How Fast Is Your Internet Connection?

The speed of your broadband (always-on, high-capacity, wide-bandwidth) Internet connection has never been more critical. It’s the pipe that connects your computers, tablets, handhelds, even your entertainment systems and home automation tools, to the outside world—and to each other. Your connection must handle content that is critical for work, play, and keeping in touch. It has to back your modern day communications, from simple text up to voice calls and even video conferencing. And don’t forget gaming: without the Internet, your gaming would be almost entirely lonely, single-player action. All that requires the best speeds.

The Internet service providers (or as we call them, ISPs), the companies that bring the high-speed broadband connections to your door step, have increased speeds in the last few years—the average US household went from a speed of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) in March 2011 to 31Mbps in September 2014, according to a study by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) measuring broadband. That’s the same body that re-defined broadband in 2015 to mean a minimum download speed of 25Mbps —up from the former defining speed, a measly 4Mbps (they also went from 1Mbps upload to 3Mbps upload as part of the change). The FCC is also pushing subsidies for low-income families to get high-speed Internet.

Obviously the FCC is doing what it can to increase speeds for everyone, despite pushback from senators who want to see lower speeds qualify as broadband—mostly because it makes the country look bad to have so many households that don’t have Internet that’s up to that standard. Competition is helping even more. Local ISPs (and some unique players, like Google) have pushed the big-name companies to raise speeds while keeping costs affordable. At least one ISP, Verizon FiOS—one of the few fiber-to-the-home-only players—increased its minimum speed from 25 to 50Mbps. There are entire cities now that can claim they’ve gotgigabit Internet status—ISPs there offer connections of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps)—that’s 1,000 times better than 1Mbps speed, and 40 times what the FCC even defines as broadband for the United States.

They’re doing this with a mix of technology, mostly fiber optic lines (Google tends to use “dark fiber” that is already in place in big cities but going unused) and in some areas with increased speeds via cable connections. In fact, with the DOCSIS 3.0 standard that most cable companies use on their equipment it’s entirely possible to have gigabit Internet with a lot of work; the newer DOCSIS 3.1 standard makes it even easier for cable providers to make the jump, without as much tinkering. Comcast—the biggest ISP in the US—has already started rolling out DOCSIS 3.1 in select areas. The new tech could take speeds as high as 2Gbps(don’t expect that without paying a hefty price tag).

But despite the competition and the claims, the average speeds in the US are not even close to the averages seen in many other nations. We typically fall well behind around 120 nations.

Plus, just because a big-name ISP or even a tiny local provider says you’re getting a certain level of throughput, can you be sure you’re getting what you pay for?

Every year, PCMag examines the Fastest ISPs in the United States and Canada with data provided by our readers. To measure it, we use the industry leading tool: Speedtest. Put your connection to the test right now—click Begin Test on this page. Visit as often as you like. Share it with friends. The more, the merrier.

We’ll use that data to compare and contrast not only download speed but also factor in upload speed in a formula we call the PCMag Internet Speed Index: a quantifiable number that directly pits ISP to ISP. We’ll look at it nationwide, state by state, and in some cases even at the local level. Either way, should your ISP get enough tests into the mix, we’ll see where it stands.

So what are you waiting for? Take the Speedtest! Get the information you need, and provide us with the data to help your fellow PCMag readers in the future.

No ISP shows improvement quite like Midcontinent Communications (Midco). The North Central-U.S.-based ISP is in its second year as our fastest ISP for the nation with a stunning index of 84.6. That’s the kind of number we see in Asian countries, and it’s a major improvement for Midco, which last year had an index of 46.8. If you live in the Dakotas, Minnesota, or Wisconsin, you need Midcontinent Communications. Some of its locations already have Gigabit service; Midco says Gigabit over cable (using DOCSIS 3.1 modems) is coming in some areas areas by 2016.
Want a look at recent test results? Read 2015’s Fastest ISPs in the U.S. Here’s a sampling:

Next on the list—and the top “major ISPs” with multi-state services—is the old stalwart of fiber-to-the home (FttH) deployment in the U.S., Verizon FiOS. This year it once again improved its PCMag Speed Index, shooting up to 42.7 from last year’s 32.8. And as noted before, FiOS has made speed improvements every single year since 2010. (FiOS also remains the top rated ISP with PCMag readers for its service and reliability, having earned our Readers’ Choice award this year, and indeed, every year for a full decade.)

FiOS is certainly fast, but its lead on the major cable-based operators is not vast. Comcast—the largest cable company (by revenue) and therefore largest Internet provider with service in 40 states—isn’t always well loved. But itsXfinity brand for broadband service is undeniably fast, with an index of 38.9. Plus, Xfinity sports a faster average download speed (46.1 Mbps vs. Verizon FiOS’s 42.9). FiOS’s almost symmetrical upload speed (41.7 Mbps) is what keeps its PCMag Speed Index ahead of Xfinity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart