As a lifelong resident of the Charlotte area — from Concord to Fort Mill with time spent in University City, Oakhurst and Pineville — I’ve become familiar with the internet providers in the area.
From my experience, there are two primary Charlotte internet providers: AT&T and Spectrum. While both providers present unique pros and cons, AT&T Fiber is the best Charlotte ISP overall. AT&T Fiber is the faster provider, but of the two, Spectrum has a cheaper plan and greater high-speed coverage throughout Charlotte.
AT&T and Spectrum may not be the only available Charlotte internet providers, depending on where you live or are moving to in the QC. Google Fiber, T-Mobile Home Internet and others could offer service at your address and should be considered alongside AT&T and Spectrum. It’s important to fully explore these options to ensure you get the best home internet service for your needs and budget.
Best internet providers in Charlotte
The best Charlotte ISP for your home will come down to what’s available and what you’re looking for. The providers listed below were chosen due to their high availability in the Charlotte area, plan selection, favorable service terms and overall value.
Note: The prices, speeds and features detailed in the article text may differ from those listed in the product detail cards, which represent providers’ national offerings. Your particular internet service options — including prices and speeds — depend on your address and may differ from those detailed here.
Charlotte internet providers compared
|Provider||Internet technology||Monthly price range||Speed range||Monthly equipment costs||Data cap||Contract||CNET review score|
|AT&T||DSL/Fiber||$55-$250||10-5,000Mbps||None||1.5TB for all plans under 100Mbps||None||7.4|
|Kinetic by Windstream||DSL/Fiber||$40-$300||15-8,000Mbps||$60 one-time fee||None||None||6.7|
|Spectrum||Cable||$50-$90||300-1,000Mbps||Free modem; $5 router||None||None||7.2|
|T-Mobile Home Internet||Fixed wireless||$50 ($30 for eligible mobile customers)||72-245Mbps||None||None||None||7.4|
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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.
Other available internet providers in Charlotte
These providers may be available to parts of Charlotte, but they likely won’t be your first or second choice for home internet unless you live outside the city.
- Comporium: Outside of the Steele Creek area, specifically Ayrsley, cable internet from Comporium is only available to the south of Charlotte over the border into South Carolina and parts of Union County. With plans starting at $40 per month, Comporium is one of the cheapest providers in the area, but customers should expect a price increase after the first three months.
- EarthLink: Internet service from EarthLink runs on the networks of other providers. In Charlotte, that provider is AT&T, so EarthLink is technically available wherever you find AT&T. However, AT&T has many of the same selling points as EarthLink, such as unlimited data and no contracts, not to mention lower pricing, so you’re better off going with AT&T.
- Kinetic by Windstream: Kinetic is largely known for offering service in suburban or rural areas, and its coverage in Charlotte is no different. While a few Charlotte neighborhoods are serviceable for Kinetic, you’ll find the best coverage in surrounding areas such as Albemarle, Concord and Matthews. If Kinetic’s fiber service is available at your address, it’s worth checking out, but you may want to pass on the DSL service if that’s all you can get.
- Satellite service from HughesNet and Viasat is also available throughout most of Charlotte and the surrounding area. But with plenty of other internet options, satellite internet is not worth the cost.
Charlotte internet pricing
The average starting price for internet service in Charlotte is around $50 per month. Comporium and Kinetic by Windstream are tied for the lowest starting price in the area at $40 per month. However, Kinetic by Windstream has a better base plan, since speed goes up to 500Mbps versus Comporium’s 100Mbps. You’ll find the highest starting price with Google Fiber at $70, but with gig speeds, the plan is also high in value.
The two largest Charlotte internet providers, AT&T and Spectrum, have the same starting price of $55 per month, but Spectrum will be $5 cheaper if you choose to use your own equipment. After the first year, look out for a price increase of up to $30 per month from Spectrum that will give AT&T a clear pricing advantage.
Source: CNET analysis of provider data.
Internet service for low-income households in Charlotte
Every household needs a broadband connection, but not every home can afford one. To help with broadband internet accessibility in low-income Charlotte households and communities, the North Carolina Department of Information and Technology recommends seeking assistance from the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program.
Per the NCDIT, the program provides a $ 30-a-month benefit (or up to $75 monthly for households on Tribal lands) to help qualifying Charlotte households afford high-speed internet service. Eligible households can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer. For more information, see Trey Paul’s article on the Affordable Connectivity Program and how to apply.
How fast is Charlotte broadband?
According to Ookla’s speed test index, speeds in the Queen City are higher than the state’s average, with a median speed of around 236Mbps. Keep in mind that many factors go into speed test data, such as equipment, Wi-Fi versus Ethernet connections and the internet plan itself.
Faster speeds than the area’s average are certainly available. Google Fiber and Kinetic by Windstream offer speeds up to 8Gbps to Charlotte residents, and AT&T’s fastest plan hits speeds up to 5,000Mbps. Numerous providers — including Comporium, Google Fiber, Kinetic by Windstream and Spectrum — offer single gigabit plans.
Fastest internet plans in Charlotte
|Plan||Starting price||Max download speeds||Max upload speeds||Data cap||Internet technology|
|Google Fiber 8 Gig||$150||8,000Mbps||8,0000Mbps||None||Fiber|
|Google Fiber 5 Gig||$125||5,000Mbps||5,000Mbps||None||Fiber|
|AT&T Fiber 5000||$180||5,000Mbps||5,000Mbps||None||Fiber|
|Google Fiber 2 Gig||$100||2,000Mbps||1,000Mbps||None||Fiber|
|Google Fiber 1 Gig||$70||1,000Mbps||1,000Mbps||None||Fiber|
|Spectrum Internet Gig||$90||1,000Mbps||35Mbps||None||Cable|
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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.
Most of the fastest internet plans in Charlotte also come with symmetrical, or at least still very fast, upload speeds. The exception is Spectrum — as a cable network, it doesn’t support the same upload speeds you’ll get from a fiber connection. Comporium has a fiber network but is primarily a cable internet provider as well, so some locations may not be eligible for the fastest upload speeds the provider offers in the area.
How CNET chose the best internet providers in Charlotte
Internet service providers are numerous and regional. Unlike the latest smartphone, laptop, router or kitchen tool, it’s impractical to personally test every ISP in a given city. So what’s our approach? We start by researching the pricing, availability and speed information drawing on our own historical ISP data, the provider sites 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’re considering every ISP that provides service in an area. We also input local addresses on provider websites to find specific options for residents. To evaluate how happy customers are with an ISP’s service, we look at sources including the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power. ISP plans and prices are subject to frequent changes; all information provided is accurate as of the time 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.
To explore our process in more depth, visit our how we test ISPs page.
Charlotte internet providers recap
As we always say, fiber connectivity will be your best bet when it comes to home internet. For Charlotteans, there are many fiber providers who offer blazing speeds at an affordable monthly cost.
Using a high-speed internet connection makes consuming lots of data each month easy, which can be problematic if you have a data cap. However, you won’t have to worry about that in Charlotte, as all major ISPs in the area come with unlimited data. Contracts aren’t an issue, either, because AT&T, Comporium, Google Fiber, Kinetic, Spectrum and T-Mobile’s 5G home internet service don’t require one when signing up.