Nothing is more frustrating than reaching a pivotal point in your favorite show only to have your internet lag or crash. We all use our home internet for a variety of reasons, whether we're working remotely or connecting an arsenal of smart devices, from security cameras to coffee makers. If there's one thing we all have in common when it comes to our home internet, it's using it to stream our favorite TV shows and movies. And for that, you're going to want the best internet for high-quality streaming.
Many households (mine included) are constantly streaming and have multiple streaming service subscriptions, each with its own unique mix of live or on-demand content. In order to support uninterrupted streaming on all those streaming services, and to view in the best resolution available, you'll need a fast, reliable connection.
What internet speeds do you need for streaming? It depends on the streaming service and video quality you want to stream in. Below, you'll find the minimum recommended speeds for some of the most popular streaming services, so you can find options and get the best internet for streaming all your favorite content.
|Streaming service||Minimum recommended speed for streaming|
|Apple TV Plus||3-25Mbps|
|Amazon Prime Video||1-5Mbps|
|DirecTV Stream||8Mbps per streaming device|
|ESPN Plus||2Mbps or higher|
|Netflix||5Mbps or higher|
As you can see, streaming doesn't require a ton of speed, even in 4K. It's important to note, however, that the recommended speeds reflect actual, not advertised, speeds. If your internet plan advertises "speeds up to 50Mbps," the actual speeds to your streaming device are likely to be much slower, especially when using Wi-Fi and connecting multiple devices.
So in reality, you'll want an internet service provider and plan with max advertised speeds well above recommended speeds for the best streaming experience. Some internet providers are better suited than others, but all providers listed below offer speeds of at least 100Mbps or higher, which should be ample speed for streaming of any quality. The providers on our list of the best ISP for streaming are chosen as particularly good options due to their exceptionally fast speeds, cheap internet pricing or extra streaming-specific perks.
$55 - $180 per month
300 - 5,000Mbps
Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included
$100 to $150 gift card if you sign up online
Fiber internet is generally faster and more reliable than any other internet type, making it the ideal internet connection type for streaming. Fiber service can be tough to find and somewhat pricey, but AT&T boasts the highest fiber availability in the US and some of the most budget-friendly plans.
Along with high availability, AT&T offers the most plan options of just about any fiber provider. Select areas will have the speed options of 300Mbps, 500Mbps, 1Gbps, 2Gbps and 5Gbps. Multigigabit speeds are ideal for larger households that may stream content on 15 or more devices across streaming devices, smart TVs, tablets, phones and more.
Multigigabit service will cost you a bit more than other plans -- AT&T starts at $110 per month for 2Gbps and $180 per month for 5Gpbs -- but you may find the ability for everyone to stream in HD quality or better on a virtually unlimited number of devices to be worth the premium price.
AT&T Home Internet
$40 - $100 per month
25 - 940Mbps
Mostly cable, some fiber
1.25TB monthly data allowance, lots of plan options, unique gaming add-on
There's nothing particularly special about internet service from Cox Communications. Plans, pricing and speeds are on par with any other cable ISP, but the provider does stand out with its exclusive streaming device, which plugs into your TV like a Roku.
The Cox Contour Stream Player is available with all Cox internet plans with speeds of 100Mbps or higher for just $5 extra per month.
The streaming device comes preloaded with popular streaming apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, HBO Max and Discovery Plus. The device also supports 4K streaming and a voice remote and custom guide settings to help you quickly find what you want to watch.
Frontier Fiber has arguably the best entry-level plan of any major fiber internet provider: up to 500Mbps starting at $55 with no data caps or added equipment fees. That's plenty of speed for streaming in HD or 4K on multiple devices, and the low cost and free equipment could save you money to put towards an extra streaming service or two.
All Frontier Fiber plans also come with the bonus of $10 off a monthly subscription to YouTube TV for one year. With an impressive channel selection and picture quality, YouTube TV is one of CNET's top picks when it comes to streaming live and on-demand content. A subscription will run you $65 per month, but again, you can shave $10 off that monthly price for one year by signing up for a Frontier Fiber plan.
Internet options are limited in rural areas, so finding a provider with speeds and data suitable for streaming can be a challenge. Satellite internet, a popular internet option in rural areas, often fails to deliver the speeds needed for quality streaming, not to mention the low data allowances. DSL internet is another popular choice in rural areas, but speeds can still be an issue unless Kinetic by Windstream is available in your area.
Kinetic offers the fastest DSL speeds of any major provider, up to 200Mbps in select areas. Speeds of 100Mbps or higher -- ample speed for streaming -- are available to around 65% of households serviceable for Kinetic. Additionally, Kinetic has an expanding fiber network, dedicated to rural and suburban areas, that can deliver speeds up to 1,000Mbps.
Another perk to Kinetic internet service is that all plans have unlimited data. While many providers on this list also offer unlimited data, a plan with no data cap can be tougher to come by in rural areas where satellite and fixed wireless services often have strict monthly limits.
$50 - $90 per month
300 - 940Mbps
Simple pricing, unlimited data, no contracts, modem included, free access to nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots
Bundle discounts, free Peacock Premium for up to 12 months
Spectrum is CNET's choice for best cable internet provider overall, thanks to its fast speeds, simple pricing and unlimited data -- all qualities that make it ideal for streaming, too. Spectrum also offers a low-priced, add-on streaming service to all internet customers who don't sign up for a traditional cable TV plan.
Spectrum TV Essentials is a streaming add-on with 60-plus live channels starting at around $20 per month. It's the only low-cost, live TV streaming add-on I've seen from a major cable TV provider. It includes popular channels such as A&E, Discovery Channel, HGTV, Lifetime, Nickelodeon and Travel Channel. However, local networks are not included, so you may want to invest in a cheap digital antenna to watch your local channels if Spectrum TV Essentials is your only live TV service.
Any standard plan will likely suffice when choosing a Spectrum internet tier for streaming. The cheapest plan, Spectrum Internet, comes with speeds up to 200Mbps starting at $50 per month. Or, for $20 more, you can upgrade to Spectrum Internet Ultra for double the speed, up to 400Mbps per month. Spectrum also offers a gig plan, but it's pricier than most competing providers, starting at $90 per month. So feel free to skip the gig service -- it's far more than you'll need for streaming.
$50 - $120 per month
300 - 2,000Mbps
Unlimited data, no contracts, free equipment with gig service
Few things are worse than having your favorite show interrupted by the dreaded buffering ring. A high-speed connection, and one that is consistently reliable, is the best defense against buffering, and that's just what customers can expect with Verizon Fios.
Verizon Fios claims to have a 99.99% reliability, which means you can count on getting through the series finale of Ozark without a significant service interruption ruining your experience. Additionally, Verizon Fios plans come with plenty of speed -- 300Mbps, 500Mbps and gig service -- to stream in HD or 4K.
For a limited time, the Verizon Fios 1 Gig plan comes with the option to receive a Disney Plus subscription free for six months.
$20 - $300 per month
75 - 6,000Mbps
Lots of plan options, solid customer satisfaction numbers
Bundle discounts, free streaming content
Unless you have a newer smart TV with built-in streaming apps, you'll likely need a streaming device to access services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus. These devices can easily cost $50 or more, but Xfinity includes a fairly high-tech one at no extra cost with all Xfinity internet plans.
The Xfinity Flex device comes loaded with dozens of popular streaming apps, supports 4K streaming and features an "award-winning" voice remote. Again, the device is free to all Xfinity internet customers. A free subscription to Peacock Premium is also included.
Best internet providers for streaming FAQs
What internet speed do I need for streaming?
The FCC recommends internet download speeds of 3 to 25Mbps for streaming depending on the video quality. As far as requirements and recommendations from individual streaming providers, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video recommend at least 25Mbps for 4K streaming, while Hulu suggests 16Mbps or higher for 4K streaming.
Remember, a provider's recommendations are actual minimum speeds, not a plan's max advertised speeds. Using Wi-Fi, connecting multiple devices and other factors (such as peak internet usage times) can slow speeds. So even if you have a plan with advertised speeds of 25Mbps, it is unlikely that's the actual speed your streaming device will get. Consequently, faster speeds, 100Mbps or higher, will be best for households that plan on streaming in high quality on multiple devices over a Wi-Fi connection.
Does streaming use a lot of data?
Depending on the picture quality, streaming TV can use anywhere from 3 to 8GB per hour. If your internet plan has unlimited data, there's no need to worry about how much data streaming uses. On the other hand, if you have a data cap and are a heavy streamer, you'll want to keep an eye on your usage.
Cox and Xfinity both come with data caps of 1.2TB per month. While that is a ton of data -- the average household uses somewhere around 500GB in a month -- excessive streaming could have you rapidly approaching that limit. For example, let's say you typically stream in HD quality, sometimes 4K, and use roughly 5GB of data per streaming hour. After 240 hours, you've reached the magic 1.2TB limit and are on the verge of overage fees.
Granted, 240 hours seems like a lot, but when you consider streaming on multiple devices, or perhaps falling asleep with the TV on, those hours, and data, can quickly add up. Additionally, streaming TV isn't the only thing in your home that consumes data. Anything you do online will contribute to your data usage, though no activity is likely to use up as much data as streaming TV.
Is satellite internet good for streaming?
Satellite internet comes with lower monthly data allowances than any other internet type, which makes it less than ideal for streaming. That's not to say you can't stream TV with satellite internet -- the 25Mbps that comes with HughesNet or up to 100Mbps you can get from Viasat is enough speed for streaming TV -- it's just that streaming TV will use a significant amount of precious data.
The priciest plans from HughesNet and Viasat offer up to 100GB and 150GB of data per month, respectively. Both plans will run you well over $100 per month, and neither are likely to support more than a full day's streaming binge of Game of Thrones along with everything else you use the internet for throughout the course of a month. Once you've reached your data limit for the month, both providers may drastically drop your speeds to 1-3Mbps, which aren't recommended for streaming.
If you want to stream a few shows here and there each month, satellite internet will probably suffice, but if you want to completely cut the cord and rely on streaming for all your entertainment, it'd be best to look for other internet options with higher data allowances.