Tue. May 17th, 2022
Best Internet Providers in Charlotte, NC: Fiber, Cable and Now 5G

As a lifelong Charlotte-area resident, I remember when Time Warner Cable was the option for internet. Home internet options in Charlotte now are about the same as any city: One or two cable internet providers and one or two fiber internet providers. With Charlotte, that cable option is going to be Spectrum, which is still technically TWC, but has changed over to Spectrum since being acquired by Charter. For fiber service, AT&T will be your best bet, but you may find Google Fiber or Kinetic by Windstream available as well, depending on where you live in the Queen City.

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, of course, 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.

Ry Crist/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 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 has the potential to 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 a variety of 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 it’s possible your address is 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

Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

  • 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 a challenge 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 not available in Charlotte.

Read our Google Fiber review.

Ry Crist/CNET

  • Price range: $50-$110 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. Wherever you live in the city, you can count on it being available. 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, which can make 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 actually a solid choice for home internet in Charlotte. Speeds are decent and the pricing is reasonable, though I think there’s room for the gig service to drop some in price. 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 definitely 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

Rick Broida/CNET

  • Price range: $50 per month
  • Speed range: 35-115Mbps
  • 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 some much-needed competition to the home internet market, particularly in suburban and rural areas, but 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, wired connection available such as Spectrum or AT&T. 

Still, maybe you’ve tried either or both of those providers, or others in the Charlotte area, and just 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 essentially risk-free to see if you’re ready to replace your wired 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-$110 $55-$180 $50 $37-$67 $70-$100 $30-$83
Speed range 200-940Mbps 300-5,000Mbps 25-115Mbps 200-1,000Mbps 1,000-2,000Mbps 100-1,000Mbps
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 N/A 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 even second choice for home internet unless you live just outside the city.

  • 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 the case of 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 of EarthLink, such as unlimited data and no contracts, not to mention lower pricing, so you’re better off just 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.

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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 want to take into consideration as well. 

So, how do Charlotte internet providers stack up? Here’s a look at what to expect when shopping for cheap or high-speed internet plans in Charlotte, as well as 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, lookout for a price increase of up to $25 per month from Spectrum that will give AT&T the 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) 200Mbps $5
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet $50 $50 115Mbps 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 unfortunately not every household 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 access to 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 what the Affordable Connectivity Program is 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 still offers download speeds up to 940Mbps throughout the entire Charlotte area. 

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 1,000Mbs 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 that 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

When using a high-speed internet connection, it’s easy to consume lots of data each month, which can be a problem if you have a data cap. You won’t have to worry about that in Charlotte, however, as all major ISPs in the area come with unlimit

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