illinois Digital News

Best Internet Providers in Chicago, IL

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Like most major cities, Chicago offers internet users a fairly wide variety of options for getting online. Traditional cable providers like Xfinity and RCN have long ruled the roost, but the rise of fiber and the emergence of new alternatives like 5G have given internet users across the Chicagoland region more choices than they might realize. Meanwhile, other competitors have been working to expand their footprints, sometimes by way of acquiring the competition outright.

All of that means that now is a great time for Chicagoans to take another look at what’s available at their address. You can use the tool below to do exactly that, and you can keep reading for a rundown of the best, the fastest and the most affordable internet plans available in the city.

Ry Crist/CNET

Comcast Xfinity is the nation’s largest cable provider, and it offers services across a wide majority of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. If you live in the area, or you’re moving there, then the odds are very good that Xfinity will be one of your main internet options.

Per the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast offers gigabit download speeds to 97% of serviceable addresses across the US, which amounts to about 35% of the whole population. In Chicago, you can expect to see 900Mbps and 1,200Mbps plans for $60 or $70 per month during the first year, which is fairly competitive. You’ll need to pay an extra $14 per month to rent the Comcast gateway, but you can skip that fee if you use your own compatible modem and router. For lighter users, the $25-per-month Connect plan (50Mbps), the $40-per-month Connect More plan (100Mbps) and the $50-per-month Fast plan (300Mbps) all stand out as decent values, too. On top of that, Comcast is rated above the industry average for customer satisfaction from both the American Customer Satisfaction Index and from JD Power.

Just be sure to watch out for the 1.2TB data cap and for moderate price hikes of about $15 to $40 after Year 1, and remember that as a cable provider, Comcast’s upload speeds will be much slower than the download speeds. None of those are deal-breakers, though, so unless your home is wired for fiber, Xfinity should be one of the first providers you consider.

Read our Comcast Xfinity home internet review.

 

Ry Crist/CNET

AT&T offers service throughout most of the Chicagoland area, including surrounding suburbs like Evanston, Elgin, Schaumburg, Naperville, Joliet, Tinley Park and others. The company’s fiber internet service is one of the best deals in home internet these days — but the bad news is that most Chicago-area addresses will only be serviceable for one of AT&T’s much slower DSL plans, which also come with data caps.

With speeds no faster than 18Mbps in some neighborhoods, those DSL plans aren’t worth your time if other alternatives are an option, but it’s worth taking a look to see if AT&T’s fiber offerings are available at your address. If so, put AT&T right at the top of your list. For the same price as that 18Mbps DSL plan ($55 per month), fiber customers can get matching upload and download speeds of up to 300Mbps, with no data cap and no prescheduled price increase after the first year. Near-gigabit speeds of 940Mbps are available, too, and while AT&T’s blazing fast multigig plans with speeds of 2 and 5 gigabits per second aren’t available in Chicago yet, it may just be a matter of time.

Read our AT&T home internet review.

 

Verizon

5G home internet plans are a thing now, and they’re pretty tempting, with the promise of reasonably fast speeds, straightforward pricing, no data caps or contracts, and plenty of perks and discounts, especially if you’re already paying the provider for phone service. Your two main options are Verizon and T-Mobile, both of which offer home internet connections in Chicago, but you’ll need to verify that your address gets a strong enough signal to qualify for service.

If fiber isn’t available at your address, it’s worth checking with both providers to see if 5G might be an option. Both are interesting but between the two, I’d start with Verizon. It’s available to fewer households overall than T-Mobile, but it offers speeds 300-980Mbps for $50 per month, which is faster than T-Mobile’s speeds of 35-115Mbps for the same price. Verizon also offers a two-year price guarantee, and a $25 monthly discount if you’re an existing Verizon phone customer.

Read our Verizon 5G Home review.

 

FCC/Mapbox

You won’t find it available in the city, but if you’re living deep in the Chicago suburbs (think DeKalb, Joliet, Rockford) and faster cable and fiber plans are unavailable at your address, then Rise Broadband is definitely worth a look for your home’s internet service.

As a fixed wireless provider, the company can’t promise speeds any faster than 50Mbps, but it does offer relatively fair pricing for rural internet, including plans that don’t come with a data cap, and the $10 price increase after Year 1 is reasonable by ISP standards. It’s really more of an option for homes where slower DSL and satellite connections are the only other alternatives, but if cable, fiber or cellular internet plans won’t work at your address, give Rise Broadband a shot.

Read our Rise Broadband review.

 

Chicago Internet Options Compared

Internet technology Speed range Price range (first year) Price range (after 12 months) Data caps
Air Wans Fixed wireless 3-15Mbps (aggregated upload and download speeds) $50-100 per month Same None
Astound Broadband Cable 110-940Mbps downloads, 15-20Mbps uploads $20-45 per month $121-156 per month None
AT&T Internet DSL 10-100Mbps downloads, 1-20Mbps uploads $55 per month $70 per month 1TB
AT&T Fiber Fiber 300-940Mbps downloads and uploads $55-80 per month Same None
Comcast Xfinity Cable 50-3,000Mbps downloads, 5-3,000Mbps uploads $25-70 per month $49-109 per month 1.2TB
Rise Broadband Fixed wireless 25-50 downloads, 4-5 uploads $25-65 per month $35-75 per month 250GB on some plans
T-Mobile 5G/LTE 35-115Mbps downloads, 6-23Mbps uploads $50 per month Same None
Verizon 5G/LTE 300-980Mbps downloads, 5Mbps uploads $50-70 per month Same None

Other internet providers in Chicago

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 $50-100 per month with no contracts, no data caps, no throttling and no 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 3-15Mbps 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.

Image of Astound Broadband van

Astound Broadband

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 year of service, and Ookla’s speed test data for the fourth quarter of 2021 named Astound as the fastest broadband provider in Chicago. However, monthly rates on all four of the plans offered Chicagoans can shoot up by well over $100 after the first year of service, 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.

Everywhere Wireless
Everywhere Wireless is a Chicago-based internet provider offering fiber speeds of up to 2Gbps (2,000Mbps) to select addresses throughout a semiscattered footprint centered around the downtown area. The company provides free Wi-Fi services at a number of Chicago parks and beaches, as well as at the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and a number of 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, with a focus 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, all of 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 48% of customers.

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Google Fiber Webpass offers high-speed internet connections at select buildings throughout Chicago.


Google

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 will depend upon the specific address in question.

The service costs $63 per month for a yearly plan, or $70 per month for a month-to-month plan with no commitment. You can search for serviceable buildings on Google’s Webpass map here.

Satellite internet via HughesNet, Viasat or Starlink
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-gateway

T-Mobile’s Home Internet gateway connects you to the internet over 5G and LTE airwaves.


Rick Broida/CNET

T-Mobile Home Internet
Like Verizon, T-Mobile now offers cellular home internet service in hundreds of cities across the country, including Chicago. To get connected, 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, same as your phone.

T-Mobile offers just one plan at a set price of $50 per month, and speeds will range from 35-115Mbps 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.

What are the cheapest internet plans in Chicago?

You won’t need to pay more than $50 per month or so at the most if you’re just 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 plan from Comcast is a decent consolation that’s available almost everywhere with download speeds of 50Mbps and upload speeds of 5Mbps. Not blazing fast, but a decent value at $25 per month during the first year. 

Stepping up to Xfinity’s Connect More plan doubles your download speeds to 100Mbps for $40 per month, which is a slightly better value, but to my eye, the best value is the Fast plan, which gets your uploads up to 10Mbps and shoots your download speeds up to 300Mbps for $50 per month during the first year. The cost-per-Mbps for that plan, a rough indicator of value, comes out to about 17 cents, compared to 50 cents and 40 cents for Connect and Connect More, respectively.

Chicago’s least expensive internet plans

Cheapest plan Speeds Monthly rate (first year) Monthly rate (after 12 months) Data caps
Air Wans Basic 3Mbps (downloads and uploads aggregated) $50 $50 No
Astound Broadband 110 Mbps Internet 110Mbps downloads, 15Mbps uploads $20 $121 No
AT&T Internet AT&T Internet 18 18Mbps downloads, 1Mbps uploads $55 $70 1TB
AT&T Fiber Internet 300 300Mbps downloads, 300Mbps uploads $55 $55 No
Comcast Xfinity Connect 50Mbps downloads, 5Mbps uploads $25 $49 1.2TB
Rise Broadband 25Mbps Internet 25Mbps downloads, 4Mbps uploads $25 $35 250GB
T-Mobile Home Internet 35-115Mbps downloads, 6-23Mbps uploads $50 $50 No
Verizon 5G Home 300-980Mbps downloads, 50Mbps uploads $50 $50 No

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 pay it for your cell phone service).

Chicago’s cheapest plan of all comes from Astound Broadband, and it nets you download speeds of 110Mbps and upload speeds of 12Mbps for just $20 per month during the first year. But watch out — according to Astound’s Chicago rate card (which, I might add, is somewhat buried on the Astound website), that price can shoot all the way up to $121 per month after the first year of service.

“It’s important to note that first year promotions do not increase to the standard retail rates published on the rate card … [which are] generally the maximum price that one may pay, and what is published for consumers to reference,” a company spokesperson said when we asked about those rate jumps earlier this year. Still, unless Astound commits publicly to rates lower than those, you’re left at its mercy after the first year is up. Let the internet buyer beware.

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:

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Getty Images

What are the fastest internet plans in Chicago?

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, multigig plans with speeds as high as 5Gbps are available elsewhere in the nation from AT&T, but they haven’t 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. “Throughout 2022, AT&T will continue to roll out multigig 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 Everywhere Wireless 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 Everywhere Wireless is available, you’ll be connecting via fixed wireless at much slower speeds.

Comcast also advertises multigig fiber plans, including one with upload and download speeds of up to 3Gbps. However, that plan is only available at a tiny fraction of serviceable addresses nationwide. At almost all Chicago addresses, a cable plan with download speeds of up to 1.2Gbps and upload speeds of 35Mbps will be the fastest plan you can get. It’s fairly well-priced at $70 per month, but that shoots up to $109 per month after the first year.

Chicago Internet FAQs

Can I get fiber internet in Chicago?

It depends on your address. AT&T offers fiber service in Chicago, but its footprint currently covers “hundreds of thousands” of residents in a city of 2.71 million. That means that the odds are somewhat low that you’ll find it to be available at your address. Smaller regional providers like Everywhere Wireless offer fiber service at select addresses, too, but only to a scattering of buildings throughout the city.

How much is internet per month in Chicago?

Prices will vary depending on your provider and the plan you select, but most entry-level internet plans in Chicago range from $25 to $50 per month. Faster plans will cost more, with gigabit service from AT&T costing $80 per month in Chicago. Some providers enforce a price increase after your first year — Comcast Xfinity’s fastest Chicago plan nets you download speeds of 1.2Gbps and costs $70 per month for the first year, then $109 per month after that.

What are the disadvantages of cable internet?

Though cable internet is capable of offering fast, gigabit-level download speeds over the same wiring traditionally used to deliver television signals, it offers upload speeds that are much slower, and typically limited to the double digits, at best. That can limit device performance whenever you’re sending lots of data to the web (video calls and large uploads might be slower than you’d like, for instance). Cable is also slightly more susceptible to network slowdowns than fiber connections are.



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