Like most major cities, Chicago offers internet users a wide variety of options for getting connected. Traditional cable internet service providers like Xfinity and Astound Broadband/RCN have long dominated the market. Still, the rise of fiber ISPs and the emergence of new alternatives like 5G fixed wireless have given internet users across the Windy City more choices than they might realize. Meanwhile, other competitors have been working on expanding their footprints, sometimes by way of acquiring the competition outright.
That means now is a great time for Chicagoans to take another look at what’s available at their address. CNET examines customer service, speed, pricing and overall value before recommending the best broadband in your area. You can keep reading for a rundown of the best, the fastest and the most affordable broadband plans from internet providers in Chicago.
Best internet providers in the Windy City
Below, you’ll find our list of the providers Chicagoans should look to first when shopping for a home internet plan, based on extensive research and a close comparison of value, terms and availability. Speeds, prices and technologies will vary from provider to provider, and different providers service different parts of the city, so you’ll need to check what’s available at your address.
Also, the prices, speeds and features detailed in the article text may differ from those listed in the product detail cards, which represent providers’ national offerings. Your particular internet service options — including prices and speeds — depend on your address and may differ from those detailed here.
Chicago internet options compared
Let’s take a look at how those top picks compare with the rest of your options in Chicago, starting with a quick overview of what’s out there:
|Monthly starting price
|Monthly price range (after promo)
|3-15Mbps (aggregated upload and download speeds)
|300-1200Mbps downloads, 15-50Mbps uploads
|10-100Mbps downloads, 1-20Mbps uploads
|300-940Mbps downloads and uploads
|75-2,000Mbps downloads, 5-35Mbps uploads
|25-50 downloads, 4-5 uploads
|250GB on some plans
|T-Mobile Home Internet
|Fixed wireless (5G/LTE)
|72-245Mbps downloads, 15-31Mbps uploads
|Verizon 5G Home Internet
|Fixed wireless (5G/LTE)
|85-1,000Mbps downloads, 10-50Mbps uploads
Show more (3 items)
Source: CNET analysis of provider data
All available Chicago residential internet providers
Air Wans:Air Wans is a folksy fixed wireless provider servicing the rural areas of Illinois and Indiana surrounding Chicago, including Braidwood, Coal City, Crete, Elwood, Grant Park, Homer Glen, Merrillville, Minooka, Monee, Orland Park, Oswego, Plainfield, Preston Heights, Tinley Park and Valparaiso. Pricing ranges from $50 to $100 per month with no contracts, data caps, throttling, or price increases after the first year. That’s about as simple and straightforward as home internet gets.
The rub is that Air Wans speeds are some of the slowest you’ll find, ranging from just 3 to 15Mbps with the downloads and uploads aggregated together. That’s well below broadband levels and too slow for us to recommend for just about anyone. If anything else is available at your address, give that a look first.
Astound Broadband:The New Jersey-based cable conglomerate Astound Broadband has spent recent years gobbling up territory in Chicago, including acquisitions of cable infrastructure from WideOpenWest and RCN. That’s helped it to offer home internet service throughout much of the city and its surrounding suburbs, including Evanston, Naperville and Rolling Meadows. Recent metro expansions include broadband development in Logan Square, Fulton Market and West Town.
Astound boasts strong pricing during the first two years of service. However, monthly rates on all four of the plans offered to Chicagoans can shoot up by well over $100 after the introductory period, and you can expect to pay additional fees on top of that, including an arbitrary monthly Network Access Fee of $7 that isn’t included in your base rate. That makes the service an inferior value to its main cable rival, Xfinity, but it’s still a name to keep an eye on as the service expands in Chicago.
Google Fiber Webpass:Some buildings throughout the greater Chicago area are wired for Google Fiber Webpass, which uses a fixed wireless antenna to offer high-speed connections to the internet. Gigabit speeds are possible via Webpass, but actual speeds depend on the specific address in question.
The service costs $63 per month for a yearly plan or $70 monthly for a month-to-month plan with no commitment. You can search for serviceable buildings on Google’s Webpass map here.
Satellite internet: A satellite internet connection uses a receiver dish mounted outside your home to connect with satellites orbiting overhead to get you online. You’ll find service available from HughesNet, Viasat and perhaps Starlink. But, in most cases, the prices are too high, the speeds too slow, and the data caps too restrictive compared to other Chicago internet options. It’s really only worth considering if you lack other alternatives, and for most of Chicago, that won’t be the case.
T-Mobile Home Internet:Like Verizon, T-Mobile now offers cellular home internet service in hundreds of cities nationwide, including Chicago. You’ll simply plug in a cellular modem that gets its signals not from wires in the wall, but over the 5G and LTE airwaves, like your phone.
T-Mobile offers just one plan at $50 per month, and speeds will range from 72 to 245Mbps in most homes with a strong enough signal to sign up. There are no data caps or contracts to worry about, and your price won’t arbitrarily rise after 12 months, either. All of that makes it a worthy option if available at your address, but I’d want to know if I could get faster speeds for the same price from Verizon before I signed up.
Zentro Internet: Zentro Internet (formerly Everywhere Wireless) is a Chicago-based internet provider offering fiber speeds of up to 2Gbps (2,000Mbps) to select addresses throughout a semi-scattered footprint centered around the downtown area. The company provides free Wi-Fi services at many Chicago parks and beaches, as well as at the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and several prominent Chicago-area business headquarters.
As for residential internet, service seems to be most prevalent in the South Loop, Greektown and stretching along Milwaukee Ave. through Wicker Park, focusing on providing service to luxury condominiums, high-rises and other population-dense addresses. If your address falls within the coverage map, you can expect reasonable rates with no contracts, no data caps and no fixed price increases after your first year, which is great. Still, the wide majority of serviceable addresses will only have access to a fixed wireless connection, and according to the FCC, speeds higher than 100Mbps are only available to about 61% of customers.
Pricing on Chicago home internet service
Considering only the starting prices of all internet plans offered by providers in the Windy City, the average starting price of broadband service is approximately $43 per month. That’s certainly not the best rate we’ve seen among the markets CNET has covered thus far — Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Denver are all under $40 a month. However, Chi-Town is also not the highest either. Charlotte, Las Vegas, San Diego and St. Louis all chime in around $50 monthly.
What are the cheapest internet plans in Chicago?
You won’t need to pay more than $50 per month or so if you’re looking for the most affordable internet plan at your Chicago address. If AT&T offers the service at your address, you can even get fiber speeds of 300Mbps at that price, but if not, the Connect More plan from Comcast is a decent consolation available almost everywhere, with download speeds of 200Mbps and upload speeds of 10Mbps. Not as fast, but a decent value at $25 per month for the first two years.
In the Chicago area overall, the Astound Broadband 300Mbps plan is the best value among cheaper plans. The cost-per-Mbps for that plan, a rough indicator of value, comes out to just over 8 cents, compared to 13 cents for Xfinity’s Connect More and just over 18 cents for AT&T Fiber 300.
Source: CNET analysis of provider data
Other good values to look for at your address include cellular home internet service from Verizon and T-Mobile, both available for $50 per month (make that $25 from Verizon if you already have select cell phone plans, or $30 with eligible T-Mobile wireless subscriptions).
Are there internet options for low-income households in Chicago?
Most major providers offer discounted plans for qualifying low-income customers via the Affordable Connectivity Program, a government-funded internet rebate that eligible consumers can take advantage of to knock $30 off of the monthly cost of their internet bill. You can find full details on the FCC’s website, as well as provider-specific instructions for signing up at the links below:
Fastest internet providers in Chicago
Ookla speed test data put the Windy City in the bottom 10 among the nation’s top 100 most populous cities (at an inglorious 92nd position). How slow? It chalks up a median download speed of approximately 145Mbps, a full 100Mbps behind a top-five city like San Antonio. However, Chicagoans still have plenty of ways to get high-speed internet in their homes.
Your fastest option for getting online in Chicago is to go with a fiber provider, but service isn’t available everywhere. AT&T is your best bet, with its fastest plan for Chicago ringing in with download speeds of 940Mbps and upload speeds of 880Mbps at an attractive flat monthly rate of $80. Costlier, multi-gig plans with speeds as high as 5Gbps are available elsewhere in the nation from AT&T, but they haven’t widely come to Chicago just yet.
“AT&T Fiber is available to hundreds of thousands of customers in the Chicago area,” a company spokesperson said when I asked about fiber availability in Chicago. “AT&T will continue to roll out multi-gig speeds across its fiber footprint and densify fiber in Chicago, among other cities across Illinois. For more information or to check availability for all speed tiers of AT&T Fiber, visit att.com/hypergig.”
Meanwhile, local provider Zentro offers fiber connections with upload and download speeds of up to 2Gbps at extremely select addresses, but it’s quite unlikely that those will be an option. In most cases where it’s available, you’ll connect via fixed wireless at much slower speeds.
Comcast also advertises multi-gig fiber plans, including one with upload and download speeds of up to 6Gbps. However, that plan is only available nationwide at a tiny fraction of serviceable addresses. At almost all Chicago addresses, a cable plan with download speeds of up to 2Gbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps will be your fastest plan. It’s fairly well-priced at $100 per month, but that shoots up to $130 monthly after two years.
Source: CNET analysis of provider data
How CNET chose the best internet providers in Chicago
Internet service providers are numerous and regional. Unlike the latest smartphone, laptop, router or kitchen tool, it’s impractical to personally test every ISP in a given city. So what’s our approach? We start by researching the pricing, availability and speed information drawing on our own historical ISP data, the provider sites and mapping information from the Federal Communications Commission at FCC.gov.
But it doesn’t end there. We go to the FCC’s website to check our data and ensure we’re considering every ISP that provides service in an area. We also input local addresses on provider websites to find specific options for residents. To evaluate how happy customers are with an ISP’s service, we look at sources including the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power. ISP plans and prices are subject to frequent changes; all information provided is accurate as of the time of publication.
Once we have this localized information, we ask three main questions:
- Does the provider offer access to reasonably fast internet speeds?
- Do customers get decent value for what they’re paying?
- Are customers happy with their service?
While the answer to those questions is often layered and complex, the providers who come closest to “yes” on all three are the ones we recommend.
To explore our process in more depth, visit our How We Test ISPs page.
Internet providers in Chicago FAQs