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. All the major telecom companies in LA offer low income plans.

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 smaller alternative internet providers, including wired broadband resellers as well as a local fixed 5G startup.

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

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.

Spectrum Cable

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.

Comcast Xfinity

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 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. 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.

Top Residential Internet Providers

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.

ConnectCalifornia Consumer Internet Guides

We publish practical guides to help regular California residents navigate the internet safely and effectively.

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Last Update: January 23, 2021
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