- Despite being the capital of tech in the US, San Francisco has a somewhat limited market for home broadband.
- Comcast and AT&T are the primary wired options for most residents, alongside more limited fiber and wireless service from WebPass (Google) and Sonic.
- The average Internet speed available in San Francisco is 87.39 Mbps.
Best Residential Internet Providers
Having combed through the details on every provider in the area, we’ve selected these as our top picks for residential service in San Francisco.
XFINITY from Comcast - Top Pick
- Pricing: $2999 - $6999
- Max Down: 1,000 Mbps
- Max Up: 35 Mbps
Xfinity from Comcast wins our top pick by combining fast, reliable cable Internet with future-focused digital TV services including basic cable, mobile viewing, and the smart TV platform X1. We generally recommend them for customers who want to step up from the more limited speeds offered on DSL plans.
AT&T Internet - Runner Up
- Pricing: $3000 - $4000
- Max Down: 1,000 Mbps
- Max Up: 1,000 Mbps
AT&T Internet offers service throughout the vast majority of the metro area, and their speeds have improved drastically over the past few years thanks to upgrades to their fiber-DSL network structure. AT&T also offers TV plans through DirecTV that includes premium channels and sports offerings.
Residential Internet Providers Available in San Francisco
San Fran has a variety of options for Internet service companies. The only catch is that many of them are only available in specific areas or buildings. Here’s a full list of options for residential Internet service in “Fog City.”
|$3000+|| 99% |
|$2999+|| 99% |
|$17900+|| 100% |
|N/A|| 78% |
|$1995+|| 22% |
|$4499+|| 3% |
|$5999+|| 100% |
|$5000+|| 100% |
|$6995+|| 60% |
|$4998+|| 1% |
Best Business Internet Providers
While the residential market is often limited, the business Internet market in San Fran is a bit more lively.
As you might expect for the tech capital of the world, world-class broadband is available virtually everywhere for the right price. Here’s our pick for a provider that offers good “across the board” value for the most common business broadband speeds and features.
XFINITY from Comcast - Business Pick
- Max Down: 1,000 Mbps
- Max Up: 35 Mbps
Affordability and scalability are the key differentiators for Comcast Business plans. It’s a flexible option that’s suitable for fast-growing medium-sized businesses in particular. They offer VoIP, cloud services, and many other enterprise features.
Business Internet Providers Available in San Francisco
Neighborhoods aren’t created equal in San Francisco, and this fact is reflected clearly in broadband options, both business and residential. Here’s a full list of business Internet companies in the San Fran area so you can compare options in your specific zip code.
|$5000+|| 92% |
|$6995+|| 77% |
|$33900+|| 100% |
|$4995+|| 12% |
|$5000+|| 19% |
|N/A|| 18% |
|$6999+|| 93% |
|$9999+|| 100% |
|$14995+|| 81% |
|N/A|| 7% |
|N/A|| 11% |
|$4998+|| 19% |
|N/A|| 37% |
|N/A|| 11% |
Map of Broadband Internet Competition in San Francisco
See the map below for a picture of how competitive the San Francisco broadband market is overall.
As you can see, many residents only have one or two real options when it comes to affordable, high-speed wired broadband.
Broadband advocates in the area are hopeful that millimeter wave wireless options and other low-infrastructure options can leapfrog issues with local governmental regulations and make first-class Internet speeds a reality for all San Fran residents in the near future.
Provider Competition Map
San Francisco Internet Speed Overview
The top speed recorded in San Francisco is 185.59 Mbps, although there are plans offering better performance and likely delivering it. Meanwhile, the average accounting for all neighborhoods within city limits is closer to 87.39 Mbps according to our latest speed test dataset.
|Average Speed||90th Percentile Speed|
|87.39 Mbps||185.59 Mbps|
Average Residential download speeds within San Francisco
Top Factors to Consider When Shopping for Internet Service in San Francisco
The benefit of cable is that it generally has better speeds and offers good bundle deals if you also want TV service. The main cable provider in San Fran is Comcast Xfinity, along with their X1 TV platform.
DSL is often seen as the second choice due to the older phone-line infrastructure it travels on. However, it can get the upper hand on cable in some cases depending on your distance from the local provider office. It also offers a dedicated line vs the shared bandwidth cable offers within neighborhoods, so you’ll see less slowdown during peak use hours when everyone starts streaming Netflix in the evening.
Regardless of whether you choose cable or DSL, you need to watch out for data caps and equipment rental fees.
Comcast, the main cable provider in San Francisco, set a 1 Terabyte limit on data usage for residential customers as of 2017.
Considering that the average home Internet subscriber only uses a fraction of that, it’s not always worth worrying about. It can become problematic, however, if you stream video throughout the day on a daily basis, are a frequent gamer/Twitch user, or generally use your Internet connection much more than the average person.
Unfortunately, data caps are quickly becoming standard practice for cable providers. The important thing for San Fran Internet users is to understand what they are. Know what your cap is before you subscribe to an Internet plan. If you watch a lot of TV, consider getting a dedicated TV plan to avoid paying overage fees from streaming beyond your data allowance.
Equipment Rental Fees
Another common feature among San Fran DSL and cable companies is the “equipment rental fee.” Every home Internet plan will require some hardware on your end to deliver the connection and Wi-Fi to your apartment. (Modem, router, and our “gateway” device.)
It has become common for providers to charge an additional $5+/month for including the hardware with your plan. This usually includes installation by a trained tech from the provider. While this is a good deal if you can’t face the technical challenge of installing yourself, it’s a bad deal if you want to save money in the long term.
Considering that the average modem/router combo only costs $40–100 to buy outright from a third party like Amazon, you’ll recoup the upfront cost within the year. After that, you’ll save hundreds annually for the length of your service from that company.
For more on this topic, see our guide to choosing and installing your own modem and router.
Will San Francisco Get Municipal Broadband?
Since Google Fiber put the brakes on Internet service in San Francisco, the city has been moving ahead with conversations to utilize the same dark fiber networks that interested Google for publicly-owned “municipal broadband” service. This plan is still in the formative stages. San Francisco’s government is notoriously slow-moving and divided when it comes to local infrastructure, so it may be some time before municipal broadband is a reality — if ever.
Low-Income Internet in San Fran
There are a variety of public and private programs in the San Francisco to help bridge the “digital divide” for low-income residents. Basic home access can be installed for as low as $10/month, and public training programs take place regularly to help educate newcomers to computer services. Public libraries in the area also offer free Wi-Fi and affordable digital services like printing and scanning.
Our team has reached out to local initiatives working on broadband and Internet access for commentary on “what’s next” for digital connectivity in San Fran. If you are involved with a group or would like to share useful information with us for this page, please reach out.
References and Footnotes
Ana De Castro
Ana De Castro cut her teeth as a SAP consultant for Deloitte during the original tech boom, and now works in a communications role in the telecom industry. When she isn’t explaining technical concepts to confused consumers, she enjoys traveling with her husband and two rambunctious kids.
James Webb is a tech and gadgets expert with a focus on educational content development. He draws on his background in the startup world to make complicated technologies and topics easy to understand for normal folks.