If you want to get online in the Windy City, you've got plenty of options. Let CNET help you explore what's best for your home.
Like most major cities, Chicago offers internet users a wide variety of options for getting connected. Traditional cable providers like Xfinity and Astound Broadband/RCN have long dominated the market. Still, the rise of fiber and the emergence of new alternatives like 5G have given internet users across the Windy City more choices than they might realize. Meanwhile, other competitors have been working on expanding their footprints, sometimes by way of acquiring the competition outright.
That means now is a great time for Chicagoans to take another look at what's available at their address. You can keep reading for a rundown of the best, the fastest and the most affordable broadband plans from internet providers in Chicago.
Below, you'll find our list of the providers Chicagoans should look to first when shopping for a home internet plan, based on extensive research and a close comparison of value, terms and availability. Speeds, prices and technologies will vary from provider to provider, and different providers service different parts of the city, so you'll need to check what's available at your address.
Read more: AT&T vs. Xfinity: Comparing Largest Fiber and Cable ISPs
Per the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast offers gigabit download speeds to 98% of serviceable addresses across the US, which amounts to about 34% of the population.
Availability: Comcast's Xfinity internet service is the nation's largest cable provider and offers services across much of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. If you live in the area, or you're moving there, the odds are that Xfinity will be one of your main internet options.
Plans and pricing: In Chicago, you can expect to see 1,000Mbps and 1,200Mbps plans for $75 or $80 per month during the first year, which is fairly competitive. For lighter users, the $30-per-month Connect plan (75Mbps) and the $40-per-month Connect More plan (200Mbps) stand out as decent values, too, though you'll need to pay an extra $14 per month to rent the Comcast gateway. On top of that, Comcast is rated above the industry average for customer satisfaction by both the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power.
Fees and service details: Just be sure to watch out for the 1.2TB data cap and moderate price hikes of about $15 to $40 after Year 1. Also, remember that as a cable provider, Comcast's upload speeds will be much slower than its download speeds. None of those are deal-breakers, so Xfinity should be one of the first providers you consider unless your home is wired for fiber.
AT&T's fiber internet service is one of the best deals in home internet these days -- but the bad news is that most Chicago-area addresses will only be serviceable for one of AT&T's much slower DSL plans, which also come with data caps. With speeds no faster than 18Mbps in some neighborhoods, those DSL plans aren't worth your time if other alternatives are an option, but it's worth looking to see if AT&T's fiber offerings are available at your address. If so, put AT&T right at the top of your list.
Availability: AT&T offers service throughout most of the Chicagoland area, including surrounding suburbs like Evanston, Elgin, Schaumburg, Naperville, Joliet, Tinley Park and others.
Plans and pricing: For the same price as that 18Mbps DSL plan ($55 per month), fiber customers can get matching upload and download speeds of up to 300Mbps. Near-gigabit speeds of 940Mbps are available, too, and while AT&T's blazing fast multigig plans with speeds of 2 and 5 gigabits per second aren't available to everyone in Chicago yet, it may just be a matter of time.
Fees and service details: AT&T Fiber has no data cap and no prescheduled price increase after the first year.
5G home internet plans are a thing now. They're pretty tempting, promising reasonably fast speeds, straightforward pricing, no data caps or contracts, and plenty of perks and discounts, especially if you're already paying the provider for phone service.
Availability: Your two main options are Verizon and T-Mobile, both of which offer home internet connections in Chicago, but you'll need to verify that your address gets a strong enough signal to qualify for service. If fiber isn't available at your address, it's worth checking with both providers to see if 5G might be an option. Both are interesting, but between the two, I'd start with Verizon.
Plans and pricing: Verizon 5G Home Internet is available to fewer households overall than T-Mobile, but it offers speeds of 85 to 300Mbps for $50 per month or 300 to 1,000Mbps for $70 monthly, faster than T-Mobile's speeds of 33 to 182Mbps for $50 a month.
Fees and service details: Verizon 5G Home Internet offers a two- to three-year price guarantee (depending on which plan you choose) and a 50% monthly discount if you have an eligible Verizon phone plan. There are no additional equipment fees and no data cap.
Availability: You won't find it available in the city, but if you're living deep in the Chicago suburbs (think DeKalb, Joliet, Rockford) and faster cable and fiber plans are unavailable at your address, then Rise Broadband is definitely worth a look for your home's internet service.
Plans and pricing: As a fixed wireless provider, the company can't promise speeds any faster than 50Mbps, but it does offer relatively fair pricing for rural internet, including plans that don't come with a data cap, and the $10 price increase after Year 1 is reasonable by ISP standards.
Fees and service details: It's really more of an option for homes where slower DSL and satellite connections are the only other alternatives, but if cable, fiber or cellular internet plans won't work at your address, give Rise Broadband a shot.
Let's take a look at how those top picks compare with the rest of your options in Chicago, starting with a quick overview of what's out there:
|Internet technology||Speed range||Monthly starting price||Monthly price range (after promo)||Data caps|
|Air Wans||Fixed wireless||3-15Mbps (aggregated upload and download speeds)||$50-$100||Same||None|
|Astound Broadband||Cable||110-1200Mbps downloads, 15-50Mbps uploads||$25-$70||$123-$168||None|
|AT&T Internet||DSL||10-100Mbps downloads, 1-20Mbps uploads||$55||$70||1.5TB|
|AT&T Fiber||Fiber||300-940Mbps downloads and uploads||$55-$80||Same||None|
|Comcast Xfinity||Cable||75-6,000Mbps downloads, 5-6,000Mbps uploads||$30-$300||$49-$300||1.2TB|
|Rise Broadband||Fixed wireless||25-50 downloads, 4-5 uploads||$25-$65||$35-$75||250GB on some plans|
|T-Mobile Home Internet||Fixed wireless (5G/LTE)||33-182Mbps downloads, 6-23Mbps uploads||$50||Same||None|
|Verizon 5G Home Internet||Fixed wireless (5G/LTE)||85-1,000Mbps downloads, 5Mbps uploads||$50-$70||Same||None|
Air Wans is a folksy fixed wireless provider servicing the rural areas of Illinois and Indiana surrounding Chicago, including Braidwood, Coal City, Crete, Elwood, Grant Park, Homer Glen, Merrillville, Minooka, Monee, Orland Park, Oswego, Plainfield, Preston Heights, Tinley Park and Valparaiso. Pricing ranges from $50 to $100 per month with no contracts, no data caps, no throttling and no 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.
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, including Evanston, Naperville and Rolling Meadows. Recent metro expansions include broadband development in Logan Square, Fulton Market and West Town.
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 per month for a month-to-month plan with no commitment. You can search for serviceable buildings on Google's Webpass map here.
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 across the country, including Chicago. To get connected, 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 33 to 182Mbps 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. All of that makes it a worthy option if available at your address, but I'd want to know if I could get faster speeds for the same price from Verizon before I signed up.
Zentro Internet (formerly Everywhere Wireless) is a Chicago-based internet provider offering fiber speeds of up to 2Gbps (2,000Mbps) to select addresses throughout a semi-scattered footprint centered around the downtown area. The company provides free Wi-Fi services at many Chicago parks and beaches, as well as at the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and several prominent Chicago-area business headquarters.
As for residential internet, service seems to be most prevalent in the South Loop, Greektown and stretching along Milwaukee Ave. through Wicker Park, focusing on providing service to luxury condominiums, high-rises and other population-dense addresses. If your address falls within the coverage map, you can expect reasonable rates with no contracts, no data caps and no fixed price increases after your first year, which is great. Still, the wide majority of serviceable addresses will only have access to a fixed wireless connection, and according to the FCC, speeds higher than 100Mbps are only available to about 61% of customers.
Read more: Best Internet Service Providers for Streaming in 2023
Although Ookla's data put the Windy City in the bottom 10 among the nation's top 100 most populous cities (at an inglorious 92nd position), Chicagoans still have plenty of options for getting high-speed internet in their homes.
Most available internet technology
If you take into account only the starting prices of all internet plans offered by providers in the Windy City, the average starting price of broadband service is approximately $43 per month. That's certainly not the best rate we've seen among the markets CNET has covered thus far -- Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Denver are all under $40 a month. However, Chi-Town is also not the highest either. Charlotte, Las Vegas, San Diego and St. Louis all chime in around $50 monthly.
You won't need to pay more than $50 per month or so if you're just looking for the most affordable internet plan at your Chicago address. If AT&T offers the service at your address, you can even get fiber speeds of 300Mbps at that price, but if not, the Connect plan from Comcast is a decent consolation available almost everywhere, with download speeds of 75Mbps and upload speeds of 10Mbps. Not blazing fast, but a decent value at $30 per month during the first year.
Stepping up to Xfinity's Connect More plan more than doubles your download speeds to 200Mbps for $40 per month, which is a slightly better value, but to my eye, the best value is the Fast plan, which gets your uploads up to 10Mbps and shoots your download speeds up to 400Mbps for $55 per month during the first year. The cost-per-Mbps for that plan, a rough indicator of value, comes out to about 14 cents, compared to 40 and 20 cents for Connect and Connect More, respectively.
|Provider||Starting monthly rate||Speeds||Data caps|
|Astound Broadband 300Mbps||$25||300Mbps downloads, 15Mbps uploads||None|
|Rise Broadband 25Mbps||$25||25Mbps downloads, 4Mbps uploads||250GB|
|Xfinity Connect||$30||75Mbps downloads, 10Mbps uploads||1.2TB|
|Air Wans Basic||$50||3Mbps (downloads and uploads aggregated)||None|
|T-Mobile Home Internet||$50||33-182Mbps downloads, 6-23Mbps uploads||None|
|Verizon 5G Home Internet||$50||85-1,000Mbps downloads, 50Mbps uploads||None|
|AT&T Internet||$55||100Mbps downloads, 10Mbps uploads||None|
|AT&T Fiber 300||$55||300Mbps downloads, 300Mbps uploads||None|
Other good values to look for at your address include cellular home internet service from Verizon and T-Mobile, both available for $50 per month (make that $25 from Verizon if you already have select cell phone plans with them, or $30 with eligible T-Mobile wireless subscriptions).
Chicago's cheapest plan comes from Astound Broadband, and it nets you download speeds of 300Mbps and upload speeds of 15Mbps for just $25 per month during your promo period. But watch out -- according to Astound's Chicago rate card (which, I might add, is somewhat buried on the Astound website), that price can shoot up to $123 per month after that introductory rate.
"It's important to note that promotions do not increase to the standard retail rates published on the rate card ... [which are] generally the maximum price that one may pay, and what is published for consumers to reference," a company spokesperson said when we asked about those rate jumps. Still, unless Astound commits publicly to rates lower than those, you're left at its mercy after the initial term is up. Let the internet buyer beware.
Most major providers 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, as well as provider-specific instructions for signing up at the links below:
As I mentioned earlier, Ookla data puts Chicago among the slowest of the big cities in the US. How slow? It chalks up a median download speed of approximately 145Mbps, which is a full 100Mbps behind a top-five city like San Antonio.
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 speeds of 940Mbps and upload speeds of 880Mbps at an attractive flat monthly rate of $80. Costlier, multi-gig plans with speeds as high as 5Gbps are available elsewhere in the nation from AT&T, but they haven't widely come to Chicago just yet.
"AT&T Fiber is available to hundreds of thousands of customers in the Chicago area," a company spokesperson said when I asked about fiber availability in Chicago. "AT&T will continue to roll out multi-gig speeds across its fiber footprint and densify fiber in Chicago, among other cities across Illinois. For more information or to check availability for all speed tiers of AT&T Fiber, visit att.com/hypergig."
Meanwhile, local provider Zentro offers fiber connections with upload and download speeds of up to 2Gbps at extremely select addresses, but it's quite unlikely that those will be an option. In most cases where it's available, you'll connect via fixed wireless at much slower speeds.
Comcast also advertises multi-gig fiber plans, including one with upload and download speeds of up to 6Gbps. However, that plan is only available nationwide at a tiny fraction of serviceable addresses. At almost all Chicago addresses, a cable plan with download speeds of up to 2Gbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps will be the fastest plan you can get. It's fairly well-priced at $100 per month, but that shoots up to $130 monthly after two years.
|Provider||Max download speed||Max upload speed||Starting price||Data cap||Contract|
|Xfinity Gigabit X2||2,000Mbps||50Mbps||$100||None||None|
|Xfinity Gigabit Extra||1,200Mbps||35Mbps||$80||1.2TB||2 years|
|AT&T Fiber 1000||1,000Mbps||1,000Mbps||$80||None||None|
|Xfinity Gigabit||1,000Mbps||35Mbps||$75||1.2TB||2 years|
It depends on your address. AT&T offers fiber service in Chicago, but its footprint currently covers "hundreds of thousands" of residents in a city of 2.71 million. That means the odds are somewhat low that you'll find it available at your address. Smaller regional providers like Zentro Internet also offer fiber service at select addresses, but only to a scattering of buildings throughout the city.
Chicago isn't a Google Fiber city, so you won't find fiber internet plans from Google in the area. However, the company does offer its Google Fiber Webpass service in Chicago: It's a high-speed fixed wireless internet service that's only available in select buildings equipped with antennas capable of receiving the signal. Gigabit speeds are possible at some locations with Webpass, and the service costs $70 per month or $63 per month with a one-year contract. You can find serviceable addresses listed on the Google Webpass site.
Prices will vary depending on your provider and select plan, but most entry-level internet plans in Chicago range from $25 to $50 per month. Faster plans will cost more, with gigabit service from AT&T costing $80 per month in Chicago. Some providers enforce a price increase after your first year -- Comcast Xfinity's fastest Chicago plan nets you download speeds of 1.2Gbps and costs $80 per month for the first year, then $109 per month after that.
Though cable internet can offer fast, gigabit-level download speeds over the same wiring traditionally used to deliver television signals, it offers upload speeds that are much slower, and typically limited to the double digits, at best. That can limit device performance whenever you're sending lots of data to the web (video calls and large uploads might be slower than you'd like, for instance). Cable is also slightly more susceptible to network slowdowns during peak usage than fiber connections.
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