Spectrum vs. Verizon Fios: Battle for the Best ISP in the Northeast

Verizon Fios has a slight advantage over Spectrum, but either ISP is a solid choice for home internet.

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Charter's Spectrum internet at a glance
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Verizon Fios internet at a glance

Many US households are limited to two or three practical broadband options often consisting of one cable internet provider and one fiber provider. If Spectrum and Verizon Fios happen to be the cable and fiber providers, respectively, in your area, consider yourself lucky -- they're two of the best options you could have.

CNET's Trey Paul gave both providers high marks for fast speeds, competitive pricing and favorable service terms -- Spectrum received a 7.2 out of 10, while Verizon Fios scored a 7.6, higher than any of the two dozen or so providers we've reviewed to date. Both earned a place on our list of the best internet providers, too.

Given a choice between the two, I'd have to go with Verizon Fios, largely due to technology. Spectrum uses a cable or cable-fiber hybrid network, while Verizon Fios utilizes a 100% fiber-optic network, which offers faster upload speeds and a more reliable connection. That said, Spectrum has its own unique advantages, such as low equipment costs, so the best provider for you depends on what exactly you're looking for. 

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Read on for a full breakdown of both providers and how they compare on availability, speeds and pricing, service terms and customer satisfaction.

Sarah Tew/CNET
Price range $30- $90 per monthSpeed range 100 - 1,000MbpsConnection CableKey Info Unlimited data, simple pricing, no contracts, modem included, free access to nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots

Spectrum keeps things simple with three speed tiers: 300Mbps, 500Mbps and gigabit service, which offers max download speeds of 940Mbps. All plans come with unlimited data, no contract requirements and a free modem rental. If you want Wi-Fi service, renting a router will only add $5 to your bill, which is a third of what you'd pay to rent equipment from Verizon.

One potential drawback to Spectrum, at least in comparison to Verizon Fios, is the fact that Spectrum primarily uses a cable or cable/fiber hybrid network. As a result, upload speeds are significantly slower, maxing out at just 35Mbps.

Sarah Tew/CNET
Price range $50 - $120 per monthSpeed range 300 - 2,000MbpsConnection FiberKey Info Unlimited data, no contracts, free equipment with gig service

Like Spectrum, Verizon Fios service comes with three speed tier options -- 300Mbps, 500Mbps and gigabit service. Unlike Spectrum, Verizon Fios plans offer symmetrical or near-symmetrical upload speeds. The 100% fiber connection that comes with Verizon Fios is also likely to deliver a better, more reliable connection, especially during peak usage times. 

Verizon Fios plans are priced a bit cheaper than Spectrum for the same max download speeds, but the equipment fee can wash out the difference if you choose the 300 or 500Mbps plan. At $15 per month, the equipment fee is higher than most providers, including Spectrum, but that fee is waived if you sign up for gigabit service.

Spectrum has a larger coverage area, Verizon has greater coverage density

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What does that mean, exactly? Spectrum is the second-largest cable internet provider behind Comcast Xfinity, and its coverage map extends across 41 states in the US, including Hawaii. However, as the orange in the map above shows, Spectrum coverage is fairly sporadic in most states and centered around select cities and regions. 

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Meanwhile, Verizon is available in just nine states, but the provider does a good job extending coverage throughout the area, thanks to a large fiber-optic network. According to the most recent Federal Communications Commission data, 64% of customers in the service area detailed in the map above (blue) are eligible for fiber-optic, or Verizon Fios, service. Verizon's DSL network serves the remaining 36%. (We won't get into that here -- but in short, if you have to choose between Spectrum or Verizon High Speed Internet, Verizon's DSL service, go with Spectrum. It's faster, more reliable and a much better value.)

But enough about availability. If you're comparing the two providers, you probably already have a good idea that they're available in your area, so let's get to the good stuff: plan pricing and speeds.

Spectrum versus Verizon Fios plans and pricing

You'll find three different speed tiers from both Spectrum and Verizon Fios, though pricing and upload speeds are slightly different. Introductory pricing for each speed tier is the same for both providers, but Spectrum prices go up after one year whereas Verizon Fios does not have a set price increase.

Spectrum internet plans

PlanMax speedsFirst-year promo rateRegular rateEquipment feeData cap
Spectrum Internet 300Mbps download, 10Mbps upload$50$80 $5 (skippable)None
Internet Ultra 500Mbps download, 20Mbps upload$70$100 $5 (skippable)None
Internet Gig 940Mbps download, 35Mbps upload$90$120$5 (skippable)None

Spectrum pricing on all plans increases by $30 after your promo period. Before the price increase, Spectrum's gigabit plan is middle-of-the-road compared to most providers but is on equal footing with Verizon Fios' pricing. The two lower tiers, Spectrum Internet and Internet Ultra, aren't the cheapest internet plans on the market, but the low equipment cost helps offset the higher pricing. 

Verizon Fios internet plans

PlanMax speedsRegular rateEquipment feeData cap
Fios 300 300Mbps download, 300Mbps upload$50$15 (skippable)None
Fios 500 500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload$70$15 (skippable)None
Fios Gigabit Connection 940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload$90NoneNone

Verizon doesn't do promotional pricing, so your monthly rate won't automatically go up after a year as it will with most internet providers. That's not to say that Verizon won't ever change its prices, but a company spokesperson tells CNET that customers will be informed well in advance if new rates are ever in the works. 

I wouldn't be too concerned about the risk of a price increase. Verizon has a stellar customer satisfaction track record, which indicates that things like steep, arbitrary price hikes are uncommon. Even if Verizon decides to raise prices, those prices will likely still be lower than Spectrum's pricing on comparable plans after 12 months. 

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Both Spectrum (orange) and Verizon (blue) offer internet service in New York City.


Verizon Fios is faster in the Big Apple

Verizon Fios is especially enticing in the New York City metro area for those in Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island and the northern part of the Bronx, where Verizon and Spectrum share service areas. In addition, Verizon recently announced it's unveiling a Fios 2 Gigabit Connection in the New York City market. 

Verizon Fios vs. Spectrum fees and service terms: A tie

Spectrum internet comes with a modem at no extra cost, and the router rental fee is only $5 per month, the lowest you'll find from virtually any provider. You can skip the equipment fee altogether if you have your own compatible equipment.

With Verizon, the equipment rental fee is $15 per month. You can skip that fee by using your own router, or purchase Verizon's router for a one-time fee of $300, which will pay off after 20 months of service. The easiest way to skirt the equipment fee is to sign up for Gigabit service, which includes your equipment along with some other promotional perks at no extra cost.

No data caps, no contracts and no installation fees (probably)

Neither provider enforces data caps, and neither requires you to sign a service contract to get the lowest pricing. Plenty of providers, including Cox, Mediacom and Xfinity, may have contracts and data caps, so it's nice to know you don't have to worry about either of those headaches with Spectrum or Verizon.

Signing up for Spectrum or Verizon could come with installation fees, but most likely not. Verizon waives the Fios installation fee ($99) when you order online, and the Spectrum installation fee ($50 for standard installation but up to $200 for gigabit service) can be avoided by opting for self-installation.

ACSI rankings for US customer satisfaction with internet service providers
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ACSI rankings for US customer satisfaction with internet service providers

Verizon tied for the top spot in the ACSI's customer satisfaction ranks for internet providers in 2022.


Verizon Fios steals the show in customer satisfaction

Organizations like the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power that track customer satisfaction have consistently ranked Verizon Fios at the top. 

Spectrum did not perform as well with the ACSI or J.D. Power, but I wouldn't say its customer satisfaction scores are particularly bad, either. Spectrum received a consistent ACSI score of 63 out of 100 in 2020, 2021 and 2022, which is lower than Verizon Fios and slightly below the industry average. J.D. Power also puts Spectrum in the middle of the pack with an average score of 704 across four different US regions. That's slightly below the ISP average of 716 out of 1,000 and lower than rival cable providers Xfinity and Cox in the same East region that Verizon Fios topped. 

If I had to guess, I'd attribute the gap in customer satisfaction between Spectrum and Verizon Fios to technology. A 100% fiber-optic connection, like the one you get with Verizon Fios, boasts superior reliability and connection quality over cable internet. A cable connection, like the one you get with Spectrum, is more susceptible to speed fluctuations and reliability issues, especially during peak usage times. 

The bottom line on Verizon vs. Spectrum: Verizon is our pick

Spectrum and Verizon Fios have similar speed tiers and service terms, but Verizon Fios will likely be the cheaper, faster (in terms of upload speeds) and more reliable option. There are some cases where Spectrum could be marginally less expensive, at least for the first 12 months and only if you factor in equipment costs, but overall, Verizon Fios will deliver the better value. That said, both providers are excellent choices for home internet service, so consider yourself broadband blessed if you have an option between the two.

Spectrum vs. Verizon Fios FAQs

Is Spectrum Internet as fast as Verizon Fios?

If you only consider the top download speeds, they might seem equal. Spectrum's fastest plan is 940Mbps and Verizon Fios' top speed is also 940Mbps (except in New York City, where Verizon offers a 2-gigabit plan). Both providers have lower download speed tiers of 300 and 500Mbps, but Verizon offers symmetrical upload speeds (meaning equal or similar upload speeds to the download speed). Spectrum's plans max out at 35Mbps upload speeds, which pale to Verizon Fios' upload speed potential. 

Are Verizon Fios plans cheaper than Spectrum?

It depends. On face value, pricing between the two is the same. Both providers have the same pricing on similar speed tiers: $50 per month for 300Mbps, $70 for 500Mbps and $90 for 940Mbps. 

If you opt for a lower-tiered plan and rent equipment, Spectrum will be the cheaper provider by around $10. However, if you go with gig service, Verizon Fios waives the $15 router rental fee, making it the cheaper provider. 

There's also Spectrum's price hike to consider. After a year of service, pricing on Spectrum internet plans increase by $30. Verizon Fios plans have no set price increase.

Do Spectrum or Verizon Fios offer fiber internet plans?

Verizon Fios is Verizon's 100% fiber-optic internet service, featuring symmetrical download and upload speeds. While the company offers other types of internet connections -- including DSL, LTE Home Internet and 5G Home Internet -- its Fios fiber plans are only available in eight states in the Northeast. Spectrum offers its three internet speed tiers to all its customers across 41 different states, but those plans are all hybrid fiber-coaxial cable connections, so the upload speeds will not be nearly as fast as the download speeds.

Updated April 7, 2023 8:49 a.m. PT

Written by  David Anders
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
David Anders Senior Writer
David Anders is a senior writer for CNET covering broadband providers, smart home devices and security products. Prior to joining CNET, David built his industry expertise writing for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. In his 5 plus years covering broadband, David's work has been referenced by a variety of sources including ArcGIS, DIRECTV and more. David is from and currently resides in the Charlotte area with his wife, son and two cats.
Expertise Broadband providers, Home internet, Security Cameras
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