You'd be surprised who the top ISPs in the U.S. are, according to FCC data

Fresh data released by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about the country’s internet service providers packed some surprises, with perhaps unexpected candidates taking top honors for broadest coverage and greatest fiber access within their footprint.

The FCC data, which was current as of June 2020 and crunched by CNET, showed the former category was dominated by two satellite providers – HughesNet and Viasat. These two were the only operators to offer coverage to 100% of the U.S. population. Among terrestrial ISPs, AT&T (41.4%), Comcast (36.1%) and Charter (33.4%) covered the largest portion of the population, with Verizon (17.6%) and Lumen Technologies’ CenturyLink (16.5%) rounding out the top five.

Cox Communications served nearly 7% of the population, while Altice USA and Rise Broadband were neck and neck at 5.6% and 5.3%, respectively. Ziply Fiber and Google Fiber, which have each generated a fair bit of buzz, each covered roughly 1% of the population.

RELATED: Ziply zooms ahead with fiber, adding 14 more markets

But Google Fiber was near the top in terms of what percentage of an operator’s footprint is covered with fiber, with 92.7%. It was beaten only by WideOpenWest (WOW!), which covered 96.4% of its footprint with fiber, though WOW! told CNET it needed to verify the accuracy of that data. Behind Google Fiber was Verizon with 64.3%. Fiber service was available to about half of Ziply’s footprint, and roughly a third of the service areas of CenturyLink (38.3%), Frontier (33.1%) and AT&T (30.2%).

Fierce’s look at the data showed that in terms of access to top download speeds, Cox covered 100% of its footprint with a gig, with Mediacom (97.4%), WOW! (97.1%) and Google (96%) hot on its heels. Cable One’s Sparklight was next in line, offering a gig to 75.6% of its footprint, followed by Altice (42.6%), AT&T (30.2%) and Windstream (24.2%). Charter provided a gig to just 0.19% of customers, while that tier wasn’t available to any Comcast, Verizon, Frontier and CenturyLink users when the data was collected last year.

Of course, a lot has changed since June 2020. For instance, Comcast now offers 1.2 Gbps download speeds to all of the homes and businesses in its footprint. Operators have also been adding fiber subscribers at a healthy clip, with several including Frontier accelerating deployment plans.

The FCC's next update of the data is due out in several months and will be current as of December 2020.


*This story has been updated to note WOW!'s concern about the accuracy of the FCC data regarding its fiber coverage.