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.
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.
|City||Fiber coverage reported||Local population with fiber access reported|
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.
Spectrum internet from Charter Communications has a cable coverage area comprising just over 50% of all households in the state. 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, meaning that consumer bills commonly increase 31% or more after the first 12 months of service. Spectrum deals for existing customers are scarce.
Xfinity is the second-largest cable internet provider in California, with coverage reaching a reported almost 34% of households within the state. They reported coverage in 139,236 census blocks with the FCC in 2020.
Xfinity offers a variety of plans, although like most cable companies, they do not extend promotions for existing customers. Xfinity pricing is variable compared with Spectrum, and can differ widely based on location.
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. New customers cannot access promotional rates, but can lower their Cox bill by cord-cutting or annual negotiation calls. 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.
|Provider||Service Type||Percent of CA households covered|
|Ultimate Internet Access, Inc.||Fixed Wireless||33%|
|Etheric Networks, Inc.||Fixed Wireless||18%|
|Frontier Communications Corporation||Fiber||13%|
|unWired Broadband Inc||Fixed Wireless||9%|
|Cruzio Internet||Fixed Wireless||8%|
|Starry, Inc.||Fixed Wireless||4%|
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:
|Network technology||Population covered||Coverage percent|
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.
We publish practical guides to help regular California residents navigate the internet safely and effectively.