Columbia, South Carolina’s capital city whose name is abbreviated to “Cola,” is perhaps unsurprisingly nicknamed “Soda City” and is famously hot. Pondering these two unrelated facts brings up two questions for those of us who’d rather stay safely indoors at home to beat the heat, watching Netflix with a fizzy beverage in hand: Do the internet speeds in Columbia pop? And who is the best internet service provider in the city?
Good news for residents of the former home of the world’s largest fire hydrant: median download speeds in Columbia exceed 200Mbps, according to Ookla data. To answer the second question, fiber internet from AT&T is available in Soda City and that makes AT&T Fiber our choice for the best internet service provider in Columbia.
CNET examines customer service, speed, pricing and overall value before recommending the best broadband in your area. While we recommend AT&T’s fiber internet, its expected speeds are on par with Spectrum’s, its largest competitor within Columbia, according to Ookla. Other than these two national brands, some Soda City citizens can connect to the internet with Verizon and T-Mobile’s 5G home internet, EarthLink (likely using AT&T’s network), smaller providers ispMint and EIN, as well as satellite internet through HughesNet or Viasat. Find out more about each of these options below.
Best internet providers in Soda City
The choice of ISP in Columbia mainly boils down to two main options: AT&T or Spectrum. However, the city is also serviced by T-Mobile, Verizon, EarthLink, two smaller carriers and satellite internet providers. All prices listed on this page reflect available discounts for setting up paperless billing. If you decide not to go with automatic monthly payments, your price will be higher.
Note: The prices, speeds and features detailed in the article text may differ from those listed in the product detail cards, which represent providers’ national offerings. Your particular internet service options — including prices and speeds — depend on your address and may differ from those detailed here.
Overview of internet providers in Columbia
|Provider||Internet technology||Monthly price range||Speed range||Monthly equipment costs||Data cap||Contract||CNET review score|
|EIN||Fiber||$88-$420 ($50 installation fee)||300-5,000Mbps||None||None||None||N/A|
|ispMint||Broadband||$119 ($79 one-time activation fee)||20-50Mbps||$30 or $299 one-time purchase (shipping is $20)||None||None||N/A|
|HughesNet||Satellite||$65-$175||25Mbps||$15 or $350 one-time purchase||15-200GB||2 years||5.7|
|Spectrum||Cable||$50-$90||300-940Mbps||Free modem; $5 router||None||None||7.2|
|T-Mobile Home Internet||Fixed wireless||$50 ($30 for eligible phone customers)||72-245Mbps||None||None||None||7.4|
|Verizon 5G Home Internet||Fixed Wireless||$50-$70 ($25 to $35 for eligible mobile customers)||85-1,000Mbps||None||None||None||7.2|
|Viasat||Satellite||$50-$300||25-100Mbps||$15 or $300 one-time purchase||40-300GB||2 years||6.1|
Show more (5 items)
Source: CNET analysis of provider data
All available Columbia, South Carolina, residential internet providers
Most of the city will have access to AT&T’s fiber internet (or EarthLink’s piggybacked option) or cable internet through Spectrum. In contrast, some neighborhoods have access to T-Mobile or Verizon’s 5G options, as well as regional carriers ispMint and EIN. Here are the other options in the city not listed above.
- EarthLink: EarthLink uses other networks to connect its customers to the internet. The company provides a good variety of speeds, starting at 100Mbps and going up to a whopping 5,000Mbps, with prices ranging from $60 to $190.
- EIN: This Kansas-based ISP serves some of Columbia and its surrounding areas. Fiber internet plans start at $88 monthly for 300Mbps and go up to $420 for 5,000Mbps.
- ispMint: A veteran-owned provider serving mostly rural customers, its $119 plan (which requires purchasing a $299 device or an extra $30 per month to lease) averages between 20 to 50Mbps.
- HughesNet: Columbia residents likely won’t need satellite internet (SpaceX’s Starlink will soon be available as well). Hughesnet offers speeds of 25Mbps with prices starting at $50 with a two-year contract and equipment fees. Columbia residents have access to its Fusion plans, a satellite and wireless home internet combo.
- T-Mobile Home Internet: The wireless carrier’s 5G home internet can be a compelling option in terms of price if it’s available to you, especially if you have certain mobile plans with the company. Speeds range from 72 to 245Mbps for $50 per month. It becomes a much more compelling option for customers of the company’s Go5G Plus or Magenta Max phone plans, which drops the price to $30 monthly. T-Mobile customers with Go5G, Magenta or Essentials plans get a smaller discounted price of $40 per month.
- Viasat: Viasat’s monthly prices start at $50 and go up to $300, with speeds ranging from 25 to 100Mbps based on the plan.
Pricing details on Columbia, South Carolina, home internet service
Expect to spend around $50 per month to connect to the internet in Columbia. If you want more speed, there are many options to choose from. That’s good news for people who want to beat the city’s famous heat by staying indoors.
Cheap internet options in the Columbia metro area
Unfortunately, for those looking for cheap internet options in Columbia, there aren’t many. Most plans start at $50 per month unless you’re an existing customer of T-Mobile or Verizon and are eligible for their 5G home internet offerings. That said, if you live in a low-income household, you might qualify for the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a discount of $30 monthly on home internet services.
Source: CNET analysis of provider data
Fastest internet providers in Columbia, South Carolina
Columbia residents have access to comfortable median download speeds above 200Mbps. Gig-plus options are available from AT&T, Spectrum or EarthLink for higher speeds. AT&T, EarthLink and EIN have the fastest hookup with 5,000Mbps fiber plans, though it should be noted that EarthLink and EIN are using AT&T’s network.
Source: CNET analysis of provider data
What’s the final word on internet providers in Columbia?
Most Columbia residents will be well served by AT&T’s fiber internet or Spectrum’s cable connection, the options most available in the city. Some Cola residents have access to 5G home internet from T-Mobile or Verizon — each makes for a good option for existing customers of their wireless services due to the deep monthly discounts they offer.
How CNET chose the best internet providers in Columbia
Internet service providers are numerous and regional. Unlike the latest smartphone, laptop, router or kitchen tool, it’s impractical to personally test every ISP in a given city. So what’s our approach? We start by researching the pricing, availability and speed information drawing on our own historical ISP data, the provider sites and mapping information from the Federal Communications Commission at FCC.gov.
But it doesn’t end there. We go to the FCC’s website to check our data and ensure we’re considering every ISP that provides service in an area. We also input local addresses on provider websites to find specific options for residents. To evaluate how happy customers are with an ISP’s service, we look at sources including the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power. ISP plans and prices are subject to frequent changes; all information provided is accurate as of the time of publication.
Once we have this localized information, we ask three main questions:
- Does the provider offer access to reasonably fast internet speeds?
- Do customers get decent value for what they’re paying?
- Are customers happy with their service?
While the answer to those questions is often layered and complex, the providers who come closest to “yes” on all three are the ones we recommend.
To explore our process in more depth, visit our How We Test ISPs page.