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19 December 2022 · 14 min. read
PC Mag:

The Best Gaming ISPs for 2023

Broadband speed is important, which is why we've run our Fastest ISPs franchise for close to a decade—but for gamers, speed is essential. And to win those online battles, you also need a connection with minimal latency (the time it takes for an internet packet to travel from its source to its destination) and jitter (which checks the consistency of the latency). That’s how you measure connection quality. Every year we take the thousands of tests results we collect on the PCMag Speed Test tool(Opens in a new window) and combine average latency and jitter measurements to come up with our Gaming Quality Index. The ISPs with the lowest scores are the best for gaming.

For more information on how we rate ISPs, jump to the full methodology below. Note that in our interactive charts, you can click items in the legend to hide them.

The Best Gaming ISPs

In the US, competition among ISPs is rare. Monopolies are rampant, conglomerates squeeze out smaller players, and politics plays a part: In some states(Opens in a new window), municipalities aren’t legally allowed to provide internet service or are prevented from getting the funding needed to make those connections happen.

That’s why you see two winners when we present Best Gaming ISPs (and the Fastest ISPs) winners each year. The first is for Major ISPs, those giant companies that have at least a million customers and also manage to garner more than 1,000 tests during the past year via our PCMag Speed Test.

We collect the rest of the ISPs in our results into the All ISPs category. The only requirement: Each must deliver at least 100 tests, whether they're being rated nationally, regionally, or in a state. Here are this year’s fastest.

Let’s dive into the major ISPs first. Though it appears that this is Verizon's game to lose, results have fluctuated enough in the last few years that other major ISPs could topple Fios as our winner. Considering how much of its broadband network Verizon has sold off, a win for the company seemed less sure than ever this year. And the 20.5 Quality Index score that Fios earns this year isn’t the best it has posted—that was 16.9, in 2020.

Had that quality index gone in the wrong direction (up), second-place Optimum, now at 25.6, might have won. Luckily for Fios, Verizon has improved connection quality enough to hold the line and remain our Best Gaming ISP going into 2023.

Optimum ranked second last year and the year before that. Third place is also a repeat: RCN, which changed its name to Astound Broadband this year. (We previously combined Astound’s scores in our 2022 Fastest ISPs story, because it comprises three merged ISPs—RCN, Grande, and Wave. But the company continues to separate out the three in the geoIP data used in our tests, so we’ll keep them separate as well.) Comcast Xfinity remains in our fourth spot again this year: It's only when we get to fifth place that a new ISP leapfrogs in, with Cox moving up from seventh place last year.

One new player is in the top-10 list of major ISPs for gaming quality this year. Not Breezeline—that’s simply the rebranding for Cogeco’s Atlantic Broadband, which, after many acquisitions, is no longer limited to customers on the Atlantic coast. Last year, it placed sixth, but falls this year to eighth.

The new name supplanting WOW! in the top 10 is Frontier Communications. Read about Frontier's problems in our previous Fastest ISPs coverage to understand why we don’t currently recommend the company. Seeing Frontier in these results showcases why great speed or a quality connection alone aren't the only things you should consider. That's assuming you have options, which many people do not.

To see the rankings of all ISPs in the United States—at least, those that have 100 tests—check out the chart below. Even with that requirement, there are plenty. Broadbandnow.com states that, as of this writing, there are 2,869(Opens in a new window) ISPs in the US; 1,605 of those use fiber-optic connections, making them potentially capable of offering the best gaming quality.

Not that we don’t see repeat providers. Last year’s winner—Sonic, in California—is back, now in second place because of a slightly higher Gaming Quality Index that rose from 6.6 to 7.3. Other vendors that return to the top 10 are Hotwire, Google Fiber, and EPB. A couple of municipal/local ISPs we haven’t seen before make the list, including i3 Broadband which operates fiber networks in Illinois and Rhode Island, and PSC, a small provider in Indiana.

None of the ISPs mentioned could compare with the local provider in Longmont, Colorado: Nextlight(Opens in a new window) exists because its citizens voted to overturn a Colorado restriction that prevented any local government from providing or partnering to provide high-speed internet. The company was able to launch the state’s first “Gig City.” It surpasses that speed this year with tiers reaching 2.5, 5, and 10 gigabit-per-second download speeds. To see this, click the Speed Index tab above—Nextlight’s throughput is second only to Sonic's.

Nextlight’s 5.3 is the second-best national Gaming Quality Index score we’ve ever seen. The best was DirectLink (a member-owned cooperative ISP in Oregon) with a score of 5.2 in 2020.

As always, the lists are peppered with the small yet fast ISPs that prove that, for the most part, going with an agile local provider is going to pay off when it comes to the quality of your gameplay.

Best Gaming ISPs by State

In this map, as in the past, we look at states by location, showing which have the best cumulative scores for gaming quality across every ISP connection.

Like last year, North Dakota steals the title, thanks almost entirely to the exceptionally fast Midco, its primary fiber broadband provider. Its results aren't diluted by the lower quality scores of thousands of other connections. The same holds true for South Dakota, though it doesn't score quite as well. California comes close, thanks to the abundance of tests from Sonic users.

In addition, we've calculated the best gaming ISP in every state. This comes with the requirement, again, that to be measured, each ISP has to have at least 100 tests from within that state. That’s why you don’t see Empire Access—the winner of our Northeast region Best Gaming ISP title, below—for example. It has over 100 tests across the region but less than 100 in either New York or Pennsylvania.

The table below is searchable by name of the state or ISP to narrow things down; you can also reorder each column by clicking on the header. Note that the table includes all the ISPs for each state with over 100 tests, regardless of each ISP's Gaming Quality Index score. So some of those scores are not great: in particular the satellite-based ISPs (more on those below). To see which is the fastest, click to the second page; you’ll find a heat map showing the Best Gaming ISP for all fifty states plus the District of Columbia. You can zoom in, but we'll reveal that in DC, it's Comcast Xfinity at 42.7.

Best Gaming ISPs by State: Fast Facts

  • The ISP with the most state wins for Best Gaming ISP: Spectrum, in 7 states
  • Best PCMag Speed Index Score of a high-gaming-quality ISP: Sonic, at 921.3
  • Best Gaming Quality Index score for a fast ISP not mentioned elsewhere: TG Communications in Kentucky, with a 480.9 Speed Index score and a Gaming Quality Index score of 30.8
  • Number of states showing more than 100 Starlink tests: 8
  • Number of states showing more than 100 Comcast Xfinity tests: 31
  • Best Gaming ISP for Hawaii: Spectrum (29.4)
  • States with only one ISP with 100 tests: North Dakota (Midco, with a score of 15.2), South Dakota (Midco, 25.1), Alaska (GCI, 25.7), and Montana (Spectrum, 30.5)

Best Gaming ISPs by US Region

If you want to widen your options and find gaming-friendly broadband across a swath of states, we also break down winners in the six major regions that make up the continental US.

North Central

The fluctuations in top gaming-quality ISPs in the north-central states have always been wild, with providers including Allo, Google Fiber, and FairlawnGig taking the title in the last few years (all make the top 10 going into 2023). This year, a new name takes center stage, with a Gaming Quality Index of 8.4, which bests all the rest—PSC(Opens in a new window), in St. Meinrad, Indiana. It has a 1-gigabyte plan covering areas of its home state and parts of Kentucky.

Northeast

The region stretching from Washington, DC, to Maine is dominated by large ISPs such as Verizon, Optimum, RCN-powered Astound, Armstrong, Comcast, and Spectrum, all of which appear in the top 10 for the region in that order. But the small company Empire Access(Opens in a new window), which services the New York southern tier and slightly into Pennsylvania, takes the title. That’s the same Empire Access that previously won as the Fastest ISP for 2021 and was fastest in the Northeast in 2022. It recently expanded service into bigger cities, including Binghamton, NY.

Northwest

A couple of years ago, Comcast Xfinity had the best Gaming Quality Index score in the Northwest. But last year, it was pushed aside by a number of smaller providers, including Hunter Communications, Google Fiber, Ting, Nextlight, and Visionary (in that order). All but Hunter came back this time around. And Nextlight(Opens in a new window)—which takes the title of Best Gaming ISP across all ISPs, above—is, naturally, in the pole position for the region. That 5.3 score is closely followed by 5.8 for Ting, represented here by its locations in Colorado and Indiana. In fourth place for gaming quality is Fort Collins Connexion, a local gigabit provider also in Colorado, in a town that we named one of the Best Work-From-Home Cities.

South Central

Last year, the southern-central states, dominated by Texas, came down to a two-ISP race for best gaming quality between Google Fiber and Frontier; the latter bought a lot of what used to be Verizon Fios networks there. This year is the same: Google Fiber’s Gaming Quality Index score worsened slightly, and Frontier’s improved—but not enough to overtake Google Fiber, which has a strong presence in Austin. Comcast Xfinity saw a major improvement with its score going from 34.2 last year (10th place) to 27.6 this year (3rd place).

Southeast

Hotwire(Opens in a new window), a provider mainly for condos and apartment buildings in the southeastern states, took this area’s Best Gaming ISP title a couple of years ago. Last year, it was supplanted by EPB in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This year, the two nearly swap the scores they earned previously. Hotwire provides as much as 10 gigabytes to a building. Nice improvements in quality index scores include those for HTC (Horry Telephone Cooperative) in South Carolina, which moved from 27.5 down to 13.4, and Google Fiber, from 21.2 to 14. On the other hand, South Carolina’s Comporium almost doubled its index number and dropped to 10th place.

Southwest

Anyone surprised to see Sonic crush it with a 7.0 Gaming Quality Index score in the Southwest shouldn't be: The Bay Area ISP’s service regularly outperforms its own download speed with even faster uploads. Sonic’s quality number is only a bit higher than last year's. Consolidated remains in second place, Cox jumps from sixth to third, and Frontier goes from ninth to fourth—all decent quality improvements from big-name ISPs. Many of the rest stay the same or move the wrong way on the list, such as Astound (Wave), which drops from third to ninth place by almost doubling its score.

The Best Gaming ISPs by Metro City

We wanted to delve a little deeper into the city level by looking at ISPs providing quality connections. But even limiting our scope to the 20 metro municipalities with the biggest population (as of the 2020 census(Opens in a new window)), we quickly ran into the limitation of our strict rule of having a minimum of 100 tests per ISP per location, which ensures the data is valid. It leaves a number of ISPs out of the running, even if they do have a large number of users in a specific city. (Be sure to run the PCMag Speed Test(Opens in a new window) so your town can appear on this list in the future.)

For example, you see only one result for several large cities. That’s because only one ISP manages more than 100 tests there: AT&T. We don’t delineate AT&T's different types of connectivity in our charts—fiber, home service, wireless—as the company doesn't differentiate it itself in the GeoIP data we receive with test results. So at AT&T’s request, we run with the caveat above: AT&T results may include speed tests from any and all of those connections. That means AT&T isn’t really in the running as the best-quality connection in any of our results, but it doesn’t mean you should not consider AT&T Fiber, if it's an option.

What we can substantiate among the cities here: The highest Gaming Quality Index scores in big cities both go to one ISP, Sonic, for its connections in San Francisco (6.9) and San Jose (8.7). The next best goes to Astound Broadband (RCN) in New York with a score of 16.3, closely followed by Verizon Fios at 18.3.  The fifth fastest is Los Angeles’s Spectrum (19.5).

Satellite ISP and Wireless Carrier Gaming Quality

Some types of ISPs lack the quality and speed to deliver for multi-player gaming. At the top of those lists are satellite-based ISPs and wireless carriers.

The exception could be fixed-wireless providers(Opens in a new window), which we don’t get a lot of tests for in our results because of their limited availability even in big cities. Another possible exception would be wireless carriers' best 5G connections, but we don’t see that quality reflected in our tests.

Like last year, SpaceX's Starlink is the only satellite ISPs any gamer should consider. It now has over half a million subscribers, though, and its speeds are suffering and will be capped because of the growth. There’s been an increase in Starlink’s Gaming Quality Index score, which rose from 59.6 last year to 73.3 this year.

That said, Starlink has the best-quality score for a satellite-based ISP. Viasat and Hughes, the only other competitors in that realm, have scores that are approximately 11 times and 14 times higher, respectively (remember, lower is better here). For a hands-only look at Starlink gaming, read Is Starlink Good for Gaming? We Put SpaceX's Satellite Service to the Test.

Almost everyone is using their wireless carrier’s data plan as an ISP at times, and we see those tests as well. These providers won't help you win at Fortnite.

Google Fi doesn't make our results this year—it led last year with a score of 67.6—but we saw a little improvement with the big three. Last year, they were all fairly flat, with index numbers in the high 90s. This year, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile tie with Gaming Quality Index scores of 89.1. There was no breakout in our data for users of T-Mobile Home Internet or Verizon Home Internet. Both are a form of fixed wireless that use each carrier’s respective 5G networks for backhaul connections to the internet. Tests from those home services are likely lumped into these quality index numbers.

AT&T Wireless suffered a big gain in the Gaming Quality Index score, and US Cellular also went up a bit, so both remain behind T-Mobile and Verizon. These are not the internet connections you want if your games depend on a hair-trigger reaction time.

Our Testing Methodology

The results of this story are based on the PCMag Gaming Quality Index, which is determined by adding together the numbers we have for each test’s latency (measured in the milliseconds of time it takes for a signal to travel from source to destination) and jitter (which checks the consistency of the latency).

The lower the average Gaming Quality Index, the better the ISP should be for gamers. It allows for a direct comparison between ISPs on the national, state, or regional level, and even comparison between different locations.

Use the Speed Index tab to see how the same lineup of ISPs appears when comparing speed. A higher number is better here. Speed and connection quality do not always line up—that is to say, a faster ISP may not always have the best quality.

All tests in this story were performed between December 1, 2021, and December 5, 2022. We used 337,521 US-based tests to quantify the results.

(If you're north of the border, read The Best Gaming ISPs for Canada for 2023.)

Test Your Internet Speed

All the scores here are based on measurements gathered via the PCMag Speed Test tool(Opens in a new window), which you can use below. For the best results, run it on a PC over an Ethernet connection, disable your VPN, and pause streaming media. The test provides us your geoIP location, ISP name, download speed, upload speed, jitter, and latency.

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