Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Best ISPS in Charlotte, NC

Shopping for an internet provider can be a pain in your neck, especially when you don’t know where to start. Well, if you’re also a resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, we’re here to help. Time Warner Cable used to be the only option in town, but many choices have popped up since the early days. For cable internet, there’s Spectrum, and if you’re looking to jump into the world of fiber internet, your go-to is AT&T. Depending where you live, you might also have access to Google Fiber or Kinetic by Windstream as well. Whatever you need, one of the best internet providers in Charlotte will be sure to suit your needs. 

Charlotte also has the unique option of 5G home internet service from T-Mobile, which is currently available to roughly half of the area’s households. There are other internet options, such as DSL and satellite internet, but I won’t waste your time with those, and to be honest, you shouldn’t either. Here’s a look at the best internet providers in the Charlotte area.

Sarah Tew/CNET

  • Price range: $55-$180 per month
  • Speed range: 300-5,000Mbps
  • Perks: Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included
  • Special offers: $200 gift card when you sign up for AT&T Fiber online
  • Why choose it: AT&T is not only the fastest internet provider in Charlotte, it’s also the largest fiber provider and has arguably the best mix of speed and value of any provider in the area. 

AT&T offers internet throughout much of Charlotte, but there are some pockets, such as to the west around CLT-Douglas and around the University area, where AT&T might be unavailable. 

Most AT&T-serviceable households in the area are eligible for fiber service, which now can deliver up to 5,000Mbps, making AT&T the fastest internet provider in Charlotte. If that’s more speed than you need, AT&T Fiber has various other high-speed, high-value plans, all of which come with unlimited data, no contract requirements and no additional Wi-Fi equipment costs.

AT&T’s fiber network hasn’t fully covered the Charlotte area yet, so your address may be only available for AT&T Internet, a DSL-based service. Pricing is still comparatively low, with AT&T Internet starting at $55 per month, but speeds can vary, and DSL is a less-reliable connection type in general. In short, I’d recommend considering other Charlotte internet providers if your home is only serviceable for DSL.

Read our AT&T Fiber review.


AT&T Home Internet

You’re receiving price alerts for AT&T Home Internet

Sarah Tew/CNET

  • Price range: $70-$100 per month
  • Speed range: 1,000-2,000Mbps
  • Perks: Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included
  • Why choose it: Google Fiber has slightly lower pricing than AT&T Fiber on gigabit and two-gigabit internet plans.

Going with Google Fiber for your home internet service in Charlotte comes down to two questions: “Is it available?” and “Do you want gigabit internet?” If the answer to both is yes, then Google Fiber will probably be your best bet. 

The availability part may be challenging as the provider is only currently offered to around 10% of Charlotte households. You’ll have the best odds of getting service if you live in or are moving to northeast Charlotte just below Concord Mills or the Southpark area, but there are random spots in Uptown and around Charlotte that are also serviceable. If you’re lucky enough to have an address serviceable for Google Fiber, it’s definitely worth considering.

While Google Fiber has a higher starting price than other Charlotte internet providers, the speeds you get for the money are well worth the premium cost. Plans also come with unlimited data and no contract requirements, as do most internet providers in Charlotte. Wi-Fi equipment is also included with Google Fiber service.

Google Webpass, a high-speed fixed wireless service popular in apartments and other multi-unit buildings, is unavailable in Charlotte.

Read our Google Fiber review.


Gigabit Fiber Optic Internet

Sarah Tew/CNET

  • Price range: $50-$80 per month
  • Speed range: 200-940Mbps
  • Perks: Unlimited data, no contracts, modem included
  • Why choose it: Spectrum is the go-to cable internet provider in Charlotte. You can count on it being available wherever you live in the city. Speeds, pricing and bundle options aren’t bad, either.

Spectrum’s biggest selling point in Charlotte is availability. The cable internet provider is available to 100% of Charlotte households, making it easier to sign up for internet service and then transfer it when you move, wherever that happens to be in the city. 

Cable providers often get a bad rap, perhaps deservedly in some cases, but Spectrum is a solid choice for home internet in Charlotte. Speeds are decent, and the pricing is reasonable, especially after Spectrum recently dropped its gigabit pricing from $110 to $80 per month. Service terms are also favorable, as all Spectrum plans come with unlimited data, no contract requirements and a free modem. 

Make note: That’s a free modem, but not a free router, which is what you’ll need to connect wirelessly over Wi-Fi. A router rental is only $5 extra, or you can supply your own and skip the fee. 

Spectrum is one of your better internet options in Charlotte, but it’s still cable internet. That means significantly slower upload speeds than fiber service, as well as the potential for reduced speeds during peak usage times. The cable connection does, however, make Spectrum a good choice for bundling internet and TV service.

Read our Spectrum review.


Spectrum Internet

You’re receiving price alerts for Spectrum Internet

Sarah Tew/CNET

  • Price range: $50 per month
  • Speed range: 33-182Mbps
  • Perks: Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included
  • Why choose it: You’re dead-set against cable internet, and fiber service isn’t available at your address.

The arrival of 5G has brought much-needed competition to the home internet market, particularly in suburban and rural areas. However, it still has a way to go before it’s really competing with cable or fiber internet.

At $50 per month for speeds up to 115Mbps, T-Mobile’s 5G home internet service makes sense if you’re just outside the Charlotte city limits, say down in Lancaster, South Carolina or out in a rural part of Rowan County. But if you’re in Charlotte or Mecklenburg County, you’ll likely have at least one other faster, connection, such as Spectrum or AT&T. 

Still, maybe you’ve tried either or both of those providers or others in the Charlotte area and aren’t satisfied with the service. In that case, it may be worth exploring 5G home internet from T-Mobile. You’ll only have one plan option, $50 per month for the fastest speeds available at your address, but it comes with everything you need, including equipment and unlimited data, at no extra cost. There’s also no contract, so you can try it out risk-free to see if you’re ready to replace your connection with a wireless one. 

Read our T-Mobile home internet overview.



Compare Charlotte, NC, internet provider details

Top Charlotte internet providers by availability

Spectrum AT&T T-Mobile 5G Kinetic by Windstream Google Fiber Comporium
Starting monthly price $50-$80 $55-$180 $50 $37-$67 $70-$100 $30-$83
Speed range (Mbps) 300-940 300-5,000 33-182 200-1,000 1,000-2,000 100-1,000
Equipment cost $5 None None $10 None $10
Data cap None None None None None None
Contract None None None None None None
Availability 100% 88% 50% 13% 10% 1%
CNET review score 7.2 7.4 7.4 6.7 7.4 N/A

What other internet options are there in Charlotte?

These providers may be available to parts of Charlotte, but they likely won’t be your first or second choice for home internet unless you live outside the city.

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  • Comporium – Outside of the Steele Creek area, specifically Ayrsley, cable internet from Comporium is only available to the south of Charlotte over the border into South Carolina and parts of Union County. With plans starting at $30 per month, Comporium is the cheapest provider in the area, but customers should expect a price increase after the first three months.
  • EarthLink – Internet service from EarthLink runs on the networks of other providers. In Charlotte, that provider is AT&T, so EarthLink is technically available wherever you find AT&T. However, AT&T has many of the same selling points as EarthLink, such as unlimited data and no contracts, not to mention lower pricing, so you’re better off going with AT&T. 
  • Kinetic by Windstream – Kinetic is largely known for offering service in suburban or rural areas, and its coverage in Charlotte is no different. While a few Charlotte neighborhoods are serviceable for Kinetic, you’ll find the best coverage in surrounding areas such as Albemarle, Concord and Matthews. If Kinetic’s fiber service is available at your address, it’s worth checking out, but you may want to pass on the DSL service if that’s all you can get. 

Satellite service from HughesNet and Viasat is also available throughout most of Charlotte and the surrounding area. But again, with plenty of other internet options available, satellite internet is not worth the cost.

Timelapse of the Charlotte skyline

Getty Images

A closer look at home internet in Charlotte

Cost and speed are often the two most important factors when choosing a home internet service, but there are others, like data caps and contracts, that you’ll also want to consider. 

So, how do Charlotte’s internet providers stack up? Here’s a look at what to expect when shopping for cheap or high-speed internet plans in Charlotte and the conditions that come with signing up.

Charlotte internet pricing

The average starting price for internet service in Charlotte is just under $50 per month. Comporium has the lowest starting price for internet in Charlotte — $30 per month for speeds up to 100Mbps — but again, serviceability is hard to come by and the price goes up after three months. You’ll find the highest starting price with Google Fiber at $70, but with gig speeds, the plan is also high in value.

The two largest Charlotte internet providers, AT&T and Spectrum, have the same starting price of $55 per month, but Spectrum will be $5 cheaper if you choose to use your own equipment. After the first year, look out for a price increase of up to $25 per month from Spectrum that will give AT&T a clear pricing advantage. 

What’s the cheapest internet in Charlotte?

Cheapest internet plans in Charlotte

Provider Starting price Standard price Max download speeds Equipment fee
Comporium Essential Internet $30 $50 (after 3 months) 100Mbps $10
Kinetic Internet $40 $55 (after 12 months) 50Mbps $7
Spectrum Internet $50 $75 (after 12 months) 300Mbps $5
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet $50 $50 182Mbps None
AT&T Fiber 300 $55 $55 300Mbps None
Google Fiber Gig $70 $70 1,000Mbps None

Internet service for low-income households in Charlotte

Every household needs a broadband connection, but not every home can afford one. To help with broadband internet accessibility in low-income Charlotte households and communities, the North Carolina Department of Information and Technology recommends seeking assistance from the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program

Per the NCDIT, the program provides a $30 per month benefit to help qualifying Charlotte households afford high-speed internet service, plus a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. For more information, see Trey Paul’s article on the Affordable Connectivity Program and how to apply.

Charlotte internet providers AT&T and Spectrum may also offer low-income internet options separate from or in conjunction with the Affordable Connectivity Program. AT&T’s affordable internet program, Access from AT&T, may even provide free internet with speeds up to 100Mbps (at a rate of $30 per month, which works out to net $0 when combined with ACP benefits). Spectrum offers a similar plan, Spectrum Internet Assist, which offers speeds up to 30Mbps, but rates may vary by household, and there’s still the $5 Wi-Fi equipment rental fee.

Charlotte internet speeds

Charlotte isn’t home to the cheapest internet plans you’ll find, but it does sport some of the fastest home internet speeds available anywhere. Google Fiber has offered multigig speeds of up to 2,000Mbps (2Gbps) in the Charlotte area for a year or so now, and AT&T recently joined the multigig club with a 2,000Mbps plan of its own, plus a 5,000Mbps plan. If neither provider is available at your address, Spectrum offers download speeds up to 940Mbps throughout Charlotte. 

What’s the fastest internet in Charlotte?

Fastest internet plans in Charlotte

Provider Starting price Max download speeds Max upload speeds Data cap
AT&T Fiber 5000 $180 5,000Mbps 5,000Mbps None
Google Fiber 2 Gig $100 2,000Mbps 1,000Mbps None
Comporium Zipstream $83 1,000Mbps 1,000Mbps None
Kinetic Gig $70 1,000Mbps 1,000Mbps None
Spectrum Internet Gig $110 940Mbps 35Mbps None

Most of the fastest internet plans in Charlotte also come with symmetrical, or at least still very fast, upload speeds. The exception is Spectrum — as a cable network, it doesn’t support the same upload speeds you’ll get from a fiber connection. Comporium has a fiber network but is primarily a cable internet provider as well, so there may be some locations that are not eligible for the fastest upload speeds the provider has to offer in the area.

Don’t fret over the fine print

Using a high-speed internet connection makes consuming lots of data each month easy, which can be a problem if you have a data cap. However, you won’t have to worry about that in Charlotte, as all major ISPs in the area come with unlimited data. 

Contracts aren’t an issue, either, as AT&T, Comporium, Google Fiber, Kinetic, Spectrum and T-Mobile’s 5G home internet service do not require one when signing up.

Charlotte internet FAQs

Does Charlotte have fiber internet?

Roughly three-quarters of Charlotte is serviceable for fiber-optic internet service. AT&T is the largest fiber internet provider in Charlotte, but Google Fiber and Kinetic by Windstream also contribute to the area’s fiber coverage.

At 77%, Charlotte’s fiber availability exceeds state and national levels (43% and 41%, respectively), but there is room to improve. Greater fiber coverage in Charlotte could come soon as providers continue expanding their fiber networks.

Can you get free internet in Charlotte?

Aside from the Access from AT&T and the Affordable Connectivity Program, your best bet to get free Wi-Fi in Charlotte is at your local Mecklenburg County Library branch. Other county facilities, such as the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, may offer a free Wi-Fi connection, like many other public buildings, such as restaurants and coffee shops. When using a public Wi-Fi connection, remember that your data may not be secure, so try to avoid accessing or entering private information on your computer or mobile device when using a public Wi-Fi network.

How much is Wi-Fi in Charlotte?

Wi-Fi is a way of connecting to your internet service, not a separate one on its own, so you’ll need a standard internet connection and a Wi-Fi router to get Wi-Fi in your home. Starting prices for internet service in Charlotte ranges from $30 to $70 per month, but the added fee for Wi-Fi will vary by provider. AT&T, Google Fiber and T-Mobile 5G include Wi-Fi equipment at no extra cost, meaning your Wi-Fi is essentially “free.” Spectrum charges $5 per month for Wi-Fi equipment rental, but you can skip that fee by using your own router.

Does Charlotte have Optimum or Xfinity?

No. Spectrum is the primary cable internet service provider in Charlotte, though Comporium may be an option for those south of the city. Optimum and Xfinity are not available in Charlotte.

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