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Best Internet Providers in San Francisco

Are you shopping for home broadband service in the City by the Bay? Here's a look at how all of the area's top providers stack up.

You'll find a higher-than-average number of internet service providers in the San Francisco Bay Area, which isn't surprising since it's long been a hotbed for the tech industry. With multiple fiber providers, competing options for cable internet, smaller, region-specific ISPs and emerging options like getting your home online via 5G, there's a lot of information to process if you're shopping for a new internet plan.

San Francisco residents looking for the best internet provider San Francisco offers will have a few things to consider, including price and data speeds. That's where we come in. For starters, you can enter your ZIP code into the tool below to get a quick overview to help you compare providers offering service in your area. And, if you need some help picking between them, you can keep reading for a full rundown of your options and how they stack up, including a look at the fastest and cheapest plans available in the area, the fine print and price increases to watch out for, and the providers we'd recommend first.

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AT&T offers home internet services in 21 states, including California. It's a likely option at most Bay Area addresses, but service is split between homes wired for AT&T Fiber, which is excellent, and homes wired for AT&T Internet, a DSL service that's ordinary at best.

With fast speeds ranging from 300-940Mbps for $55 to $80 per month, strong customer satisfaction scores from organizations like J.D. Power and the American Customer Satisfaction Index, enticing perks and great terms that steer clear of data caps, equipment fees or arbitrary price increases, AT&T Fiber is CNET's top overall pick for home internet service in 2022. The company's newly introduced multi-gig plans, which offer upload and download speeds of up to 2 or 5Gbps (that's 2,000 or 5,000Mbps), are available in parts of San Francisco, as well as Oakland and San Jose. AT&T says that fiber is available at "millions of locations" throughout the Bay Area, with multi-gig speeds currently available at roughly one-third of fiber-eligible addresses. All of that means that checking to see if AT&T Fiber is available at your address is probably the first thing you should do when shopping for home internet in the San Francisco area. 

That said, while I could find AT&T Fiber availability in places like Balboa Park, Ingleside, Outer Sunset and the Richmond District, I had a hard time finding serviceable addresses in other San Francisco neighborhoods, including Bayview, Buena Vista, the Mission District and Parkside. Even the Full House house over on Broderick St. isn't fiber-eligible -- it has to settle for AT&T DSL speeds of 100Mbps at best. Those DSL speeds vary greatly by address, too; at other locations I looked at, speeds won't get any higher than 5Mbps. What's worse, unlike the fiber plans, AT&T's DSL offerings add in data caps and price increases after 12 months.

You can almost certainly do better than that if DSL is your only option from AT&T -- but if your Bay Area home is wired for fiber, then you're in luck, because AT&T Fiber is one of the best home internet options in the country right now.

Read our AT&T home internet review.

 

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Sonic

Based in Santa Rosa, Sonic bills itself as the largest independent ISP in Northern California, and it offers internet services throughout much of the Bay Area and surrounding regions. Most customers get their connection via DSL infrastructure, but the company has been actively working on expanding a fiber footprint throughout the area, as well. 

The most recent fiber expansion highlighted on the company's website occurred in 2019. Following that, Federal Communication Commission data from June 2021 puts the percentage of Sonic customers with access to fiber at about 43%, which is ahead of where AT&T was in the same report (albeit with a much larger national footprint). Sonic tells CNET that it added over 100,000 fiber-serviceable addresses to its footprint in 2021, including addresses throughout San Francisco, Peninsula, South Bay, North Bay and East Bay communities.

Sonic doesn't offer different internet plans or speed tiers. Instead, you'll get the fastest speeds available at your address for a flat rate of $40 per month, plus an optional $10 per month if you need to rent a router. The company tells CNET that symmetrical upload and download speeds as high as 10Gbps are available to roughly half of all fiber subscribers, but for now, the majority of that fiber base should expect to see speeds closer to a gig or less. In the third quarter of 2022, the speed-testing site Ookla named Sonic as the fastest internet provider in Oakland with overall median download speeds of about 282Mbps, fiber and DSL included. 

Speeds aside, Sonic doesn't enforce contracts or data caps, it doesn't charge an installation fee, and offers new customers a free first month of service, all of which make it a pretty appealing option from the get-go. The company's DSL service is nothing worth getting excited about, but if Sonic can offer fiber service at your address, you should consider it one of your top options.

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Unless you're living at the bottom of the Bay, the odds are extremely high that your home is wired for cable internet from Comcast Xfinity. The largest cable provider in the US, Comcast's coverage map covers just about all of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, as well as surrounding areas like Alameda, Fremont, Hayward, Palo Alto and San Mateo, and download speeds as high as 1,200Mbps (1.2 gigabits per second) are available at 98% of serviceable addresses.

The rub is that you'll get those speeds over a coaxial cable connection, which means that the upload speeds will be much lower. Even with that 1.2Gbps plan, the uploads won't go any higher than 35Mbps. Multi-gig fiber plans with matching upload and download speeds of 6Gbps might be available at some select addresses, but as of June 2021, Comcast only offered those fiber speeds to 4% of customers, so don't get your hopes up.

Xfinity plans come with a one-to-two-year promo price, after which you can expect a monthly rate increase of $15 to $30. You'll also need to keep an eye on your data usage, as several of Comcast's plans come with a data cap of 1.2 terabytes (1,200GB), though that'll be more than enough data each month for most households. There's enough speed and value here for Comcast Xfinity's widely available cable plans to serve as a respectable backup for homes where fiber isn't an option.

Read our Xfinity home internet review.

 

Xfinity Internet
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Getting a wireless home internet connection is nothing new; satellite and fixed wireless providers have been doing that for decades. However, getting your home online by way of a wireless 5G connection is a relatively new option in 2022, with Verizon and T-Mobile racing to bring as many households into their respective coverage maps as possible. Both offer appealing terms, with monthly costs fixed at $50, no equipment fees, no data caps, and no prescheduled price increases after 12 months -- but Verizon promises much higher top speeds, provided there's a strong enough 5G Ultra Wideband signal available at your address. You won't get the multi-gig speeds available to Verizon Fios customers in the Northeast, but you might be able to hit downloads as fast as 1,000Mbps, compared to top download speeds of 182Mbps with T-Mobile.

Per Verizon's cellular coverage map, 5G Ultra Wideband availability is hit-and-miss throughout the Bay Area. The most substantial levels of service are centralized in downtown San Francisco, Daly City, Forest Hill, the Mission, Oakland, Pacific Heights and the Richmond District. Other parts of the area will be left with access to Verizon's 5G Nationwide coverage, which works well enough for mobile phones but isn't usually indicative of strong 5G Home coverage with the fastest speeds possible.

Still, with higher theoretical speeds than T-Mobile and equally appealing terms -- particularly for existing Verizon mobile subscribers, who may be able to get a 50% discount on home internet service -- it's worth checking to see if Verizon is an option at your address. If so, I'd recommend starting there for 5G home internet.

Read our Verizon 5G Home internet review.

 

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Other ISP options in San Francisco

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The four providers listed above are the ones we'd recommend looking into first, but they're not your only options for getting online in San Francisco. Here's a rundown of what else might be available at your address and the providers that might also merit some consideration as you shop around.

San Francisco internet options compared


Internet technology Speed range Price range (first year) Price range (after 12 months) Data caps
Astound Broadband Cable 100-1,200Mbps downloads, 5-50Mbps uploads $25-$65 per month $70-$100 per month None
AT&T Home Internet DSL 5-100Mbps downloads, 1-20Mbps uploads $55 per month $70 per month 1TB (no data cap with 100Mbps plan)
AT&T Fiber Fiber 300-5,000Mbps downloads and uploads $55-$180 per month $55-$180 per month None
Comcast Xfinity Cable 75-6,000Mbps downloads, 10-6,000Mbps uploads $25-$300 per month $50-300 per month 1.2TB
Raw Bandwidth Communications DSL 3-50Mbps downloads, 512Kbps-5Mbps uploads $30-$50 per month $30-$50 per month None
Sonic DSL/Fiber 5-10,000Mbps downloads, 1-10,000Mbps uploads $40 per month $50 per month None
T-Mobile Home Internet 5G/LTE 33-182Mbps downloads, 6-23Mbps uploads $50 per month $50 per month None
Verizon 5G/LTE 85-1,000Mbps downloads, 50Mbps uploads $50-$70 per month (50% less with a qualifying Verizon mobile plan) $50-$70 per month (50% less with a qualifying Verizon mobile plan) None
Image of Astound Broadband van

Also known as Wave, Astound Broadband offers cable internet services in the San Francisco area.

Astound Broadband

Astound Broadband
Also known as Wave, Astound Broadband is a cable internet option available throughout parts of San Francisco, including the Castro, the Mission District, Noe Valley and Potrero Hill, and surrounding areas like Daly City and San Mateo and South San Francisco. Download speeds start at 100Mbps for $25 per month and top out at 1,200Mbps for $65 per month, which are outstanding values at first glance, but all plans offer upload speeds no higher than 50Mbps, which doesn't match fiber internet standards. 

Worst of all is the steep price increases after year one. For instance, according to Astound's California rate card, that 100Mbps plan jumps from $25 per month to $70 per month after the first year, and you'll need to pay a stingy $18 fee each month to rent your modem, too. Still, with no contracts or data caps to worry about, Astound might be worthwhile at addresses where slower fixed wireless and satellite connections are the only other options.

Earthlink
Earthlink's been around since the early days of the internet, but these days, the company functions as a third-party internet reseller, leasing wired and wireless infrastructure from other providers to offer service throughout the country. That means that Earthlink offers wide availability and a mix of different internet plans using different technologies -- everything from fiber to fixed wireless and DSL. Whether or not it's a viable option depends entirely on the specific services available at your address (and in most cases, you'll get a better deal by signing up with the first-party provider in question, instead). If other options are lacking, then it's probably worth seeing what Earthlink can offer, particularly if fiber is an option, but in most cases, it shouldn't be one of your first choices.

Etheric Networks
Boasting one of the largest fixed wireless coverage maps in the US, with service covering the entire Bay Area and stretching as far south as Salinas, Etheric Networks offers residential internet service by way of a wireless connection to the company's hardwired infrastructure. You'll need to schedule a free site survey at your home to see if Etheric is even an option at your address, and while the company doesn't post its prices online and didn't respond to my request for an overview of plans and costs, a recent Etheric blog post explaining why the service costs more than Comcast gives a good indication that it skews on the expensive side.

san-francisco-google-fiber-webpass-coverage-map-isp.png

You'll find a significant number of buildings in San Francisco and Oakland wired for Google Fiber Webpass, a high-speed fixed wireless internet service.

Google

Google Fiber Webpass
None of the Bay Area metros are Google Fiber cities -- for that, you'll need to head south to Orange County. However, San Francisco and Oakland are home to scores of buildings equipped with Google Fiber Webpass. This fixed wireless service uses antennas to send a high-speed signal to multi-dwelling buildings like apartment complexes. Speeds up to a gigabit are possible at some addresses for a flat rate of $70 per month or $750 upfront if you're willing to pay for a year in advance. Most customers seem to be hitting high speeds, too, as the speed-testing site Ookla ranks Webpass as the fastest internet provider in San Francisco, with average download speeds of 259Mbps. You can scan this map for serviceable addresses -- if Webpass is an option where you live, then it's definitely well worth trying.

Monkeybrains
With a cheeky brand name and limited availability throughout central San Francisco, Oakland, Brisbane and Berkeley, Monkeybrains is a local provider of fixed wireless internet services that's been operating in San Francisco since 1998. When you sign up, the company will install an antenna on the roof of your building and run an Ethernet cable into your home -- just plug in a router, and voila, internet access. Your speeds will depend on the strength of the signal at your address, and you shouldn't expect anything blazing fast, but at a flat rate of $35 per month, Monkeybrains might be worth a call if nothing else is available. In most cases, you'll have a better, faster option.

Raw Bandwidth Communications
Another local provider in the San Francisco area, Raw Bandwidth utilizes a mix of internet technologies to get businesses and residential addresses online and even offers private line service with up to gigabit speeds. Residential service is available in much of San Francisco, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Oakland, Daly City, Colma, Millbrae, Burlingame, Hillsborough, Los Altos, and portions of San Mateo. Still, most homes in that coverage map will have to settle for DSL or even dial-up service, making this an outdated option for Bay Area residents. Speeds won't get any faster than 50Mbps under the best circumstances and will likely be much lower. Still, with no data caps and no prescheduled price increases, Raw Bandwidth might be a good fit for homes that only require basic connectivity for checking email and light browsing.

starlink-rectangular-satellite-dish.png

Getting your home online over a satellite connection is an expensive proposition, and really only merits consideration as a last resort, when nothing else is available.

Starlink

Satellite internet
Satellite internet from HughesNet or Viasat is available pretty much anywhere, but you shouldn't expect fast speeds or low latency, given that your traffic literally needs to go to space and back. You shouldn't expect value, either -- satellite internet often comes with steep equipment costs, tight data caps, and long-term service contracts. 

With HughesNet, your download speeds won't get any higher than 25Mbps, and the cheapest plan with just 15GB of data costs $65 per month after the first six months, plus $15 per month for equipment (or $450 upfront). Speeds of up to 150Mbps are an option with Viasat, but you'll need to pay an eye-popping $350 per month after just three months of promo pricing to hit them. All plans from both providers come with a two-year service contract.

Starlink, the satellite internet service from SpaceX and Elon Musk, is your third option. It doesn't offer the same universal availability as HughesNet or Viasat, and even if it's an option at your address, a current backlog of preorders means you might not even be able to start service until 2023. From there, you'll pay $110 per month plus $599 upfront for the equipment, but with satellites positioned in low-earth orbit, the speeds are higher and the latency lower than other satellite options. Even so, the high costs across the board mean that satellite internet from any provider should only be used as a last resort when nothing else is available.

T-Mobile
For a flat rate of $50 per month, T-Mobile can connect eligible addresses to the internet over the same wireless airwaves used for mobile connections, including 5G airwaves. The service offers better overall availability than Verizon since it leans on 4G/LTE airwaves as well, but that also means that average speeds are slower, with downloads ranging from 33-182Mbps and uploads ranging from 6-23Mbps. There are no data caps or contracts with T-Mobile, so it's an appealing option for rural customers in the coverage map without access to faster fiber or cable plans. It's worth a shot elsewhere, too -- though I'd recommend checking to see if you can get faster speeds from Verizon for the same price, first.

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Mike Shaw/Getty Images

Home internet pricing in San Francisco

If you're just trying to keep your internet bill as low as possible, then you won't need to spend much more than $50 per month from any of San Francisco's top providers. With Comcast Xfinity, available just about everywhere, the cheapest plan available nets you download speeds of up to 75Mbps and upload speeds of up to 10Mbps for just $25 per month during the promo period, then $50 per month after that. It's a pretty basic offering as far as speeds are concerned, but it still exceeds the FCC's definition of broadband speed, which is 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up.

Astound has a $25 per month plan, too, and that one nets you download speeds that are faster than Xfinity's at 100Mbps. That said, you'll want to beware of the potential for a steep price increase to $70 per month after year one, which isn't ideal for someone who just wants their internet on the cheap side.

Cheapest internet plans in San Francisco


Internet technology Cheapest plan speeds Price (first year) Price (after 12 months) Data caps
Astound Broadband Cable 100Mbps downloads, 5Mbps uploads $25 per month $70 per month None
AT&T Home Internet DSL 5-100Mbps downloads, 1-20Mbps uploads $55 per month $70 per month 1TB (no data cap with 100Mbps plan)
AT&T Fiber Fiber 300Mbps downloads and uploads $55 per month $55 per month None
Comcast Xfinity Cable 75Mbps downloads, 10Mbps uploads $25 per month $50 per month 1.2TB
Raw Bandwidth Communications DSL 3Mbps downloads, 512Kbps uploads $30 per month $30 per month None
Sonic DSL/Fiber 5-10,000Mbps downloads, 1-10,000Mbps uploads $40 per month $50 per month None
T-Mobile Home Internet 5G/LTE 33-182Mbps downloads, 6-23Mbps uploads $50 per month $50 per month None
Verizon 5G/LTE 85-1,000Mbps downloads, 50Mbps uploads $50 per month ($25 per month with a qualifying Verizon mobile plan) $50 per month ($25 per month with a qualifying Verizon mobile plan) None

Another standout for affordable internet in the Bay Area includes Verizon 5G Home, which costs $50 per month (or just $25 per month for existing Verizon mobile subscribers) and promises average download speeds around 300Mbps and as high as 1,000Mbps, plus respectable upload speeds of 50Mbps. There's no prescheduled price increase for that one, and it comes with a two-year guarantee that your bill won't go up later down the line. Make that three years if you're willing to pay $70 per month (or, again, half off at $35 per month for existing Verizon mobile customers).

If your home is wired for fiber, you're in good shape. Along with fast speeds, fiber internet offers some of the best value in broadband, with costs per Mbps that typically fall well below what you'll get with cable, fixed wireless, DSL or satellite. Service from Sonic costs a flat $40 per month during your first year and nets you whatever the best possible speeds are at your address, making it a tremendous value for homes with wiring capable of hitting 10Gbps. Meanwhile, AT&T is more flexible with its fiber service, allowing users to pay less for lower speeds. At $55 per month, and with no prescheduled price increases or equipment fees, the 300Mbps plan is a good bargain for fast internet, though it doesn't come with free HBO Max access like the gigabit-level Fiber 1000 plan does.

The Affordable Connectivity Program can help low-income households with their internet bill

Signed into law as part of the infrastructure-minded American Rescue Plan in November of 2021, the Affordable Connectivity Program is a government-funded home internet discount of $30 per month for qualifying low-income households. Your home is eligible for the discount if your combined income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income internet program;
  • Participates in one of these assistance programs:
    • SNAP 
    • Medicaid 
    • Federal Public Housing Assistance 
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • WIC
    • Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits
    • or Lifeline
  • Participates in one of these assistance programs and lives on Qualifying Tribal lands:
    • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance 
    • Tribal TANF
    • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
    • Tribal Head Start (income based)

Eligible families can find more details on how to sign up with provider-specific instructions for Bay Area residents listed below:

Home internet speeds in San Francisco

With multiple fiber and cable providers, all covering significant chunks of the Bay Area, internet speeds in San Francisco are relatively strong, ranking in at 65th on Ookla's list of the cities in the US with the fastest internet speeds and clocking in with median downloads of 176Mbps and average uploads of 32Mbps. Of the cities that CNET has covered thus far, that's better than Orlando (67th), Los Angeles (70th), Phoenix (86th), Dallas (94th), Chicago (95th), Seattle (97th) and Denver (99th). Incidentally, Oakland ranks much higher at 34th overall, with average downloads of 203Mbps and average uploads of 51Mbps.

Fastest internet plans in San Francisco


Internet technology Fastest speed available Price (first year) Price (after 12 months) Data caps
Astound Broadband Cable 1,200Mbps downloads, 50Mbps uploads $65 per month $100 per month None
AT&T Home Internet DSL 5-100Mbps downloads, 1-20Mbps uploads $55 per month $70 per month 1TB (no data cap with 100Mbps plan)
AT&T Fiber Fiber 5,000Mbps downloads and uploads $180 per month $180 per month None
Comcast Xfinity Cable 6,000Mbps downloads, 6,000Mbps uploads $300 per month $300 per month None
Raw Bandwidth Communications DSL 50Mbps downloads, 5Mbps uploads $50 per month $50 per month None
Sonic DSL/Fiber 10,000Mbps downloads, 10,000Mbps uploads $40 per month $50 per month None
T-Mobile Home Internet 5G/LTE 33-182Mbps downloads, 6-23Mbps uploads $50 per month ($30 monthly with Magenta MAX plan) $50 per month ($30 monthly with Magenta MAX plan) None
Verizon 5G/LTE 85-1,000Mbps downloads, 50Mbps uploads $50-$70 per month (50% less with a qualifying Verizon mobile plan) $50-$70 per month (50% less with a qualifying Verizon mobile plan) None

If you look over the fastest plans from each of the top providers in the area, the first thing you'll probably notice is the multi-gig offerings from AT&T and Sonic, which offer top speeds of 5 and 10Gbps, respectively. Availability for those isn't guaranteed, though, so, with both companies, the fastest plan available to most customers will come with speeds around a single gig. Gigabit download speeds are available from Comcast Xfinity and Google Fiber Webpass, too, but unlike AT&T and Sonic's fiber-to-the-home offerings, the upload speeds for those respective cable and fixed wireless plans will be much slower.

Internet providers in San Francisco FAQs

How fast are internet plans in San Francisco?

The San Francisco Bay Area boasts a fairly wide range of internet providers, including fiber plans from AT&T and Sonic, cable plans from Comcast Xfinity and Astound Broadband, and fixed wireless service over 5G and 4G/LTE airwaves from Verizon and T-Mobile. Speeds vary by provider, by plan, and in some cases, by address, but most homes will have access to gigabit-or-better speeds from one provider or another. At some addresses, AT&T Fiber multi-gig speeds as high as 5 gigabits per second may be an option, and Sonic claims to offer fiber speeds of up to 10Gbps, but speeds like those aren't available everywhere yet. 

Overall, the speed-testing site Ookla ranks San Francisco at 65th on its list of the US cities with the fastest average internet speeds, with median download speeds of 176Mbps and average upload speeds of 32Mbps.

Does San Francisco have fiber internet?

Yes. AT&T is the largest fiber internet provider in the area, with a fiber footprint covering more than a million locations. That includes new multi-gig speeds of up to 5Gbps, which AT&T says are available at roughly one-third of fiber-eligible addresses in the area. Sonic offers fiber internet service at select locations in San Francisco, too. Similar to AT&T, the majority of that company's coverage map consists of slower DSL connections.

Is Google Fiber available in San Francisco?

No. Google doesn't offer fiber internet service anywhere in the Bay Area. However, the company does offer its Google Fiber Webpass service at select locations in San Francisco and Oakland. Instead of a direct fiber connection, Webpass buildings use a special antenna to receive a high-speed internet signal over the air, with speeds up to a gigabit available in some instances.

How much internet speed do I need?

It depends on how many people live in your home, how many devices need simultaneous access to your network, and what sort of things you want to use the internet for. You won't need speeds much faster than 50Mbps to browse the web, check email or stream video, but if you have multiple family members trying to do things like that on different devices at the same time, a plan with download speeds of at least 100Mbps or higher would be a better fit. If you need to videoconference or share large files while you're working from home, you'll want to make sure that your upload speeds are fast enough to keep up -- anything above 20Mbps is a good start, but a fiber plan that allows for triple-digit upload speeds would be your best bet.

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