.4|
|AT&T Fiber||Fiber||$55-$250||300-5,000Mbps downloads and uploads||None||None||7.4|
|Comcast Xfinity||Cable||$25-$100||75-1,200Mbps downloads, 5-35Mbps uploads||$15-$25 (optional)||1.2TB||7|
|Rise Broadband||Fixed wireless||$45-$55||25-50Mbps downloads, 4-5 Mbps uploads||$10 modem; $5-$15 router (optional)||None||6.2|
|T-Mobile Home Internet||Fixed wireless||$50 ($30 for eligible Go5G Plus and Magenta Max mobile customers)||72-245Mbps downloads, 15-31Mbps uploads||None||None||7.4|
|Verizon 5G Home Internet||Fixed wireless||$50-$70 ($35-$45 with eligible Verizon 5G mobile plans)||50-1,000Mbps downloads, 10-50Mbps uploads||None||None||7.2|
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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.
Other available internet providers in Chicago
Air Wans: Air Wans is a folksy fixed wireless provider servicing the rural areas of Illinois and Indiana surrounding Chicago. Pricing ranges from $50 to $100 per month with no contracts, data caps, throttling, or price increases after the first year. That’s about as simple and straightforward as home internet gets.
The rub is that Air Wans speeds are some of the slowest you’ll find, ranging from just 3 to 15Mbps with the downloads and uploads aggregated together. That’s well below broadband levels and too slow for us to recommend for just about anyone. If anything else is available at your address, give that a look first.
Astound Broadband: The New Jersey-based cable conglomerate Astound Broadband has spent recent years gobbling up territory in Chicago, including acquisitions of cable infrastructure from WideOpenWest and RCN. That’s helped it to offer home internet service throughout much of the city and its surrounding suburbs.
Astound boasts strong pricing during the first two years of service. However, monthly rates on all four of the plans offered to Chicagoans can shoot up by well over $100 after the introductory period, and you can expect to pay additional fees on top of that, including an arbitrary monthly Network Access Fee of $7 that isn’t included in your base rate. That makes the service an inferior value to its main cable rival, Xfinity, but it’s still a name to keep an eye on as the service expands in Chicago.
Google Fiber Webpass: Some buildings throughout the greater Chicago area are wired for Google Fiber Webpass, which uses a fixed wireless antenna to offer high-speed connections to the internet. Gigabit speeds are possible via Webpass, but actual speeds depend on the specific address in question. The service costs $63 per month for a yearly plan or $70 monthly for a month-to-month plan with no commitment. You can search for serviceable buildings on Google’s Webpass map.
Satellite internet: A satellite internet connection uses a receiver dish mounted outside your home to connect with satellites orbiting overhead to get you online. You’ll find service available from HughesNet, Viasat and perhaps Starlink. But in most cases, the prices are too high, the speeds too slow and the data caps too restrictive compared to other Chicago internet options. It’s really only worth considering if you lack other alternatives, and for most of Chicago, that won’t be the case.
T-Mobile Home Internet: Like Verizon, T-Mobile now offers cellular home internet service in hundreds of cities nationwide, including Chicago. You’ll simply plug in a cellular modem that gets its signals not from wires in the wall, but over the 5G and LTE airwaves, like your phone. T-Mobile offers just one plan at $50 per month, and speeds will range from 72 to 245Mbps in most homes with a strong enough signal to sign up. There are no data caps or contracts to worry about, and your price won’t arbitrarily rise after 12 months, either.
Cheap internet options in Chicago
You won’t need to pay more than $20 per month or so if you’re looking for the most affordable internet plan at your Chicago address. The Connect plan from Xfinity is a decent consolation available almost everywhere, with download speeds of 75Mbps and upload speeds of 10Mbps for $20 per month. But in the Chicago area overall, the Astound Broadband 300Mbps plan is the best value among cheaper plans. The cost per Mbps for that plan, a rough indicator of value, comes out to just over 8 cents, compared with 33 cents for Xfinity’s Connect plan and just over 18 cents for AT&T Fiber 300.
Most major providers also offer discounted plans for qualifying low-income customers via the Affordable Connectivity Program, a government-funded internet rebate that eligible consumers can take advantage of to knock $30 off of the monthly cost of their internet bill. You can find full details on the FCC’s website.
Source: CNET analysis of provider data.
How to find internet deals and promotions in Chicago
The best internet deals and the top promotions in Chicago depend on what discounts are available during that time period. Most deals are short-lived, but we look frequently for the latest offers.
Chicago internet providers, such as Xfinity and Rise Broadband, may offer lower introductory pricing or streaming add-ons for a limited time. Many, however, including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, run the same standard pricing year-round.
For a more extensive list of promotions, check out our guide on the best internet deals.
How fast is Chicago broadband?
Ookla speed test data put the Windy City in the bottom 10 among the nation’s top 100 most populous cities (at an inglorious 95th position). How slow? It chalks up a median download speed of approximately 125Mbps, over 100Mbps behind a top-five city like San Antonio. However, Chicagoans still have plenty of ways to get high-speed internet in their homes.
Your fastest option for getting online in Chicago is to go with a fiber provider, but service isn’t available everywhere. AT&T is your best bet, with its fastest plan for Chicago ringing in with download and upload speeds of 5,000Mbps at a hefty flat monthly rate of $250. At almost all Chicago addresses, a cable plan with download speeds of up to 2,000Mbps and upload speeds of 200Mbps will be your fastest plan. It’s fairly well-priced at $105 per month with no data cap or contract.
Fastest internet plans in Chicago
|Provider||Starting price||Max download speed||Max upload speed||Data cap||Connection type|
|AT&T Fiber 5000||$250||5,000Mbps||5,000Mbps||None||Fiber|
|AT&T Fiber 2000||$150||2,000Mbps||2,000Mbps||None||Fiber|
|Xfinity Gigabit X2||$105||2,000Mbps||200Mbps||None||Cable|
|Xfinity Gigabit Extra||$95||1,200Mbps||35Mbps||1.2TB||Cable|
|AT&T Fiber 1000||$80||1,000Mbps||1,000Mbps||None||Fiber|
|Verizon 5G Home Internet||$70 ($45 with eligible mobile plan)||1,000Mbps||50Mbps||None||Fixed wireless|
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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.
What’s a good internet speed?
Most internet connection plans can now handle basic productivity and communication tasks. If you’re looking for an internet plan that can accommodate videoconferencing, streaming video or gaming, you’ll have a better experience with a more robust connection. Here’s an overview of the recommended minimum download speeds for various applications, according to the FCC. Note that these are only guidelines — and that internet speed, service and performance vary by connection type, provider and address.
For more information, refer to our guide on how much internet speed you really need.
- 0 to 5Mbps allows you to tackle the basics — browsing the internet, sending and receiving email, streaming low-quality video.
- 5 to 40Mbps gives you higher-quality video streaming and videoconferencing.
- 40 to 100Mbps should give one user sufficient bandwidth to satisfy the demands of modern telecommuting, video streaming and online gaming.
- 100 to 500Mbps allows one to two users to simultaneously engage in high-bandwidth activities, like videoconferencing, streaming and online gaming.
- 500 to 1,000Mbps allows three or more users to engage in high-bandwidth activities all at the same time.
How CNET chose the best internet providers in Chicago
Internet service providers are numerous and regional. Unlike the latest smartphone, laptop, router or kitchen tool, it’s impractical to personally test every internet service provider in a given city. So what’s our approach? For starters, we tap into a proprietary database of pricing, availability and speed information that draws from our own historical ISP data, partner data and mapping information from the Federal Communications Commission at FCC.gov.
But it doesn’t end there. We go to the FCC’s website to check our data and ensure we consider every ISP that provides service in an area. We also input local addresses on provider websites to find specific options for residents. We look at sources, including the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power, to evaluate how happy customers are with an ISP’s service. ISP plans and prices are subject to frequent changes; all information provided is accurate as of publication.
Once we have this localized information, we ask three main questions:
- Does the provider offer access to reasonably fast internet speeds?
- Do customers get decent value for what they’re paying?
- Are customers happy with their service?
While the answer to those questions is often layered and complex, the providers who come closest to “yes” on all three are the ones we recommend. When selecting the cheapest internet service, we look for the plans with the lowest monthly fee, though we also factor in things like price increases, equipment fees and contracts. Choosing the fastest internet service is relatively straightforward. We look at advertised upload and download speeds and consider real-world speed data from sources like Ookla and FCC reports.
To explore our process in more depth, visit our page on how we test ISPs.
What’s the final word on internet providers in Chicago?
The Windy City has a lot of options when it comes to home internet, including both speedy and more affordable service. If you can get your hands on fiber connectivity, like AT&T Fiber, that will be your best choice. However, cable companies like Xfinity and Astound Broadband have wider coverage for Chicagoans, so you might have to go with those providers instead.