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Now that many internet providers are ramping up speeds to remain competitive, streamers, gamers, and cord cutters have a lot more options to choose from. In the past, 1 Gbps or 1,000 Mbps plans (also known as ‘Gigabit’ plans) were rare and expensive. Now, they are becoming more commonplace and affordable.
So, how can we determine the best Gigabit internet plans on the market in 2021? First, we will look at the following criteria:
These are the three most important factors when choosing between internet providers. Additional factors like ‘freebies,’ no-contract plan flexibility, and data caps will also be considered. However, these features are usually customizable with most major internet providers.
At first glance, the CenturyLink Fiber Gigabit plan may not deliver the fastest speeds, but our research and testing have found that CenturyLink offers the best gigabit plan overall. The first thing that caught our eye is CenturyLink’s transparent pricing and how much cheaper it is than other fiber providers. Sure, AT&T has the cheapest monthly rate ($60 a month), but that advantage disappears when you include their equipment fee and price hike after the first year.
CenturyLink’s fiber internet is available in select cities across the country, reaching approximately 21 million people. This makes CenturyLink the 4th largest provider of residential fiber internet in the country. However, one downside is that actual plan speeds vary widely depending on where you live. It’s normal for actual speeds to be lower than advertised speeds, so expect to see about 80-90 percent of the speeds CenturyLink advertises.
That said, the CenturyLink Fiber Gigabit plan also comes with some additional perks. First, this plan features no contracts, no Early Termination Fees (ETFs), and no data caps. You also get free installation and a free wireless modem.
Let’s take a closer look at the top five Gigabit internet plans to see how they stack up:
There are some major differences in pricing and even speed among the top five Gigabit providers. However, the table above does not tell the whole story. So, let’s see how all five plans compare when it comes to actual speed, price, and network size:
According to BroadbandNow, here’s how the top five Gigabit internet-only providers compare when it comes to average download speeds nationwide. Keep in mind that these are overall averages, not just gigabit plan averages.
Clearly, Verizon Fios provides the best average download speeds across its network. But while this is valuable information, it isn’t the whole story. These numbers cover all of the plans each provider offers, not just the Gigabit plans. We’ve found that the CenturyLink Fiber Gigabit plan offers respectable speeds of up to 80-90% of what’s advertised, which would amount to around eight or nine times the average CenturyLink speed listed here! While CenturyLink may not be delivering high speeds to all of its customers, it is treating gigabit customers in most cities well.
Now that we’ve seen who performs best with speeds, let’s take a look at prices. It’s important to note that we will only work with the information that is available as of November 2020. Prices are liable to change in the coming months. Additionally, some providers do not provide information regarding their standard pricing. In any case, here are the top five Gigabit plans ranked by their standard price:
While it would appear in the table above that AT&T provides the cheapest Gigabit plan, it’s important to note that this is just the promotional rate for the first year of service. Since AT&T does not advertise its standard rate, it’s difficult to say with certainty how much you would pay after the first year of service. So, while AT&T does technically offer the cheapest prices from the start, CenturyLink offers the cheapest monthly premiums for the long-term at just $65 per month.
Finally, we will look at how the five Gigabit providers compare based on the total number of states in which they offer their services:
While CenturyLink provides coverage across the nation, AT&T is technically the largest provider of residential fiber internet. This is due to its concentration in densely-populated cities throughout the south and midwest. In fact, AT&T’s fiber network reaches approximately 36 million people, while CenturyLink reaches about 21 million people.
Now that we’ve covered the most important factors, it’s time to consider additional features and perks of each service:
As you can see, Verizon offers the most incentives to choose their Gigabit plan. That said, CenturyLink and AT&T both offer similarly enticing offers. This ranking is somewhat subjective, as I think CenturyLink’s free installation and free modem/router are better offers than AT&T’s gift card and TV bundling options. However, you may think differently if you’re looking to bundle plans together. In any case, it’s easy to see that Frontier and Cox offer far fewer perks than any of their competitors.
Now that we’ve crunched all the numbers, it’s time to see why CenturyLink offers the best all-around Gigabit plan. To keep things simple, we’ve given a score out of 100 for each ranking:
Additionally, each category has a weighted score as follows:
So, let’s see how the top five Gigabit providers compare based on their final scores:
Whether or not you should go with a Gigabit plan will depend on your specific needs. That said, none of the plans on the market deliver average speeds that come close to what is advertised. So, if you want to get the most bang for your buck, you might need to go with a lower speed fiber plan.
However, this will also depend on the provider and the individual plan. For example, the next step down in CenturyLink fiber plans is the Fiber 100, which advertises download speeds up to 100 Mbps at $49 per month. This plan has a monthly data cap of 1 GB and does not come with a free modem/router like the CenturyLink Gigabit plan.
The router rental fee for this plan is $10 per month and you’ll have to pay overage fees if you go beyond your monthly data cap. Therefore, you might be better off just paying the additional $16 per month for the Gigabit plan. In any case, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of each plan and provider before making a decision.
If you’d like to upgrade to a Gigabit internet plan, you can simply contact your current internet provider to see if they offer something comparable. In the event that your provider does not have a Gigabit plan, you can learn more about switching to the plans outlined above at the following links:
It’s important to note that all but one of these plans operate on a fiber network. While you may be able to use a cable modem or router that you already own with Cox Internet Gigablast, all of the other plans will require you to use modems designed for fiber-optic internet. So, if you’d like to make the change to a Gigabit plan, you’ll likely need to have a professional install your new internet setup.