Spectrum – Best overall among internet providers in North Carolina
Prices: $40 – $70 per month
Speeds: 300 – 940Mbps
Key Info: Unlimited data, simple pricing, no contracts, modem included, free access to nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots
AT&T Fiber – Best fiber internet coverage in North Carolina
Prices: $55 – $180 per month
Speeds: 300 – 5,000Mbps
Key Info: Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included
T-Mobile Home Internet – Best 5G home internet provider in North Carolina
Prices: $50 per month
Speeds: 72 – 245Mbps
Key Info: Unlimited data, equipment included, no contracts, no additional fees
Brightspeed – Best rural carrier for the eastern part of North Carolina
Prices: $50 – $60 per month
Speeds: 10 – 940Mbps
Key Info: Unlimited data, no contracts
Google Fiber – Best high-speed fiber internet for The Triangle and Charlotte
Prices: $70 – $100 per month
Speeds: 1,000 – 2,000Mbps
Key Info: Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included
Thanks to North Carolina, you can play Fortnite while traveling in an airplane. The Tar Heel state is famous for being the birthplace of flight after the Wright Brothers’ successful airplane test in Kitty Hawk in 1903. It’s also less notably the home of Fortnitecreator Epic Games (based in Cary), which lets players dressed as Indiana Jones fight it out with Spider-Man.
Whether gaming, watching movies and TV shows, or working, North Carolina is home to some of the fastest internet speeds in the country, according to Ookla, ranking 10th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The median download speed in the Tar Heel State sits at about 209Mbps, thanks in part to the reliably fast Google Fiber, and in fact, Raleigh holds the top spot on its list of cities with the fastest internet, with median download speeds of about 255Mbps.
While AT&T and Google’s fiber option is mainly limited to Charlotte and The Triangle, North Carolinians can access many internet connection options, including satellite internet from HughesNet and Viasat (and Starlink, soon).
CNET examines customer service, speed, pricing and overall value before recommending the best broadband in your area. Due to its wide availability in the state, fast speeds and simple pricing, we’re giving the nod to Spectrum as the best internet provider overall in North Carolina. Your options will vary depending on where you live, but fortunately, everyone in the state can get online, although it may be through satellite internet. A quick note: If you live in Charlotte or Franklin, check out our guides to internet access in those cities.
Best internet options in North Carolina
As this is a state-level guide, our picks below will focus on the internet service providers that are available to most people in North Carolina, as well as other factors including speed and cost. But the best ISP will be the one available to you. All prices listed on this page reflect available discounts for setting up paperless billing. If you decide not to go with automatic monthly payments, your price will be higher.
Note: The prices, speeds and features detailed in the article text may differ from those listed in the product detail cards, representing providers’ national offerings. Your internet service options — including prices and speeds — depend on your address and may differ from those detailed here.
Best overall among internet providers in North Carolina
$40 – $70 per month
300 – 940Mbps
Unlimited data, simple pricing, no contracts, modem included, free access to nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots
Spectrum may not have the fastest speeds or provide the overall best value, but it’s the no-nonsense way for most North Carolinians to connect to the internet.
Availability: Spectrum is available to more than 73% of households in North Carolina, according to the Federal Communications Commission, serving a decent chunk of the state, including Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh and all their suburbs. Spectrum is also available on the eastern coast at Kitty Hawk and around Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Plans and pricing: Spectrum typically offers three service tiers, with a 300Mbps plan at $50 a month, 500Mbps for $70 and 940Mbps for $90.
Fees and service details: Spectrum does not cap data or require a contract and offers a free modem.
$55 – $180 per month
300 – 5,000Mbps
Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included
AT&T’s fiber internet offering gets high marks from CNET for its reliability, speed and value, and normally is our top recommendation for connecting to the internet. The issue in North Carolina is its limited availability, as only 10% of households in the state can access it.
Availability: AT&T Fiber is available in Asheville, Boone, Burlington, Charlotte (and most of its surrounding suburbs), Greensboro, Hendersonville, Lenoir, Lumberton, Rockingham, The Triangle, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.
Plans and pricing: AT&T offers five fiber internet options ranging from 300Mbps for $55 a month, 500Mbps for $65, 1,000Mbps for $80, 2,000Mbps for $110 and 5,000Mbps for $180. All AT&T Fiber areas will have at least the first three options available, while some bigger cities will have all five.
Fees and service details: AT&T Fiber plans offer unlimited data and do not require a contract. All plans also come with Wi-Fi equipment.
$50 per month ($30 for eligible mobile customers)
72 – 245Mbps
Unlimited data, equipment included, no contracts, no additional fees
With T-Mobile’s home internet option available to three quarters of households in North Carolina, according to the FCC, you can likely connect to the internet through the carrier’s 5G offering.
Availability: You’ll have to give T-Mobile your address to see if you can access its 5G home internet. Much depends on whether any open slots are in your area or neighborhood.
Plans and pricing: T-Mobile Home Internet is available for $50 monthly, with speeds ranging from 72 to 245Mbps. If you’re already a customer of the company’s Go5G Plus or Magenta Max phone plans, the offering gets more compelling at $30 a month. T-Mobile customers with Go5G, Magenta or Essentials plans pay $40 monthly.
Fees and service details: There are no equipment fees, data caps or contracts with T-Mobile Home Internet.
Best rural carrier for the eastern part of North Carolina
$50 – $60 per month
10 – 940Mbps
Unlimited data, no contracts
While Spectrum covers a wide swath of North Carolina, it has a huge coverage gap between Raleigh and Wilson to Kitty Hawk. Brightspeed, a Charlotte-based company that provides internet and voice services to areas previously served by CenturyLink, fills that gap.
Availability: Brightspeed services the areas around the Triangle (but not the Triangle itself), including Johnson and Tusculum in the West, Hickory and the area between Henderson and Kitty Hawk in the North, down to Jacksonville in the South.
Plans and pricing: Brightspeed offers both copper and fiber-based internet, but most of the rural areas of North Carolina will likely have access to just one plan for $50 a month with speeds from 19 to 100Mbps.
Fees and service details: There is a $15 monthly modem lease and a one-time $99 installation fee. All plans include unlimited data, and no contract is required.
Best high-speed fiber internet for The Triangle and Charlotte
$70 – $100 per month
1,000 – 2,000Mbps
Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included
If you’re in Charlotte or The Triangle and need a lot of speed for an affordable price, you can’t go wrong with Google’s fiber internet.
Availability: Google Fiber is limited to Charlotte and The Triangle.
Plans and pricing: Two tiers of Google Fiber service are available in North Carolina: 1,000Mbps for $70 a month and 2,000Mbps for $100.
Fees and service details: Google Fiber has no data caps or contracts, and the company offers free internet equipment.
Around 95% of North Carolinians have access to download speeds of 100Mbps and upload speeds of 20Mbps, according to state data. As mentioned above, the Tar Heel State ranks at No. 10 in the country in terms of internet speeds, with median downloads of 209Mbps, likely thanks to the relatively wide availability of fiber internet in the state — about 48% has access to the option, mostly in Charlotte and The Triangle.
How fast is broadband in North Carolina?
North Carolina boasts a whopping five cities in the top 26 of Ookla’s ranking of 100 cities by fastest internet speeds, with Raleigh coming in at the top, Durham at six, Greensboro at 22, Winston-Salem at No. 25 and Charlotte at No. 26. So, yeah, the Tar Heel State has some fast internet, mostly thanks to fiber internet from AT&T and Google.
Internet pricing in North Carolina
The starting price of internet service in North Carolina will depend on where you live, but judging by the most widely available ISPs in the state, expect to pay around $50 to get online. If you’re an existing customer of certain T-Mobile plans and have access to its 5G internet offering, you can get that service for $30 per month. Those who qualify for the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program could get $30 knocked off their monthly bills.
Future of broadband in North Carolina
The federal government in late June awarded North Carolina $1.5 billion to expand high-speed internet access across the state. The Department of Information Technology Division of Broadband and Digital Equity “will use [Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment] funding to connect high-cost areas, remaining unserved and underserved locations, and community anchor institutions without fiber access,” reads the state’s five-year plan draft. The government also plans to boost digital literacy and make internet access more affordable.
How CNET chose the best internet service providers in North Carolina
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.
You bet your tar heel it does. Not only does North Carolina rank 10th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia in terms of fast median download speeds, according to Ookla, but five cities — Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh and Winston-Salem — boast some of the highest city download speeds in the country.
Is there fiber internet in North Carolina?
Yes. There are two primary providers: AT&T and Google. Fiber internet is mostly available in Charlotte and The Triangle, but the state government plans to expand access to the technology over the next five years.
Is Spectrum or AT&T better to connect to the internet in North Carolina?
If you have access to Spectrum and AT&T, you may wonder which is the best choice. The short answer: If you can get fiber internet from AT&T, that’s your best option. But if AT&T’s DSL service is matched up against Spectrum’s cable connection, you’d be wise to turn to Spectrum. Read more in CNET’s breakdown of AT&T vs. Spectrum.