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How to Find the Fastest ISP in Your Area

internet-connection-speed

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you have a choice of different Internet service providers in your area. Don’t just trust the advertised speeds — look at the data to find the fastest ISP near you.

The speeds ISPs quote are always “up to” a certain speed, so you can’t just choose based on the extremely optimistic speeds they advertise. Look at the results of actual, real-world speed tests for a more realistic picture.

Ookla Net Index

If you’ve ever wanted to test your Internet connection’s speed, you probably used Ookla’s popular Speedtest.net. Ookla’s Net Index takes all the data from Speedtest.net and organizes it, making it easy to browse.

Click the “Go to my location” link and you’ll be taken to a page listing the ISPs that operate in your area. You can also just look up a specific city. The ISPs are ranked based on the recent Speedtest.net download speed results of their subscribers, so you can see which ISPs are actually the fastest.

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This site also allows you to compare the difference in average Internet speeds between different countries, regions, and even cities. You can also view rankings based on upload speeds, connection quality, value for price, and how well real-world ISP speeds correspond to the speeds those ISPs promise in their advertisements. (Yes, you probably aren’t getting the Internet speeds you’re paying for.)

net-index-compare-isp-speeeds

Netflix ISP Speed Index

Studies have found that Netflix often accounts for more than 30% of Internet download traffic in North America. Netflix is a big player in terms of Internet bandwidth, and they want connections to be as fast as possible so they can provide high-quality streaming video. That’s why Netflix publishes an ISP Speed Index site, where they rank Internet service providers based on their average Netflix streaming speed.

Netflix ranks providers by their speed, highlighting the fastest ISP — Google Fiber in the USA, unsurprisingly — and shaming the slowest provider. These rankings can help you get some idea of what ISP offers the fastest speeds — for watching Netflix, at least.

Take a big grain of salt with these results. They’re country-wide, so they won’t show smaller ISPs in your area that may be faster than the big national ones. They also only take Netflix results into account — the speeds shown here are slower than the speeds shown on Speedtest.net because Netflix isn’t completely saturating each connection. This really only tells you how fast Netflix streams on these connections.

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YouTube Video Quality Report

YouTube and Netflix combined often make up over 50% of peak Internet activity in North America, according to various studies. So it makes sense that Google publishes their own ISP report. Their reports don’t display a speed, but they do allow you to compare providers in your area and see what quality of YouTube streams their connections can handle.

As with the Netflix report card, this data is only about video streams from one specific site, so you should take it with a big grain of salt. But it does help you get an idea whether an ISP is on the slower side or the faster side. And, if you’re like most people, you probably watch YouTube — so wouldn’t you prefer a connection that can stream YouTube at higher quality? This site helps you ensure you choose a connection that’s fast enough to stream YouTube at a higher quality, not one that’s so slow you’ll only be able to stream low-quality videos.

google-video-quality-report-compare-isps


Bear in mind that the speeds reported on these sites are averages of the speeds customers experience in the real world. An ISP that has many customers paying for the slowest possible connection may appear to have low speeds, but it may offer more expensive connections with faster speeds than the average shown above. When it comes to the average country-wide rankings shown on the Netflix ISP Speed Index, a big ISP that operates across the entire country may be faster or slower in your area. Still, imperfect data is better than no data at all.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 02/6/14

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