Nowadays it’s not uncommon for households to have multiple streaming service subscriptions, each with its own unique mix of live or on-demand content. However, in order to watch your favorite shows and movies, this requires a reliable internet connection.
But what internet speeds do you need for streaming? It depends on the streaming service and video quality you want to stream in. Many streaming services list the minimum required speed for streaming in standard definition along with the lowest speed required for HD or 4K streaming. The best internet providers for streaming provide high speeds so you can watch your favorite shows and movies in 4K without any issues.
|Streaming service||Minimum recommended speed for streaming|
|Apple TV Plus||3-25Mbps|
|Amazon Prime Video||1-5Mbps|
|DirecTV Stream||8Mbps per streaming device|
|ESPN Plus||2Mbps or higher|
|Netflix||5Mbps or higher|
As you can see, streaming doesn’t require a ton of speed, even in 4K (which most services recommend 25 to 50Mbps for). It’s important to note, however, that using a Wi-Fi connection and streaming on multiple devices will have an impact on your actual speeds. So if you have an internet plan that offers max speeds of 25Mbps, don’t count on being able to stream YouTube TV in 4K over a wireless connection, even though speeds of 25Mbps are recommended. Remember, the recommended speeds are for actual, sustained speeds, not your plan’s max speeds.
So in reality, you’ll want an internet service provider and plan with max advertised speeds well above recommended speeds for the best streaming experience. Some internet providers are better suited than others, but all providers listed below offer speeds of at least 100Mbps or higher, which should be ample speed for streaming of any quality. The providers on our list of the best ISP for streaming are chosen as particularly good options due to their exceptionally fast speeds, cheap internet pricing or extra streaming-specific perks.
Fiber internet is generally faster and more reliable than any other internet type, making it the ideal internet connection type for streaming. Fiber service can be tough to find and somewhat pricey, but AT&T boasts the highest fiber availability in the US and some of the most budget-friendly plans.
AT&T Fiber 300 offers download and upload speeds of up to 300 megabits per second — more than enough speed for streaming on multiple devices — starting at $55 per month. That’s one of the lowest pricing (and fastest starting speeds) on an entry-level plan that you’ll find among major fiber providers, including CenturyLink, Frontier FiberOptic and Verizon Fios.
AT&T’s gig service, while priced a bit higher than the 300Mbps plan, starting at $80 per month, comes with the added streaming bonus of a free HBO Max subscription. That’s not for a limited time or trial period — that’s for as long as you have the plan, an ongoing $15 monthly value.
You’re receiving price alerts for AT&T Home Internet
There’s nothing particularly special about internet service from Cox Communications. Plans, pricing and speeds are on par with any other cable ISP, but the provider does stand out with its exclusive streaming device, which plugs into your TV like a Roku.
The Cox Contour Stream Player is available with all Cox internet plans including Internet Starter and above — so basically every Cox plan aside from prepaid service (Cox StraightUp Internet) and its low-income service (Connect2Compete) — for just $5 extra per month.
The streaming device comes preloaded with popular streaming apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, HBO Max and Discovery Plus. The device also supports 4K streaming and a voice remote and custom guide settings to help you quickly find what you want to watch. Customers who rent a Cox Contour Stream Player will also receive a Peacock Premium subscription, a $5 per month value that offsets the device’s monthly rental fee.
For the best streaming experience with Cox, I’d recommend opting for the Cox Preferred 250 plan or higher. While the two lower tiers, Cox Internet Starter and Cox Essentials 50, come with the option to add the Contour streaming device, neither plan offers suitable speeds (max of 25Mbps and 50Mbps, respectively) for quality streaming over Wi-Fi or on multiple devices.
You’re receiving price alerts for Cox Communications
The Federal Communications Commission recommends speeds of 25Mbps for streaming in 4K. It’s important to note that doesn’t necessarily mean an internet plan with speeds of 25Mbps is good for streaming in 4K. It means that sustained, actual speeds of at least 25Mbps are recommended. There are a lot of things that can limit your actual speeds, such as using Wi-Fi and connecting multiple devices to your network, so you’re going to want a plan with max speeds well above 25Mbps if you want to stream in 4K.
You’ll find plenty of speed for streaming in 4K on a virtually unlimited number of devices with Google Fiber. The provider offers two high-speed, high-value plans with gig service starting at $70 per month and 2-gig service starting at $100 per month. Yes, the prices are a bit higher with Google Fiber, but the service comes with free Wi-Fi equipment and the comfort of knowing everyone in your household will have plenty of speed for high-quality streaming.
Internet options are limited in rural areas, so finding a provider with speeds and data suitable for streaming can be a challenge. Satellite internet, a popular internet option in rural areas, often fails to deliver the speeds needed for quality streaming, not to mention the low data allowances. DSL internet is another popular choice in rural areas, but speeds can still be an issue unless Kinetic by Windstream is available in your area.
Kinetic offers the fastest DSL speeds of any major provider, up to 200Mbps in select areas. Speeds of 100Mbps or higher — ample speed for streaming — are available to around 65% of households serviceable for Kinetic. Additionally, Kinetic has an expanding fiber network, dedicated to rural and suburban areas, that can deliver speeds up to 1,000Mbps.
Another perk to Kinetic internet service is that all plans have unlimited data. While many providers on this list also offer unlimited data, a plan with no data cap can be tougher to come by in rural areas where satellite and fixed wireless services often have strict monthly limits.
Spectrum is CNET’s choice for best cable internet provider overall, thanks to its fast speeds, simple pricing and unlimited data — all qualities that make it ideal for streaming, too. Spectrum also offers a low-priced, add-on streaming service to all internet customers who don’t sign up for a traditional cable TV plan.
Spectrum TV Essentials is a streaming add-on with 60-plus live channels starting at around $20 per month. It’s the only low-cost, live TV streaming add-on I’ve seen from a major cable TV provider. It includes popular channels such as A&E, Discovery Channel, HGTV, Lifetime, Nickelodeon and Travel Channel. However, local networks are not included, so you may want to invest in a cheap digital antenna to watch your local channels if Spectrum TV Essentials is your only live TV service.
Any standard plan will likely suffice when choosing a Spectrum internet tier for streaming. The cheapest plan, Spectrum Internet, comes with speeds up to 200Mbps starting at $50 per month. Or, for $20 more, you can upgrade to Spectrum Internet Ultra for double the speed, up to 400Mbps per month. Spectrum also offers a gig plan, but it’s pricier than most competing providers, starting at $90 per month. So feel free to skip the gig service — it’s far more than you’ll need for streaming.
You’re receiving price alerts for Spectrum Internet
Few things are worse than having your favorite show interrupted by the dreaded buffering ring. A high-speed connection, and one that is consistently reliable, is the best defense against buffering, and that’s just what customers can expect with Verizon Fios.
Verizon Fios claims to have a 99.99% reliability, which means you can count on getting through the series finale of Ozark without a significant service interruption ruining your experience. Additionally, Verizon Fios plans come with plenty of speed — 300Mbps, 500Mbps and gig service — to stream in HD or 4K.
For a limited time, all Verizon Fios plans also come with free months of The Disney Bundle — Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu — at no extra cost, a total value of $14 per month.
You’re receiving price alerts for Verizon Fios
Unless you have a newer smart TV with built-in streaming apps, you’ll likely need a streaming device to access services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus. These devices can easily cost $50 or more, but Xfinity includes a fairly high-tech one at no extra cost with all Xfinity internet plans.
The Xfinity Flex device comes loaded with dozens of popular streaming apps, supports 4K streaming and features an “award-winning” voice remote. Again, the device is free to all Xfinity internet customers. A free subscription to Peacock Premium is also included.
You’re receiving price alerts for Xfinity Internet
Best internet providers for streaming FAQs
What internet speed do I need for streaming?
The FCC recommends internet download speeds of 3 to 25Mbps for streaming depending on the video quality. As far as requirements and recommendations from individual streaming providers, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video recommend at least 25Mbps for 4K streaming, while Hulu suggests 16Mbps or higher for 4K streaming.
Remember, a provider’s recommendations are actual minimum speeds, not a plan’s max advertised speeds. Using Wi-Fi, connecting multiple devices and other factors (such as peak internet usage times) can slow speeds. So even if you have a plan with advertised speeds of 25Mbps, it is unlikely that’s the actual speed your streaming device will get. Consequently, faster speeds, 100Mbps or higher, will be best for households that plan on streaming in high quality on multiple devices over a Wi-Fi connection.
Does streaming use a lot of data?
Depending on the picture quality, streaming TV can use anywhere from 3 to 8GB per hour. If your internet plan has unlimited data, there’s no need to worry about how much data streaming uses. On the other hand, if you have a data cap and are a heavy streamer, you’ll want to keep an eye on your usage.
Cox and Xfinity both come with data caps of 1.2TB per month. While that is a ton of data — the average household uses somewhere around 500GB in a month — excessive streaming could have you rapidly approaching that limit. For example, let’s say you typically stream in HD quality, sometimes 4K, and use roughly 5GB of data per streaming hour. After 240 hours, you’ve reached the magic 1.2TB limit and are on the verge of overage fees.
Granted, 240 hours seems like a lot, but when you consider streaming on multiple devices, or perhaps falling asleep with the TV on, those hours, and data, can quickly add up. Additionally, streaming TV isn’t the only thing in your home that consumes data. Anything you do online will contribute to your data usage, though no activity is likely to use up as much data as streaming TV.
Is satellite internet good for streaming?
Satellite internet comes with lower monthly data allowances than any other internet type, which makes it less than ideal for streaming. That’s not to say you can’t stream TV with satellite internet — the 25Mbps that comes with HughesNet or up to 100Mbps you can get from Viasat is enough speed for streaming TV — it’s just that streaming TV will use a significant amount of precious data.
The priciest plans from HughesNet and Viasat offer up to 100GB and 150GB of data per month, respectively. Both plans will run you well over $100 per month, and neither are likely to support more than a full day’s streaming binge of Game of Thrones along with everything else you use the internet for throughout the course of a month. Once you’ve reached your data limit for the month, both providers may drastically drop your speeds to 1-3Mbps, which aren’t recommended for streaming.
If you want to stream a few shows here and there each month, satellite internet will probably suffice, but if you want to completely cut the cord and rely on streaming for all your entertainment, it’d be best to look for other internet options with higher data allowances.
More internet providers for 2022