California Internet Service Facts & Statistics

California may be the heart of the internet economy, but the state is also at the center of some of the biggest issues facing broadband deployment in the US. As of 2021, 2.3 million California residents live in single-provider monopolies. While there are 137 residential internet providers in the state, most homes only have access to 1–2 options above 25 Mbps.

20.5 Mbps is the median average download speed recorded on California residential internet connections
25% of California has access to fiber-optic internet service
$149 Million Awarded by the FCC Connect America Fund to California ISPs serving rural areas in 2019
893,000+ California residents don't have access to internet at their home
137 residential internet providers in California
99.9% of California households have at least 1 Mbps mobile LTE coverage

Internet Access in California Cities

California accounts for 12% of the US population, with 87% of California residents living in major urban centers like Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco. The greater Los Angeles area alone has an equivalent GDP to the country of Turkey.

In spite of this, California often struggles to keep up when it comes to internet infrastructure. Only around half of Los Angeles can get fiber internet service, with many neighborhoods and apartment buildings limited to a single monoply provider.

Los Angeles Internet Access

The primary incumbent internet providers in Los Angeles are Spectrum cable and AT&T fiber, with coverage including the following LA neighborhoods: Koreatown, Silverlake, Hollywood, Echo Park, Atwater Village, Los Feliz. There are also a number of smaller local internet alternatives in LA.

San Diego Internet Access

San Diego is primarily served by Spectrum, Cox, and AT&T. The city is also one of the first markets with public-private partnerships with Verizon to provide fixed 5G.

San Francisco Internet Access

The primary incumbent internet providers in San Francisco are Comcast Xfinity cable and AT&T DSL/Fiber. San Francisco has a number of smaller alternative internet providers, including wired broadband resellers as well as a local fixed wireless provider.

Internet Service Access in Top California Cities

CityFiber coverage reportedLocal population with fiber access reported
Los Angeles66.52%2,422,473
San Diego62.86%785,389
San Francisco65.31%520,532
Sacramento53.87%239,765
Bakersfield38.03%116,347
Long Beach95.66%419,797
Anaheim54.76%160,715
Fresno57.42%243,589
Oakland70.33%261,784
San Jose44.63%379,644
Santa Ana61.27%186,647
Riverside59.94%174,100

Major Internet Service Providers in California

While there are 183 ISPs in California, the vast majority of service is provided by just a handful of major cable and copper wired telecom providers. Spectrum and Comcast alone account for 85% of cable coverage in California as measured by population within footprint. AT&T's DSL footprint, meanwhile, covers 71% of the state.

Accounting for residential, business, and enterprise companies across all technology types (excluding satellite internet and some municipal providers), 137 offer residential service, while 162 offer business services. 116 offer both residential and business service.

Rural internet in California is generally as question of DSL vs satellite internet, or fixed wireless. As of 2021, Elon Musk's Starlink project is still being tested — if successful, it's expected to bring the speed and price of rural broadband more in line with suburban options, or at least reduce the high cost of satellite service through market competition.

Spectrum Cable

Spectrum internet from Charter Communications has a cable coverage area comprising just over 50% of all households in the state. Their coverage is primarily in Southern California, including Los Angeles. They have 230,228 census blocks registered for residential cable service within California.

Spectrum has 3 plan tiers: Standard, Ultra, and GIG. Their pricing strategy includes tiered pricing and WiFi leasing fees, meaning that consumer bills commonly increase 31% or more after the first 12 months of service. Spectrum cancellation is managed by phone or in-person. Spectrum deals for existing customers, seniors, and veterans are scarce. The cheapest Spectrum plans start at $49.99, while pricing for Spectrum sports packages starts at $89.98.

Spectrum's largest markets in California outside LA are Long Beach, Bakersfield, Anaheim, and Riverside.

Comcast Xfinity

Xfinity is the second-largest cable internet provider in California, with coverage reaching a reported almost 34% of households within the state, primarily serving Northern California, including the Bay Area. They reported coverage in 139,236 census blocks with the FCC in 2020.

Xfinity offers a variety of plans, including a Gigabit plan. Like most cable companies, they do not extend promotions for existing customers, and do not have a dedicated senior discount. Xfinity pricing is variable compared with Spectrum, includes WiFi equipment fees, and can differ widely based on location. The cheapest Xfinity plans start at $29.99.

Comcast's largest markets outside San Francisco are San Jose, Sacramento, and Fresno.

Cox Cable

Cox is the third-largest cable internet provider in California by coverage area, reaching approximately 9% of state households according to FCC filings. They registered 38,743 census blocks with the FCC in their most recent 2020 coverage dataset.

Cox offers several promotional plans for new customers, including a gigabit download coaxial offering advertised as Gigablast. Existing customers can access promotional rates, which increase after 12 months. Customers can lower their Cox bill by cord-cutting, removing WiFi fees, or annual negotiation calls with their cancellation department. Due to competition from Google Fiber and AT&T Fiber, Cox is keen to retain existing cable subscribers, especially if they have a TV bundle.

Cox's coverage area is primarily around Orange County and San Diego.

AT&T Internet

AT&T has the single largest broadband footprint in California, with their DSL network alone comprising 71% of state broadband access. Their growing Fiber-to-the-Home footprint extends to 17% of California households, and has been growing into 2021.

AT&T internet pricing is broken into fiber and DSL consumer service areas, with the DSL area commonly advertised as IPBB service. There are no AT&T senior discounts or veteran & military discounts, but they do offer low-income plans with age-related qualifications. As of 2021, the company does not prorate bills when customers cancel AT&T internet service. They have folded most of their TV offerings other than DirecTV into a streaming service called AT&T TV.

AT&T's largest coverage areas outside Los Angeles are in San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento.

AT&T's largest fiber markets in California are LA, San Francisco, San Deigo, San Jose, and Sacramento

Sonic Internet

Sonic is the largest competative local exchange carrier serving consumers with wired broadband in California, with their service mostly centered around San Francisco and the Bay Area. Their FCC filings show 2% Fiber-to-the-Home coverage in California, however due to delays in processing and expansion efforts we believe the actual footprint size is closer to 3–6%, as measured by population in footprint.

Sonic has a growing fiber footprint in the Bay Area, which is extending into Oakland in 2021. They also offer IPBB service resold on the AT&T network, including in the LA area.

Frontier Fios

Frontier is the second-largest copper and consumer fiber provider in California, having purchased Verizon's Fios network in the area back in 2015. Their DSL network covers an estimated 24% of California households, with a fiber network extending to 13% of the state.

Frontier has been undergoing a bankruptcy process starting in 2020 and going into 2021, resulting in a large network sale of their footprint to Ziply Fiber in the Pacific Northwest region. It's not clear if Frontier will retain, sell, or be forced to sell their California network in the coming year. Frontier cancellation is only possible by phone. Existing Frontier customers may lower their bills by calling to request discount extensions.

Top Residential Internet Providers

Our website also covers some local ISPs with footprints in the Western US, primarily Ziply Fiber. We've catalogued Ziply's prices after 12 months, senior discounts, cancellation process, and a full review of their fiber Gig plan.
ProviderService TypePercent of CA households covered
AT&T InternetDSL71%
Charter SpectrumCable50%
Comcast XfinityCable34%
Ultimate Internet Access, Inc.Fixed Wireless33%
Frontier CommunicationsDSL23%
Etheric Networks, Inc.Fixed Wireless18%
AT&T FiberFiber17%
Frontier Communications CorporationFiber13%
unWired Broadband IncFixed Wireless9%
Sonic FiberDSL9%
Cox CableCable9%
Cruzio InternetFixed Wireless8%
Starry, Inc.Fixed Wireless4%
Vast NetworksFiber4%

Broadband competition in California

While California has hundreds of individual ISPs, the average household only has one or two wired internet options that's capable of delivering service above 100 Mbps download. This is because outside areas where fiber has been built out, service is delivered over telephone and cable TV lines — both businesses that historically hold franchises or exclusive rights to regions, with the result on only one TV line and one telephone line per building.

Most homes in California have a choice between decent but crowded cable lines, telephone lines limited to 25 Mbps download or less, or — if they're lucky — fiber from a telephone company or via an overbuilder like Sonic or Google Fiber.

The following are the most common provider choices within the California region:

Internet Infrastructure in California

Network technologyPopulation coveredCoverage percent
Cable35,499,59395%
DSL35,433,25795%
Fiber18,627,61750%
Fixed Wireless28,621,46477%

The table above shows percent coverage of each major network type in California according to the latest FCC Form 477 data release (2020).

Note that due to over-reporting by providers, coverage at the building level is not as robust as this data presents. Fixed wireless service from providers like Starry Internet, in particular, has much lower coverage than it appears based on FCC data sources — which are currently the only public source of national broadband data.

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Last Update: October 22, 2021
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