March 1, 2024

Charm, smarts, beauty, influence. Madison’s got it all. The capital city of Wisconsin has a thousand ways to wow its residents. Winters might be tough, but lakes, parks and an excellent biking system beckon you outside. For those times when you’re inside or working remotely, you want to be able to lean on fast, reliable internet. Fortunately, Madisonians have access to fiber as well as cable and fixed wireless ISPs.

According to Speedtest.net’s ranking of median download internet speeds for the 100 most populous cities in the US, Madison typically lands in the middle of the pack. It’s not the fastest and not the slowest city in the country. AT&T Fiber, our choice for the best internet provider in Madison, is worth a look, thanks to fast speeds and straightforward pricing. You have choices. You may find a cable or 5G fixed-wireless option that fits your needs and budget. Try not to drop any cheese curds on your keyboard as we venture through the best internet providers in Madison. 

CNET considers speeds, pricing, customer service and overall value to recommend the best internet service in Madison across several categories. Our evaluation includes referencing a proprietary database built over years of reviewing internet services. We validate that against provider information by spot-checking local addresses for service availability. We also do a close read of providers’ terms and conditions and, when needed, will call ISPs to verify the details.

Despite our efforts to find the most recent and accurate information, our process has some limitations you should know about. Pricing and speed data are variable: Certain addresses may qualify for different service tiers, and monthly costs may vary, even within a city. The best way to identify your particular options is to plug your address into a provider’s website. 

Also, the prices, speed and other information listed above and in the provider cards below may differ from what we found in our research. The cards display the full range of a provider’s pricing and speed across the US, according to our database of plan information provided directly by ISPs, while the text is specific to what’s available in Madison. The prices referenced within this article’s text come from our research and include applicable discounts for setting up automatic payments each month — a standard industry offering. Other discounts and promotions might also be available for things like signing a term contract or bundling with multiple services. 

To learn more about how we review internet providers, visit our full methodology page.

Best internet providers in the City of Four Lakes

Speed range

100 – 1,000 Mbps

Price range

$30- $90 per month

Our take – Cable internet has some disadvantages over fiber, particularly regarding upload speeds, but it has a leg up regarding availability. Spectrum, a brand from Charter Communications, offers solid coverage across Madison, earning it a nod as our choice for the top cable provider in the metro area.

... Or call to learn more:

Check with Spectrum

Speed range

100 – 1,000 Mbps

Price range

$30- $90 per month

Speed range

300 – 5,000 Mbps

Price range

$55 – $250 per month

Our take – Availability and heart-pounding maximum speeds of 5,000Mbps in some parts of Madison make AT&T Fiber our choice for the best internet provider in the area. If you’re on the outskirts of Madison or in one of the surrounding communities, be sure to compare with TDS as a fiber alternative.

... Or call to learn more:

Check with AT&T

Speed range

300 – 5,000 Mbps

Price range

$55 – $250 per month

Connection

Fixed wireless

Speed range

72 – 245 Mbps

Price range

$60 per month

Our take – While T-Mobile Home Internet doesn’t reach rival Verizon 5G Home Internet’s top speeds, it has an advantage in Madison thanks to broader availability. I plugged in addresses from all over town and found many more open slots for T-Mobile home internet service than Verizon. 

... Or call to learn more:

Check with T-Mobile

Connection

Fixed wireless

Speed range

72 – 245 Mbps

Price range

$60 per month

Madison internet providers compared

Provider Internet technology Monthly price range Speed range Monthly equipment costs Data cap Contract CNET review score
AT&T Fiber Fiber $55-$225 300-5,000Mbps None None None 7.4
AT&T Internet Air Fixed wireless $55 40-140Mbps None None None 7.4
Spectrum Cable $50-$80 300Mbps-1,000Mbps Free modem; $7 router (optional) None None 7.2
TDS Telecom Fiber $30-$90 100-1,000Mbps (varies by location) $12 None Two years N/A
T-Mobile Home Internet Fixed wireless $60 ($40 for eligible Go5g Plus and Magenta Max mobile customers) 72-245Mbps None None None 7.4
US Cellular Fixed wireless $50 Up to 300Mbps Varies  300GB-1.2TB Equipment installment plan contract may apply N/A
Verizon 5G Home Internet Fixed wireless $50-$90 300Mbps-1,000Mbps (varies by location) None None None 7.2

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data

All available Madison residential internet providers

  • AT&T Internet: AT&T’s fiber game is strong in Madison but doesn’t reach every part of town. AT&T Internet, the company’s old-school DSL offering, covers more ground. It costs $55 per month for whatever speed you can get at your location, typically up to 300Mbps, depending on your location. The price-to-speed ratio won’t be appealing if you have a faster and cheaper option.
  • Verizon 5G Home Internet: With speeds up to 1,000Mbps in some parts of the country, Verizon is working hard to convince buyers that fixed wireless is the way to go for home internet. The company’s coverage map shows a mix of its latest 5G networks alongside slower 4G LTE coverage across Madison. The area east of Lake Mendota and Lake Monona has the widest 5G Ultra Wideband coverage. Typical Verizon home internet speeds in Madison will range from 300-1,000Mbps starting at $50 per month. The biggest challenge is finding an open slot, so T-Mobile edged Verizon as our pick for Madison’s best fixed wireless provider.
  • TDS Telecom: TDS covers a small portion of Madison proper, but it’s well worth mentioning for those in communities around Madison. TDS delivers fiber to places like Middleton, Monona and Waunakee. Prices start at $30 per month (for the first two years) for a 100Mbps plan. On the fast end, TDS has a 1,000Mbps plan for $90 per month. You have the option to rent a router for $12 per month. There’s a $50 installation fee, but a good chance you can get that waived. Be sure to check out the TDS price-for-life plans. They’re more expensive over the first two years but will keep your price locked in for the long haul. 
  • US Cellular: US Cellular is a sister company of TDS Telecom. It offers fixed wireless internet in Madison for $50 per month with an autopay discount. That pricing puts it in contention with T-Mobile and Verizon’s home internet plans. Some of US Cellular’s service areas can get up to 300Mbps speeds, but your mileage could vary considerably depending on your location. The biggest turn-off is that UScellular will throttle your speeds after 1.2TB of high-speed data with its Home Internet Everywhere plan. After that, you’ll get bumped down to a painfully slow 1.5Mbps. Keep an eye on the plan terms. US Cellular may offer to cover equipment costs via a credit spread over a 36-month installment contract. It’s all a bit confusing, so you’ll likely do better with another ISP with simpler or faster plans with no throttling.   
  • Satellite internet: Rural residents with few internet options should check into satellite providers Starlink, Viasat and Hughesnet. These likely won’t be your first choice if you live in town and have access to fiber, cable, or fixed wireless from T-Mobile or Verizon. If you’re big on traveling (let’s say you’re heading south for the winter) and still need to stay connected, check into Starlink’s on-the-go plan. It’s pricey, but it will help you stay online when you’ve taken on the role of a digital nomad.

The state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin at dusk.

Rudy Balasko/Getty Images

Madison broadband at a glance

There isn’t a ton of ISP competition in Madison. Most residents will be weighing the decision between AT&T Fiber or Spectrum cable. Spectrum has some tempting introductory deals, while AT&T’s fiber service offers reasonable pricing and fast upload speeds to go with the download speeds. Live in the area around Madison? Check into fiber from TDS Telecom.

Pricing details on Madison home internet service

The average starting price for internet service in Madison is around $50, but there are ways to shave some bucks off that figure. Qualified low-income households can get online for $20 per month through Spectrum Internet Assist. Bargain hunters can look to bundle phone plans with home internet service to get deals. For example, with T-Mobile, you can get down to $40 per month). TDS Telecom offers 75-100Mbps speeds for as low as $30 per month for the first two years. Most Madison residents will be looking at around $50 to $55 for decent speeds from AT&T Fiber or Spectrum. 

Cheap internet options in the Madison metro area

Spectrum is on top of things when it comes to low-cost internet options. Eligible low-income households can get online for just $20 per month with the 30Mbps service. AT&T’s fiber plans start at $55 per month, which is still pretty budget-friendly, especially considering the company’s assurance that it won’t hike your fee after the first year. If you’re in a surrounding community, look into TDS Telecom’s fiber plans starting at $30 per month for the first two years.

What’s the cheapest internet plan in Madison?

Provider Starting price Max download speed Monthly equipment fee Contract
Spectrum Internet Assist $20 (must meet eligibility requirements) 30Mbps Free modem; $5 router None
TDS Telecom $30 75Mbps-100Mbps (varies by location) $12 Two years
Verizon 5G Home Internet $50 300Mbps None None
T-Mobile Home Internet $60 ($40 with eligible mobile plan) 245Mbps None None
US Cellular $50 Up to 300Mbps Varies Equipment installment plan contract may apply
AT&T Fiber 300 $55 300Mbps None None

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data

Fastest internet providers in Madison

The ISPs in Madison run the gamut when it comes to speeds. Speedtest.net calculates Madison’s median download speed for fixed internet at a respectable 264Mbps in 2023. Depending on your location, service from the likes of T-Mobile, Verizon or UScellular may be fast or slow. Spectrum’s cable plans cover a lot of ground from 300Mbps on up to near-gig speeds. AT&T Fiber brings the heat with multi-gigabit fiber plans, although many customers will opt to save money and stick with 1,000Mbps or below. If you’re eyeing that speed level, see if TDS services your address with its 1,000Mbps plan for $90 per month. 

On the other hand, you may be an intense gamer. Or you’re uploading honking-huge files. Maybe you share your internet connection with several other people who are just as demanding as you are. It might be time to shop for a multi-gigabit plan. In Madison, that means AT&T Fiber, which offers speeds of up to 5,000Mbps in some parts of town. It comes with a hefty price tag of $225 per month. Too much? Check out the 2,000Mbps plan instead for $125. Here’s what you need to know about the best multi-gigabit internet plans.

What are the fastest internet plans in Madison?

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data

How CNET chose the best internet providers in Madison

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. 

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, although 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 how we test ISPs page.

What’s the final word on internet providers in Madison?

One of the biggest challenges with picking an ISP in Madison is the patchwork nature of coverage from the leading providers. Yes, AT&T Fiber is fast, but what if it doesn’t service your address? Your next option will likely be Spectrum for a cable connection but don’t count out fixed wireless from Verizon or T-Mobile. If you’re in a good location for one of those, you might find you’re happy with the speeds and even happier with the phone bundle discount. Finally, TDS Telecom is worth a look for residents of surrounding communities who want fast, reliable fiber. 

Internet providers in Madison FAQs

Is fiber internet available in Madison?

Yes. AT&T Fiber is the main mover and shaker within the city limits of Madison. Speeds hit 5,000Mbps in some spots, but less expensive plans at the 1,000Mbps and 2,000Mbps tiers will satisfy most people. If you live on the outskirts of Madison, look into TDS Telecom’s fiber offerings. Some very affordable introductory deals from TDS will get you going with fiber.

What is the cheapest internet provider in Madison?

A tight budget shouldn’t stand in the way of getting online. The federal Affordable Connectivity Program, which shaves at least $30 off the internet bill for eligible households, is closing. Don’t worry if you don’t qualify. T-Mobile and Verizon’s bundle deals put fixed wireless internet well within reach. AT&T Fiber’s lowest-level 300Mbps fiber plan at $55 per month is a decent deal for fiber.

Which internet provider in Madison offers the fastest plan?

It’s not available everywhere in Madison, but AT&T Fiber steamrolls the competition with a 5,000Mbps plan for $225 per month. That puts it on the high end for residential plan speeds. Consider if you really need that kind of download and upload speed before paying the premium monthly fee. 

Is AT&T or Spectrum better in Madison?

AT&T and Spectrum are the two heavy hitters in Madison regarding home internet. AT&T Fiber has fast download and upload speeds, making it ideal for gamers, remote workers and households with multiple heavy internet users. AT&T DSL is pokey by comparison. Spectrum enters the fray with many plans, including affordable offerings for low-income households. It can’t match AT&T Fiber’s 5,000Mbps maximum download speeds (available in some areas). Cable upload speeds are also significantly slower. Spectrum can still be a steady and affordable choice, especially if fiber isn’t an option. Check out CNET’s comparison between AT&T and Spectrum for more details.