In the broadband speed race, every internet service provider wants to claim the title of America’s fastest. In the second quarter of 2023, that company was Spectrum, according to Ookla, an Internet speed-test provider that collects data with its Speedtest.net tool. CNET frequently uses its findings to help inform our insights into internet service provider reviews. Of course, when it comes to broadband service, there are many variables — and your own results may vary.
Spectrum Internet, Charter Communications’ cable internet service, maintained its position with a median download speed of 243 megabits per second, up from its previous mark of 235Mbps. That put it just ahead of the second-place ISP, Cox, which finished the second quarter of 2023 with a median download speed of approximately 242Mbps, a significant jump from the 219Mbps it registered earlier in the year. In fact, of the seven providers listed at the top of the charts, only AT&T posted a bigger leap over the last three months, going from 180Mbps — and seventh place on the chart — to 210Mbps and a fourth-place finish.
To be eligible for Ookla’s study, a provider must be cited in 3% or more of the total test data collected during the three-month window. That means some super-fast regional providers could deliver higher median download speeds than those included in the study but don’t have a high-enough install base to meet the threshold.
That begs the next question: Does Spectrum’s current status as Ookla’s fastest internet provider mean it offers the fastest internet plans across the country? Not exactly. It does give further evidence of the consistency of a cable internet connection. For example, the fastest plan that Spectrum offers nationwide is a gigabit offering that tops out at 940Mbps. That doesn’t compare to the 5-gigabit fiber internet tier that both AT&T and Frontier can offer customers across more than 100 cities across the US. However, both providers also have prevalent DSL plans across their national footprint. Not only is DSL far inferior to fiber internet, but it also falls short of cable.
As we stress in CNET’s ISP reviews, speed test data can give a decent snapshot of how your internet connection is performing at any given moment, but it’s not definitive. Many factors impact a speed test, including whether or not you’re using Wi-Fi or a hardwired Ethernet connection, the time of day you’re running the test and other variables.
Also worth noting: just because Ookla reports Spectrum’s median download speed as 243Mbps, that doesn’t mean every Spectrum customer will get the same results. Rather, it’s a benchmark that shows what a “typical” US customer might expect from their ISP.
An Ookla spokesperson told CNET via email that Ookla’s report aims to “more accurately represent the typical performance that consumers actually experience on a network.”
We’ll be watching to see if 5G home internet services — like T-Mobile Home Internet (which now boasts over 3 million customers) or Verizon 5G Home Internet — can clear the 3% threshold and impact these national numbers later this year.