Table of Contents
Washington has many claims to fame: Apples, Mount Rainier, Starbucks, the Seahawks, Microsoft. Despite its famous tech connections, the Evergreen State doesn’t have the fastest internet in the country. In fact, it places in the bottom half of Ookla’s Speedtest.net rankings of broadband speeds for US states. City dwellers will have more choices in ISPs than most rural residents. Big national names like Xfinity, CenturyLink, T-Mobile Home Internet, Verizon 5G Home Internet and Spectrum all have a presence in Washington. The best ISP for your home depends on which providers service your location.
CNET examines customer service, speed, pricing and overall value before recommending the best broadband in your area. When it comes to Washington state, that means Xfinity is CNET’s pick for the top ISP in Washington thanks to wide availability and a variety of plan options. CenturyLink Fiber (branded as Quantum Fiber in some places) gets our nod as a top choice for fiber. The biggest issue with CenturyLink Fiber is its limited coverage area.
Kick back with a two-shot steamed hot oat milk light foam extra caramel drizzle grande macchiato and peruse CNET’s recommendations for the top ISPs in Washington state.
Best internet options in Washington
Location, location, location. Our choices for best ISPs in Washington won’t be available to every address in the state. Xfinity, for example, covers large areas, but you won’t find it in Yakima or Walla Walla. Spectrum covers those spots. 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, 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.
Rural internet options in Washington
|Provider||Connection type||Price range||Speed range||Data cap||Availability|
|Advanced High Speed Internet||Fixed wireless||$40-$150||3-200Mbps||None||Yakima County|
|Benton REA PowerNET||Fixed wireless||$50-$120||2-100Mbps||None||Mid-Columbia and Lower Yakima Valleys|
|Nikola Broadband||Fixed wireless||$70-$150||10-100Mbps||None||Sequim area|
|POVN||Fixed Wireless/fiber||$75-$130||5-100Mbps||None||Pend Oreille County|
|Ptera||Fixed wireless/fiber||$45-$115||15-1,000Mbps||None||Inland Northwest|
|Washington Broadband||Fixed wireless/cable/fiber||$39-$250||1.5-900Mbps||None||Yakima area|
|Wifiber||Fixed wireless/fiber||$45-$160||4-1,000Mbps||None||Eastern Washington|
|Ziply Fiber||Fiber||$20-$300||100-10,000Mbps||None||Snohomish County|
Show more (5 items)
Source: CNET analysis of provider data
Rural internet can be tricky. Some lucky residents may be able to get a fiber connection. Ziply Fiber has been expanding its Washington presence both by building out its network and by acquiring existing ISPs. For example, Ptera, a fiber and fixed wireless provider focused on the Inland Northwest, is a Ziply company.
No fiber? I recommend checking into wired options for rural internet first. That may mean CenturyLink DSL, which tops out at 100Mbps for $50 per month (but may be considerably slower depending on your location). Compare with T-Mobile Home Internet or Verizon 5G Home Internet, if available. Those 5G services are easy to test out with very little commitment and may provide a faster internet experience than DSL.
If wired and 5G internet don’t work out for your home, next look into fixed wireless. Washington is dotted with local ISPs that offer fixed wireless to rural addresses. Most top out at 100Mbps speeds, but your mileage will vary depending on your location. You’ll need a good line of sight to a tower. Satellite internet from Starlink, Viasat or HughesNet is often seen as a last resort. It’s expensive, and speeds can be slow.
The companies listed in our chart are just some of the many ISPs serving Washington. Run your address through the FCC National Broadband Map to see which providers might reach your location. You may discover a local ISP you weren’t aware of.
Washington broadband at a glance
Washington homes are completely blanketed with broadband internet access, according to the FCC, but the real story is more subtle. The FCC takes into account satellite internet coverage, which isn’t a great option for most residents. The widest-reaching ISP is cable provider Xfinity, but rival cable provider Spectrum covers some chunks of the state where Xfinity doesn’t go. CenturyLink’s outdated DSL network is available in more areas than its fiber network.
FCC data shows fiber reaches around 28% of residences in the state, with a concentration in the larger metro areas. Some — with Ziply Fiber being the biggest name — even serve more rural areas. Some smaller local providers also offer limited fiber coverage alongside fixed wireless service. CenturyLink Fiber/Quantum Fiber is our top choice for fiber service in Seattle, and it can be found in parts of Spokane as well.
How fast is Washington broadband?
The FCC defines broadband as speeds of at least 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up. By that metric, all Washingtonians can access broadband internet. If we start moving up the speed scale, then FCC data tells a different story. Roughly 90% of Washington residents can access speeds of at least 100Mbps down. When we get to a gig, though, only about 28% of residences are covered.
A recent Ookla Speedtest.net ranking put Washington in 36th place among US states for median download speeds. Washington clocked in at about 172Mbps. Ookla highlighted Xfinity as the state’s fastest provider, with a median download speed of 236Mbps. Ookla also tracks speeds for the 100 most populous cities in the country. Seattle, despite being a tech hub, ranked only in 97th place. That’s not a great showing. If your internet is feeling pokey, there may be ways to improve it. Try these four steps for speeding up your internet connections.
Internet pricing in Washington
A monthly bill of around $50 is a pretty standard entry-level price point for home internet, but there are ways to save. Xfinity’s 75Mbps plan will run you a mere $20 per month. However, that cheap plan price is good for only 12 months with a contract, and you’ll need to rent your gear for $15 per month or provide your own equipment. Let’s also look at value. CenturyLink’s 940Mbps fiber plan for $65 (modem included) gives you a good bang for the buck.
T-Mobile or Verizon phone customers can check into bundling an eligible mobile plan with home internet service. That can bring your monthly internet bill down to as low as $30 with T-Mobile or $25 with Verizon. Open slots may be limited and speeds can vary depending on your location, but the no-contract plans make it easy to test out the connection to see if it will work for you.
Internet for low-income households in Washington
The federal Affordable Connectivity Program should be your first stop when looking for financial assistance with your internet bill. Eligible low-income households can get $30 ($75 on tribal lands) off their monthly bill. Most ISPs participate, so that means free or cheap internet or a discount on a faster, more expensive plan.
The future of broadband in Washington
Washington has a good opportunity to improve its internet performance thanks to a $1.2 billion federal investment from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program. BEAD is designed to expand broadband access across the US. That includes building out networks to reach unserved and underserved areas. The state is working out how to use the funds and invites public feedback through the Washington State Broadband Office. The office’s data shows that roughly 264,000 households in the state haven’t adopted broadband services. Washington hopes to improve access, encourage broadband adoption and make internet service affordable. Those are all worthy goals.
How CNET chose the best internet providers in Washington
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.