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Best Internet Providers in Santa Barbara, California

Written by  Amanda Kooser
Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid. Reviews ethics statement
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What is the best internet provider in Santa Barbara?

Frontier Fiber is the best internet provider overall for many households in Santa Barbara because of fast, symmetrical fiber speeds and affordable deals. Frontier Fiber isn’t available everywhere in Santa Barbara, so Cox or T-Mobile Home Internet are also solid picks, depending on what’s available in your area. 

If you’re hunting for the lowest prices or fastest speeds, we’ve also found those top options. Frontier's $30-per-month 200Mbps fiber plan offers the cheapest internet in Santa Barbara. Frontier Fiber’s 5,000Mbps plan offers the fastest available speed for a reasonable $130 per month.

Best internet in Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara internet providers compared

ProviderInternet technologyMonthly price rangeSpeed rangeMonthly equipment costsData capContractCNET review score
AT&T Internet Air
Read full review
Fixed wireless$55 ($35 with eligible mobile plan)75-225MbpsNoneNoneNoneN/A
Cox
Read full review
Cable/fiber$50-$150100-2,000MbpsNone1.25TBNone6.2
Frontier
Read full review
Fiber$30-$130200-5,000MbpsNoneNoneNone6.7
T-Mobile Home Internet
Read full review
Fixed wireless$60 ($40 with eligible mobile plans)72-245MbpsNoneNoneNone7.4
Verizon 5G Home Internet
Read full review
Fixed wireless$50-$70 ($35-$45 for eligible Verizon Wireless customers)50-300MbpsNoneNoneNone7.2

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Other available internet providers in Santa Barbara

  • AT&T Internet Air: AT&T doesn’t offer DSL or fiber in Santa Barbara, but some homes may be able to get its 5G home internet service. It costs $55 per month for typical download speeds of 75-225Mbps, although actual speeds will vary depending on location and network congestion. Bundle with a mobile plan to bring your home internet price down to $35 monthly. There’s no data cap, no contract and no equipment fee.
  • Satellite internet: Satellite internet from Starlink, Hughesnet or Viasat is best suited to homes in rural or remote areas that can’t get cable, fiber, DSL or solid fixed wireless broadband. Most of Santa Barbara will go with Cox or Frontier, but consider satellite if you’re outside of town and faster and more affordable options don’t work out.
Stearns Wharf and beach in Santa Barbara, California.
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Cheap internet options in Santa Barbara

Competition between Cox and Frontier is good news for Santa Barbara residents. Keep an eye on Frontier for fiber bargains. You may spot a special offer of $25 per month for the Fiber 500 plan or $45 per month for the gig plan, both excellent deals for fiber service. That discounted price is good for a year and includes a router. Frontier’s standard pricing for the 200Mbps plan is $30 per month, which handily beats the competition. If Cox is your best bet, then start with the $50-per-month 100Mbps plan. That’s not a great deal, but it’s the most affordable wired internet option for the homes in Santa Barbara that aren’t hooked up to Frontier.

What’s the cheapest internet plan in Santa Barbara?

ProviderStarting priceMax download speedMonthly equipment fee
Frontier
Read full review
$30 200MbpsNone
Cox
Read full review
$50 100MbpsNone
Verizon 5G Home Internet
Read full review
$50 ($35 with eligible mobile plans)100MbpsNone
AT&T Internet Air
Read full review
$55 ($35 with eligible mobile plans)225MbpsNone
T-Mobile Home Internet
Read full review
$60 ($40 with eligible mobile plans)245MbpsNone

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

How to find internet deals and promotions in Santa Barbara

The best internet deals and top promotions in Santa Barbara depend on what discounts are available during a given time. Most deals are short-lived, but we look frequently for the latest offers. 

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Santa Barbara internet providers, such as Frontier and Cox, may offer lower introductory pricing or streaming add-ons for a limited time. Others, including Verizon 5G Home Internet, tend to run the same standard pricing year-round. 

For a more extensive list of promos, check out our guide on the best internet deals

How fast is Santa Barbara broadband?

Fast fiber from Frontier and multi-gig cable and fiber from Cox make Santa Barbara a good place to get speedy home internet. A recent Ookla speed test report shows the city with a 256Mbps median download speed for fixed internet. That’s right in line with the California state average of 253Mbps and compares favorably with the 221Mbps Los Angeles pulls down. Frontier’s affordable 5,000Mbps fiber plan puts zippy, symmetrical speeds in reach of many homes in Santa Barbara, but most customers can get 2,000Mbps downloads through Cox even if fiber doesn’t come to your address.

Fastest internet plans in Santa Barbara

ProviderStarting priceMax download speedMax upload speedData capConnection
Frontier Fiber 5 Gig
Read full review
$130 5,000Mbps5,000MbpsNoneFiber
Cox Go Beyond Fast
Read full review
$150 2,000Mbps100Mbps1.25TBCable
Cox Fiber 2 Gig
Read full review
$150 2,000Mbps2,000Mbps1.25TBFiber
Frontier Fiber 2 Gig
Read full review
$100 2,000Mbps2,000MbpsNoneFiber
Cox Fiber 1 Gig
Read full review
$110 1,000Mbps1,000Mbps1.25TBFiber
Cox Go Super Fast
Read full review
$120 1,000Mbps100Mbps1.25TBCable
Frontier Fiber 1 Gig
Read full review
$65 1,000Mbps1,000MbpsNoneFiber
Show more (2 items)

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

What’s a good internet speed?

Most internet connection plans can now handle basic productivity and communication tasks. If you're looking for an internet plan that can accommodate videoconferencing, streaming video or gaming, you'll have a better experience with a more robust connection. Here's an overview of the recommended minimum download speeds for various applications, according to the FCC. Note that these are only guidelines and that internet speed, service and performance vary by connection type, provider and address.

For more information, refer to our guide on how much internet speed you really need.

  • 0 to 5Mbps allows you to tackle the basics: browsing the internet, sending and receiving email and streaming low-quality video.
  • 5 to 40Mbps gives you higher-quality video streaming and videoconferencing.
  • 40 to 100Mbps should give one user sufficient bandwidth to satisfy the demands of modern telecommuting, video streaming and online gaming. 
  • 100 to 500Mbps allows one to two users to simultaneously engage in high-bandwidth activities like videoconferencing, streaming and online gaming. 
  • 500 to 1,000Mbps allows three or more users to engage in high-bandwidth activities at the same time.

How CNET chose the best internet providers in Santa Barbara

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. 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. 

We then 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 Santa Barbara?

Most Santa Barbara residents will go with Frontier or Cox for home internet. Frontier’s fiber network offers uploads that are just as fast as the downloads. It’s tough to beat Frontier on the speed/price equation. If you can’t get Frontier fiber, then consider Cox. Some small areas can get Cox’s fiber-to-the-home service, while most neighborhoods are on Cox’s cable network. The good news is 80% of Cox’s customers in Santa Barbara can access the 2,000Mbps speed tier if needed. If both Cox and Frontier service your home and you want to keep your Cox bill down, then get ready to negotiate for a better deal. If Frontier and Cox don’t work out for you, then look into the 5G home internet providers, especially if you can bundle for a discount.

Internet providers in Santa Barbara FAQs

What is the cheapest internet provider in Santa Barbara?

Frontier’s $30-per-month 200Mbps fiber plan is a good bargain for broadband in Santa Barbara. That’s plenty of speed for many internet users. 

Which internet provider in Santa Barbara offers the fastest plan?

Frontier’s 5,000Mbps plan is the speediest home internet you can get in Santa Barbara. It costs $130 per month, a good value for that speed level.

Is fiber internet available in Santa Barbara?

Frontier is the main fiber internet provider in Santa Barbara. It offers speeds up to 5,000Mbps, but you won’t find it everywhere in town.

What internet provider has the best coverage in Santa Barbara?

Cox rules the roost when it comes to sheer coverage in Santa Barbara. It reaches almost 90% of homes, according to the FCC.

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