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The best internet providers for gaming

If you use your home internet connection for gaming on a regular basis, check to see if these ISPs are available at your address.

Internet service providers are always looking for ways to attract new customers, from aggressive introductory pricing to promotional extras to sweeten the deal. Now, with the popularity of online gaming, a growing number of ISPs are turning to gaming-minded features and promotions to stand out. That means that if the right provider offers service in your area, you might be able to score a free online gaming subscription, access to high-end gaming hardware, or even an internet connection that's designed to optimize your online gaming bandwidth.

We're keeping track of the top internet providers here on CNET, so we'll add the best internet offers for gamers to this list whenever we spot them. For now, here's a look at what's currently out there -- and feel free to plug your ZIP code into the tool below to see which providers are available at your address.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Let's start with a deal that gets you six free months of online gaming via a Pro-level subscription to Google Stadia, the company's service for streaming online games. That's the offer from AT&T -- just sign up for a fiber internet plan, or upgrade an existing AT&T DSL plan to a 300, 500, or 1,000Mbps AT&T Fiber plan, and Stadia Pro is yours to try for six months. After that, the premium version of Google's gaming service, which comes with exclusive discounts and supports 4K HDR video output, will cost you $10 per month.

"As part of our collaboration with Stadia, we're also exploring ways to enhance our 5G and Fiber networks that will help innovate and improve the gaming experience in the future," AT&T adds. I certainly wouldn't mind being a guinea pig for that.

In addition to the free subscription, AT&T is also offering customers a Stadia controller bundled with a Chromecast Ultra media streamer for $20. That's a great deal -- a similar bundle straight from Google would cost you $100. 

On top of that, AT&T Fiber is one of our top-recommended internet services, with high-speed plans starting at $35 per month for the first year, no contracts or data caps, and a number of other attractive offers to tempt you into signing up. For instance, right now, new AT&T Fiber customers will get a $200 Visa Rewards card, which is one of the most generous internet promos currently available.

Read the CNET review of AT&T Fiber.

 

Cox

Cox is one of the largest cable internet providers in the country, and it's one of the only ones that offers a feature dedicated to online gaming: Elite Gamer promises to reduce lag when gaming online by automatically finding faster routes to whatever server you're connecting with. The service costs an extra $7 per month -- or nothing at all if you're already spending $12 per month to rent the Cox Panoramic Wifi Gateway, a combination modem and router.

Elite Gamer works with a wide number of top PC games, including Battlefield 5, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dead by Daylight, Destiny 2, Diablo 3, Dota 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, Escape from Tarkov, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto 5, League of Legends, Minecraft, Overwatch, PUBG, Rocket League, Valorant, World of Warcraft and more. 

To use the service, you'll need to download the Elite Gamer app to your PC, log in with a Cox username and password, and then launch a game. The service supports multiple sessions at once, so if you want to game together with a friend or a roommate, they can download the application and play at the same time as you with the same reductions in jitter and ping.

One caveat -- if you opt to get Elite Gamer for free by renting the Cox Panoramic Wifi Gateway, then you should know that the Panoramic Wifi Gateway puts out a second, public Wi-Fi network separate from your home's network that people nearby can use as hotspot. That feature is on by default, which is something I wasn't crazy about in my review of Cox home internet service. Fortunately, you can turn that hotspot off by going to cox.com/myprofile and signing in with your Cox credentials.

Read the CNET review of Cox home internet.

 

Ry Crist/CNET

Cox might have software that does what a gaming router does, but RCN goes further and gives customers the option of renting a gaming router outright for $13 per month. Specifically, it's the Netgear Nighthawk XR1000 gaming router, which boasts high speeds, low latency and support for Wi-Fi 6, the newest (and fastest) generation of Wi-Fi.

$13 per month is a pretty fair price here as far as ISPs are concerned. In a lot of cases, you'll need to spend $10 or $15 per month to rent equipment from an ISP. And while plenty of providers are now offering upgraded hardware -- things like mesh routers and Wi-Fi 6 routers -- it's rare to find one that offers a bona fide gaming router as an option.

In this case, the XR1000 would cost you $300 if you were to buy it outright, so you could rent one from RCN for nearly two years and still come out ahead. Gaming features with the XR1000 include built-in DumaOS software that helps prioritize live-streaming and cloud gaming traffic, as well as tools that automatically steer you into the highest-performing servers whenever you're playing online.

Read the CNET review of RCN home internet.

 

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